Animals in American Television

deadline for submissions: 
October 15, 2016
full name / name of organization: 
Michael Fuchs & Stefan Brandt

"Animals in American Television"
Special Issue
European Journal of American Studies
Vol. 13, No. 1, 2018

Nonhuman characters have been a staple of American television since its inception. From main characters such as Lassie (Lassie, CBS, 1954–1973) and Flipper (Flipper, NBC, 1964–1967) to secondary and tertiary characters such as the cat Lucky in ALF (NBC, 1986–1990), the Rottweiler Arnold in Entourage (HBO, 2004–2011), and the chicken and the duck in Friends (NBC, 1994–2004), animals have been regulars on fictional television shows. In addition, televised wildlife documentaries have virtually brought animals from across the world into American homes and introduced viewers to the problems faced by these species. However, a somewhat paradoxical feedback loop undergirds the proliferation of animals in (audio)visual media, as Akira Mizuta Lippit explains in his book Electric Animal (2000): Animals' sheer omnipresence in (audio)visual media results from (and is accompanied by) the vanishing of animals from the material world. The media thus become tools for preserving animals' spectral presences. In other words, even if photographic, filmic, and televisual representations of animals aim at wildlife conservation, the increasing mediation of animals effects their displacement from the wilderness into the database. Dedicated channels such as Animal Planet, which broadcasts animal shows 24/7/365, as well as National Geographic and NatGeo Wild, whose programs largely feature animal-centered shows, play a crucial role in this process that should not be underestimated.

This special issue of the European Journal of American Studies seeks to explore nonhuman animals in fictional and non-fictional television. What do the man-made representations of these creatures tell us about humans and the human condition? And, maybe more importantly, what do these representations of nonhuman animals, in fact, tell us about nonhuman animals?

While we're deliberately leaving this call open so that scholars working on any aspect of 'animals in American television' may contribute, we particularly invite articles discussing

  • animals in (fictional and non-fictional) television shows from the 1950s to the 1980s;
  • wildlife documentaries and other non-fictional forms of programming made for television;
  • extinct animals/animal extinction;
  • TV animals and stardom;
  • discourses on animal exploitation and animal abuse surrounding animal shows (e.g. Call of the Wildman, Cesar Millan's shows);
  • shows/individual episodes of shows that address the line separating wild animals from pets (and the role of hybrids, such as wolfdogs, in this categorization); and
  • animal predation on humans.

Please email your 500-word abstract and a short bio (100 words max.) to tvanimals@fuchsmichael.net by October 15, 2016. Expect to receive a confirmation of receipt within 48 hours. (If you don't, please assume that we haven't received your abstract and re-submit it.) Editorial notifications (acceptance/rejection) will be communicated within a month of the abstract deadline. Essays will be due on April 1, 2017. They will then first be reviewed by the special issue's editors before the essays will undergo formal double-blind peer review.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to contact us at the email address indicated above.