Interaction between people and companion animals provides the basis for a model of the self that does not depend on spoken language. Drawing on ethnographic research in an animal shelter as well as interviews and autoethnography, this article argues that interaction between people and animals contributes to human selfhood. In order for animals to contribute to selfhood in the ways that they do, they must be subjective others and not just the objects of anthropomorphic projection. Several dimensions of subjectivity appear among dogs and cats, constituting a “core” self consisting of agency, coherence, affectivity, and history. Conceptualizing selfhood in this way offers critical access to animals’ subjective presence and adds to existing interactionist research on relationships between people and animals.
Irvine, L. (2004). A model of animal selfhood: Expanding interactionist possibilities. Symbolic Interaction, 27(1), 3-21.