Society for Psychological Anthropology
Anthropology of Consciousness
Cosponsored - Oral Presentation Session
Ethnographers studying the dream worlds of indigenous peoples frequently report dreams about non-human animals. These dreams and their emic interpretations link to complex ontologies involving spiritual ecologies, culturally specific metaphors, and concepts of animal personhood. Based on dreams collected from US college students, this paper describes several common genres of dreams about dogs and argues that here too dreams offer insights into implicit ontologies associated with interspecies relations. Although canine characters may sometimes function as oneiric metaphors, more often, their appearance in the dreams of US college students signals quotidian forms of interspecies sociality that are rarely described in waking life. Making use of a new neurocognitive model that proposes that dreams evolved as a nighttime means of rehearsing sociality, and combining it with a recognition of the cultural and historical framing of such sociality, this analysis argues that dog dreams depict a middle-class model of canine personhood that coexists with, but challenges human exceptionalism. But are dog dreams driven entirely by culture? It is speculated that co-evolutionary processes make dogs natural interlocutors in human habits of sociality as well as frequent and significant characters in humans’ dreams.