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What Would a Global History of Pets Look Like?

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Although the history of pets or companion animals has been a major topic for scholars in recent years, there remain major gaps in our understanding. At present, scholars have approached the topic from different directions, and the difficulty of reconciling work in evolutionary biology, anthrozoology, and social and cultural history is a major challenge. Some academic accounts universalise pet keeping, seeing this as a very ancient phenomenon, the product of hardwired human instincts. Popular histories of pet keeping also tend to stress the longevity of the bond between humans and other animals. Other work portrays the culture of pet keeping as a much more recent, and sees the modern conception of pets as primarily a Western development. A truly global history of pets will need to confront these contemporary problems. We need to know much more about non-Western cultures, regions, and traditions, and the ways in which Western forms of pet keeping supplanted or supplemented other kinds of relationship with animal companions. This process is likely to involve a certain ‘decolonisation’ of animal studies, and to steer us away from assumptions about the homogeneity of the human species.



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Cheng Kung Historical Journal

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