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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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Salvage Primatology

Salvage Primatology

(p.269) 7 Salvage Primatology
Chimpanzee Culture Wars

Nicolas Langlitz

Princeton University Press

This chapter assesses how cultural primatologists fought for the conservation and documentation of quickly dwindling chimpanzee communities. As Homo sapiens outcompeted Pan troglodytes in sub-Saharan Africa, Christophe Boesch, Tetsuro Matsuzawa, and the first generation of African primatologists forged alliances and made enemies in their attempts to prolong the coexistence of humans and apes for a few more years. In West Africa, the chimpanzee culture wars entwined scientific controversy with political crises and ethnic strife. In the face of the sixth mass extinction event in natural history, cultural primatologists set out to collect as much data about the lives of as many chimpanzee communities as possible. Boesch's Pan African Project almost quadrupled the number of documented chimpanzee cultures by switching from ethnographic observations of habituated groups to big data collection of camera trap recordings, fecal samples, and material artifacts. This collective effort at over thirty-five field sites built up an archive for future primatologists who might no longer have a chance to experience chimpanzee cultures firsthand. Epistemologically, the effort to build such an archive was based on an elegiac positivism, which minimized the theory-laden nature of recorded observations.

Keywords:   cultural primatologists, chimpanzee communities, African primatologists, chimpanzee culture wars, Pan African Project, chimpanzee cultures, Christophe Boesch, Tetsuro Matsuzawa

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