Geography Animal Geographies
Julie Urbanik
  • LAST REVIEWED: 25 March 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 25 March 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199874002-0049


Animal geography is the study of how nonhuman animals intersect with human societies. Animal geographers explore these relationships temporally and spatially in order to understand why and how different human-animal configurations move in and out of being and also try to gain an understanding of nonhuman subjectivities. Although animals have always been of interest to geographers, the ways in which they are studied have developed over time. The earliest animal geography focused on cataloging wild species, their spatial distributions, and their environmental adaptations. A second wave of animal geography work was dominated by the study of domesticated animals and the ways in which livestock were enmeshed in human cultures, as well as the impact of livestock on the landscape. The third wave of animal geography emerged in the 1990s in tandem with the rising visibility of animal-based social movements, new scientific understandings of animals as well as human impact on biodiversity, and new developments in social theory around ideas of the subject. This wave of animal geography focuses on the full socioeconomic spectrum of human-animal relations—which includes wild and farmed animals as well as pets, captive animals, research animals, and entertainment animals—and the ways in which animals are used as cultural signifiers in one way or another. Animal geography, with its emphasis on space, place, and scale, is a unique contributor to the larger, multidisciplinary field of human-animal studies.

General Overviews and Anthologies

Given that the latest wave of animal geography is relatively young, only a few collections provide an overview of the field. Urbanik 2012 is a good place to start because it is the only book to address animal geography as a whole by documenting its history and mapping out how the current areas of research interest intersect with the human-animal studies community outside of geography. Buller 2014 provides the most recent summary of the field, and Buller 2015 explores the latest methodologies in the subfield. Wolch and Emel 1995 is a special issue of Environment and Planning D: Society and Space and the first collection of third wave animal geography. Articles from that special issue were incorporated into Wolch and Emel 1998, the first animal geography anthology. A second anthology of animal geography is Philo and Wilbert 2000. Both anthologies provide introductory chapters about the field of animal geography and a good spectrum of topics. Steinberg 2010 is a special issue of Geographical Review on avian geographies. To gain an understanding of the larger field of human-animal studies, the following anthologies are helpful. Kalof and Fitzgerald 2007 is an anthology of historical and contemporary excerpts from a wide variety of scholars who have influenced the development of human-animal studies research. Flynn 2008 is a multidisciplinary collection that includes key contemporary case studies that address how to study human-animal relationships. Arluke and Sanders 2009 is a compilation of key readings influencing the role of animals in Western societies in the early 21st century. Urbanik and Johnston 2017 is a one-volume encyclopedic overview of key concepts and topics in human-animal studies.

  • Arluke, Arnold, and Clinton Sanders, eds. Between the Species: Readings in Human-Animal Relations. Boston: Pearson, 2009.

    A multidisciplinary collection that is organized by readings on animal, self, and society; animals in institutions; and the changing status and perception of animals.

  • Buller, Henry. “Animal Geographies I.” Progress in Human Geography 38.2 (2014): 308–318.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132513479295

    This article provides a concise summary of the development of animal geography and maps out its key contributions to the overall efforts of human geography.

  • Buller, Henry. “Animal Geographies II: Methods.” Progress in Human Geography 39.3 (2015): 374–384.

    DOI: 10.1177/0309132514527401

    Providing an overview of existing methods in animal geography research from both the human-animal relations perspective and the animal subjectivities perspective, the article goes on to outline some possible mapping-based methods that could illuminate the geography of animal studies even further.

  • Flynn, Clifton P., ed. Social Creatures: A Human and Animal Studies Reader. New York: Lantern, 2008.

    A multidisciplinary anthology that focuses more explicitly on case studies about human-animal studies and specific topics such as attitudes toward animals, criminology and animal abuse, and living and working with other animals.

  • Kalof, Linda, and Amy J. Fitzgerald, eds. The Animals Reader: The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings. New York: Berg, 2007.

    As the first multidisciplinary reader in human-animal studies, this book is a key starting point for understanding both the historical context of thinking about nonhumans and provides a solid framework from which to understand the various trajectories of the field.

  • Philo, Chris, and Chris Wilbert, eds. Animal Spaces, Beastly Places: New Geographies of Human-Animal Relations. London: Routledge, 2000.

    The second anthology of animal geography research includes seminal pieces on pets and the politics of animals in landscapes.

  • Steinberg, Michael K. “Avifaunal Research and Geographical Perspectives.” In Special Issue on Avian Geography. Edited by Michael K. Steinberg. Geographical Review 100.3 (2010): iii–iv.

    DOI: 10.1111/j.1931-0846.2010.00017.x

    This avian-themed issue includes nine articles focusing on historical avian geographies, experiences of birding, bird behavior, and citizen science related to bird counts.

  • Urbanik, Julie. Placing Animals: An Introduction to the Geography of Human-Animal Relations. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2012.

    Designed as an upper-level undergraduate or introductory graduate text, this book is the first to provide a comprehensive survey of the history of animal geography and its current research trajectories.

  • Urbanik, Julie, and Connie Johnston, eds. Humans and Animals: A Geography of Coexistence. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO Press, 2017.

    Designed as a one-volume introductory encyclopedia with 150 entries on key concepts and topics in human-animal studies along with examples of primary source documents related to key moments in human-animal developments.

  • Wolch, Jennifer, and Jacque Emel. “Bringing the Animals Back In.” In Special Issue: Bringing the Animals Back In. Edited by Jennifer Wolch and Jacque Emel. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13.6 (1995): 632–636.

    This special issue announced the arrival of animal geography, a new study of human-animal relations. Information has been incorporated into Wolch and Emel 1998.

  • Wolch, Jennifer, and Jody Emel, eds. Animal Geographies: Place, Politics, and Identity in the Nature-Culture Borderlands. London and New York: Verso, 1998.

    As the first animal geography anthology, this collection is essential for understanding the development of animal geography, a new study, and includes seminal pieces on zoos, urban animals, and wildlife.

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