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In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human-Animal Relationships (Canto original series) Paperback – 13 Aug 1996


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In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human-Animal Relationships (Canto original series) + Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies + Humans and Other Animals: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on Human-Animal Interactions (Anthropology, Culture and Society)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 2nd Revised edition edition (13 Aug 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521577799
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521577793
  • Product Dimensions: 13.8 x 1.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 356,638 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description

Review

'Arguing by copious example in a thoroughly well-researched and well-written book, Serpell demonstrates that pet-keeping appeals both to a wide variety of cultures throughout the world, and to all social classes within Western society.' Stephen Jay Gould, The New York Review of Books

'In the Company of Animals is a work of cross-cultural panache. Serpell writes passionately and well about a subject that seems to have fallen between the cracks of specialisations. His overview is sweeping and provocative.' R. Z. Sheppard, Time Magazine

'… why did James Serpell feel the need to write a book in defence of pet-keeping? Surely this is one aspect of human behaviour that requires no advocacy. But read on. Indeed, read his book, for it is full of fascinating comments on a subject that many of us have taken for granted.' Desmond Morris, BBC Wildlife

Book Description

What purpose, if any, do pets really serve? Are they simply an outlet for misplaced love? Or four-legged friends who help us to satisfy vital emotional needs? Exploring the phenomenon of pet-keeping across history and between cultures, this thought-provoking study reassesses our relationships with animals and the natural world.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Until the end of the last global Ice Age, around 12,000 years ago, the human population of this planet derived all of its food and raw materials from wild animals and plants. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 25 May 2001
Format: Paperback
Have you ever wondered why we have such inconsistent attitudes towards animals? For example, why we keep some species in poor conditions and then eat them while pampering others and treating them as members of our family? This is a thoroughly enjoyable read both for the layperson and those interested in research into the relationship between humans and other species. Serpell writes incredibly well; concepts are presented clearly and clarified with very very interesting examples. This really is a great book!
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By George E on 20 April 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thoroughly researched and engaging. A fascinating first class book, packed with historical context and studies about our relationship with, and attitudes towards, non-human animals. Well written and zero waffle.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
would have liked to have seen more pictures in the book,
and the paper that the book is made from has a horrible texture about it
but it arrived and time and in the condition it was suppose to be in.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 9 reviews
25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
The best introduction to human-animal studies 25 Aug 2003
By Harold Herzog - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the Company of Animals is the single best introduction to anthrozoology - the study of human-animal interactions. A woman once told me about her experience reading it. She said simply, "That book changed my life." Serpell is a both a powerful writer and a leading scholar in this field. The first half of In the Company of Animals is largely concerned with the who, what, and why of maintaining non-human animals as companions. In the breadth of his coverage, Serpell displays an impressive command of psychology, ethology, history, cultural anthropology, and behavioral medicine. A brief sampling of a few representative topics illustrates the span of Serpell's intellectual vision: the role of pets in sixteenth century witchcraft, the effects of watching aquarium fish on blood pressure, bestiality, social parasitism, and why dogs rather than pigs became companion animals. Serpell argues that individuals who keep pets have often been viewed with scorn, suspicion, and pity. At times, pet owners have been subjected to persecution and even death. Thus, this part of the book is essentially a defense of companion animals. Serpell reviews recent studies documenting the benefits of pets to human health, psychological well-being, and the amelioration of loneliness. He concludes that the company of animals serves to buffer their owners from the interpersonal isolation all too common in modern industrial societies.
The second half of In the Company of Animals focuses on the darker side of human-animal interactions. Serpell is particularly adept at describing paradoxes inherent if our interactions with other species. Among my favorites are the dual roles of puppies in Southeast Asian households (pets and dinner), Adolf Hitler's commitment to animal welfare, and the love people have for dogs coupled with an equally passionate loathing for their immediate progenitor, the wolf. Serpell, however, goes further than listing the foibles that characterize human-animal relationships. He develops an explanation, suggesting that these paradoxes ultimately reflect the evolutionary processes which have shaped the human mind.
Serpell believes that moral conflict that emerges in our relationships with animals stems from a tendency we inherited from our hunter-gatherer forbearers -- the penchant for meat. By nature we are exploiters of animals. But unlike tigers and wolves and boa constrictors, we are carnivores with a sense of guilt. As a result we have developed psychological mechanisms that allow us to maintain the "myth of human supremacy." He believes this is an illusion which developed as cultures shifted from hunter-gatherer economies to those based on the slaughter of domestic animals. This hypothesis provides a powerful perspective on the contradictions seen in human-animal relationships.
While readers may not agree with all of Serpell's ideas, they will find that In the Company of Animals is a beautifully written book that is rich in both facts and provocative ideas. It will appeal to both animal lovers and the scholars who study them.
30 of 35 people found the following review helpful
Human-Animal relationships explained!! 27 Mar 1999
By Kristin P. Harvey iguanagal1@aol.com - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
An excellent book exploring every possible angle of the human-animal bond. Why we love and need animals, what we do to them, and everything in between! Very well written and understandable. After reading many books on this subject, this was my favorite! Everyone who reads this book will have a greater understanding and love of animals. Animals are good for our health, physically and mentally. Serpell also makes us realize what the human race is doing to animals, such as testing on them or eating them!! This is a must read for any animal lover who is truly bonded to their pet or pets like I am!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
A Classic by a Highly Esteemed Scholar 1 April 2003
By Anthozoologist - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
As a professor of anthropology who teaches a course on Anthrozoology at Western Illinois University, I highly recommend In the Company of Animals. Anthrozoology (the scientific study of human-animal interaction) is a dynamic new area of study and Dr Serpell is one of the founders. This book is required reading for my course, and students love it! Serpell's work explores the phenomena of domestication and pet keeping, or companion animals (as we prefer to call them now), from a cross-cultural and evolutionary perspective that is highly anthropological. Shame on us! An Anthropologist should have written this book! I highly recommend this work.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The best introduction to human-animal studies 20 Aug 2003
By Harold Herzog - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
In the Company of Animals is the single best introduction to anthrozoology - the study of human-animal interactions. A woman once told me about her experience on reading it. She said simply, "That book changed my life." Serpell is a both a powerful writer and a leading scholar in this field. The first half of In the Company of Animals is largely concerned with the who, what, and why of maintaining non-human animals as companions. In the breadth of his coverage, Serpell displays an impressive command of psychology, ethology, history, cultural anthropology, and behavioral medicine. A brief sampling of a few representative topics illustrates the span of Serpell's intellectual vision: the role of pets in sixteenth century witchcraft, the effects of watching aquarium fish on blood pressure, bestiality, social parasitism, and why dogs rather than pigs became companion animals. Serpell argues that individuals who keep pets have often been viewed with scorn, suspicion, and pity. At times, pet owners have been subjected to persecution and even death. Thus, this part of the book is essentially a defense of companion animals. Serpell reviews recent studies documenting the benefits of pets to human health, psychological well-being, and the amelioration of loneliness. He concludes that the company of animals serves to buffer their owners from the interpersonal isolation all too common in modern industrial societies.
The second half of In the Company of Animals focuses on the darker side of human-animal interactions. Serpell is particularly adept at describing paradoxes inherent if our interactions with other species. Among my favorites are the dual roles of puppies in Southeast Asian households (pets and dinner), Adolf Hitler's commitment to animal welfare, and the love people have for dogs coupled with an equally passionate loathing for their immediate progenitor, the wolf. Serpell, however, goes further than listing the foibles that characterize human-animal relationships. He develops an explanation, suggesting that these paradoxes ultimately reflect the evolutionary processes which have shaped the human mind.
Serpell believes that moral conflict that emerges in our relationships with animals stems from a tendency we inherited from our hunter-gatherer forbearers -- the penchant for meat. By nature we are exploiters of animals. But unlike tigers and wolves and boa constrictors, we are carnivores with a sense of guilt. As a result we have developed psychological mechanisms that allow us to maintain the "myth of human supremacy." He believes this is an illusion which developed as cultures shifted from hunter-gatherer economies to those based on the slaughter of domestic animals. This hypothesis provides a powerful perspective on the contradictions seen in human-animal relationships.
While readers may not agree with all of Serpell's ideas, they will find that In the Company of Animals is a beautifully written book that is rich in both facts and provocative ideas. It will appeal to both animal lovers and the scholars who study them.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
A scholarly page-turner 18 Mar 2009
By oldetimeybookworm - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I loved this book. I have read other sources of information on anthrozoology, but none were nearly as comprehensive, well-researched, and well-written as Serpell's work. This book has it all. It presents a fairly complete history of human-animal relationships throughout the western world. It also uses scientific research to assess the human-animal bond, and is peppered with many fascinating anecdotes and examples. With all these elements combined, it becomes a real page-turner. Great for anyone, whether you are looking for an introduction to anthrozoology, or you are just looking for a good book to read with your dog or cat on your lap.
A+
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