Bellwether Histories

Animals, Humans, and US Environments in Crisis

A multispecies history of the globalized United States, Bellwether Histories reveals how animals have been ensnared in colonialism, capitalism, and environmental destruction as human decisions created and perpetuated untenable and unequal interspecies relationships. The collection's authors explore how people misunderstood or ignored animal crises precipitated by habitat destruction and population declines, sudden dependence on human aid, shifts from freedom to captivity, or subjection to overextended management systems.


Chapters address a range of themes, including the links between antislavery and anti-animal-cruelty advocacy; how cattle, horse, and pig behavior shaped human life and technology; and the politics of caring for and trafficking wild animals. This volume interrogates the history of animal disposability and its ideological twin in US history, human exceptionalism—the anthropocentric myth that people could harm animals without harming themselves.


Today's mass extinctions and ecological breakdowns ensure deadly zoonotic pandemics and global warming will harass us far into the future. Bellwether Histories looks back at how animals have been warning us of our collective fate and asks why they were so seldom heard.


Edited by Susan Nance and Jennifer Marks, with additional contributions from Vanessa Bateman, Joshua Abram Kercsmar, John M. Kinder, Andrea Ringer, Mary Trachsel, and Jessica Wang.


Chapter 4 of Bellwether Histories, "Animal Photography and the 'Elk Problem' in Modern Wyoming" by Vanessa Bateman, is openly available thanks to a grant from the Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research.


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  • publisher
    University of Washington Press
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  • rights
    Chapter 4: CC-BY-NC-ND. Otherwise, all rights reserved.
  • rights holder
    University of Washington Press
  • doi