Author:Karen Lane (University of St Andrews)
Paper short abstract:
People have positive responses to a Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier. A sledging-dog video goes viral. Staffordshire Bull Terriers, 'the most unwanted breed', are re-branded with knitted Staffies. This paper explores the bio-psycho-social mechanisms that may account for these responses to canine images.
Paper long abstract:
'That doggy looks like Sandy from Annie!' exclaimed a child excitedly to her mother as she saw my dog walk towards her. Many people have similar positive responses when they meet Torridon, a Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier, and I have explored elsewhere (Lane 2015) how inter-subjective inter-species relations enabled her role as my research assistant. But people frequently respond just as positively to her photographic image (and want to take photographs of her): what exactly are people responding to when they first see her image, either as photograph or vision before them? A video of a sledging dog goes viral on the internet and makes the national news - more than once and in different countries. The Blue Cross animal charity state that Staffordshire Bull Terriers are 'the most unwanted breed', due to their reputation as aggressive dogs. Meanwhile, Battersea Dogs Home responded to their rehoming crisis by re-branding, through an awareness and fundraising campaign promoting knitted staffies. What do the images of these animals tell us of those animals? What memories or emotional responses do canine images tap into? What personality traits do we ascribe to dogs when we first see their image? Why does a stranger say to me, unprompted, 'I don't normally like dogs but I like your dog'? This paper will explore the bio-psycho-social mechanisms that may account for these responses to canine images, drawing on ethnographic data from fieldwork and internet studies, and will consider what this anthropological enquiry may tell us of human-canine relations.
Representing and Depicting Animals