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Title: The paragon of animals : anthropocentrism and human origins
Author: Evans, Merline
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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Recent years have seen the development of the "animal turn" and the rise of animal studies as a multi-disciplinary field dedicated to moving beyond anthropocentrism. Yet its ripples have been barely felt within archaeology, and not at all within the study of human origins, arguably the domain where these insights are most keenly needed given its focus on "what it means to be human". This thesis takes the form of a critical history of the discipline, that we might better understand the way forward. I seek to illuminate the degree to which there has been intellectual continuity in the discourse, and the degree to which this discourse has been driven by anthropocentric political ideology. To this end I examine two themes within human origins research, phylogeny and mind, looking firstly at texts from the earlier decades of the discipline and subsequently at those from recent decades. I show that, both in phylogenetic and mental/cultural terms, the loaded dichotomy between human and animal, as well as "moderns" and "archaics", has been continually forced upon the data to meet political ends, with a priori conclusions having made the recognition of contrary evidence virtually impossible. This is as true now as it was a century or more ago. Having exposed the long and continuing hegemony of anthropocentric ideology I argue it is high time for a decisive break with it, and advocate a metahumanist approach that both affirms the "animality" of the human and the "humanity" of other animals. I conclude with a case study showing how we may begin to actually apply such an approach to the subject, looking at hyenas, now recognized as conscious agents, and their interactions with prehistoric humans, no longer defined in opposition to the animal or by an archaic-modern dichotomy.
Supervisor: Davies, Simon ; Gamble, Clive Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available