Author: Gladys Symons

Abstract

This paper addresses the coconstruction of identities and emotions through the human/animal relationship, arguing that nonhuman animals can and do act as coagents in interspecies encounters. The paper narrates the extraordinary boundary-transgressing experiences of a particular kind of co(a)gency labeled “huminality” (the ongoing affective relationship of human and animal). An autoethnographic account of pet-visitation involving a woman, a West Highland white terrier named Fergus, and geriatric residents demonstrates the power of huminality to authorize the emergence and realization of different identities and selves. Examples include the intimate friend, the dignified self, the institutional resister, the gift-giver, and the available self. Huminality, in the emotional spacetime of the hospital, is rooted in empathy, concern, and affection. As ontological choreography, huminality takes us past the animal-Nature/human-culture frontier into uncharted territories of spacetime to engage in forms of life with nonhuman others. Encounters with animals, even on a geriatric ward, can transform our universe and our selves.

In: Society & Animals