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Regarding Rocky: A Theoretical and Ethnographic Exploration of Interspecies Intersubjectivity

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Abstract Both theoretical and empirical work in a variety of disciplines has resulted in a recent turn away from Cartesian and Meadian anthropocentrism in the direction of a radical reconsideration of nonhuman animal mind and agency. Central to sociology’s role in envisioning a repopulated social world is the analysis of nonhuman-human social interaction. Because all social action is predicated on certain assumptions regarding the minds of others, a theory of intersubjectivity must be at the core of any such project. It is argued here that the key elements employed in Alfred Schutz’s conceptualization of intersubjectivity among humans are also demonstrated in the routine communicative projects of humans and their companion animals. After presenting a Schutzian theory of intersubjectivity, this article analyzes, from an ethnographic perspective, elements of the everyday lifeworld Rocky—a deaf, paraplegic cat—cohabits with the author and other family members. Through that analysis, the paper demonstrates that the dynamics of everyday interactions through which Rocky actively participates in the creation of meaning and the achievement of understanding is highly consistent with Schutz’s theory of human intersubjectivity.

Affiliations: 1: University of Texas–Arlington


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