21H.380J | Fall 2013 | Undergraduate, Graduate
People and Other Animals


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 1 session / week, 2 hours / session

Course Description

This course is a survey of the ways that people have interacted with their closest animal relatives, for example: hunting, domestication of livestock, exploitation of animal labor, scientific study of animals, display of exotic and performing animals, and pet keeping. Themes include changing ideas about animal agency and intelligence, our moral obligations to animals, and the limits imposed on the use of animals.




This course is for undergraduate and graduate students. Required readings for everyone are listed on the schedule. Additional required readings for graduate students are listed on a separate schedule. (Of course, undergraduates are very welcome to read them too.)

Written Assignments

A research paper will be due at the end of the semester—12 pages for undergraduates, 25 pages for graduate students. A proposal will be due Session 5, an annotated bibliography will be due Session 9, and the final paper will be due Session 15. I will be happy to read and comment on drafts if they are submitted a reasonable time before the final paper is due.

In addition, each week students will hand in a brief (1–2 pages) response to the readings.

Non-Written Assignments

Students will give a brief oral report on the progress of their research during Session 9 and a 15-minute presentation during the final session.


Research Paper 50
Oral Presentation 15
Participation (including response papers) 35

Things to Remember

Written assignments should represent original and individual work. For a detailed discussion of what this means, see the “Academic Integrity at MIT” handbook. 

Assignments are to be handed in on time. If an extension becomes necessary it should be requested ahead of the due date. Otherwise, lateness will be penalized.

Attendance is important. Not all the material to be covered in class is included in the readings. Be sure to bring your copy of the readings to class.

Grading will be based on the three written assignments, the oral presentation, and class participation (including informal reflections), weighted as follows: research paper 1/2; oral presentation—1/6; class participation (including informal response papers)—1/3.


1 Introduction  
2 Hunting  
3 Domestication and Breeding  
4 Meat (or not)  
5 Pets Research paper proposal due
6 Animal Experimentation Guest speaker: Dr. Barbara O’Pray, chair MIT ACUC
7 Animal Protection  
8 No Class Individual Conferences
9 Animals and Invasion Research paper annotated bibliography due Oral progress report due
10 Animals and Infection  
11 Live Animals on Display  
12 Dead Animals on Display Field trip to Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology
13 Studying Animals: Field Observation and Ethology  
14 Animals and Imagination  
15 Final Presentations Paper presentations
Course Info
As Taught In
Fall 2013