As expected Richard Bulliet’s Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers elicited some strong (and not entirely positive) responses this week – which is great! I’m really grateful to Corinne and Kelly for pointing out the obvious problem of theorizing domestication without looking seriously at the dog – which has been more implicated in the emergence of human society than any other domesticate . Perhaps Corinne will want to look at dog domestication for her research project later in the term? While I’m typing, I thought I’d highlight this new study about social learning and imitation in wolves (which revises earlier research that gave dogs a leg-up in this area).
But the main reason I’m posting is in response to Tanner’s discussion of “salience”, which offers terrific insight into why we humans find it so easy to disregard issues, things, and creatures we find uncomfortable, unpleasant, and outright ugly. Take this photograph of a dog watching the sunrise over the Himalayas, for example.
As 21st-century Americans we find this image compelling, beautiful, and perhaps a bit haunting. What is the dog doing there? Who does he “belong” to? What happened to him? The answers laid out in photographer Sebastian Walhuetter’s blog post will probably surprise you. And they should definitely give us good food for thought on how to think about cultural context, history, “ownership” and agency – whether we’re looking at a dog doing his job or using an image on the internet.