The following animal studies courses have run at Queen’s in recent years. Please refer to departmental course listings for current offerings.
PHIL 296 – Animals and Society
This course provides students with an introduction to historical and contemporary debates regarding attitudes towards and treatment of nonhuman animals within Western societies, and explores our ethical and political responsibilities toward them. Some key guiding questions of the course include: What criteria or characteristics make nonhuman animals worthy of moral consideration? The capacity to suffer, self-awareness, possessing emotions or reason? If animals are worthy of moral consideration, are they also capable of being agents or participants in the shaping of human-animal relations? Are there ways in which we can structure social and political life to make them more responsive to the preferences and goals of animals themselves?
To help answer these questions, this course examines a wide range of human-animal relations, including the use of domesticated animals as food, pets, working animals, or research subjects, as well as our relations with wild animals (including both animals in the wilderness and the urban wildlife that lives amongst us). In all of these contexts, Western societies have historically operated on the assumption that humans have the right to use, and if necessary to harm or kill, animals for our benefit. Yet the traditional religious or scientific justifications for this claim have increasingly been challenged as we learn more about the mental and emotional capacities of animals. Indeed, an increasing number of animal rights theorists and practitioners argue that there is no valid justification for the right to use animals for our benefit.
We will explore these debates over the status of animals, and consider what society would look like if we fundamentally rethought our relations to animals. Existing laws typically define animals as the property of their human owners – a framework that many critics argue is unable to afford any true protection to the rights and interests of animals. Various models have been proposed to supplement, or entirely replace, this property framework, including proposals to accord legal standing or legal personhood to animals, to recognize companion animals as members of the family, to accord farm animals and service animals the rights of workers, to accord wilderness animals rights to territory, and more generally to recognize animals as members of our political community, with rights to representation or citizenship. In exploring these debates, we will consider their complex links to other forms of social differentiation which have defined some people as less than fully human (e.g., in relation to gender, race and class). How would ‘animal liberation’ impact on the struggles of women, racial minorities, indigenous peoples and others?
PHIL 405/805 – Animals and the Frontiers of Citizenship
“Citizenship” has arguably been the central organizing concept for advancing claims of justice in the past century. Demands for women’s rights, gay rights, disability rights, children’s rights, minority rights – and animal rights – have all been rearticulated as struggles for new forms of citizenship. All of these cases challenge inherited ideas of what defines the attributes of a (good) citizen, and in much of the popular debate and academic literature, attempts to extend citizenship to some of these groups are sometimes seen as diluting the fundamental values of citizenship.
This course will explore the frontiers of citizenship. In particular, it will explore whether citizenship should be understood, not in terms of some static list or threshold of capacities or virtues, but rather as a process of what Jim Tully calls “citizenization” – the attempt to restructure social and political relationships on the basis of democratic values of consent, participation, trust, membership and autonomy. Viewed this way, the task of citizenship is to enable all members of society to have a say in matters that affect them, and to thereby contribute to the democratic governance of the larger society, even if they do not participate in the particular ways or in the particular spaces envisaged in classical citizenship theory. The course will explore what we gain, and we might potentially lose, in opening up citizenship theory to radically diverse forms of belonging and participation, focusing in particular on animals, children, and people with cognitive disability.
HLTH 495 – Animals, Health, and Society
Students will be introduced to the interdisciplinary field of critical animal studies; explore diverse theoretical and methodological approaches to studying more-than-human health; discuss pressing and contested issues around healthy food, companionship, research, and “nature”; examine how privilege and oppression related to class, gender, race, age and ability shape multispecies relationships and wellbeing; reflect upon their own ethics and politics in relation to more-than-human health; and practice advanced skills in reading, writing, presenting, and discussing scholarly work.
LAW 250 – Animals, Politics and the Law
Animal law is one of the fastest-growing areas of law both domestically and internationally, but is also highly contested. Existing laws typically define animals as the property of their human owners – a framework that many critics argue is unable to afford any true protection to the rights and interests of animals. Various models have been proposed to supplement, or entirely replace, this property framework.
This seminar will explore existing legislative regimes related to animals in Canada and internationally, and the limited protections they offer. We will then explore a range of proposals by animal rights advocates for future reform of animal law. These include proposals to accord legal standing or legal personhood to animals, to recognize companion animals as members of the family, to accord farm animals and service animals the rights of workers, to accord wilderness animals rights to territory, and more generally to recognize animals as members of our political community, with rights to representation or citizenship. While many of these proposals may seem utopian, we can see preliminary manifestations of these ideas surfacing in a number of recent legal cases and campaigns for legislative reform. In Lesli Bisgould’s terms, we can see a possible shift from “animal law” to “animal rights law”. We will discuss the prospect for real change in this field, and the capacity of law to serve as a vehicle of justice for animals. Student evaluation will be based upon attendance, in-class presentations and a course paper. There will also be an opportunity for a limited number of students to enrol in an additional 3-credit independent study project to develop a legal opinion on a specific legal issue of animal law confronting Canada today.
GPHY 370 – The Lives of Animals
Animals are so central to human affairs and tied up with our visions of progress and the good life that we are unable to fully see them. As scholar John Berger (1980) writes, “everywhere animals disappear”. This contradiction of centrality and disappearance necessitates a need and willingness to take animals seriously. This course fosters in-depth understanding and appreciation of animal lives. We will explore the lives of animals through the following questions: (i) How do humans define, place, and encounter nonhuman animals? (ii) What are the implications for the everyday lives of animals (and humans)? (iii) What ethical issues arise from these human-animal relations?
GPHY 370 – Urban Animal Histories and Geographies
Cities are often imagined as human spaces, but one simply has to look around at the abundant plant and animal life in urban areas to realize that that is simply not the case. This course explores the complex and multi-varied relations animals have with cities. For some animals the city is an opportune place were they can thrive, for many others the city represents displacement and violence (Thrift 2021). Animals work, live, and die in cities but the ways in which they do so have distinct geographies and temporalities. Animal geographers are at the forefront of elucidating animals’ entanglements with the urban and they flag how cities are an important place for thinking about multispecies relations of power. This course scratches the surface of what is an emerging, robust, and extremely interesting area of inquiry. It is designed to equip students with some conceptual and theoretical tools for thinking about animals and cities (as well as the ways in which they relate to each other). Each week has a particular theme with every class focused on a specific concept. The assignments are designed to get students thinking critically and engaging deeply with these ideas.
HIST 477 – Animals and History
Recent research on the role of animals in history has eroded the traditional barriers between human and natural sciences. By reexamining the part played by animals not merely as beasts of burden, or resources, or even as companions, but as agents in historical processes, this course posits a critique of the idea of human exceptionalism and revaluates the meaning of historical agency. Primarily framed as a course on methodology, we respond to the curious conundrum unleased on the meaning, practice, and the future of history as a result of new research in historical theory, ethology, and the environmental humanities. Interdisciplinary in scope, Animals and History will examine the themes of human exceptionalism, the ontological turn, ideas of deep time, non-human agency, neurohistory, and posthumanism.
A number of other courses at Queen’s, from English to Environmental Studies, address human-animal relations, such as ENGL 452: Animals and Animality: Topics in Victorian Literature.