For many people, animals form a significant and cherished part of their diet. Indeed, humans have used other animals as sources of nutrients for hundreds of thousands of years. What can these animal-based dietary practices tell us about humans and their relationships with other animals? Of course, these inter-species relationships have varied as radically across time and cultures as the dietary practices that have shaped them. To better understand some of these practices and the relationships they generate, this course will explore the following questions: How did animal-based food practices develop from pre-domestication to the contemporary era of industrialized animal agriculture? How have cultural categories of "edibility" developed in different cultural contexts? What is meat, and how does it differ from inedible flesh? How has gender, class, race, sexuality, and other categories of difference intersected with and shaped animal consumption practices in different times and contexts? How has animal consumption shaped and been shaped by animal ethics, philosophy, and scientific knowledge production? How has large-scale animal consumption contributed to the ecological crises of the Anthropocene, and how have these in turn affected animal consumption practices? What is the future of animal-based food?
This course will use ethnographies, historical and legal analyses, and philosophical inquiries to examine the histories and cultures of animal edibility. Specifically, it will focus on topics including human evolution, animal domestication, slaughter practices, industrialized animal agriculture, indigenous ecological ontologies, hunting, dairy and egg consumption, cannibalism, cultural conflicts over the edibility of specific species, and recent technological innovations that can produce animal products without animals.