Beyond Pets: Exploring Relational Perspectives of Petness

Jen Wrye

Abstract


Considerable work has considered the place of pets in humans’ lives, although most of this research takes for granted that pets are certain animals. While these perspectives provide insight into the character of human-nonhuman relationships, the assumptions underlying such research frequently invest in a conception of pets as having essential qualities. This paper explores the possibility that petness, which can generally be defined as the state, quality or conditions under which a pet is constituted, arises from socially constructed relations and the treatment of objects. Using the example of virtual pets I will argue that there is no essential ‘petness’ to anything and that petness is a social construct. More specifically, I contend that pets are the product of the investment of human emotion into objects. After outlining how such treatment is not exclusive to the animals that live close to us, but is similarly exhibited toward inanimate entities as well as other sentient creatures, I will conclude with some discussion of how pet relations can be understood in the context of late capitalism.

Keywords


pets, animals, relationships, constructionism

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