Kirkus Reviews QR Code
DOMINANCE AND AFFECTION: The Making of Pets by Yi-Fu Tuan



Pub Date: Sept. 22nd, 1984
ISBN: 0300102089
Publisher: Yale Univ. Press

Another one of Professor Tuan's fabulously panoramic surveys (see his earlier Topophilia, Landscapes of Fear, etc.). There's a touch of Pieter Brueghel in the way Tuan (Geography, Wisconsin) paints the entire range of the human condition with precision, minute detail, and a kind of pessimistic detachment. A pet, for Tuan, is ""a diminished being, whether in the figurative or literal sense. It serves not so much the essential needs as the vanity and pleasure of its possessor."" ""Pets,"" therefore, include potted plants (and all of horticulture), every animal kept in zoos or parks or private homes, children (?!), slaves, menials, dwarfs, castrati, fools, harem girls, unemancipated women, and so forth. In meditating on this universal pattern of dominance, Tuan argues, doubtless too reductively, that practically all uses of power are egocentric: gardeners grossly manipulating nature for their aesthetic satisfaction, dog-owners chaining and clipping and castrating the various breeds invented to tickle their fancy, slave-holders raping or buggering their favorites, even parents treating their offspring as dolls or toys. But whatever one thinks of Tuan's philosophy, the scope of his knowledge is simply astonishing. Chinese landscape architecture? Medieval Islamic hydraulic technology? Bonsai? Topiary? How to hand-spawn goldfish? You name it, Tuan can tell you about it. Most of this bewildering expertise is, of necessity, borrowed. But the combination of encyclopedic flow and psychological acuity is absorbing, as usual.