Harriet Ritvo


On her book Noble Cows and Hybrid Zebras: Essays on Animals and History

Cover Interview of July 19, 2011


The issues raised by the historical and contemporary experiences of other animals, and by our understanding of those experiences, have continuing significance.

Often important commitments are expressed in controversies over classification.  The most conspicuous such controversy has focused on the position of humans within or without the animal kingdom, especially as demonstrated by Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

But there are others.  The creation and limitation of breeds and the enforcement of breed standards has a clear relation to ideas about the robustness and differentiation of human races.  The distinction between domesticated and wild animals is at least equally problematic, and its political implications are more multifarious.  Depending on how the opposed elements are valued, it can be used to argue for or against development—for or against conservation.

© 2011 Harriet Ritvo