Institute Directors

Current Directors

Jane Desmond, Founding Resident Director, is an interdisciplinary scholar and former professional dancer/choreographer who works across the humanities, social sciences and the arts. Much of her work stems from a passion for embodied practices, and she has authored key works in performance studies, tourism studies, transnational American Studies and human-animal studies, including Displaying Death/Animating Life: Human-Animal Relations in Art, Science and Everyday Life, and Staging Tourism: Bodies on Display from Waikiki to Sea World, as well as three edited books. She has published on natural history museums, taxidermy, zoos, mourning for animals, art by animals, tourism in the Antarctic, veterinary medicine, and (forthcoming) poetry as imaginative cross-species ethnography.

Currently she is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she also holds appointments in Gender and Women’s Studies, the department of Dance, and the College of Veterinary Medicine, and directs the Human-Animal Studies@ Illinois Initiative through the Center for Advanced Study. A Public Voices Fellow with the national Op-Ed Project, her public writing has appeared in Newsweek, Scientific American, The Hill, CNN.COM, and The Washington Post.com. She is the Founding Editor of the Animal Lives Book Series at the University of Chicago Press, former President of the International American Studies Association, a 2022 Fulbright Professor in Germany, and this coming academic year will be a British Academy Research Fellow, and 2023-2024 Fellow in Bioethics at the Harvard Medical School. She has held full-time faculty appointments at Cornell, Duke, the University of Iowa along with guest appointments in Budapest and Beijing, and holds degrees from Brown University, Sarah Lawrence College, and Yale University. Her current book project Medicine Across the Species Line is anchored in science studies and the veterinary humanities.

Kim Marra, Co-Director, is Professor Emeritus of Theatre Arts and American Studies at the University of Iowa where she was also a Collegiate Fellow and affiliate faculty in Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies. She taught interdisciplinary courses in theatre and performance history for 31 years until her retirement in 2021. She holds degrees from Dartmouth College (B.A.), Brown University (M.A.), and the University of Wisconsin-Madison (PhD). Her books include Strange Duets: Impresarios and Actresses in the American Theatre, 1865-1914 (University of Iowa Press, 2006, winner of NYU’s Joe A. Callaway Prize), three co-edited volumes on LGBTQ theatre practitioners in pre-Stonewall U.S. history from the University of Michigan Press, and the co-edited volume Showing Off, Showing Up: Studies of Hype, Heightened Performance, and Cultural Power (also from Michigan, 2017). A lifelong horseperson and former competitor (in the 1970s) in the cavalry-derived sport of three-day eventing, she has used her equestrian knowledge in pursuing historically oriented animal studies scholarship in multiple genres and formats, such as the solo autobiographical performance piece, Horseback Views, at Chicago’s Links Hall, and the prize-winning journal article about that experience, “Riding, Scarring, Knowing: A Queerly Embodied Performance Historiography” (Theatre Journal, 2012). Her ongoing research involves a multi-media arts and humanities project, The Pull of Horses in Urban American Performance, 1860-1920, featuring an original full-length documentary film that played at life-sized scale amid a related University of Iowa Library Gallery Exhibit in 2020. The exhibit shut down prematurely because of the pandemic but then gained a digital afterlife that continues to engage various publics online. For the last decade, she has served as associate editor of the Animal Lives Series of the University of Chicago Press.

Past Directors

Gala Argent is the Human-Animal Studies Program Director at the Animals and Society Institute. Her published work focuses on theorizing the interpersonal, intersocial, and intercultural relationships between humans and other animals, and on the ways these can be seen to co-create and replicate mutually interdependent selves, identities, and practices within various contexts, past and present.

Margo DeMello has published numerous books and articles in the fields of human-animal studies and body studies, including two textbooks. For more information please consult her website: https://margodemello.com/about/.

Kenneth Shapiro is a cofounder and President of the Board of Animals and Society Institute. He is founding editor of Society and Animals: Journal of Human-Animal Studies, and coeditor and cofounder of Journal for Applied Animal Welfare Science and the editor of the Human-Animal Studies book series. His most recent book is The Assessment and Treatment of Children who Abuse Animals: The AniCare Approach.