The Chinese University of Hong Kong Department of History Department of History
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HIST5506D Special Topics in Comparative History: Human-Animal Relationship in History

Semester 1 (2020-2021)

Lecture TimeMonday 6:30pm-8:15pm


Lecturer POON Shuk Wah ((852) 3943 1757 /

Course Description

This course examines the changing cultural and social positions of animals in the human world from ancient to present times. Adopting cross-cultural and comparative approaches, this course investigates the various and changing roles of animals in the long course of human history as totems, food, working companions, pets, etc. The changing human-animal relationship is a useful lens to understand not only the important role animals have played in human society, but also the changes in the ethical values of the humanity over time.


Learning Outcomes:

Students will be able to

  1. identify the various forces and factors that have shaped the human-animal relationship in different periods of time.
  2. analyze current controversial animal issues with a historical and comparative perspective.
  3. synthesize  primary,  secondary,  written,  and visual sources  to make informed  interpretations  of historical and current issues about animals.

1. Introduction: Background and Issues

  • Franklin, Adrian. “Good to Think with”: Theories of Human-animal  Relations in Modernity.” A Sociology of Human-animal Relations in Modernity (London: Sage Publication, 1990), pp. 9-33.
  • Sterckx,  Roel  & Martina  Siebert  Dagmar  Schafer.  “Knowing  Animals  in China’s  History:  An Introduction.” In Roel Sterckx,  Martina Siebert & Dagmar Schafer eds., Animals Through Chinese History: Earliest Times to 1911 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 1-19.


2. From Hunting to Domestication of Animals

  • Bulliet, Richard W. Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers: The Past and Future of Human-Animal Relationships (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), pp. 71-100.
  • Diamond, Jared. “The Anna Karenina Principle: Why were most big wild mammal species never domesticated?”  In  Guns,  Germs,  and  Steel:  The  Fates  of  Human  Societies  (London: Vintage, 1998), pp. 157-175.


3. Animals in Asian Religious Traditions

  • Kemmerer, Lisa. Animals and World Religions (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), pp. 4-18.
  • Liu, Chungshee Hsien. “The Dog-Ancestor Story of the Aboriginal Tribes of Southern China.” The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, Vol. 62 (Jul. – Dec. 1932), pp. 361-368.
  • Sterckx, Roel. “Animal to Edible: The Ritualization of Animals in Early China.” In Roel Sterckx, Martina Siebert & Dagmar Schafer eds., Animals Through Chinese History: Earliest Times to 1911 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), pp. 46-63.


4. Animals in Western Religious Traditions

  • Kemmerer,  Lisa. Animals and World religions (New York: Oxford University  Press, 2011), pp. 206-240.
  • Demello,  Margo. Animals  and Society:  An Introduction  to Human-Animal  Studies  (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), ch. 15, “Animals in Religion and Folklore,” pp. 301-324.


5. Animal Food Taboo (Tutorial 1, Oct. 5)

  • *Goossaert,  Vincent.  “The  Beef  Taboo  and  the Sacrificial  Structure  of Late  Imperial  Chinese Society.” In Roel Sterckx ed, Of Tripod and Palate: Food, Politics, and Religion in Traditional China (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005), pp. 237-248.
  • *Harris,  Marvin.  “Mother  Cow.”  In  Cows,  Pigs,  Wars  and  Witches:  The  Riddles  of  Culture (London: Hutchinson & Co., 1975), pp. 11–32.
  • Poon, Shuk-wah. “Dogs and British Colonialism: The Contested Ban on Eating Dogs in Colonial Hong Kong.” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth  History. (Volume 42, Issue 2, 2014), pp. 308-328.
  • The Age of Reason and Modern Zoos
  • *Cowie,    Helen. Exhibiting    Animals    in    Nineteenth-Century    Britain: Empathy,    Education, Entertainment (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), pp. 101-125.
  • *Demello, Margo. Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal  Studies (New York: Columbia University Press, 2012), ch. 6, “Display, Performance, and Sport,” pp. 99-125.


6. Animals, Science, and Epidemics

  • Pepin, Jacques. The Origins of AIDS (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 221-234.
  • Torrey, E. Fuller & Robert H. Yolken. Beasts of the Earth: Animals, Humans, and Disease (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2005), pp. 112-123.


7. Pet-keeping Culture and the Rise of the Middle Class (Tutorial 2, Oct. 19)

  • Ritvo, Harriet. “The Emergence of Modern Pet-keeping.” In Flynn, Clifton P. ed. Social Creatures: A Human and Animal Studies Reader (New York: Lantern Books, 2008), pp. 96-106.
  • Serpell, James & Elizabeth Paul. “Pets and the Development of Positive Attitudes to Animals.” In Aubrey  Manning  &  James  Serpell  eds.  Animals  and  Human  Society:  Changing  Perspectives (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 127-141.


8. Animals in the Age of Imperialism

  • Mackenzie,   John.  The  Empire  of  Nature:   Hunting,   Conservation   and  British  Imperialism (Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1988), pp. 225-260.
  • Sramek, Joseph. ‘“Face Him Like a Briton”: Tiger Hunting, Imperialism, and British Masculinity in Colonial India, 1800-1875.’ Victorian Studies, vol. 48, no. 4 (2006), pp. 659-680.


9. The Emergence of Animal Protection Movements in the 19th Century

  • Harrison, Brian. “Animals and the State in Nineteenth-Century  England.” The English Historical Review, Vol. 88, No. 349 (Oct., 1973), pp. 786-820.
  • Kete, Kathleen. “Animals and Ideology: The Politics of Animal Protection in Europe.” In  Rothfels Nigel ed., Representing Animals (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002), pp. 19-34.


10. Politics of Animal Protection in the 20th Century (Tutorial 3, Nov. 2)

  • * Hirata, Keiko. “Beached Whales: Examining Japan’s Rejection of an International Norm,” Social Science Japan Journal, 7 (2004): 177–97.
  • *  Andresen,  Steinar.  “Whaling:  Peace  at  Home,  War  Abroad.”  In  Jon  Birger  Skjærseth,  ed., International Regimes and Norway’s Environmental Policy: Crossfire and Coherence (Hampshire: Ashgate, 2004), pp. 41–65.
  • Poon, Shuk-wah. “Buddhist Activism and Animal Protection in Republican China.” In Paul Katz and Stefania Travagnin, eds., Concepts and Methods for the Study of Chinese Religions III: Key Concepts in Practice (De Gruyter, Germany, 2019), pp. 91-111.


11. Animals as National Symbols (Tutorial 4, Nov. 16)

  • *Nicholls,  Henry.  The  Way  of  the  Panda:  The  Curious  History  of  China’s  Political  Animal (London: Profile Books Ltd., 2010), pp. 38-75.
  • *Skabelund, Aaron Herald. “The ‘Loyal Dog’ Hachiko and the Creation of the “Japanese” Dog.” In  Empire  of  Dogs:  Canines,  Japan,  and  the  Making  of  the  Modern  Imperial  World  (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2011), pp. 87-129.


12. Conclusion: “Why Look at Animals”

  •     Berger, John. “Why Look at Animals.” In About Looking (New York: Pantheon Books, 1980), pp. 1-28.
Assessment & Assignments
  • Class Participation
  • Tutorial presentation and discussion
    (Oct. 5, 19, Nov. 2, 16)

15% (6% + 3%x3)

  • Tutorial report (due on  Dec. 7) (1300-1500 words in English)


  • Mini-presentation (Nov. 30)
    term paper draft (5 pages, due on  Nov. 9)

6 %

  • Term Paper (due on  Dec. 11)
    (3,000-3,500 words in English)


Honesty in Academic Work

Attention is drawn to University policy and regulations on honesty in academic work, and to the disciplinary guidelines and procedures applicable to breaches of such policy and regulations. Details may be found at

With each assignment, students will be required to submit a signed declaration that they are aware of these policies, regulations, guidelines and procedures.

  • In the case of group projects, all members of the group should be asked to sign the declaration, each of whom is responsible and liable to disciplinary actions, irrespective of whether he/she has signed the declaration and whether he/she has contributed, directly or indirectly, to the problematic contents.
  • For assignments in the form of a computer-generated document that is principally text-based and submitted via VeriGuide, the statement, in the form of a receipt, will be issued by the system upon students’ uploading of the soft copy of the assignment.

Assignments without the properly signed declaration will not be graded by teachers.

Only the final version of the assignment should be submitted via VeriGuide.

The submission of a piece of work, or a part of a piece of work, for more than one purpose (e.g. to satisfy the requirements in two different courses) without declaration to this effect shall be regarded as having committed undeclared multiple submissions. It is common and acceptable to reuse a turn of phrase or a sentence or two from one’s own work; but wholesale reuse is problematic. In any case, agreement from the course teacher(s) concerned should be obtained prior to the submission of the piece of work.

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