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 study the ways in which 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. We have far more in common with other animals, from parrots to poodles to gray whales, than we tend to think and the ways in which we lose, and often recover our minds offers some extremely interesting proof.
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, is coming 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. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, laurel dot braitman at gmail dot com, sign up for my newsletter, or follow me on twitter @LaurelBraitman. I also love talking to people about animals, and us. I’m represented by the Lavin Agency.
Looking for a short bio? If so, here’s one.
S O M E T H I N G S I’V E D O N E
Pop Up Magazine, The Song Reader Issue, with Beck + McSweeney’s. May 20, 2013.
Marijuanimals. The New Inquiry, March 2013.
Understanding the Animal Mind…Through Music BBC World News. July 31, 2012.
“2012 TED Fellows Announced: A Look at Some of the World’s Leading Thinkers,” Huffington Post, November 1, 2011.
“How Grass Widow came to play a concert for a small group of great apes: Gorilla Theater” Boston Phoenix. August 3, 2011.
“Video: Grass Widow Plays Music for Gorillas at the Zoo” The Fader. August 1, 2011.
“Horses, Unicorns and Dolphins” by the Kitchen Sisters on All Things Considered, NPR. February 9th, 2011
“Bests of the Fests: Transatlantic Insights” Time Out New York. January 24, 2011.
S O M E T A L K S
Autonomous InterGalactic Space Program (with artist Rigo 23). REDCAT, Disney/CALARTS Theater, Los Angeles, June 17, 2012
Animals are People Too (with artist Rachel Mayeri), Headlands Center for the Arts, May 20, 2012
Animal Madness, TED, Long Beach, California. February 2012.
Fair for Knowledge: Hair. Walls and Bridges: Transatlantic Insights. January 30, 2011.
The Zookeeper’s Couch. Vera List Center for Art and Politics. The New School. September 14, 2010.
Military Dreams and the Deep Sea Mind, with Graham Burnett. Cabinet. May 15, 2010.
Animal Madness, Cabinet. November 4, 2009.
The Common Denominator of Existence is Loss, with artist Dario Robleto. Center for Advanced Visual Studies. MIT. March 17, 2008
S O M E T H I N G S I W R O T E
Looney Tunes, an Interview. The New Inquiry, Volume 8. September 2012.
What Darwin Didn’t Tell Us. Gopher Illustrated. Volume 2. June 2011.
Of Mice and Mania. Cabinet Magazine. Hair. Issue 40. Winter 2010/2011.
Human/Nature. Orion Magazine. January/February 2009.