Paula Tarankow

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Paula Tarankow holds a PhD in history and specializes in the history of animal welfare in the United States. She teaches a range of history courses that incorporate scholarship on human-animal relations into traditional topics at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts. She is currently revising her dissertation and developing adjacent writing projects on animals in the Civil War era and on the shared histories of animal anticruelty legislation, carceral logics, and anti-blackness in the U.S. Her book project examines the ways in which white southerners’ crafted memory of slavery as a positive good influenced the post­–Civil War origins and development of animal anticruelty reform within the states of the former Confederacy. A 2016 CAF grant allowed her to conduct critical archival research in Louisiana and Washington, D.C., for her dissertation, “Loyal Animals, Faithful Slaves: American Animal Advocacy, Race, and the Memory of Slavery” (Indiana University, 2019). This funded research enabled her to bring her immediate findings to the ASI-UIUC Summer Institute for Human-Animal Studies in 2017. Paula has since brought her work into conversation with historians, animal studies scholars, animal rights activists, animal welfare lawyers, and scholars of animal law and policy. She writes:

My research recovers the unexamined cultural roots and impact of institutional and grassroots animal advocacy campaigns in the states of the former Confederacy. I investigate the complex reform visions held by animal welfare advocates between 1870 and 1920 among Civil War veterans as well as former abolitionists, slaveholders, and slaves. My dissertation asks how this diverse group of individuals defined the problem of animal cruelty and endeavored to make the humane treatment of animals a cornerstone of societal understandings of a shared humanity. Using archival sources from my summer trip, I discussed a portion of my research in April 2017 at the annual meeting of the California American Studies Association. Here, in a panel on “Interspecies Violence,” I presented a conference paper titled “Cases of Inhumanity: Surveilling and Prosecuting Animal Cruelty in the Nation’s Capital.” In July 2017, I participated in the week-long inaugural Human-Animal Studies Summer Institute program, which is offered by the Animals & Society Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign on the theme “Animals across the Disciplines.” In January 2018, I presented a paper on grassroots animal welfare titled, “The Horse and the Preacher: Romances of Reunion in Animal Advocacy Tales from the New South,” at the American Historical Association’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

2020 Updates:
Since 2016, Paula’s project has been renamed “The Lost Cause and the Animal Cause: The Southern Origins of American Animal Welfare,” and firmly examines the ways in which white memories of slavery as a positive good influenced the origins and development of humane sentiment within the states of the former Confederacy and beyond. Other current writing projects include essays on anti-Blackness and carceral logics in animal anticruelty legislation in the United States and on Black activism within the first generation of post­–Civil War animal-welfare educators. She is also developing writing and public projects on antiracist animal studies content, theory and pedagogy. For the upcoming 20-21 academic year, Paula will be teaching the course “Teaching U.S. History and The United States since 1877” at Smith.