Modernity’s anthropocentric spatial orderings seek to disentangle us from nonhuman animals. We ride the subway without seeing its rats; we live in exterminated apartments; we consume dead animals who are slaughtered away from our sight and processed into meat. Yet there is a serious need to address, engage and live with nonhuman animals, who “together with [humans] suffer from urban pollution and habitat degradation,” and whose oppressions are intimately linked to our own, and to those we perpetuate within the world.
In her essay “Zoöpolis,” cultural geographer Jennifer Wolch defines the eponymous term as a city that “[invites] the animals back in” to “[allow] for the emergence of an ethic, practice, and politics of caring.” In this reading list, the zoöpolis is considered from an interdisciplinary perspective—from cultural geography to ecological urbanism, landscape architecture to literature, politics to visual art, literature to critical theory. Particular attention is paid to 1) trans-species urban practices that aspire to “[alter] the nature of interactions between people and animals in the city”; 2) the culturally constructed dichotomy between nature and culture; 3) rhetorics of fear used to describe cross-species co-habitation and eradication of so-called pests; and 4) the proliferation of factory farms, and the politics of sight projected by these spaces.
* Note: This reading list is adapted from a Spring 2015 course taught as part of Pratt Institute’s Architecture Writing program. I taught a separate course on Animal Architectures that emphasized zoos in Fall 2014 and have only transposed one entry from that syllabus to this reading list.
Society and Animals
An introduction to animal geographies that situates this area of study within broader geographic discourse.
“What Is Doing the Killing? Animal Attacks, Man-Eaters, and Shifting Boundaries and Flows of Human-Animal Relations.”
University of Illinois Press
In this chapter from Killing Animals, Chris Wilbert explores the Western human fascination with animal attacks and how this fascination reiterates human/nonhuman boundaries.
"Why Look at Animals?"
In this chapter from About Looking, Berger traces how animals have been depicted in art and philosophy throughout history, ultimately moving toward a meditation on domesticated animals and zoos.
In "Zoöpolis," Wolch presents a framework for a “renaturalized, re-enchanted city” that would “allow for the emergence of an ethic, practice, and politics of caring for animals and nature” by “[inviting] the animals back in.”
"The Trouble with Wilderness; or, Getting Back to the Wrong Nature"
Uncommon Ground: Rethinking the Human Place in Nature
WW Norton & Co
Here, Cronin traces the cultural construction of wilderness and nature across time and space—i.e., wilderness and nature are human creations.
A 2005 documentary by Werner Herzog chronicling Timothy Treadwell's cohabitation with grizzly bears at Katmai National Park and Preserve in Alaska.
Brief article on what Never Cry Wolf and Grizzly Man serve to teach us about humans' positions in the so-called natural world.
"Bear Life: Tracing an Opening in Grizzly Man"
Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines
University of Minnesota Press
A chapter on Werner Herzog's Grizzly Man from Dominic Pettman's Human Error: Species-Being and Media Machines. Pettman reflects on animality, sexuality, and the question "where is the human?"
Interactive documentary from 2012 about a grizzly bear in Banff National Park (Canada) who "was collared at the age of three and [...] watched her whole life via trail cameras in the park."
"Jungleland: The Lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans Gives New Meaning to ‘Urban Growth'"
The New York Times
A brief article via the NYTimes about cross-species commingling in New Orleans post-Hurricane Katrina.
New Constellations New Ecologies
Hwang invokes the cultural construction of wilderness (cf. Cronin), then moves toward a consideration of the following question: "What happens when wildlife encroaches upon more densely populated
areas of cities?" Includes several speculative architecture projects that reintroduce bats—so-called pests—into the urban environment: the Bat Tower, the Bat Cloud, and the Pest Wall.
"Adore Me Wild"
Speculative architecture project which "suggests that wilderness as space outside of human control no longer resides in opposition to development."
Ecology of Fear
Mike Davis's quintessential environmental and social history of Los Angeles, CA.
1963 horror film by Hitchcock depicting a violent bird invasion in Bodega Bay, CA. Pairs well with Chris Wilbert's chapter from Killing Animals.
Yale University Press
Stunning ethnography by political scientist Timothy Pachirat, who spent five months working undercover in a slaughterhouse in Omaha, NE.
Rethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory
Short prose morsel by Bataille that packs a punch: "Today, the slaughterhouse is cursed and quarantined like a boat carrying cholera. In fact, the victims of this curse are not butchers or animals, but the good people themselves, who, through this, are
only able to bear their own ugliness... The curse (which terrifies only those who utter it) leads them to vegetate as far as possible from the slaughterhouses. They exile themselves, by way of antidote, in an amorphous world, where there is no longer
Le Sang Des Bêtes
Documentary from 1949 contrasting bucolic Paris with a nearby abattoir (slaughterhouse). Can be taught in conjunction with Bernard Tschumi's Parc de la Villette redesign.
"Recollecting the Slaughterhouse"
Brantz traces the rise and fall of abattoirs in the West, with some emphasis placed on the ways in which these spaces have been repurposed (e.g., as museums).
The Nonhuman Autonomous Space Agency
Speculative architecture project imagining what a space colony populated by animals might look like, inspired by sources including NASA's Space Settlements: a Design Study, Michael Pollan's The Botany of Desire, and Donna Haraway's When Species Meet.
Duke University Press
A chapter from Vibrant Matter in which Bennett sets out to "show how worms are 'like' us," finding in their nonhuman bodies "evidence of the vitality of matter." Further, Bennett sets out to "confront the hard question of the political capacity of actants." In other words, can worms and other nonhuman animals be "considered members of a public?" Pairs well with Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights.
Architectural Theories of the Environment: Post-Human Territory
A chapter from Architectural Theories of the Environmnet: Post-Human Territory outlining SCAPE Landscape Architecture Firm's plan to "nurture an active oyster culture that engages issues of water quality, rising tides, and community based development around Brooklyn's Red Hook and Gowanus Canal."
Installation art project via which different habitats were created for various animal clients around the world.
Architectural Theories of the Environment: Post-Human Territory
A chapter excerpted from Ingraham's full-length book Architecture, Animal, Human: Architecture and Post-Animal Life.
Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights
Oxford University Press
Another stunning book—a work of political theory that "shifts the [animal rights] debate from the realm of moral theory and applied ethics to the realm of political theory, focusing on the relational obligations that arise from the varied ways that animals relate to human societies and institutions." The introductory chapter speaks directly to the responsibility of architects to engage more responsibly with cross-species design.
Animal Spaces, Beastly Places
"Animal Spaces, Beastly Places examines how animals interact and relate with people in different ways. Using a comprehensive range of examples, which include feral cats and wild wolves, to domestic animals and intensively farmed cattle, the contributors explore the complex relations in which humans and non-human animals are mixed together" (via Amazon).
Fehér Isten (White God)
Hungarian film from 2014 depicting animal abuse, revenge, and revolution. What happens when unwanted mixed breed dogs rise up? I laughed; I cried; I covered my eyes. (Alas, the politics of sight makes its re-entry...)
In Defense of Animals
Short moral philosophy article outlining arguments for and against zoos. Ultimately, Jamieson argues that zoos should be abolished.
Parc de La Villette
Outlines Parc de la Villette, redesigned by Tschumi Architects from 1984-87 on the site of what was once a large abattoir (slaughterhouse). Pairs nicely with all of the slaughterhouse texts outlined above, and raises questions about architecture and trauma.