Lecturer in History
Contact & Office Hours
Thursday, 4-5 p.m.
Or by appointment.
Pierce Hall 108
Ph.D., Indiana University
M.A., B.A., California State University, Los Angeles
Paula Tarankow (pronouns: she/her/hers) is a social and cultural historian of the 19th-century United States. She specializes in post–Civil War era reform and historical animal studies. Examining human-animal relationships allows her to pursue research questions about race and racism in the white American imagination, specifically how white supremacy operates along constructed human/animal binaries and boundaries. Her book project, tentatively titled “The Lost Cause and the Animal Cause: The Southern Origins of American Animal Welfare,” examines the ways in which white memories of slavery as a positive good influenced the origins and development of humane sentiment within the states of the former Confederacy and beyond. Other current writing projects include essays on anti-Blackness and carceral logics in animal anticruelty legislation in the United States and on Black activism within the first generation of post–Civil War animal-welfare educators. She is also developing writing and public projects on antiracist animal studies content, theory and pedagogy.
In the classroom, Tarankow often incorporates animal histories into human-centered narratives to allow students to reinvestigate core questions about prominent themes and eras in U.S. history. She also aims to spark students’ curiosities about their relationships with and ideas about animals beyond the classroom. She has received writing and research support from the Animals and Society Institute and the Culture and Animals Foundation. Past courses taught at Smith include Animals in America and The Civil War and Reconstruction. Future courses (2020–21) include Teaching U.S. History and The United States since 1877.