Animals and Popular Culture - Special Topic 

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This newly established interest area examines the complexities of the human-animal relationship and the centrality of nonhuman animals throughout popular culture. The relationship between humans and animals has always been strong, symbiotic, and complicated.  Animals, real and fictional, have been a mainstay in the arts and entertainment, figuring prominently in literature, film, television, social media, and live performances.  Increasingly, though, people are anthropomorphizing animals, assigning them humanoid roles, tasks, and identities. At the same time, humans find pleasure in adopting animal identities and characteristics. 


Presentations might address questions to include how and why the traits and characteristics we ascribe to animals have significant consequences by shaping our relationships with animals and other humans, our understandings of ourselves and what it means to be human, and the consequences of these representations for the nonhuman animals who share this world as explored through a popular culture lens. As behaviors, roles, and expectations that used to be reserved for humans now apply to animals, are lines between human and animal being obfuscated? How are animals becoming, and being treated, more like humans, and to a lesser degree, how are humans becoming more like animals? How are animals becoming extensions of people’s identities? How are media facilitating this? Simply put, in many ways, this is not so much an interest area about animals but an area about us–and the ways we regard animals. Sample topics are as follows: 

·       Advertising To, About, and Using Animals

·       Animals as Extensions of Human Identity (e.g., as personal or political statement, as fashion, etc.)

·       Animals and the Family (e.g., we increasingly treat them like human family members)

·       Animals as Persons/Personhood (includes ties to animal rights movements)

·       Animals, variously as Images in Art, Literature (especially children’s literature), Film and TV (animated, live-action, and documentary)

·       Body modifications: of animal bodies that treat them like humans such as cosmetic surgery, and of human bodies to make them more like animals, and the “furry” trend

·       Case Studies of Real-life Anthropomorphized Animals and Animal-Human Intersections – examples: Pedals the bear; Toast and Finn’s dog wedding; Nano, the human woman who identifies as a cat

·       Disneyfication

·       Hero Animals and Criminal Animals

·       The Internet and Animals

·       Meanings and Consequences of Popular Perceptions of Specific Animals – examples: horses, dinosaurs, spiders

·       Pet Product Industry (the more we anthropomorphize animals, the more we buy them human stuff)

·       Science Fiction and Anthropomorphized Animals (including uplift, human-animal boundaries and ethics, and futuring)

·       Transmigration (pulling in symbols, religion, and mythology)


Please submit an abstract of approximately 250 words and a 50-word biography through the Popular Culture Association Conference Website.  We also welcome complete panel proposals of 3-4 people. 


Please send all inquiries to co-chairs:


Kathy Merlock Jackson

Professor of Communication

Virginia Wesleyan University

[email protected]


Kathy Shepherd Stolley

Professor of Sociology

Virginia Wesleyan University

[email protected]




2023 Conference Dates and Deadlines

15 Aug-22                                            2022 Conference Information Available on Website
15 Sept-22 Submissions Open 
07 Oct-22 Early Bird Registration Begins
10 Jan-23 Deadline for Paper Proposals
4 Jan-23 Early Bird Registration Ends for Presenters
5 Jan-23 Regular Registration Begins for Presenters
19 Jan-23 Regular Registration Ends for Presenters
20 Jan-23 Late Registration Starts for Presenters
1 Feb-23 Late Registration Ends for Presenters; Those Presenters Not Registered by the Date Will be Dropped From the Program; Registration Continues for Nonpresenters
10 Feb-23 Preliminary Schedule Available
17 Mar-23 Registration Ends for Nonpresenters
 5-8 April-23

conference in San ANTONIO, TX


All presenters must be current, paid members of the PCA and registered for the conference. Non-presenters who attend the full conference must also pay membership fees.

To attend the National Conference, members must pay the membership fee and the registration fee. Membership fees are non-refundable and non-transferable.


Submit a Paper Proposal for the 2023 PCA Conference: 

Submissions for paper proposals are now open. The submission deadline is December 20, 2022. Please be sure you read and understand all instructions, policies, and procedures before you submit your proposal.