Investigating the meanings of animal-human relationships raises a host of broad and compelling questions and draws on a wide range of disciplinary perspectives.
- The topic is grounded in ecology and biology: Homo sapiens have evolved from relatively animalistic beginnings to become more fully human, in part because of the range of both positive and negative interactions with animals.
- Works of literature and art, from The Iliad to Guernica, reveal new layers of meaning when the focus shifts to how they produce or deconstruct "animalness." And animals as literary symbols, such as Keats' nightingale, reinforce the tie between humans and animals while helping to build new, imaginative connections.
- From the perspectives of history and political science, human-animal interactions have been significant factors in social life and political development; animal management, from the military use of animal power to the preservation of endangered species, continues to be a complex and dynamic area of public policy.
- The nature of human obligations to animals is a hot-button issue in philosophy and has recently been brought into the public consciousness by the Michael Vick dog-fighting case.
The nation's capital and its environs are home to a striking confluence of places and resources related to animals, many of which will be visited and utilized during the seminar.
- The National Zoo, an up-to-date zoo of international importance, which partners with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute
- The National Gallery of Art, which contains animal-centric works by prominent American artists, such as Edward Hicks and John James Audubon
- The extensive zoological, biological, and anthropological collections of the National Museum of Natural History
- The national headquarters of The Humane Society of the United States and many other governmental and non-governmental organizations that focus on animals
- The University of Maryland's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Avrum Gudelsky Veterinary Center, both of which will help facilitate a unique understanding of the treatment of animals and the philosophy of animal welfare
- The Dogs Deserve Better Good Newz Rehab Center for chained and penned dogs, the former site of Michael Vick's infamous Bad Newz Kennel
- Polyface Farms, the successful pasture-based, beyond-organic farm featured in Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma
A key goal of the SAIL seminars is to help students in their last two years of undergraduate education make connections across disciplines and synthesize the work of their disciplinary majors. In academic year 2012-13, following the Considering Animals Seminar, participants will model the seminar content and structure to develop innovative new courses, sequences, modules, or faculty collaborations geared towards upper-level students on their home campuses.
Readings, guest speakers, facilitated discussions, and field trips during the seminar will not only expand the cross-disciplinary and topical expertise of faculty participants, but will also set the stage for faculty to extend the breadth and intellectual coherence of liberal arts education for juniors and seniors at their own institutions. As a whole, the seminar will build participants' instructional capacity and prepare them to augment their teaching with integrative new curricular resources that make connections between the classroom and the practical and scholarly study of human-animal relations.
The 15-member seminar group was chosen by the SAIL selection committee through a competitive process.
The SAIL leadership team will provide the intellectual leadership for the seminar during its residency in Washington, DC. They will work with ACM staff to organize the seminar design, recruit participants, and coordinate follow-up activities. Read more about the 2012 SAIL Leadership Team.