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Introduction. Discordant Harmonies: Interspecies Relations in the United States

Włodarczyk Justyna and Jack Harrison

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Oh, give me a home where the buffalo roam
Where the deer and the antelope play,
Where never is heard a discouraging word
And the sky is not clouded all day.
Brewster Higley, “Home on the Range”

1The lyrics to the popular folk song “Home on the Range,” first composed in 1873, depict a picturesque “utopia among pristine nature,” in which the promise of harmony between humans and animals forms the appeal of the American West as a place where one may want to set up house (“Home on the Range” 160). In this semi-pastoral vision, the American West transforms into a new Garden of Eden, a tranquil, biblical peaceable kingdom. The presence, abundance, and friendliness of the animals play a crucial role in this figuration of harmony: they both signal the natural wealth of the land and serve as an allegory of the prelapsarian world, suggesting that the “New World” is a place where the vision of the peaceable kingdom can finally be realized. As Carolyn Merchant writes, in such “a place of moral purity, unblemished nature could restore humans who lived within its presence” (102). Yet, as we hope to show, this vision of peaceful human-animal coexistence is a fictional utopia, one that has been strategically employed to obscure the violent nature of the settlement of the American West.

2We open this special issue on figurations of interspecies harmony with a reference to a popular song because—ever since the Pythagorean concept of the harmony of the spheres, i.e., the music made by celestial bodies as they moved—harmony and music have been closely interlinked. If we think of harmony in the Pythagorean tradition as the “unification of a multifarious composition and the agreement of unlike spirits” (Vamvacas 70), then we can conceptualize the history of North America since the beginning of European settlement as a series of attempts at achieving such unification. From a contemporary perspective, we can describe them as mostly failed and misguided, and we can posit that ideas of interspecies harmony have been used to naturalize exploitative projects that defined harmony solely from an anthropocentric perspective. The objectives of this special issue are twofold: firstly, to explore, expose, and explode the ways in which real animals and their representations have been used to create figurations that justify and obscure the reality of the American project. Secondly, our aim is to consider whether there exist models of harmonious interspecies relations that could potentially guide a transformation in human-animal relations toward the post-Anthropocene. Donna Haraway’s notion of oddkin—a category that opens up boundaries of relationality beyond biological kinship (Staying with the Trouble)—serves as inspiration for many of these explorations.

1. Interspecies Relations and Constructs of American Identity

3Constructs of American identity have always been bound up with nonhuman animals, even if this fact has not been consistently articulated with force and clarity. The basic foundational myths of American identity—beginning with the notion of America as the new promised land, Garden of Eden, the concept of the Puritan errand into the wilderness, through the pastoral ideal and manifest destiny—simultaneously figured and affected the lives of multiple nonhuman species. These foundational narratives have already been deconstructed by ecocritics and environmental historians interested in how the metaphors used in these myths have influenced approaches to the environment (Kolodny; Merchant; Cronon). However, for scholars from the environmental humanities, nonhuman animals are often subsumed into broader categories. While it cannot be denied that the approaches toward animals shaped by the narratives of American identity mirror approaches to the environment in general, as animal studies scholars we believe that examining how these foundational narratives figure specifically human-animal coexistence is an important endeavor. After all, already the two early competing visions, that of the wilderness that needed to be civilized and of the new Garden of Eden, both incorporated nonhuman animals and promoted certain strategies of humans’ interactions with animals.

4The Puritans imagined the wilderness as full of dangerous beasts that needed to be dealt with, in one way or another. As Annette Kolodny famously writes in one of the foundational texts of feminist ecocriticism: “Beautiful, indeed, that wilderness appeared—but also dark, uncharted, and prowled by howling beasts” (9). Literal and metaphorical ways of dealing with beasts are implied, though not explicitly stated, in the settler colonial visions of North America, with the eradication of some species predicating the flourishing of others. Some of the native beasts were deemed useful for the success of the colonial project and, later, for the project of American independence—either due to their potential for domestication (e.g., turkeys), their potential for being turned into marketable commodities (e.g., beavers, raccoons) or food—while others were seen as a hindrance to the nation’s development; e.g., the eradication of wolves was driven as much by fears of economic losses on newly settled lands as by their status as symbols of the “frustrations and anxieties of colonization.” As Jon Coleman writes, “the canines paid in blood for their utility as metaphors” (11). The spreading of the colonists’ way of life, or the making of the new Garden of Eden, entailed the proliferation of the species of animals deemed useful—historian Virginia DeJohn Anderson, somewhat controversially, calls pigs, sheep, and cattle “agents of empire” (211). Species seen as “abundant natural resources” located “beyond the frontier,” to borrow a phrase from Richard Slotkin’s famous analysis of the myth of the frontier (36), faced decimation and eventual extinction as did those seen as threatening the colonists’ desired way of life—one implicitly based on agriculture and animal husbandry. In all cases, a radical separation of animality and humanity was necessary for conceptualizing the success of the colonial project, as argued by Colleen Glenney Boggs in her reading of the bestiality trials at Plymouth Plantation in the 1640s and their continuing contemporary reverberations in American culture.

5Meanwhile, Indigenous cosmologies invoke nonhuman animals in more direct ways, resisting both the radical separation of human and animal, and the anthropocentrism implied in the notion of the Christian hierarchy of creation. As Marcy Norton argues in The Tame and the Wild, the Genesis account of creation presents the uniqueness and singularity of humans, while Indigenous accounts emphasize “the permeability and interconnectedness of all beings” (2). For example, in many Native American tales—like the Iroquois story of the Sky Woman—animals take an active part in creating the world (Hogan). Though only some tribes do not draw a solid line between nonhuman animals and human beings, animals play a central role in most of the Indigenous tribal mythologies (Hogan; Gunn Allen; Lyons). As Virginia Anderson argues, the clash between the early settlers and Indigenous tribes was also rooted in different ways of relating to nonhuman animals. Norton also notes that “divergent creation stories reflect radically different ideas about humans’ relationships to other kinds of animals” (1). Not only did Native Americans not recognize some of the domesticated species brought by the settlers to the colonies, they also did not understand certain concepts that seemed obvious to the Puritans—like that of human ownership of nonhuman animals (Anderson 210-14).

6Indigenous people’s resistance to the anthropological machine and their alignment with nonhuman animals made them easy targets of dehumanization: they were also perceived as beasts lurking in the wilderness. While dehumanization of minority groups through their animalization is not a tactic unique to North America, the specific entanglement of the fates of particular ethnic groups and specific species, like tribes of the Great Plains and the American bison, is exemplary of the strategy of westward expansion in North America: the near extermination of the American bison has been read as a tactic of genocide, a catastrophe not just for the nonhuman animals but for Indigenous people as well (Hubbard). Recent years have seen the proliferation of animal studies scholarship that attempts to theorize the entanglement of animality and human otherness in the United States in ways that go beyond simply criticizing dehumanization as a strategy of racism, sexism, and ableism and that carefully examine the consequences of the associations of certain species (or breeds) with minority groups and emphasize cross-species bonding as a potential site of resistance (Boisseron; Taylor; Jackson; Weaver). Susan McHugh describes how, especially in minority communities, “interspecies affection” has constituted “a vibrant form of resistance to the forces of destruction” (1) against the backdrop of genocide and extinction.

7It is easy to recognize how the narrative paradigm of manifest destiny, based on the glorious progress of civilization, entailing literal violence against anything standing in its path, both entails and engenders violence against animals. In this paradigm, such violence is linked to the broader exploitation of the environment, which has been explored by ecocritics and scholars from the environmental humanities. The violence of the conquest of the frontier continues to haunt American culture and literature but also continues to directly influence the lives of animals: those whose habitats have been destroyed, those who were both agents and victims of colonial expansion, and those who served as its symbolic embodiments. Symbolic violence and actual violence are often intertwined, and real-life practices can be entangled in the symbolism of interspecies relations. For example, historian Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence interprets the still popular spectacle of the rodeo as a re-enactment of settler expansion in the American West, which is, in the words of Susan Nance, “played out over and over again as symbolic struggles of man versus animal, tame versus wild, and culture versus nature” (4). In her book Rodeo: An Animal History, Nance writes about the injuries, broken bones, and painful deaths of the animals used to stage this spectacle of human superiority.

8It is also easy to see the violence in the atrocities of factory farming, a system which exemplifies the extremes of what can happen when sentient beings are viewed only as an exploitable resource. Even though factory farming may not appear to be directly linked to manifest destiny, Indigenous scholar Billy-Ray Belcourt argues that the exploitation of animals that currently takes place in North America has been made possible through the “erasure of Indigenous bodies and the emptying of Indigenous lands for settler-colonial expansion” (3). In the case of such explicitly exploitative discourses, we can only speak of interspecies harmony as a vanishing paradigm, one whose traces are discernible solely in acts of resistance of humans and non-humans who are both victims of settler colonialism and the equally ruthless forms of emergent American capitalism. In Porkopolis, an ethnographic study of the contemporary factory farm, Alex Blanchette writes about the bonds formed between bottle-fed piglets and the migrant employees of the industrial farm complex in the American Midwest, bonds “that index deep and swirling histories of violence and exclusion” (81). Blanchette’s case study is an example of how joint marginalization and shared suffering brought about by capitalist exploitation—as Anna Tsing would phrase it, “life in capitalist ruins”—can bring about new and unexpected interspecies alliances.

9Yet the understanding of settler colonialism as inextricably linked to violence enacted on the bodies of nonhuman animals is a contemporary reading, the result of a postcolonial reassessment of the facts of American history. Many of the popular texts and visuals that have contributed to building the mythology of the American West present a vision of interspecies harmony that renders the settlers’ motivation benign and uses images of human-animal harmony to achieve that goal. The publication date of Brewster Higley’s poem “Home on the Range,” which serves as the epigraph to this introduction and which is more widely known as a popular folk song, coincides with the decimation of the North American bison and the antelope, whose carefree presence—they are roaming and playing while humans look on with delight—builds the bucolic and utopian character of the text. Already at the time of its writing, the song was a nostalgic rendering of an idealized version of history, of a past that never really existed.

10Similarly, the popular image of the cowboy and his faithful steed is one of perfect partnership, a hopeful and optimistic comment on the potential of interspecies collaboration, despite the reality of wild horse round-ups and the use of cruel techniques of horse-breaking. The wild mustang—especially the mythical, untameable, white stallion—has served as a symbol of America’s freedom and indomitable spirit: Rufus Steele writes about the mustang’s “upright tail” as “the true banner of freedom that never does come down” (quoted in Lawrence 136). Novels, stories and films that incorporate this motif—for example, the various reiterations of Strawberry Roan—usually include a poignant scene of the captured mustang being freed by the virtuous cowboy who had previously subdued the animal, in what is presented as a battle between equals. Harmony, here, is the glorious and noble granting of freedom to the beast, an act that emphasizes human mastery of the animal world even as it graciously resigns from literal mastery of a specific human over a specific beast. The reality of the mustang’s existence has been, and continues to be, much less glorious: wild horses have been rounded up, killed and turned into dog food (Phillips). Their role in the symbolism of the West does not prevent them from being treated as pests.

11Many of the images of interspecies harmony are rooted in the Bible—especially the myth of America as the new Garden of Eden or the peaceable kingdom, a theme depicted in much early artwork related to the New World, as analyzed by Carolyn Merchant in Reinventing Eden. In this volume, Justyna Włodarczyk analyzes Edward Hicks’s series of Peaceable Kingdom paintings, arguing that they suggest a parallel in the possibilities of interspecies and racial harmony. While Hicks’s paintings indeed depict images of peaceful and amicable interspecies interactions, these are entangled with the obvious misrepresentation of the settlers’ attitude to solving “the Indian problem.” Furthermore, even if we forgo reading them as naive allegories of America’s founding, they remain explicitly anthropocentric in their depiction of the human-animal relationship. Peace between the species is possible only because humans are God’s representatives on Earth and “naturally” hold dominion over the animal kingdom. Many scholars wonder whether it is ever possible to conceptualize non-anthropocentric interspecies relations while remaining within the Judeo-Christian framework (Gross; White). Already in 1967, Lynn White Jr. famously argued that the anthropocentrism inherent in Christianity enabled the current ecological crisis. Other scholars look to figures such as St. Francis of Assisi for alternatives to the anthropocentrism of mainstream Christianity. In this volume, Julia Wilde recovers a little-known nineteenth-century children’s book that retells stories of medieval Irish saints raised by animals. These stories are simultaneously radical in their embracement of animality and innocent enough, perhaps through their detachment from the tensions of life in the nineteenth-century US, to serve as didactic reading material for children.

12Even though the examples provided above are largely historical, the twenty-first century has its set of popular figurations of interspecies harmony, often rooted in those founding myths of American culture, sometimes critically reworking them, conscious of how the older portrayals of interspecies relations have been used to obscure the violence, racism and anthropocentrism inherent to the colonial project. However, sometimes even those figurations that attempt to consciously break with anthropocentrism are not ethically unproblematic. In Biocapital, Nicole Shukin critically examines Gregory Colbert’s installation of photographic artworks, exhibited worldwide in what the artist terms the nomadic museum. Colbert tropes on Edward Steichen’s famous The Family of Man exhibit, first displayed at the MOMA in 1955 and then at various museums across the country in the 1950s, and tries to counter Steichen’s anthropocentrism by presenting images of what he terms The Family of Animals, proposing a model of kinship that attempts to subvert the anthropocentrism of The Family of Man. As Shukin perceptively notices, “[t]he model of human-animal kinship idealized in the nomadic museum is one of contemplative coexistence and interspecies civility: monklike boys bow humbly before wise elephants; young girls sit reverently next to cheetahs” (200). The desire for kinship with animals is aligned with relinquishing universal man’s “right to represent the ideal human family... shifting that ideal onto the animal kingdom and the goal of living in ecological harmony with other species” (Shukin 199). The problem, as Shukin diagnoses it, is the exhibit’s insistent association of nonhuman animals with nonwhite humans in what can be called a gesture of neo-orientalism: “the liberal ideal of interspecies intimacy visualized by Colbert is productive of a new species of orientalism, or orientalism encoded in a discourse of species” (189). Once again, the black and white images of human-animal harmony exist in a realm outside of time and in the fantastically heterotopic space of unblemished “nature.”

13While Colbert’s neo-orientalism has a distinctly modern flavor, the association of nonwhite humans with animals has also been a staple technique of discourses that have romanticized Indigenous peoples as “noble savages” and that have a tendency to reappear, especially in work, both scholarly and artistic, that aligns itself with the animal turn. In the American context, the discourse operates through, among other tropes, the figure of “the Ecological Indian” (Ray; Seymour), a trope that works by presenting Native Americans as “embodying a pre-industrial golden age of harmony between humans and nature” (Ray 90). It is not a challenge to list multiple examples in which the trope of the “Ecological Indian” operates by depicting Native Americans’ close relationship to not just nature in general but to specific animals: through images of interspecies harmony. Photographer Erika Larsen’s recent (2011-2013) project on the relations between Native Americans and horses, titled People of the Horse and commissioned by National Geographic, is a collection of photographs of Native Americans, often dressed in ceremonial clothing, in close connection to equines whose bodies are also often decorated in ways that match the clothing of their humans. While the photos are visually stunning, it is difficult not to sense an echo of Edward S. Curtis’s infamous tribal portraits: the human subjects of the photographs are not differentiated by name or tribal heritage, appearing stuck in a timeless preindustrial heterotopia, the mark of which is the presence of the horse. Ironically, horses—responsible for much change and progress in the lives of Native Americans—here point the viewer to an undifferentiated and mythologized past. The challenge of referring to Indigenous peoples’ relationships with nonhuman animals in ways that recognize the value of Indigenous perspectives for contemporary animal studies discourse but that avoid imperialist nostalgia and romanticization is one that should concern scholars working at the intersections of animal studies and American studies.

14Because American identity has so often been defined in relation to the concept of wilderness—conceptualized either as space to be conquered or, in the tradition of Transcendentalism, as a source of spiritual strength and regeneration—the study of Americans’ relationships with pets—which are associated with the urban, the domestic and the feminine—was, for a long time, perceived as antithetical to the study of American identity. This argument is made in Civilized Creatures, where Jennifer Mason postulates that examining Americans’ relationships with pets is a way of engaging American culture in a manner that better reflects “how the populace actually behaved” rather than the myths we have come to assume were representative of life in America (8). And indeed, it is in the domestic sphere where one can find many examples of truly close affective bonds between companion species. While the rise of pet-keeping in the nineteenth century facilitated the incorporation of pets into the domestic sphere as almost full-fledged members of the family (Grier; Mason), America’s love affair with pets has only intensified since that time. In fact, the stock image of a happy middle-class American family usually includes a pet—this image in itself constitutes a popular, if not dominant, contemporary figuration of interspecies harmony. Yet even this figuration—the pet as family member—is much more problematic than it may at first appear.

15Interspecies harmony is a construct that operates on two levels: a general level that envisions ideal relations between different species and a specific level that targets individual human-nonhuman relationships. Entangled with the ascent of modern capitalism, the rise of pets is accompanied by the proliferation of expert knowledge about relationships with companion animals, which is supposed to guarantee the achievement of the perfect human-animal bond on the specific level. For example, commonly, dog training manuals or animal makeover shows are centered around an image of the ideal human-companion animal relationship, but the paths toward achieving this state of interspecies harmony, a term Diane Negra uses in her reading of the television show The Cat from Hell, can be diametrically different. Many contemporary Americans can become highly invested in these individual constructs of harmony. It is through probing the image of the “happy interspecies family” that we can arrive at the conclusion that harmony in general (and interspecies harmony in particular) is a culturally constructed concept.

2. What Is Harmony?

16Harmony can, perhaps, be better understood as a nexus of smaller intersecting culturally constructed concepts and judgments about affective experiences. In English, harmony refers to the quality possessed by an object whose form is based on ideal proportions between its constituent parts; a way of living with other agents—human or otherwise—in shared contentment; and to the musical configuration of more than one pitch played simultaneously to create a pleasant sound. While Aristotle connects harmony to beauty, which arises from a harmonious arrangement of parts in a whole, twentieth- and twenty-first-century scholars—most noticeably in the field of cultural studies and feminist theory—deconstruct essentialist notions of beauty and the harmony that supposedly produces it (Wolf; Bordo). What counts as “ideal proportions” to two different viewers of an object, “shared contentment” between cohabiting agents and a “pleasant sound” to different listeners and different ears is, instead, framed as open to interpretation, and individuals, groups or institutions understood as holding some political stake in defining such categories. What counts as harmony, then, emerges within a political field and through experience of the world.

17Moreover, not only are there stakes for what counts as harmonious at any given time or place, but also for how one envisions harmony, which reflects broader ideological projects. In the US, there is one particular vision of harmony that percolates through the settler narratives discussed above regarding ideal forms of cohabitation, including cohabitation between different species. This concept of harmony leans heavily on one of its supporting pillars—the historically European concept of musical harmony—for its defining characteristic, which is its conflation of the cultural “ideal” with the “natural” and the “predetermined.”

  • 1 The author Jack Harrison is grateful to ethnomusicologist Tyler Yamin for the conversations they ha (...)

18Music’s power to reify or complicate the distinction between animal nature and human culture—and the stakes involved in this thinking on music—has animated musicological studies of European (Clark and Rehding; Zon; Watkins, Musical Vitalities; Lockhart) and particularly American music-making (Von Glahn; Cook; Watkins, The Pastoral; Sutherland; Feisst) since the turn of the twenty-first century. Musicologists and ethnomusicologists have also begun to explore how music’s construction of this boundary is used to naturalize human intra- and interspecies hierarchies across entangled multispecies relating in the US (Mundy; Harrison, “Public Enemy”; Yamin; Graper).1 From a postcolonial perspective, what this conflation of the cultural ideal and the “ideal given by nature” achieves is the illusion that settler institutions’ culturally constructed claims about what counts as ideal cohabitation bear truth and that they are based on undeniable universal laws. In his book Imposing Harmony, ethnomusicologist Geoff Baker argues that European ideas about the nature of musical harmony underpinned settlers’ organization of the “New World” as part of their civilizing project. While his focus is on the Spanish colonization of Cuzco in the sixteenth century and not North America, Baker’s argument can still help us to think about the emergence of concepts of interspecies harmony in the US, both today and historically, in tandem with ideas about musical harmony from Renaissance Europe that continue to inform discourses on music in America. In short, Renaissance thinkers reading classical philosophy argued that music could be used to retune the souls of human beings to the harmonious proportions of the universe; these proportions found expression in the heavenly Music of the Spheres—an inaudible music whose harmonies governed the relations of all things. This celestial harmony was reflected in audible music-making, which re-established social harmony as God intended it by working on the souls of individual human beings whose metaphorical strings may have loosened morally (Baker 26).

19According to Baker, Pythagorean teaching on harmony’s relationship to number and to physical space—manifested in the monochord instrument—led to the projection of musical harmony onto the organization of social space and interaction in the context of sixteenth-century Cuzco, including its architecture and town planning (27). For the Spanish, musical harmony was mathematical at its core and its sounding a means of re-establishing order across all forms of life according to their essences as God created them. Where the colonizers saw a lack of civility, they also heard a lack of mathematical harmony since the majority of Indigenous musical cultures that these colonizers heard did not organize their music into harmonic structures. Musical harmony, then, was a tool to “create order where it was lacking” (Baker 29). As Baker writes:

The notion that music, like mathematics, obeys and is a manifestation of unchanging natural laws and cosmic order serves as a rational underpinning to the transplantation of European musical values, which, as more than ‘mere’ cultural expressions, have right on their side. Within the concept of harmony thus lies a coerciveness born of the belief in its universality. (30)

20This “natural” musical scale—which, as ethnomusicology has argued since its earliest days in the late nineteenth century, is actually culturally determined (Ellis)—made possible the category of an indisputably ideal form of organization intended by a universal God and woven into the universe for humanity to follow. Moreover, the “natural” musical harmony it underpinned provided apparent justification for the colonization of a land where the equation of a sonically implemented and irrefutable mathematics of order had not been solved.

21The belief in the power of music to realign society as its individual members were designed to fit together also extended to animal life. In Europe, this manifested most spectacularly in royal court performances of equestrian ballets, which reached their height of popularity in the seventeenth century (van Orden; Le Guin). The notion that music might re-harmonize nonhuman animals to the order of the universe also translated to the “New World.” Baker relates a story recorded by the chronicler Diego de Esquivel y Navia in 1749 that tells of a miracle performed in 1687 in the province of Quispicanchis where a group of pigs temporarily displayed reverence to their Creator:

When the singing of the Eucharist eulogy began, a dozen pigs that had been lurking in the middle of the plaza rushed to the steps of the cemetery, where they turned to the altar, knelt down, and lowered their heads as if worshipping the Lord. When the singing finished, they went back to their foraging, leaving witnesses amazed at the example shown by these lowly animals. (30)

22Events such as those presented in the story above are ubiquitous today on social media, whose menagerie of animals appear to be moved by the strains of music or to be engaged in its production (Galloway). Ethnographic studies of live performances in which animals dance to music identify the ideological function of music in these contexts: for instance, while ethnomusicologist Jack Harrison describes how music contributes to the performance of horse-rider harmony in freestyle dressage performances in the UK (“From the Horse’s Mouth”), anthropologist Jane Desmond shows how the “Whale Ballet” performed at Sea World San Diego, with its souring orchestral score, is able to present the coordinated aquatic movements of trainer and whale as a consequence of “intuitive understanding” (229) through its framing of the interspecies encounter as transcendental art (227). What makes possible this musical transformation of animals—often pets or zoo animals—are those ideas about Western musical harmony that still frame its culturally determined rules as embodying physical laws of the universe (Watkins 12). In these contemporary performances and videos, then, music’s “natural” harmony plays as a resounding index of the “natural” harmony between human and nonhuman animal, thereby helping to distract from the question of the power dynamics between the humans performing, filming and spectating and the animals onscreen or onstage, which is only made more problematic by the monetization of such content.

23Returning to the happy interspecies family, it may be helpful at this point to offer an extended example of how the concept of musical harmony permeates thinking on ideal interspecies relating in the contemporary American home. Reading Chapter 3 of American philosopher and animal trainer Vicki Hearne’s book Adam’s Task—a book that is both theoretically significant to the field of human-animal studies and about real, lived interactions between Hearne and nonhuman animals—it becomes clear that the philosopher’s conception of interspecies harmony (although she does not use this term directly) is dependent on and dynamically shaped by concepts of musical harmony. Here, she examines the relationship between human-canine power dynamics and human-canine intersubjectivity through an analysis of dog obedience training strategies. Hearne’s chapter attends to the teaching of a retrieval—namely, “how to say ‘fetch!’” (which is also the chapter’s title) in a way that counts as a properly coherent form of communication between a dog and human. In theorizing what exactly constitutes coherent communication between humans and canines in the context of canine obedience, the philosopher relies on a difference between sacred and profane motivations for action. Hearne delineates these categories firstly by contrasting sacred interaction in the context of dog training with Newton’s Laws of Motion:

the imperative ‘Joe, Fetch!’ commands the dog (and the handler), not as Newton’s laws were understood to command the behavior of falling bodies, but as God’s laws command some. ‘Fetch’ cannot be said meaningfully unless it is said with reverence. Its coherence requires that retrieving be sacred for both members of the community. (65)

24When the action being commanded is not an action longing to be fulfilled by both the commanded and the commander, the result is incoherence, which Hearne imagines sonically as noise. Using a child’s piano lessons as an example, she claims that even musical sound can be rendered as noise if the playing is not sacred: “this is why we feel that teaching a child to play the piano… for profane reasons is such a repellent travesty. The resulting noise offends more than good taste” (66).

25Of interest here is the relationship of sound and movement to Hearne’s ideas about coherent interspecies communication: namely, how, for Hearne, humans and canines should intersubjectively share a sacred goal, but that the species remain different (and hierarchically organized) due to the difference in how that same goal appeals sensorially to humans and dogs, respectively. This relationship becomes clear in a later anecdote from “How to Say Fetch!” in which the philosopher explains how she trained her dog, Salty, to stop digging holes in her garden. The story Hearne tells has led a number of both dog trainers and scholars in the field of animal studies to question Hearne’s rather jarring notion of what does and does not count as cruel treatment towards dogs (Włodarczyk 185). Wishing to stem Salty’s desire for digging holes in her garden—an activity to which Salty has become rather partial during the philosopher’s study hours—Hearne must herself, paradoxically, begin to feel, like Salty, that hole-digging is a sacred goal:

So I submit myself to the holy discipline of hole digging… I rejoice. I dance a jig around the Hole in celebration of the Mystery… Salty is delighted and helps me dig the Hole. We perfect its Form, making it diamond- or heart-shaped. I dance another jig when we're done, and, still dancing, I go get the garden hose and fill the Hole with water. Then, still rejoicing, I put Salty’s head in the Hole. She emerges quite quickly (she's a very strong, agile dog), gasping in astonishment and outrage. I am surprised and say, ‘But I thought you loved hole digging!’… I do this every day for three weeks… It is not long before Salty starts hanging back as far as she can get when I start humming my hole-digging hymn as I get out my overalls. Her face begins to express something like ‘Christ! She’s crazy! Hole digging is not fun!’ (67-8)

26Hearne’s humming and dancing as she forces Salty’s head into the water constitutes an embodied mode by which hole-digging comes to be felt as sacred to her and through which Salty recognizes hole-digging (and, subsequently, being pushed underwater) as taking hold over her human companion. Music and dance are enjoyable modes of moving and sounding in the world that sensorially transform Hearne’s subjective experience of her interaction with the environment so as to somehow artificially simulate and thus match Salty’s positive experience of hole-digging. However, this performance is ultimately intended to prevent Salty from finding hole-digging a sacred goal: Hearne does not experience the activity of digging holes with Salty on its own to be enjoyable in the same way that Salty presumably finds the rhythm of the digging movements, the textures of the dirt and the unfolding olfactory notes to be (in some, perhaps, canine version of the experience) beautiful. Rather, digging holes is only felt by Hearne to be sacred through its integration with and subsumption within human modes of musical activity—in this case, jigging and the vocalized hymn. This cautious separation between human and dog styles of choreo-musical performance, therefore, works to maintain the boundary between proper and improper behavior at the same time as Hearne transgresses the human-canine boundary to become more like her dog and thus, apparently, communicate more meaningfully with her.

27What, then, does this have to do with interspecies harmony? For Hearne, harmony is imagined as being akin to the composed homophony of hymn singing in which individuals resonate meaningfully with one another as a result of precomposed parts sung to a predetermined beat. With canine musical ears to the ground, Salty the hole-digger must be joined in her chthonic dance, but only so far as is necessary to hijack this performance with a human composition that—quite literally—drowns out the hole-digging, stealing Salty’s breath and guiding her digging to a final cadence. Hearne sees the threat of drowning as a justified means by which to manifest her own “proper” version of ideal human-canine cohabitation. Indeed, like the Runa people in Avila (located in Ecuador’s Upper Amazon) whose communication with dogs is analyzed in anthropologist Eduardo Kohn’s How Forests Think, Hearne structures her vocal and choreographic interactions with Salty so as to affect but remain unaffected by canine subjectivity: she sings her hymn and dances her jig in order to ensure that she does not find her own head in a hole—one that transcends too deep into canine subjectivity—while transforming Salty’s affective relationship to the world. In this way, Salty’s behavior can better harmonize with the philosopher’s own tune—one which, because of its apparent basis in the universal laws of harmony, holds the stronger claim to good behavior.

28We have so far identified the concept of musical harmony as integral to the coercive power of multispecies relations that claim interspecies harmony—musical harmony naturalizes interspecies relations and their power dynamics. However, there is a second concept of ideal interspecies relating that is different from interspecies harmony: in this second concept, music remains as a conceptual pillar for shaping the meaning of ideal interspecies relating, but not in terms of a predetermined system of harmony. Rather, music and dance are processes, improvisations, that are co-created between individuals in the moment of their sounding and moving together. For instance, while Hearne relies on the predeterminable “composability” of musical homophony and of dance to make possible her ideal human-canine relation, philosophers David Rothenberg and Vinciane Despret (106-109, 146-61) and anthropologist Anna Tsing (23-24, 158) turn instead to the processual, emergent nature by which individuals structure their sounds and movements as musicians and dancers in their thinking on how humans might best live among more-than-human kin.

29For Haraway, it is improvisatory dancing that seems to best encapsulate this particular mode of attending to the world. Writing about her experiences training in the sport of agility with her dog Cayenne Pepper, Haraway builds on the connection she makes between embodied more-than-human communication and the operations of an improvised choreography (When Species Meet)—one that is reminiscent of modern-dance choreographer Steve Paxton’s contact improvisation developed in the 1970s. In the sport of agility, human handlers guide their dogs over, across, and through a series of apparatus as quickly and as accurately as possible. Dog-human teams take it in turns to perform their “run” of the course, and the fastest and most accurate team at the end of the competition is announced the winner. Denoting agility as a “subject-transforming dance” (When Species Meet 176), Haraway draws attention to the ways in which dogs and handlers participate in a relationship characterized by movement, both in the sense of a constant renegotiation of how to share a mutual space by moving together with and around one another and in the sense of the ritual shifts that dance instigates—for instance, in courtship. Moreover, participating in a “syncopated dance of rule and invention” (When Species Meet 243), agility partners remain receptive to the gaps, the offbeats, the surprises that must be explored to enrich their understanding of one another as dynamic, contingent beings. In this way, handlers are able to live responsibly with their dogs, whose needs are not static and whose species difference calls for a greater curiosity and willingness on the part of the handler to be continually prepared to reassess and adapt previously held beliefs about their dogs.

30Perhaps it is misleading to refer to this second concept of ideal interspecies relating as “interspecies harmony” given its deliberate shift away from an ontology that understands the underlying nature of the world as mathematically predictable, perfectly designed and, ultimately, good—a harmonious chord to which animals, human and nonhuman, should “appropriately” attune themselves. Indeed, for Despret, it is important to distinguish the ideal of interspecies harmony from the ideal of a more experimental cohabiting of nonhuman animals in multispecies environments. As she writes:

living creatures have learned how to live together, to form a society or to create communities of life. Not in harmony—it would indeed require exceptional circumstances or a great deal of effort to succeed in getting the wolf to lie down with the lamb. At best that would be called domestication and, no matter what the circumstances, would always come at a price. Not in harmony, but something very like it. (112)

31What is similar between these two ideas are the voices of human and nonhuman animals coming together in melodic counterpoint. However, when invoked as part of this second concept of a more improvisatory cohabiting, music is not a performance of an attunement to a predetermined system but unpredictable, dynamic, undetermined, an improvised co-ordination of bodies, something unpindownable and existing in the moment. Attunement, here, privileges other bodies over abstract systems. It is, what might be called, an “interspecies becoming-with.”

32While musical harmony’s invocation through sound or through the discourse of harmony more generally is crucial to the universalizing of particular visions of interspecies harmony with particular interests involved, the focus of this issue is not musical harmony and its relationship to interspecies harmony—although this relationship is taken up by ethnomusicologist Julianne Graper in her article on the All Creatures Yum! festival. Rather, contributors to this issue explore what the socio-political stakes and effects are, and for whom, of culturally constructed ideals of interspecies relating—i.e., interspecies harmony and interspecies becoming-with—in different historical and social contexts within the US. This includes how the different visions of ideal interspecies relating are implicated in broader ideological discourses that intersect with discourses of gender, race, and class and how these can be grounded in even broader discourses, sometimes religious, sometimes secular. Even though outwardly, the visions of interspecies harmony and becoming-with discussed here may look similar, their grounding in different ideological projects may explain the variety of strategies promoted to achieve the utopian goal of ideal interspecies coexistence.

3. The Volume

33In this volume, interspecies harmony is explored firstly by Kathleen Chapman, Justyna Włodarczyk and Julianne Graper as both a strategy and an effect of absorbing or concealing violence within a multispecies environment through the representation of ideal human-animal relations. While Włodarczyk and Graper focus their analyses primarily on popular culture representations of interspecies harmony in the US, Chapman, in contrast, turns to European oil painting and the socio-economic context of its ownership and staging in Seattle. Building on John Berger’s frequently cited essay “Why Look at Animals?,” Chapman attends to the irony of the Frye Art Museum’s Founding Collection, which, despite its acquisition having depended on wealth accumulated from animal bodies in the meat-packing industry, includes a number of nineteenth-century oil paintings depicting close working relationships between human and domesticated nonhuman animals in the pastoral convention. What emerges from Chapman’s article is an argument about the meaning of civilization for America’s elites at the beginning of the twentieth century and the place of animals within it. As Chapman contends, the “proper” place for animals in Seattle was off of the streets and onto the artist’s canvas.

34Phillip Grider’s article offers a further examination of the ambiguity of the animal as a living being and object and the relationship of such ambiguity to the formation of human categories of difference. Grider tracks the pawprints of the raccoon across the colonial fur trade in North America, noting the objectification of this animal in the language of European settlers in ways that anticipate their skinning. However, while the dead raccoon’s pelt serves as human commodity, the living animal remains integral to the cultural meaning of the pelt: as Grider argues, it was the raccoon’s supposed unpretentiousness and large numbers in the “wilds” of North America’s frontier that came to be signified by the rendered animal, the pelt, which in turn made possible the rendering of class—namely, in opposition to the beaver-wearing British and European elite—and of Native peoples as Other.

35Both Chapman and Grider take inspiration from Nicole Shukin’s writing on the double meaning of the verb “to render” in the context of the commodification of animal bodies. In Chapman’s article, the rendering of animal labor in the Founding Collection’s paintings leads her to consider how these paintings might be viewed differently today so that, rather than distracting from the industrial slaughter of animals and animals’ capitalist labor by means of a warming sense of nostalgia, the spectator is encouraged to think of alternative ways in which humans and animals might enter into mutually beneficial working relationships. Justyna Włodarczyk, likewise, theorizes a critical mode by which representations of interspecies harmony—and the violence they hide offstage—might be read. Analyzing James Oliver Curwood’s novel Nomads of the North and its subsequent two film adaptations, Włodarczyk shows how America’s onscreen representations of the novel’s playful “animal odd couple” make invisible the human staging of the scene and strip both animal characters and actors of their histories; what remains in this image after its decontextualization is a “cute” interspecies relationship. Włodarczyk cultivates an attentiveness to the slights these representations of interspecies harmony perform, and, like Chapman, chooses not to dismiss the imagery and its allure, but rather to encourage the viewer to look with “critical cuteness”—a methodology that remains curious about the real lives of animal performers.

36Włodarczyk begins her article by contrasting the cute images of harmonious odd couples with the earlier sublimity of Christian representations of interspecies harmony epitomized by American painter Edward Hicks’ Peaceable Kingdom series; this Christian ecological imaginary is explored further in the essays by Svetlana Seibel, Julia Wilde and Julianne Graper. In Seibel’s article, allegorical interpretations of Melville’s novel Moby Dick are decentered, with focus placed instead on the whale’s personhood and the contentiousness of such a notion for the crew of the Pequod. The whale’s apparent intelligence and self-awareness, Seibel identifies, runs counter to a nineteenth-century, pre-Darwinian worldview in which nature was created by God to serve humanity; from the perspective of the novel’s narrator Ishmael, Moby Dick is a monster since his personhood violates the harmoniously hierarchical order of God’s creation.

37Turning our attention from one of the largest animals in Seibel’s essay to one of the smallest of God’s creatures, Graper’s article examines the apparent paradox between the simultaneous celebration of Brood X cicadas as welcome musicians and as food. At the All Creatures Yum! event in Southern Indiana where these cicadas were consumed, the violence of eating cicadas is absorbed into the harmonious image of cicada-human relations, and the singing of the cicadas alongside the humans at the event indicates their ostensible agency in co-producing these harmonious relations as part of God’s predetermined design. Graper also identifies an exoticist appeal to insect consumption in the US that makes eating cicadas an “exercise in power.” The musical naturalization of cicada consumption and the power this consumption performs, she argues, introduces an uncomfortable naturalization of asymmetries of power across racial divides in the US that, as Grider’s article explores, have been under construction through the commodification of animal bodies since the seventeenth century.

38While Chapman, Włodarczyk and Graper locate violence in the harmonious figurations they analyze and question how representations of interspecies harmony might be consumed, other contributors to this issue explore the effects and stakes of navigating across or between two juxtaposed ideals of interspecies relating. Seibel’s essay, while sharing an interest with Włodarczyk, Graper and Wilde in exploring Christian ecological imaginaries, invites us to consider the stakes that are implicated in transforming one’s understanding of what counts as interspecies harmony. Shifting focus in the second part of her essay from Melville’s novel to the Melville-inspired film In the Heart of the Sea (2015), her article analyzes the dramatization of interspecies harmony’s rerouting through the figure of the film’s protagonist, Owen Chase. Chase, a first mate from Nantucket, questions the hubris of Christian teaching and its human exceptionalism after his vessel, the Essex, is destroyed by the intertextual Moby Dick. Seibel examines how the film represents Chase’s transformation, positing that this process of change is fueled not by rational argument about the devastation caused by the whale-oil industry but by Chase’s intercommunication with his whale counterpart, which the cinematography, soundtrack and narrative of the film make apparent.

39The same analytical perspective is adopted by Daniel Bowman and by Joanna Ziarkowska in their respective articles, which turn to figurations of interspecies harmony in Native American literature. Bowman continues Seibel’s tracing of the story of oil in America through his reading of Osage writer John Joseph Mathews’s novel Sundown (1934), set during the Osage Oil Boom. Joanna Ziarkowska’s article, on the other hand, furthers Seibel’s examination of transspecies intercommunication through its analysis of Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan’s book The Radiant Lives of Animals, which is read against a background of animal studies scholarship. Yet, whereas Seibel charts Chase’s transformation from one understanding of what it means to live “harmoniously” within a more-than-human world to another, Bowman and Ziarkowska are united in their study of the complexities faced by Native Americans who find themselves straddling Indigenous and settler forms of knowledge about ideal human-animal relations.

40For Sundown’s Chal Windzer, this struggle to navigate between ideal human-animal relations is deeply connected to his marginalized identity. As Bowman argues, Chal finds himself torn between his Osage heritage and the culture of the white settlers with whom he becomes acquainted at university. Chal’s difficulty to reconcile these two worlds is the result of an impossible equation: needing to prove that Osage Indians are not the “primitive” people of settler imagination, Chal feels pressure to exchange his horse riding and transspecies subjectivity—particularly his coyote-self—for automobility; however, when these ties to the more-than-human world are severed and communion no longer possible, Chal feels this disconnection as a loss. Bowman’s article illustrates that while the horse-less automobile makes possible a sense of freedom and national belonging within the US—and, thus, comprises a “harmonious” disentanglement from the animal—it also threatens the interdependent, multispecies lifeways of which Chal is a part.

41Joanna Ziarkowska shows that it is not only Native characters who face the incongruity of cultural constructions of interspecies harmony, but Native authors themselves. As Ziarkowska argues, read through scientific (and therefore privileged) paradigms of white settler epistemologies of animal lives, Linda Hogan’s The Radiant Lives of Animals falls foul of anthropomorphic projection because of its invocation of harmonious multispecies cohabiting. However, under Chickasaw and other Indigenous epistemologies of other-than-human life, anthropomorphism is an impossible position since Chickasaw subjectivity is not fenced within and patrolled by the category of the human. Ziarkowska therefore questions how to read The Radiant Lives of Animals in conversation with, and in critique of, a settler scientific tradition—and, thus, how it might be brought into the fold of animal studies theory. Potential answers are found in the writing of philosopher Vinciane Despret: specifically, in what she calls a practice of “anthropo-zoo-genesis,” which occurs when individuals remain open to the reciprocal, embodied co-constitution of human and nonhuman animal subjectivities. Ziarkowska reads Hogan’s “anthropomorphism” as a practice of anthropo-zoo-genesis—an embodied becoming-with animals—which Hogan then articulates in her writing from a Chickasaw ontological position.

42Elisa Pesce continues the issue’s exploration of the stakes involved for women who find empowerment through their identification with nonhuman animals. Pesce focuses her analysis on Lucy Ellman’s novel Ducks, Newburyport (2019) and, more specifically, the kind of comparisons both the narrator of the text and Ellman herself draw between the narrator’s daughter, Stacy—a teenager of mixed white and Native ethnicity—and a mother mountain lion, who searches nearby for her kidnapped cubs. The narrator remains ambivalent about the parallels she sees between Stacy and the lioness and thinks such parallels may portend a life for her daughter characterized by one of two conditions: Stacy may live “fierce and free, or caged and cowed” (Ellman 998). As Pesce notes, the mountain lioness is eventually captured and placed in Columbus Zoo: harmony, supposedly, is restored. For the narrator, however, it is the mother lioness’ resilience against her captors that inspires the positive identifications she makes between the animal and her daughter, not the animal’s imprisonment. Yet, as Pesce argues, while Ellman and the narrator encourage a fluidity of identification within a more-than-human world as a way to resist the Anthropocene’s discordant “interspecies harmony,” the narrator still worries about Stacy’s future, which she imagines will likely be shaped by a white settler ontology of nature and the speciesism, misogyny and racism that it fuels.

43Jack Harrison and Sara Kruszona highlight a similar ambiguity that the sport of freestyle disc dog generates with regard to its image as a supposedly canine-centered activity—allowing dogs to move fiercely and freely—and as a competitive sport—one that potentially distracts from listening to the needs of dogs. These dogs are not physically caged (although long car rides to competitions may count as such) or cowed but rather limited from leading lives they might otherwise lead because of the lingering anthropocentrism within the sport. The article concludes with an invitation to think methodologically in terms of “multiple harmonies” when critically examining figurations of ideal human-canine relations that may hold different and sometimes competing stakes for individuals within multispecies societies. Analyzing American disc dog through its accompanying media, the authors find not one general concept of interspecies harmony that handlers aim to emulate with their dogs, but two interspecies harmonies—the two poles identified above in this introduction—whose navigation shapes and is shaped by the different kinds of investment that players (both human and canine) make in the sport, including the experience of winning, of fun and of building a connection with one’s interspecies partner. In disc dog, how to ideally navigate between these poles is institutionalized in rulebooks, training manuals and online videos: Harrison and Kruszona identify this institutionalized path to success as “dynamic–routinized harmony,” which, they argue, structures human-canine relations in ways that synthesize sometimes competing cultural ideas in the US regarding what counts as a “good” life for a dog.

44Both Harrison and Kruszona’s and Seibel’s essays gesture towards intercorporeality’s importance within processes of interspecies becoming-with. Other articles in this issue, however, take us a step further in exploring its implications for thinking about figurations of interspecies harmony. Ziarkowska’s article, discussed above, frames becoming-with as a bridge between Western critiques of scientific paradigms and Indigenous knowledge, and centers the bodies of human and nonhuman animals within this process. Wilde’s article, on the other hand, examines interspecies becoming-with through bodily touch and eating. Wilde adds counterpoint to the anthropocentric hierarchies of Christian constructions of interspecies harmony explored by Seibel, Włodarczyk and Graper through her analysis of American author Abbie Farwell Brown’s The Book of Saints and Friendly Beasts (1900). In Brown’s collection, a book of short stories for children, saints are portrayed as “feral children” who grow up alongside animals outside of human society. Wilde explores the significance of the feral child during the nineteenth century as this figure is instrumentalized in support of human exceptionalism and positions the writer within this discourse, identifying the novelty of two of her stories within the collection. These stories, rather than categorizing holiness in opposition to animality, understand such qualities instead as commensurate. Wilde argues that, in the stories “Saint Keneth of the Gulls” and “The Wolf-Mother of Saint Ailbe,” Brown anticipates philosopher Donna Haraway’s privileging of “oddkin” as a relational category—one that describes animals whose relationships ignore species boundaries and whose companionship generates something unexpected and, radically, outside of the logic of (sexual) reproduction. Baby saints are identified by Wilde as forming oddkin with their nonhuman families through the bodily practices of breast-feeding, washing (or, rather, grooming, with the wet lick of a tongue) and later, when the saints are adults, gathering together for dinner. Here, interspecies harmony comprises acts of care; it does not emerge by eating others—as Graper describes at the All Creatures Yum! Festival—and thus supposedly eliminating animality through its consumption, but through eating with others as mutual animals.

45Moreover, it is oddkin that Wilde identifies in these stories, not the odd couples Włodarczyk describes in relation to cute media: the saints and their families, most of all their caring touch, are generative of new ways of thinking about interspecies harmony that undercut the logics of the Capitalocene (Haraway, Staying with the Trouble). Sarah Allen, reflecting on her relationship with her horse Jack, takes up the promise of touch in her reflections on interspecies harmony, particularly as this relates to interactions between humans and horses and the normative practice of riding. Object-oriented ontology (OOO) helps Allen think through the question of autonomy when humans and horses form a relationship. She considers the autonomy of the animal as central to interspecies harmony and, similar to the argument made by Włodarczyk, finds the framing of horse-rider relations as a “partnership” in discourses of riding as ultimately dishonest, for it is the human rider’s imagining of how the horse-rider interaction should unfold that is always privileged in riding (and hidden through its technologies). For Allen, then, the question is how to co-create an imagining of mutual, multispecies happiness and living well. Drawing on the work of Timothy Morton, Allen’s article proposes touch as a means to co-constitute such a world, where humans and horses may live in “mutual vicarious relation,” for in touching, one cannot help but be touched back. This is not the same as the touch a rider performs to coerce a horse. Instead, this touch must be accompanied by a knowledge of “the other’s fundamental unknowability” in order for both partners, whatever their species, to flourish.

46We began this introduction with the harmonious image invoked in the song “Home on the Range.” In the song, the singer describes the idyllic scenes of the American West. Yet, as we have been hinting throughout this article, perhaps the singer of “Home on the Range” does more than merely describe a scene already in existence. Similar to music’s active role in the transformation of Geoffrey Baker’s seventeenth-century Cuzco pigs and the countless dancing onscreen animals across social media platforms, perhaps a performance of “Home on the Range” might actually be about its singer singing this harmony of the American West—the playing of the deer and the antelope—into existence, as an Orphic incantation. In this interpretation, the haunting violence of settler colonialism is exorcized by its framing as a natural consequence of the spreading of harmony, which itself is ritualized through the act of singing and the harmonious strumming of an accompanying guitar. This special issue reveals how figurations of harmony are instrumentalized in such ways in the US and to what ends; it explores the stakes involved for those animals—human and nonhuman—who navigate different cultural constructions of interspecies harmony; and it investigates what other kinds of relationship may better achieve the promises representations of interspecies harmony make as well as what roles literature, film, art, music and sport play in reimagining a harmonious world.

47As an outro, we invoke another Western song, “Coyotes,” composed by Bob McDill and made popular by singer Don Edwards. The singer remembers an old cowboy who once spoke with him about the disappearance of his entire world. He names people—drovers, the Comanches, outlaws, Geronimo—and animals—the longhorn, the lion, and the red wolf. Even though the tone of the song is one of pastoral nostalgia, there is hope for the future—a hope embodied in the figure of the coyote, who is able to flourish in the new world of “the oil men,” “the automobile,” and “asphalt and steel.” And indeed, coyotes are not only trickster figures in Indigenous traditions and the embodiment of resilience in the face of anthropogenic change. Through their adaptation to urbanization, they also force us to reexamine the binary distinctions of “the wild” and “the tame” that have structured myths of American Identity. Coyotes have mastered the art of adaptation, but, in Edwards’s song, it is the cowboy who imitates the yips of the coyote in his ringing falsetto. It is he who harmonizes to their song:

Then he’d look off some place in the distance
At something only he could see
He’d say, ‘All that's left now of the old days
Are damned old coyotes and me’

And they go, ooh-yip, ooh-yip-ooh
Hoodi-ooh di-yip-ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh
Ooh-yip, ooh-yip-ooh
Hoodi-ooh di-yip-ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh-ooh

48Work on this article was supported by the National Science Centre, Poland, under the grant “Figurations of Interspecies Harmony in Literature, Film and Other Cultural Texts of the English-Speaking Sphere, from the mid-19th to the 21st Centuries” [UMO-2020/38/E/HS2/00130]

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1 The author Jack Harrison is grateful to ethnomusicologist Tyler Yamin for the conversations they have shared on the concept of harmony.

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Electronic reference

Włodarczyk Justyna and Jack Harrison, Introduction. Discordant Harmonies: Interspecies Relations in the United StatesEuropean journal of American studies [Online], 19-1 | 2024, Online since 07 February 2024, connection on 20 April 2024. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Włodarczyk Justyna

Justyna Włodarczyk teaches American studies at the University of Warsaw, Institute of English Studies. Her interests revolve around animal studies and the environmental humanities, especially issues of power and freedom in human-canine relationships. She has published a cultural history of dog training in the US, titled Genealogy of Obedience: Reading North American Dog Training Literature, 1850s-2000s (Brill, 2018) and has authored many articles about animal representations in literature and film. She is currently heading the grant team Figuration of Interspecies Harmony, funded by the National Science Centre, Poland.

Jack Harrison

Jack Harrison (he/him) is a postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Warsaw’s Institute of English Studies where he works as a member of the Figurations of Interspecies Harmony grant team, funded by the Polish National Science Centre. Before moving to Warsaw in 2021, Jack studied at the University of Toronto where he completed his PhD in ethnomusicology. His research explores the stakes involved when culturally constructed divisions between human and nonhuman animals are musically blurred or crossed in different sociocultural contexts, including canine and equine sports, transnational strategies of mosquito control and, most recently, in human–coyote encounters. His writing has been published in Ethnomusicology Forum and Sound Studies.

By this author

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