Displaying Death and Animating Life: Human-Animal Relations in Art, Science, and Everyday Life

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


In this book, author Jane C. Desmond offers a performative analysis of the social phenomena that construct human-animal relations. Using an interdisciplinary approach, Desmond explores the shared conditions of embodiment and physical copresence that shape human relationships with animals. She begins by examining human interactions with the bodies of non-individuated animals, including museum exhibitions of dead animals and taxidermy displays. Desmond uses the Body Worlds exhibit of plasticized human corpses as a point of contrast to argue that while human corpses are put on display in a way that emphasizes their universality, exhibits featuring dead animal bodies invite genericization. The following sections of the book deal with known or individuated animals such as pets. Desmond analyzes animal burial and mourning practices, paying special attention to pet obituaries and pet cemeteries, and discusses the underlying implications of cross-species kinship. She compares these grieving practices to humans’ uncompassionate treatment of animal roadkill. In the last part of the book, Desmond explores the marketing of animal intimacy, in particular the marketing of artwork created by animals. She focuses on the body traces left by animal artists as well as the distinction between primates and other animals that make art. Ultimately, Desmond uses these various examples to question the complicated politics of human-animal relations and interactions.
Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherUniversity of Chicago Press
Number of pages312
ISBN (Electronic)9780226375519
ISBN (Print)9780226144061, 9780226144054
StatePublished - Aug 2016


  • animals
  • animal studies
  • taxidermy
  • roadkill
  • kinship
  • animal mourning
  • animal art
  • mourning for animals
  • Body Worlds Exhibition
  • museum displays


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