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No longer the lonely species: a post‐mead perspective on animals and sociology

Olin E. Myers, Jr (Assistant Professor at Western Washington University at Bellingham)

International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy

ISSN: 0144-333X

Article publication date: 1 March 2003

Abstract

Society’s relations to animals pose possible blind spots in sociological theory that may be revealed and illuminated by studying systems of human‐animal interaction. By investigating whether and how animals enter into key processes that shape self and society we may determine the ways in which animals might be included in the core subject matter of sociology. An earlier discussion of the role of animals in sociology initiated by Weber is reviewed. Issues that debate raised about the extent of linguistically‐mediated human‐animal intersubjectivity are updated. It is in principle difficult to rule out animal languages, and some animals have acquired human language. But sociology may follow a more fecund empirical route by examining successful human‐animal performances produced by enduring interspecies relationships. Following this route, this paper specifically argues that the human self should be seen to take root in the available mixed species community. To show this, the work of G.H. Mead is revisited and corrected in light of recent work on early human development, and conceptual analyses of language, the body, and the self. The formation of the self is not dependent on only linguistic exchanges; a nonverbal nonhuman other can contribute to the self‐reflective sense of being a human self. Based on this reasoning, examples of studies of humans with wild and domestic animals illustrate the potential for a human‐animal sociology.

Keywords

Citation

Myers, O.E. (2003), "No longer the lonely species: a post‐mead perspective on animals and sociology", International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 46-68. https://doi.org/10.1108/01443330310790255

Publisher

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MCB UP Ltd

Copyright © 2003, MCB UP Limited