My name is Laurel Braitman and I spend a lot of time thinking about humans thinking about other animals thinking about us. I grew up alongside a dozen donkeys, two parrots, a series of Syrian hamsters, wild coyotes, a pony named Midnight, three dogs, an unknown number of barn cats, a few rabbits, an armored catfish named Harold, and a tarantula. I never stopped wondering what was going on in their heads. I’m also 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.
In Baja Mexico, with a gray whale calf. Photo: Jodi Frediani
I’m currently finishing my PhD in history and anthropology of science at MIT, working as an affiliate artist at the Headlands Center for the Arts and am a TED fellow. My book, Animal Madness: How anxious dogs, compulsive parrots and elephants in therapy show us the wildness of our own minds, is forthcoming with Simon and Schuster in June 2014. I write for a variety of publications–virtual, on paper, and live. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me, laurel dot braitman at gmail dot com or follow me on twitter @LaurelBraitman.
Looking for a short bio? If so, here’s one.
Here and There
Pop Up Magazine, The Song Reader Issue, with Beck + McSweeney’s. May 20, 2013.
Marijuanimals. The New Inquiry, March 2013.
Suicidal Dogs and Bipolar Wolves: Do animals have personalities? How about mental illnesses? A Science Historian Explains Salon.com, September 26, 2012
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.
“Deep thoughts: Hair Fair” by Mark Singer. The New Yorker. March 14, 2011 PDF
“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.
A Few Talks
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
Welcome to the Nut House, Pop Up Magazine Issue 6 , San Francisco, April 25, 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
A Few Things I’ve Written
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.