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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Bernadette Dwyer
BIS 341
Bothell Campus

Topics in the Study of Culture

Examines the study of cultural forms, artifacts, and practices. May include art, art history, literature, theater, music history, ethnomusicology, dance, and/or religion. Topics and approaches may vary with instructor.

Class description

This course will provide an orientation to the interdisciplinary field of critical animal studies. We will begin by introducing the guiding questions of the field: ontological questions concerning the kinds of capacities human and non-human animals possess; epistemological questions concerning how can we come to know anything about animals as such; and ethical questions concerning how humans should treat animals. The second section of the class will illuminate and further complicate these questions as we apply them to a number of human-animal relationships and practices, including but not limited to pet-keeping, zoo-keeping, industrial slaughter, and hunting. The third and final section of the class will focus on representations of animality, underscoring how cultural representations of animality are intimately bound up with representations and devaluations of human (gender, sexual, racial) difference.

Student learning goals

1. To gain familiarity with the central preoccupations and defining interventions of critical animal studies scholarship

2. To gain greater facility with interdisciplinary thinking and to gain greater understanding of the defining features and stakes of interdisciplinary scholarship

3. To develop the capacity to think critically about animal life, human-animal relationships, and interspecies ethics

4. To develop the capacity to think critically about the politics of representation, specifically, in considering the invocation of animality in the representation of human difference

5. To develop writing, conversational, and presentation skills through individual and group work, in addition to developing critical thinking skills

General method of instruction

Class will be largely discussion-based, but will include some lecture and several small group activities. In-class conversations will explore an array of cultural artifacts, from films to PETA ads to taxidermy, as well as unpack assigned theoretical readings. The class will also involve one field trip to either Woodland Park Zoo or the Seattle Aquarium.

Recommended preparation

None required. Some familiarity with methods of reading literature and/or ethnographic analysis is a plus.

Class assignments and grading

There will be two major papers: a 4-5 page discourse analysis of a cultural text and a 4-5 page ethnographic analysis of a cultural site. There will also be an annotated bibliography and a final group project focused on questions of interdisciplinarity. In-class participation and short homework assignments will also figure largely in the final grade.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Anne K Dwyer
Date: 10/29/2013