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Course Information

Instructor Info:Jennifer Hamilton
Office Extension x5677
TA Info:Cassidy Rappaport
Jessa Orluk
Term: 2013F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 101
12:30 PM - 01:50 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 101

How and under what circumstances are non-human animals considered persons before the law? Using perspectives from anthropology, science studies, and legal studies, this course explores the shifting status of non-human animals in Anglo-American legal tradition. While our main focus will be the understanding and treatment of non-human animals in the contemporary United States, we will also examine these issues from historical and cross-cultural perspectives. Of particular interest is how scientific knowledge comes to bear on these kinds of legal questions. This course has no prerequisites, but students should expect a heavy reading load and weekly written assignments. All students interested in the moral, political and legal status of animals are welcome.

Course Objectives:

1      To introduce students to the social and cultural study of law.

2      To help students to build and improve skills in critical reading and writing.

3      To help students to build and improve skills in research.

4      To challenge students to develop new perspectives and to expand their skills of critical thinking.

5      To help students design and implement group-based projects.

Cumulative Skills: Writing and Research, Multiple Cultural Perspectives, Independent Work

Evaluation Criteria:

Final evaluations will focus on the following areas:

  • Effort, especially willingness to challenge oneself
  • Attendance, preparation, and participation
  • Skills development especially in critical reading and writing
  • Quality of written work and attention to detail
  • Individual improvement throughout the semester
Additional Info:


Most classes will begin with an introductory lecture that will lead into discussion.  Sometimes we will watch a film or work on an in-class assignment.  Throughout the course, we will also have different “Skill-Building Sessions” which will help you acquire new skills in writing, researching, and presenting.


Please turn off all cell phones, Blackberries, pagers, and other distracting, ringing, singing, texting, non-course-related machines.

Laptops are allowed in class for presentations or for designated in-class research only.  You should be fully engaged during class lectures and discussions, and laptops are a serious distraction to the user and those around him or her.  I will allow exceptions to this rule only in cases of a documented learning difference or other extenuating circumstances.  If you require permission to use a laptop during class, please consult with me privately within the first two course periods.  If you are granted permission, you are expected to use the laptop for course purposes only.


  • Participation
  • Reading Notes/CRP Mapping
  • Moodle discussion posts
  • Critical Reaction Papers
  • Animals and the Law Group Project (Library Research Assignment and Presentation)
  • Self-Evaluation (uploaded on the Hub)
  • Online Portfolio (all written work including self-eval collected in one PDF and uploaded to Moodle)

All assignments must be uploaded electronically to Moodle.  I will not accept hard copy or emailed assignments.


Books are available for purchase in the Hampshire College Bookstore.  Readings that come from the books will be indicated by (T) for text. Texts (T) will also be available on reserve at the Johnson Library.  Unless otherwise indicated, other course readings are available for download on the course website and/or through direct online link.  Online readings will be marked by (O).  The syllabus is organized chronologically.  You should do the readings in advance of the class for which they are scheduled.


Some of our readings come from texts you are expected to purchase or borrow (T) and some of them are available online (O) for printing.  Required texts are available for purchase in the Hampshire College Bookstore.  Copies of required texts will also be made available on reserve in the Johnson Library and, if you prefer, you may make copies from reserve books.  Some texts may be available electronically through e-brary.  If so, the URLs are noted below and on Moodle.  Please remember that others may also be using the hard copies of texts, so return them to the library promptly.  I will also compile a PDF with all online (O) readings in one document.  You can print this out yourself or take it to the Duplication Center (ground floor of the library) for printing.

Because the course is text-based, and we will often reference the text during the class period, it is imperative that you have either the text itself or a copy of the reading with you.  It is not sufficient to “read” the text online and come to class.  You must have the readings and your notes.  If you prefer, you may purchase the texts for e-readers like Kindle or Nook; I will look for evidence that you have read the text on your e-reader, so you must have it with you for class.  Texts, like tuition, room and board, are a part of the cost of college and are not optional.  If you are having trouble obtaining course texts for any reason, please speak to me as soon as possible in private.  The following texts are required for our course:

Atwood, Margaret

            2004    Oryx and Crake : A Novel. New York: Anchor Books. 

DeMello, Margo

            2012    Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies. New York: Columbia University Press.

Schaffner, Joan

            2011    An Introduction to Animals and the Law. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

A Note on Buying Texts

Students are legitimately concerned about the rising costs of higher education and often see textbooks as yet another (seemingly unnecessary) cost.  But texts are key to learning, and you must have them in order to do your work in the course. Most of these texts have affordable used copies readily available through merchants like and the Hampshire College Bookstore; many of them are also available in electronic editions for e-readers like Kindle or Nook.  They are also available either on electronic reserve (e-brary) or on course reserve at the Library.  There might also be additional copies of some texts in the Five College Library system. 


NB: The course schedule is subject to change based on the needs of the course.  You are responsible for any changes announced in class or via email.  All changes will be reflected on the Moodle course site.  You should regularly check Moodle to make sure that you have the most up-to-date information.

It is essential that you keep up with readings and assignments.  It will not be possible to do everything necessary for class preparation the night before, so you need to plan your readings and assignments accordingly.