Shared Suffering Onscreen: Animal Experiments and Emotional Investment in the Films of O. H. Mowrer

NEWEST ESSAY & FILM
By Benjamín Schultz-Figueroa, PhD, Assistant Professor in Film Studies, Seattle University

The history of animal testing and the history of the life sciences go hand in hand. As Claude Bernard, the founder of physiology, stated, experimental animals, particularly frogs, are “closely associated with [experimenters’] labors and their scientific glory.” And yet, these experiments were always fraught, as scientists had to manage their own emotional entanglement with their animal subjects, who often were killed or maimed in the process of the experiment. Donna Haraway describes these emotional and ethical complexities as the “shared suffering” of the lab. This argument is premised on the recognition of animal agency in the lab, a space where animals, apparatuses, and scientists are all responding and responsible to each other, though in very different ways.

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