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Embodying Anthropomorphism: Contextualizing Commonality in the Material Landscape

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Abstract:

The status of anthropomorphism has changed in recent decades, allowing for in-depth consideration of its meaning and salience. Advocates of anthropomorphism have put forth a series of scientific and theoretical arguments to establish the concept's legitimacy. Nonetheless, while many advocates of anthropomorphism criticize the scientific worldview that objectifies nonhumans, their arguments still retain a cognitive perspective that implicitly reaffirms human–nonhuman hierarchies. This paper challenges these notions by accentuating the role of material factors in the formation and dissemination of anthropomorphic thought. These materials include human and nonhuman bodies, as well as the physicality of the external environment. This paper also examines the different ways in which social factors blend with these material factors to bring about anthropomorphic thinking. To clarify these issues, this paper examines an ongoing human conflict with harbor seals in La Jolla, California to illustrate these points. It concludes by suggesting that materialist articulations of anthropomorphism may foster an ethical perspective with environmental significance.

Keywords: ANTHROPOMORPHISM; AQUATIC MAMMALS; HUMAN-NONHUMAN CONFLICT; SEALS

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175303708X305828

Publication date: June 1, 2008

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