The University of Arizona

An Investigation of the Hermeneutic Properties of Writing Primatology

Amy Todd

Abstract


The works of Frans de Waal ("Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes" 1982) and Jane Goodall ("In the Shadow of Man," 1971; "The Chimpanzees of Gombe: Patterns of Behavior," 1986) are examined in a postmodern perspective. Ethnographers and primatologists traditionally leave the comfort of familiar surroundings to engage in a relatively long-term observational, interactive and interpretive experience with the members of another society or the members of another species. The writing strategies of these two "chimpographers", as well as the ways in which these strategies influence the presentation of the authors' interpretations of their fieldwork experiences are examined for their hermeneutic qualities. An investigation of the hermeneutic properties of interpretation allows one to critically read an ethnography (or primatological work) and remain sensitive to its possible underlying political, historical, economic, racial and gender related motivations or determinants (Clifford 1986:6; Haraway 1989:8).

Keywords


Primatology; Hermeneutics

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