Drawing and blurring boundaries between species : an etho-ethnography of human-chimpanzee social relations at the Primate research institute of Kyoto university

Abstract : How do humans and chimpanzees set and blur boundaries between species when interacting with each other? This is the leitmotif of this etho-ethnography at the intersection of social anthropology, social studies of science and primatology. This endeavor is based on long-term fieldwork conducted in a cognitive sciences laboratory in Japan, which teaches chimpanzees language-like skills as means to understand their perceptual world. However, in this laboratory setting, the human-chimpanzee relationship is a vital part of the research philosophy and both species constitute a hybrid community of affections, social relationships, and scientific partnering. As a comparative effort, a short-term multi-sited ethnography was conducted following the theme across institutions in Japan of zoo, sanctuary and field-site type, in addition to the Japanese field station for the study of chimpanzee culture, in Bossou, Africa. Moreover, this work draws on the experience of becoming, at the same time, an experimenter in the targeted laboratory. The result is multifold. We shall explore first, the history as well as the caretaking and research practices in chimpanzee studies at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University (KUPRI). Then, we shall investigate the dynamics of physical boundaries in dangerous interspecies social interactions; the experimental boundaries of testing and being tested by chimpanzees; and the symbolic boundaries concerning human and nonhuman personhood. As a result, four major points are brought to light in a renewed perspective, namely (a) interspecies socialization (b) the embodiment of interspecies social relations in space (c) interspecies social relations in scientific settings (d) animalcentric perspectives on personhood. We conclude with the hopes and prospects for a fruitful dialogue across disciplines. Overall, the differential endeavor of this work consists in mobilizing concepts and tools from both primatology and social sciences to propose a more symmetric analysis of the human-animal relationship.
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Gabriela Bezerra de Melo Daly. Drawing and blurring boundaries between species : an etho-ethnography of human-chimpanzee social relations at the Primate research institute of Kyoto university. Social Anthropology and ethnology. PSL Research University, 2018. English. ⟨NNT : 2018PSLEE035⟩. ⟨tel-02171263⟩

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