Challenges for Historians Writing Animal–Human History:What Is Really Enough?

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Abstract:

This essay considers issues facing historians working within the Animal Studies field. It draws on historiographical debates within feminist and social history to re-visit debates on animal agency, representation, and the nature of the materials for writing history. While arguing that the incorporation of animals within existing historical frameworks is positive in giving a status to animals' pasts, it suggests that more is possible. It asks what historians are really attempting to do in their work and both questions whether we are indeed attempting to imagine ourselves as animals and whether we are seeking to go back into a past. Drawing on the work of Walter Benjamin, it argues that historians should be attempting to bring the past into the present. It suggests a focus on the role of the historian—as opposed to the subject matter as such— in thinking through the type of history that is intended to be written. It also argues that readership and audience should not be neglected. While noting the difficulties in writing animal–human history, the essay nevertheless concludes both that this is a worthwhile task and that the posing of questions about methodology is a way of opening up further discussion.

Keywords: AGENCY; HISTORIOGRAPHY; INCORPORATION; TRIM THE CAT; WAR HORSE EXHIBITION

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2752/175303712X13353430377011

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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