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What It Means to be Human

Historical Reflections from the 1800s to the Present

List Price: $22.95

July 23, 2013 | Paperback | 6 x 9, 448 pages | ISBN 9781619021679
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In 1872, a woman known only as “An Earnest Englishwoman” published a letter titled “Are Women Animals?” in which she protested against the fact that women were not treated as fully human. In fact, their status was worse than that of animals: regulations prohibiting cruelty against dogs, horses, and cattle were significantly more punitive than laws against cruelty to women. The Earnest Englishwoman’s heartfelt cry was for women to “become–animal” in order to gain the status that they were denied on the grounds that they were not part of “mankind.”

In this fascinating account, Joanna Bourke addresses the profound question of what it means to be “human” rather than “animal.” How are people excluded from political personhood? How does one become entitled to rights? The distinction between the two concepts is a blurred line, permanently under construction. If the Earnest Englishwoman had been capable of looking 100 years into the future, she might have wondered about the human status of chimeras, or the ethics of stem cell research. Political disclosures and scientific advances have been re–locating the human–animal border at an alarming speed. In this meticulously researched, illuminating book, Bourke explores the legacy of more than two centuries, and looks forward into what the future might hold for humans, women, and animals.

About Joanna Bourke

Joanna Bourke is Professor of History in the Department of History, Classics and Archaeology at Birkbeck College, where she has taught since 1992. She is a Fellow of the British Academy. Her books range from the social and economic history of Ireland in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, to social histories of the British working classes between 1860 and 1960s, to cultural histories of military conflict between the Anglo-Boer war and the present. She explores history through the lens of gender, ivtersectionalities, and subjectivities. She has worked on the history of the emotions, particularly fear and hatred, and the history of sexual violence. In the past few years, her research has focused on questions of humanity, militarisation, and pain. She wrote a book entitled What It Means to Be Human. In 2014, she published two books: Wounding the World: How Military Violence and War Games Invade Our World and The Story of Pain: From Prayer to Painkillers.

Praise
Praise for What It Means to Be Human

"Avoiding the impenetrable prose often found in academic books, this deeply scholarly work is lively and challenging in equal measure, and rewarding throughout." —Boston Globe

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