The human-animal relationship as a social construct
Universidad Nacional de Colombia
Universidad Colegio Mayor de Cundinamarca / Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Human-animal relationships have developed a field of studies on their own, one whose interdisciplinary nature has posed a challenge and has opened new perspectives on this fertile and important subject nowadays. Human-Animal studies (EHA) deal with interactions between non-human and human animals. They explore the spaces non-human animals occupy in human social and cultural worlds, as well as human beings’ interactions with them. Those interactions are visible in symbolic representations —history, geography, geopolitics, daily familiar practices, local, regional, and global economies, as well as philosophical and juridical discussions about human rights and animal rights. In this line, relationships between human beings and non-human animals deal with thinking the human, the animal, and Nature, and of course, not only the place humans occupy in Nature, but also the role animals play in culture and society, as well as their contribution to building human society.
Thus, many interactions between human and non-human animals are a part of the gaze of social disciplines on social phenomena. An example of this is new family configurations —a new member of which is a dog or cat. Before, it was at home, even though it was not considered a family member. This issue is addressed by social work, or animal ethics, from a philosophical approach, which reflects upon animals as subjects of rights, and which “rights” we do have or do not have upon them, when deciding about their life, welfare, and future. How do animals contribute to human culture and society building? This question outlines different works in the fields of anthropology and history, and shapes only a part of the developments in social sciences about human-animal relationships.