How to Be Animal: The Case Against Human Exceptionalism By Melanie Challenger
From Book Reviews/Interviews

Author: Melanie Challenger

Interviewed by Marc Bekoff, Psychology Today / Animal Emotions

Publisher: Penguin Books

How to be an Animal
How to Be Animal: The Case Against Human Exceptionalism
Available at Harvard Book Store
ISBN:  9780143134350

Marc Bekoff: I'm always amazed and somewhat disappointed when I read or hear phrases such as "humans and animals," as if humans aren't animals. Of course, we are. That's why, when I refer to other animals, I first write or say "nonhuman animals (animals)" to stress that we are, in fact, members of the animal kingdom and should be proud of it.

It's precisely for this and other reasons that I am thrilled to offer an interview with Melanie Challenger about her riveting new book called How to Be Animal: A New History of What It Means to Be Human.1,2 Here's what she had to say about her landmark work.

Why did you write How to Be Animal?

Melanie: Many years ago, I wrote a book about extinctions—both biological and cultural—and what historical stages led to our estranged relationship with nature—estranged, in as much as we've become a species that is disruptive and, for some, disconnected from the earth systems and species with which we live and survive. At the end of that inquiry, I had noted what a strange psychological relationship many of us have with being organisms, with being animal, mortal, and so forth.

That is going back more than 10 years ago now, but that was the starting point of what eventually became this book. It seemed to me then that we can't understand how we've arrived at the biodiversity crisis or climate change unless we understand the ways we've thought about what it means to be human and how our natural origins on the Earth matter to us....



Return to Book Reviews