Canid-Human Relations conference open to Brock community

The Department of Sociology will host a conference and book launch this week about our complex and varied relationships with dogs.

Rethinking Canid-Human Relations is a SSHRC funded conference that will explore several topics related to people and dogs, from work to exploitation to rescue to therapy and beyond.

The conference will also launch the book, Dog’s Best Friend? Rethinking Canid-Human Relations, co-edited Brock Sociology Professor John Sorenson and York University Professor Atsuko Matsuoka.

“Rather than just talking to people about the book ourselves, we thought it would be fun to have different speakers attend to talk about various aspects of our relations with dogs and other canids,” explains Sorenson.

Sorenson, who also teaches a course on the sociology of canid-human relations, started working on the book after he was unable to find “a satisfactory text that took a critical approach to these topics.”

“As we note in our book, often our ideas about dogs are based on a rather narrow Western perspective in which we claim that these animals are ‘part of the family’ — although we still own them as property and can dispose of them at will, so their status as family members is precarious,” Sorenson points out.

“In fact, the vast majority of dogs in the world do not live in such situations but live on the streets alongside human communities. Our book devotes several chapters to these sorts of relationships.”

The conference will welcome some of the book’s contributors for panels and thematic talks, as well as the book launch. The conference will also feature a film screening of the documentary Sled Dogs and keynote addresses from Gregory Castle of the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, where almost 1600 rescued animals make their home, and Peter J. Li of the University of Houston, who will speak on “The Political Economy of China’s ‘Civil War’ over Dogs.”

The two-day conference, spanned across Thursday, Nov. 21 and Friday, Nov. 22, is welcome for anyone interested in attending. The full conference program is available here, with some highlights including:

  • Gregory Castle’s keynote address (Thursday at 9 a.m.)
  • Book launch (Thursday at 1 p.m.)
  • Sled Dogs film screening and Q&A with the filmmaker, Fran Levitt (Thursday at 6 p.m.)
  • Peter J. Li’s keynote address (Friday at 9 a.m.)

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