What is Human-Animal Studies? - New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

About The NZ Centre for Human-Animal Studies

BugThe New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies (NZCHAS) brings together scholars from the humanities and social sciences whose research is concerned with the conceptual and material treatment of nonhuman animals in culture, society and history. The Centre includes members from many disciplines at the University of Canterbury, and associates from throughout New Zealand who have expertise in cultural studies, literary studies, political science, sociology, architecture, the visual arts and Māori studies. Our international associates include many of scholars recognised as world leaders in human-animal studies, and the Centre has links with the primary overseas institutions and networks in this field.

What is Human-Animal Studies?

The last few decades have seen the emergence and rapid growth of a new field of multi- and inter-disciplinary inquiry, called variously “Human-Animal Studies” (HAS), “Animal Studies”, or “Anthrozoology”. Contributions to this field draw upon a wide range of disciplinary formations: sociology, philosophy and history; studies of literature, the visual arts, cinema and popular culture; biobehavioural biology; science, technology, and medicine studies. What unites HAS work from all these disciplines is a determination to find new ways of thinking about animals and about human-animal relationships.

Among the many lines of inquiry pursued by HAS researchers are the following:

  • exploring how notions of animality are fundamental to a range of concepts that play an important ideological and intellectual role in modern Western thought: for example “nature”, “culture”, “society”, “civilisation”, “the human”, “the native”, “the exotic”, “the primitive”;
  • examining the place, treatment and actions of animals in science, farming, industry, tourism and other human practices;
  • analysing the representation of animals in literature, film, television, the visual arts, and other cultural forms;
  • researching the history of humans' changing attitudes towards and treatment of animals;
  • developing new paradigms in philosophy, the arts and the sciences for thinking about animals and their relationship to humans.

Here at the New Zealand Centre for Human-Animal Studies, we also believe that this kind of research and scholarship brings with it a responsibilty to challenge anthropocentrism and to account for the interests and agency of animals.

Resources for Human-Animal Studies