On the Rich Choreographies of Critical Thought: From Dancing Bodies to Human-Animal Relations in Art, Anthropology, and American Studies
A Conversation with Jane Desmond
Jane C. Desmond is an eminent scholar, engaged public intellectual, former choreographer, and specialist in performance studies, human-animal studies, and transnational studies of the United States. A professor of anthropology and gender studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she also heads The Animal Studies Initiative at Illinois and serves as affiliate faculty in veterinary medicine and the Department of Dance. Throughout her career, she has been active in initiating transdisciplinary conversations with scholars and students around the world. She has held faculty appointments at Cornell University, Duke University, the University of Iowa and visiting professorships and fellowships at a number of universities abroad, including Budapest, Beijing, Edinburgh, and currently she is a Fulbright Professor at the University of Göttingen. The idea of this interview is to see how her fascinating career evolved through different stages—from being a dancer to an extremely versatile intellectual and thinker, who has done work in very different, yet related fields: choreography and performance studies, film and video, critical theory and Cultural Studies, American Studies and Anthropology, and, more recently, in the transdisciplinary field of Animal Studies, where, in her writing and teaching, she explores human-animal relationships in the context of veterinary medicine, practices of mourning, in zoos and natural history museums, and "on the margins of death"—in pet cemeteries, as taxidermy and roadkill—as well as diverse forms of nonhuman creativity, communication, and coexistence with human animals.