CFP: Jokesters with Feathers, Tails, and Scales: Animals’ Senses of Humor, Humor and Moral Life

Submission deadline: May 19, 2024

Topic areas



Jokesters with Feathers, Tails, and Scales, a collection of essays by scientists, academics working in Animal Studies, and by such practitioners as veterinarians, sanctuary workers, and animal rehabbers, will be the first book-length treatment of animals’ senses of humor—of its cognitive foundations, its varieties, functions, its relevance to moral life.


Do animals other than humans delight in subverted expectations that result in ludicrous incongruities; find unfortunate others sources of amusement; release repressed impulses and pent-up energy in wildly inappropriate contexts and actions; do they joke—perhaps tease or engage in physical slapstick—to initiate play or as a kind of play; are they shaken by what C.K. Chesterton called a “beautiful madness,” laughter? In short, do other animals have senses of humor?

Almost without exception, writers on humor exclude nonhuman animals from the redic universe. But contributors to Jokesters will take seriously other animals’ notions and enactments of funny. Social and biological scientists will share relevant anecdotes, field and lab studies, theories about the evolutionary function and trajectory of humor. Philosophers and other scholars in Animal Studies will respond to varieties of skeptics who deny nonhuman animals have the cognitive hard drive to experience humor. Jokesters also aims to include contributions from practitioners—veterinarians and rehabilitators, professionals who by necessity have learned to “speak” horse or elephant or bear in order to stay safe while being intimate, which includes joking, with animals.

Humor is a complicated social experience, probably most satisfying when shared with those who share our sense of life. It’s also essentially joyful, a hit of the universe’s vital elan. As social, as joyful, contributors will make the case that humor has moral traction and thus practical consequences for how we treat our animal kin.


The proposed volume seeks contributions on the following topics:

·      Controlled studies, brain and evolutionary studies, field studies, and anecdotes that both prove and illustrate the ability of other animals to engage in humor. 

·      Critiques of the latent anthropocentrism found in prevailing theories of humor; a revision of such theories to accommodate the funniness of other animals.  

·      The moral relations between humor and moral life generally and then the moral implications of nonhuman animals having senses of humor. 

·      The implications of sharing a sense of humor with other animals for how we understand our relationships to them. 

·      The online dissemination of media that depicts animals as funny and its role in shaping the attitudes and behaviors of the public. 

·      Explorations of how the portrayal of animals as capable of humor and joy might serve to advance the struggle for their liberation.   


Jokesters will be the one and only volume on animals and humor on the market. The collection targets readers in every discipline in Animal Studies as well the general public. We’re looking for theorists and scientists who can accessibly write about ethics and cognition and are confident about keeping multiple readers engrossed, regardless of their backgrounds. We very mindfully avoid the kinds of scientific and philosophic essays that activists and general readers complain are dry, technical, overly argued, too little “felt,” redundant, and ultimately off-putting. After all, the book is basically a compendium of animal clowning and giggles that’s both smart and accessible; as such it will attract a large and diverse readership. 


If you are interested in contributing to this collection, please submit an abstract of no more than 300 words, along with a brief bio and institutional affiliation to Deborah Slicer at [email protected] by May 19th 11:59pm. 

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