The founding meeting of the Section of Interspecies Relations was held on June 13, 2020. During the online session, the Section’s members appointed the Executive Committee/Board, which is composed of:
1. The President, dr hab. Hanna Mamzer, prof. UAM
2. Vice-president, dr hab. Magdalena Ziółkowska, prof. UAM
3. Vice-president, Magdalena Gajewska, PhD
4. Vice-president in charge of international relations, Michał Pręgowski, PhD
During the meeting, two main subjects were brought up for discussion: organisational matters and founding issues regarding future plans and actions. The latter included academic activities as well as on-hand support in case of interspecies tensions and conflicts. The section will develop collaboration with public institutions and non-governmental organisations in the field of human-non-human animal relations. The next meeting was scheduled for the second half of October 2020, just before the conference titled ‘Attitudes and Actions Towards Animals in the 21st century’ [‘Praktyki wobec zwierząt w XXI wieku’].
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For collaboration with or within the Section, you can reach dr hab. Hanna Mamzer, prof. UAM, directly at: email@example.com
Four arguments justifying the significance of establishing the Section of Interspecies Relations within the Polish Sociological Association
The first argument refers to the discipline’s historical background. Although researchers have only become interested in the sociology of human-animal interactions quite recently, the theoretical foundation – mainly in terms of the “sociology of the relations of men to animals, both domestic and wild” – had been laid much earlier by Max Weber in his book Economy and Society (1922). Weber pointed to the complexity of social relationships among non-human beings as an area for a potential sociological interest.
Read Bain, the chief editor of the American Sociological Review (1983-1942) and vice-president of the American Sociological Society (1984), advocated the need for such research even more openly. In his paper titled “The Culture of Canines” (1928), he used the example of dogs – people’s best friends – and described how they acknowledged human cultural codes. The aim was to show sociologists the need to develop “animal sociology”. Bain claimed that since animals’ behaviour, reasoning, physio-anatomical structure, and social life correlated in some aspects with that of humans, the arbitral sociological discrimination between animals and humans is unreasonable and unjustified.
A genuine and gradual turn in sociology towards animals took place a few decades later, making the year 1979 a symbolic turning point. It was then that the scientific journal Social Forces published the avidly quoted (until the present day) paper titled “The Zoological Connection: Animal-Related Human Behavior” by Clifton Bryant. Bryant appealed to sociologists, asking them to acknowledge the presence of animals both in public and private spaces, and to conduct systematic research of the impact that animals have on people’s social life.
Secondly, the establishment of the Section is a response to the current trends in sociology which focus on various aspects of relations and interactions between humans and other animals. Research conducted in this area includes the analyses of phenomena such as the social construction of animals, cultural differences in animal treatment, various attitudes towards different animal species (domestic/accompanying, farming, wild, endangered, and others), the changing status of animals in contemporary societies, violent behaviour against animals, as well as interdependent phenomena (e.g. the relationship between animal abuse and domestic violence, or breaches of animal welfare in industrial farming and the welfare of its’ employees).
Widely debated books covering the aforementioned issues include: Animal Rights, Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation by David Nibert (2002), Just a Dog: Understanding Animal Cruelty and Ourselves by Arnold Arluke (2006), Animals and Modern Cultures by Adrian Franklin (1999), Cat Culture: The Social World of a Cat Shelter by Janet and Steven Alger (2003), Understanding Dogs: Living and Working with Canine Companions by Clinton R. Sanders (1999), and Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies by Margo DeMello (2012). It is worth mentioning that the most renowned interdisciplinary journals that present studies and research findings on such topics have been publishing for over thirty years (e.g. Anthrozoös, 1987; Society & Animals, 1993). Sociological associations in Western countries (both English-speaking and others) have established sections and subgroups devoted to studies of human–non-human animals relations – e.g. the American Sociological Association registered the ‘Animals and Society’ section in 2002, the ‘Animal/Human Studies Group’ has been developing under the auspices of the British Sociological Works since 2006, and the Australian Sociological Association also has a well-developed ‘Sociology & Animals’ section.
Thirdly, establishing the Section reflects the state of the current research in the field of relationships between human and other species, which has been conducted on the Polish sociological arena. Plenty of papers and monographs were devoted to this subject, namely Ludzie i ich zwierzęta. Interakcjonistyczno-symboliczna analiza społecznego świata właścicieli zwierząt domowych (trans. People and Their Animals: A Symbolic Interactionist Analysis of the Social World of Domestic Animals’ Owners) by Krzysztof T. Konecki; Sens polowania. Współczesne znaczenia tradycyjnych praktyk na przykładzie analizy dyskursu łowieckiego (Understanding Big Game Shooting: Contemporary Meanings of Traditional Practice on the Basis of Hunters’ Discourse Analysis) by Dorota Rancew-Sikora (2009). Also of importance are interdisciplinary collective monographs edited by sociologists, e.g. Ludzie i nie-ludzie. Perspektywa socjologiczno-antropologiczna (trans. Humans and Non-Humans: A Socio-Anthropological Perspective), edited by Adriana Mica and Paweł Łuczeczko (2011); Companion Animals in Everyday Life, edited by Michał Piotr Pręgowski (2016); and Dobrostan zwierząt (trans. Animal Welfare), edited by Hanna Mamzer (2018).
Last but not least, the fourth argument justifying the establishment of the Section refers to the area of its members’ interest, which corresponds with the public demand. The purpose of sociology is to describe social controversies, changes, and socio-cultural phenomena that appear in the world around us, including fight for animals’ rights, legal and moral changes concerning different species, vegetarianism and veganism, the status of domestic animals, social actions supporting species protection, etc. Social interest in questions such as relations between humans and other animals, their intertwined welfares, empathy towards – and understanding of – other species is as noticeable in Poland as it is in other countries. Describing, explaining, and understanding the connection between human and animal worlds has become one of principal tasks for sociology.
All those arguments considered, we would like to apply for establishing the Section of Interspecies Relations within the Polish Sociological Association. The Section’s goals include: studying, describing and interpreting human-animal relations both in the local and the global dimensions; presenting the achievements and initiatives of Polish sociologist and international researchers/scholars; and cooperating with international academic institutions with the purpose of promoting Polish achievements with regard to the interspecies-relations research. The social aim of the Section is to support the academic efforts of sociologists interested in this interdisciplinary area.