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Book cover: Studies in Symbolic Interaction

Studies in Symbolic Interaction

ISSN: 0163-2396
Series editor(s): Professor Norman Denzin

Subject Area: Sociology and Public Policy

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Do Animals have Selves?


Document Information:
Title:Do Animals have Selves?
Author(s):Ryan Turner
Volume:40 Editor(s): Norman K. Denzin ISBN: 978-1-78190-782-5 eISBN: 978-1-78190-783-2
Citation:Ryan Turner (2013), Do Animals have Selves?, in Norman K. Denzin (ed.) 40th Anniversary of Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Volume 40), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp.425-460
DOI:10.1108/S0163-2396(2013)0000040021 (Permanent URL)
Publisher:Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article type:Chapter Item
Abstract:This piece is a review of the animal selfhood literature in sociology, organized into four main parts. First, I review the sociological literature of human–animal interactions, in which sociologists claim that animals possess selves. Second, I review how sociologists have referred to the self, from which I construct five criteria of selfhood, including self as attribution, self-awareness, intersubjectivity, self-concept/reflexivity, and narration. Third, I address how animals have selves using these criteria, drawing on sociological and ethological evidence. Fourth, I critique the animal interaction sociologists’ specific claims of animal selfhood, including their epistemological failure to distinguish between human accounts of animal subjectivities and animal subjectivities, and their empirical failure to show how animals act toward themselves. Ultimately, I conclude that animal selves, particularly in an elemental Meadian sense, are potentially real, but in most cases are unobservable or unverifiable phenomena.

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