Lecture by Shelly Volsche,
Doctoral Candidate - Anthropology
Worldwide, animals are beginning to hold an increasingly valuable place in human lives and spaces. No longer merely beasts of burden or food, animals are gaining a new place at many household tables – as pets, as friends, and as children. Animals are now in our advertising, star in their own movies, and host their own television shows. They are mascots. They are religious symbols. And they are more like us than we ever realized before.
Using the dog as an archetype of this changing status, this talk explores how animals moved from the realm of natural to that of created relationships. Considering research topics from both ends of the leash, we will navigate the evolutionary history behind this bond, discussing the many ways in which changing technologies have made the newest trend of “pet parenting” a negotiated reality for many owners. Looking to the future, the talk ends by contemplating whether this new relationship has room to grow or may be a mere passing trend.
Shelly Volsche is a Visiting Lecturer with the Academic Success Center and a Doctoral Candidate with the Department of Anthropology. She has been teaching First-Year Seminar for Exploring Majors for two years, building a relationship with the Marjorie Barrick Museum of Art by bringing her students to experience contemporary art first hand. Her research as an anthropologist focuses on cross-cultural variations in romantic and social bonding, human-animal interactions (including the presence of pets as family members), practice of identity in subcultural groups, and anthropological theory.