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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Celluloid Specimen: Moving Image Research into Animal Life

  • Author(s): Schultz-Figueroa, Benjamin Alberto
  • Advisor(s): Stamp, Shelley
  • et al.
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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International Public License

"The Celluloid Specimen: Moving Image Research of Animal Life" analyzes the films made to document animal experiments in behavioral psychology laboratories during the early- to mid-twentieth century. It argues that this largely ignored cinematic history reveals a dynamic field of behaviorist looking, where the distinctions between nature and culture were inscribed into animal images, generating concepts that broadly shaped the politics of immigration, labor relations, educational practice and gender identity, well beyond the walls of the lab. Its chapters focus on the films made by Robert Yerkes in the 1930s at the first experimental primate colonies in North America; the rat films made to simulate human society at Yale University in the 1940s; and the promotional films made by B.F. Skinner to sell the U.S. Military on his design for a pigeon-guided missile during World War II. "The Celluloid Specimen" was produced through a hybrid methodology, bringing together archival films and documents, primary source materials from film history and science history, as well as the theories of film studies, science and technology studies, critical animal studies, and critical race studies. It concludes that filming animal research was a pivotal practice for generating the psychosocial definitions of species, race, identity, and culture that continue to shape our contemporary political and scientific discourses.

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This item is under embargo until July 24, 2020.