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Acting with animals: Tracing human-animal withs in a clinical setting

3.5 Unit of analysis: historicity, context, and levels of analytic scale
Paper in a Symposium (Symp)
2:30 PM, Thursday 31 Aug 2017 (30 minutes)
 Sherrill and Hengst report ethnographic research on communicative practices in clinical settings involving Animal Assisted Therapy (AAT). In theorizing face-to-face interactions, Goffman (1971) identified both human and animal withs, but did not point to cross-species withs (e.g., a shepherd and sheep dog herding a flock of sheep). AAT sessions are designed as clinical gatherings with and around animals. These interactions routinely involve the target patient, licensed clinicians, the therapy animal and her human handler, and frequently guests or bystanders. Their study focuses on an inpatient rehabilitation unit at the Rush Copley Medical Center in Illinois. The 34 participants in this study included patients, family members, rehabilitation specialists, and specially trained therapy dog/handler teams. Data collection involved video recorded observations of 9 AAT sessions, 16 individual interviews, and full access to patient medical records. The analysis presented here traces the sociohistoric withs that inform interactions with the therapy dog (“Sully”). Using situated discourse analysis and the analytic framework laid out the first paper, they identify and analyze moments of dense interaction with Sully, tracing the continuities within and across sessions as well as how these moments are informed by personal and cultural histories of human-dog withs. Specifically, they first outline the range of Sully-people alignments seen in immediate strips of discourse, including data from the animal’s point of view (e.g., intimate and confidential moments that are only visible because a camera was attached to Sully’s harness). Second, focusing on the case of one patient, Casimir (a 79-year-old man), they trace this emerging dog-human within interactions between and across sessions, as Casimir reflected on, anticipated, and pushed for his right to see Sully. Finally, we analyze culturally recognized human-dog relationships through the dog stories shared during these AAT sessions and public sources documenting the long history of human-dog relationships. 
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
University of Illinois
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