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Chimpanzee Culture WarsRethinking Human Nature alongside Japanese, European, and American Cultural Primatologists$
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Nicolas Langlitz

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691204284

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691204284.001.0001

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Chimpanzee Ethnography

Chimpanzee Ethnography

(p.102) 3 Chimpanzee Ethnography
Chimpanzee Culture Wars

Nicolas Langlitz

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines how chimpanzee ethnographer Christophe Boesch and his group studied the social transmission of cultural traits in the chimpanzee communities of Taï Forest, Côte d'Ivoire. This ethnographic account of primatological fieldwork in the mid-2010s measures the historical distance to the 1960s when Jane Goodall and others sought to take part in the social life of great apes. In contemporary Taï, by contrast, disengaged observations of habituated chimpanzees served to protect both Pan and Homo. Despite the researchers' efforts to keep human–animal relations as neutral as possible, different chimpanzee communities related to their observers differently. In the forest, chimpanzee ethnography could hardly be distinguished from other forms of fieldwork. Boesch's approach to writing wild cultures turned out to share an important feature with humanities scholarship: references to philosophical classics gave it an intensely polemic bent rarely found in the scientific literature.

Keywords:   chimpanzee ethnography, Christophe Boesch, social transmission, cultural traits, chimpanzee communities, Taï Forest, human–animal relations, wild cultures, primatological fieldwork

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