I spend a lot of time thinking about humans thinking about other animals thinking about us. I grew up alongside a small herd of donkeys, two parrots, a series of sickly hamsters, three dogs, a bunch of barn cats that didn’t like me, a rabbit named Violetta, an armored catfish named Harold, and a tarantula. I never stopped wondering what was going on in their heads and I’m curious about the long history of humans trying to make sense of nonhuman minds. As a writer and historian of science, I write about the ways our ideas of animals thinking have changed since roughly the 1880s. I believe that paying attention to animal behavior, particularly when other animals are doing things we might call crazy, can tell us an immense amount about ourselves.
I just finished my PhD in history and anthropology of science at MIT and am working as an affiliate artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts. I am also a TED fellow. My book, Animal Madness: How anxious dogs, compulsive parrots and elephants in recovery help us understand ourselves, came out with Simon & Schuster on June 10, 2014. I write for a variety of publications–virtual, on paper, and live–from Pop Up Magazine to the New Inquiry.
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