"They can sense the soul": stray dog euthanasia debates and the use of canine cosmologies in representations of social differentiation in Romania
(University of Michigan)
Paper short abstract:
This paper addresses how human attitudes towards dogs, as well as canine behaviors towards humans, have become a way for understanding the inner qualities of fellow-citizens in Bucharest, Romania.
Paper long abstract:
My paper will discuss how everyday interactions and discussions about Bucharest's population of stray dogs have become a mode for representations of social differentiation in contemporary Romania. Usually resulting in the reinforcement of established stereotypes about animal-lovers, animal-haters, people with a good soul, or people without it, invocations of dog senses, and the canine way of being in the world are employed by different parties, such as the pro- and anti- dog euthanasia movements, in discussing whether a city filled with strays is 'civilized' or 'European.' Such talk signifies and produces new moralities through understandings of compassion, civic responsibility, and guilt. Analyzing ethnographic material from everyday, neighborhood-level interactions, but also from the recent debate on the massive euthanasia of strays that took place in Bucharest in September of 2013, after the incident of a 4-year-old boy being killed by a pack of stray dogs in one of the capital's parks, my paper will address how human attitudes towards dogs, as well as canine behaviors towards humans have become a way for understanding the inner qualities of fellow-citizens.
The post human: what is it good for? Anthropological perspectives