Jody Berland – “Cat and Mouse: Iconographies of Nature and Desire”

Jody Berland is Associate Professor of Humanties in Atkinson College, and a member of the graduate programs in Communication and Culture, the Department of Music, and the Graduate Programme of Social and Political Thought at York Universi

The popularity of digital cat photographs circulating through the Internet and across North American visual culture provides an occasion for a critical exploration of human-cat relations in contemporary culture. I explore some of the histories and meanings of these cat-messages as they travel through the connected terrains of traditional and digital photography, old and new technologies of visual culture, the philosophy of human-animal relations and the companion animals debate, the social history of women, the industrialization of urban space, and species interactions in urban culture. In conclusion, I argue that the highly ambiguous physical and symbolic status of cats and the proliferation of human-cat networks in both urban and electronic space are part of an emergent posthuman landscape in which the mutual dependency of diverse animals is more important (if no less volatile) than the unique qualities of distinct species.

Jody Berland is Associate Professor of Humanities, York University, Toronto. She has published widely on cultural studies, Canadian communication theory, music and media, cultural studies of the environment, and the cultural technologies of space. She is co-editor of Theory Rules: Art as Theory/ Theory and Art (YYZ/ University of Toronto Press 1996) and Cultural Capital: A Reader on Modernist Legacies, State Institutions the Value(s) of Art ( McGill-Queen’s University Press 2000), and editor of Topia: A Canadian Journal of Cultural Studies (www.yorku.ca/topia). Her book North of Empire is forthcoming with Duke University Press.

She is also one of three North American representatives to the international board of the Association of Cultural Studies.  She has published widely on cultural studies, Canadian communication theory, music, radio and video, feminist bodies, cultural environmental studies, and social space.