Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Naming the Ethological Subject

  • Etienne S. Benson (a1)

In recent decades, through the work of Jane Goodall and other ethologists, the practice of giving personal names to nonhuman animals who are the subjects of scientific research has become associated with claims about animal personhood and scientific objectivity. While critics argue that such naming practices predispose the researcher toward anthropomorphism, supporters suggest that it sensitizes the researcher to individual differences and social relations. Both critics and supporters agree that naming tends to be associated with the recognition of individual animal rights. The history of the naming of research animals since the late nineteenth century shows, however, that the practice has served a variety of purposes, most of which have raised few ethical or epistemological concerns. Names have been used to identify research animals who play dual roles as pets, workers, or patients, to enhance their market value, and to facilitate their identification in the field. The multifaceted history of naming suggests both that the use of personal names by Goodall and others is less of a radical break with previous practices than it might first appear to be and that the use of personal names to recognize the individuality, sentience, or rights of nonhuman animals faces inherent limits and contradictions.

Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Arnold Arluke . 1988. “Sacrificial Symbolism in Animal Experimentation: Object or Pet?Anthrozoos 2 (2):98117.

Claud A. Bramblett 1976. “Ethology and Primates: Some New Directions for the 1970s.” American Anthropologist 78 (3):593607.

Bonnie Tocher Clause . 1993. “The Wistar Rat as a Right Choice: Establishing Mammalian Standards and the Ideal of a Standardized Mammal.” Journal of the History of Biology 26 (2):329349.

Wallace Craig . 1908. “The Voices of Pigeons Regarded as a Means of Social Control.” American Journal of Sociology 14 (1):86100.

Wallace Craig . 1933. “The Music of the Wood Pewee's Song and One of Its Laws.” Auk 50 (2):174178.

Susan G. Davis 1997. Spectacular Nature: Corporate Culture and the Sea World Experience. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Vinciane Despret . 2004. “The Body We Care For: Figures of Anthropo-zoo-genesis.” Body and Society 10 (2-3):111134.

Sarah Jansen . 2002. “Den Heringen einen Paß ausstellen: Formalisierung und Genauigkeit in den Anfängen der Populationsökologie um 1900.” Berichte zur Wissenschaftsgeschichte 25 (3):153169.

Robert E. Kohler 2002. Landscapes and Labscapes: Exploring the Lab-Field Border in Biology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Susan E. Lederer 1992. “Political Animals: The Shaping of Biomedical Research Literature in Twentieth-Century America.” Isis 83 (1):6179.

Michael E. Lynch 1988. “Sacrifice and the Transformation of the Animal Body into a Scientific Object: Laboratory Culture and Ritual Practice in the Neurosciences.” Social Studies of Science 18 (2):265289.

Georgina M. Montgomery 2005. “Place, Practice and Primatology: Clarence Ray Carpenter, Primate Communication and the Development of Field Methodology, 1931–1945.” Journal of the History of Biology 38:495533.

Georgina M. Montgomery 2009. “‘Infinite Loneliness': The Life and Times of Miss Congo.” Endeavour 33 (3):101105.

Tania Munz . 2005. “The Bee Battles: Karl von Frisch, Adrian Wenner and the Honey Bee Dance Language Controversy.” Journal of the History of Biology 38:535570.

Margaret Morse Nice . 1935. “Edmund Selous: An Appreciation.” Bird-Banding 6 (3):9096.

Lynn K. Nyhart 2009. Modern Nature: The Rise of the Biological Perspective in Germany. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Dale Peterson . 2006. Jane Goodall: The Woman Who Redefined Man. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Michael Pettit . 2010. “The Problem of Raccoon Intelligence in Behaviourist America.” British Journal for the History of Science 43 (3):391421.

Mary T. Phillips 1994. “Proper Names and the Social Construction of Biography: The Negative Case of Laboratory Animals.” Qualitative Sociology 17 (2):119142.

Amanda Rees . 2007. “Reflections on the Field: Primatology, Popular Science and the Politics of Personhood.” Social Studies of Science 37 (6):881907.

Amanda Rees . 2009. The Infanticide Controvery: Primatology and the Art of Field Science. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gilbert P. Rose 1979. “Odysseus' Barking Heart.” Transactions of the American Philological Association 109:215230.

Wolff-Michael G. Roth , and Michael Bowen . 1999. “Digitizing Lizards: The Topology of ‘Vision’ in Ecological Fieldwork.” Social Studies of Science 29 (5):719764.

Stacey K. Sowards 2006. “Identification through Orangutans: Destabilizing the Nature/Culture Dualism.” Ethics and the Environment 11 (2):4561.

Henderikus J. Stam , and Tanya Kalmanovitch . 1998. “E. L. Thorndike and the Origins of Animal Psychology: On the Nature of the Animal in Psychology.” American Psychologist 53 (10):11351144.

Kristoffer Whitney . 2014. “Domesticating Nature? Surveillance and Conservation of Migratory Shorebirds in the ‘Atlantic Flyway’.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, Part C 45 (1):7887.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Science in Context
  • ISSN: 0269-8897
  • EISSN: 1474-0664
  • URL: /core/journals/science-in-context
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 7
Total number of PDF views: 42 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 212 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 22nd July 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.