MSU Sociology/ Animal Studies dominate latest HER issue

January 7, 2020

Three of the seven substantive papers in the current issue of Human Ecology Review are by MSU Animal Studies current or former students, two of those are Sociology PhD alums.

The issue is available free open access at:


The four papers:

  • One is by Jennifer Kelly, an MSU Sociology and Animal Studies alum, and three of her undergraduate students at Boston College.
  • One is  by Jonny Thurston, a current MSU PhD student in English and Animal Studies.
  • One is by Ryan Gunderson, also an MSU Sociology and Animals Studies alum, along with Brian Peterson and former colleague Diana Stuart.

Large Carnivore Attacks on Humans: The State of Knowledge

Jennifer Rebecca Kelly1
Environmental Studies Program, Boston College
Massachusetts, United States of America
Thomas J. Doherty
Sustainable Self
Portland, Oregon, United States of America
Thomas Gabel
Environmental Studies Program, Boston College
Massachusetts, United States of America
Willa Disbrow
Environmental Studies Program, Boston College
Massachusetts, United States of America
In this paper, we summarize the state of the literature regarding attacks on humans from large carnivores, and classify them, where possible, according to three common precursors of such attacks including human provocation and animal disease. We found the risk of a large carnivore attacking a human is relatively low in comparison to other natural threats, such as being struck by lightning. Our recommendations include ways for humans to coexist with large carnivores, such as aversive conditioning of habituated carnivores. Finally, we argue for a more standardized method of obtaining attack information across scholars and practitioners such as the use of consistent timelines, regions and sources, the inclusion of gray literature, and the recording of causal factors such as provocation and disease. Empirical knowledge of carnivore attacks can augment and inform individual and culturally influenced understandings with the potential for more humane, effective, and locally appropriate wildlife management and conservation techniques.

The Face of the Beast: Bestial Descriptions and Psychological Response in Horror Literature

Jonathan W. Thurston1
English and Animal Studies, Michigan State University,
United States
Current scholarship surrounding the predator mythos in culture and literature suggests a distinctive binary of wild–domestic. Scholars often argue that the uniquely terrifying aspect of the predator is in its unconscious capacity to invade our standards of civilization, disrupt order, and pass our final frontier of fear: that of being eaten alive. Other scholars, too, tend to read the terror of these predators with an almost colonial analysis, centering around the concept of the predators’ ulterior motive to flip the cultural hierarchy of human above animals. However, what these scholars often neglect are the physiological and evolutionary drives that ultimately construct a genetic response to these predators’ general anatomical outlines and features. As we undertake the crucial work of understanding humans’ perceptions of their place in their environment, it is important to recognize that, aside from discussions of culturally constructed paradigms of dominance, we too are animals, with primal responses to our environmental conditions. These instinctive responses must be acknowledged as playing a part in our view of the “wild.” The scholarship on predator–human interactions necessitates a close study of such relations. In horror texts—literature, films, video games, and other media—the depiction of fearful “beasts” relies on anatomically deconstructing the image of the predator to highlight key predatory features that generate instinctive responses in the audience. On display, in the horror genre, is the anatomy of our fear of predators.


Reconceptualizing Climate Change Denial: Ideological Denialism Misdiagnoses Climate Change and Limits Effective Action

Brian Petersen1
Planning and Recreation, Department of Geography
Northern Arizona University, United States
Diana Stuart
Sustainable Communities Program, School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability
Northern Arizona University, United States
Ryan Gunderson
Department of Sociology and Gerontology
Miami University, Florida, United States
Despite increasing scientific evidence supporting the need for immediate and transformative action, effective responses to address climate change remain stymied. Scholars have identified climate change denial as a factor in thwarting policy responses to climate change. We examine new forms of climate change denial that are critical to recognize as the general public and policy-makers consider actions to limit warming. Here we apply a Marxist conception of ideology to broaden our understanding of climate denialism (Marx & Engels, 1977). We introduce the concept of “ideological denialism,” which conceals underlying contradictions and perpetuates the current social order. The ideological denial of climate change involves recognizing climate change as a problem, yet fails to diagnose the root causes and prescribes solutions that maintain the current system. We argue that ideological denialism typically stems from a failure to recognize a growth-dependent economic system as a root driver of climate change. We examine degrowth as a possible means to reorganize social relations with potential to more effectively reduce greenhouse gas emissions and limit global warming.