In this original and provocative book, Colin Dayan tackles head-on the inexhaustible world, at once tender and fierce, of dogs and humans. We follow the tracks of dogs in the bayous of Louisiana, the streets of Istanbul, and the humane societies of the United States, and in the memories and myths of the humans who love them. Dayan reorients our ethical and political assumptions through a trans-species engagement that risks as much as it promises. She makes a powerful case for questioning what we think of as our deepest-held beliefs and, with dogs in the lead, unsettles the dubious promises of liberal humanism.
Moving seamlessly between memoir, case law, and film, Dayan takes politics and animal studies in a new direction―one that gives us glimpses of how we can think beyond ourselves and with other beings. Her unconventional perspective raises hard questions and renews what it means for any animal or human to live in the twenty-first century. Nothing less than a challenge for us to confront violence and suffering even in the privileged precincts of modernity, this searing and lyrical book calls for another way to think the world. Theoretically sophisticated yet aimed at a broad readership, With Dogs at the Edge of Life illuminates how dogs―and their struggles―take us beyond sentimentality and into a form of thought that can make a difference to our lives.
“In three lively and beautifully written movements, Colin Dayan offers a memorable tour de force that threads together memoir and an analysis of the deprivations of life, human and nonhuman and human with nonhuman, that so pervasively characterize our neoliberal world-historical moment.
Intelligent and moving, With Dogs at the Edge of Life is an extraordinary book, a courageous and compelling intermingling of arresting cultural critique and autobiographical reflections of a life lived in the company of canines.”
—David L. Clark, McMaster University
“Colin Dayan has again produced a probing and brilliant examination of a part of that long “history of extermination masked by the veneer of enlightenment.” Always writing with justice in mind, Dayan’s consideration of our relationship with dogs yields a complex meditation on humanity and life’s uncertain possibilities. Beautiful, “more than just another dog story,” as only Dayan could write it.”
—Avery F. Gordon, University of California, Santa Barbara
“In an inimitable mode of testimony and confession, Colin Dayan argues that relations with dogs, from the southern United States to Turkey, structure violence, vulnerability, and antagonism. Extending her work on the physical exploration of unnamable states, Dayan shows how bonds with dogs uniquely condition the creation of social value. And I say that as a cat person.”
—Rei Terada, University of California, Irvine
“Whether openly acknowledged or not, we are all in relationships with dogs—as companions, as lovers, as protector and protected. Some relationships are marked by fear, perhaps hatred. Most are contradictory, many escape description. In her poetic, political, autobiographical homage to life and death with dogs, Dayan helps us stay with them as we traverse treacherous edges. We are fortunate to have so gifted an interpreter and loving a guide.”
—Lori Gruen, author of Entangled Empathy and Ethics and Animals
“Stimulating and lyrical, her book suggests a unique, trans-species approach to understanding ourselves as well as the limits of human cognition and the hubris that inheres in all the things we create….Intellectually fierce reading for philosophically minded readers, especially dog lovers.”
“With Dogs at the Edge of Life is the work of a mind that slips the leash of genre or narrow specialization at every opportunity….It’s tempting to say that Dayan does for dogs what Melville did for whales: tracking the social roles and symbolic frameworks built up around them and depicting them at the intersection between cosmic order and human frailty, while also giving them (dogs and whales alike) due recognition as animals with worlds of their own.”
—INSIDE HIGHER ED
“For some years now, Colin Dayan has been developing a rich and challenging approach to ethics steeped in something other than reason. Her latest book, the newly released With Dogs at the Edge of Life, deepens this provocative project in unique and interdisciplinary terms. At once erudite and imaginative, it asks why only members of our species get to be persons, what so-called progress has destroyed, and whether an ethical life demands less humanity, not more of it.”
“Writing on the borderland between memoir and academia, Colin Dayan’s book attempts to mark out the territory of dogs in our lives, specifically by looking at those places where they are most imperiled.”
—Los Angeles Review of Books
Dayan traces a spiritual itinerary that actively confounds our desire for hard data and certainty….It is a book aimed to make “enlightened” people uncomfortable.
“Through With Dogs at the Edge of Life, we feel pain, question cultural morality and re-examine our sentimentality with the dog.”
—”Picks of the Litter,” AKC