Today we will focus on primatology within anthropology. Although there are important aspects of methods and objectives for primatology within biology and psychology, I want to leave topic that topic for this week’s e-portfolios.
Riley (2013) addresses several ways in which anthropology informs and aids primatology. She addresses the importance of the interaction between primate field study and the local cultural context. She also explains that primatologists within anthropology benefit from their anthropological training, and that primatology in turn informs and interacts with the other fields and sub-fields of anthropology.
She highlights the importance for reflexivity, which she believes is fostered by broad, four-field anthropological training, and recognition of social or cultural biases. She also addresses how broader anthropology widens our perspectives of what we consider “natural” or “typical.”
What is reflexivity? Why is it fostered within four-field anthropology? How has it influenced primate research? Can reflexivity be fostered by other disciplines? Describe some of the examples she uses regarding gender, dominance, and human cultural values. Are the changing questions, foci, and conclusions within primatology a result of anthropological reflexivity, or due to progression of primate research over time in different species and environments?
Riley (2013) also highlights the importance of the anthropogenic context. As discussed previously, primatologists often sough isolated “natural” environments in order to study “natural” behavior. However, this view conceptualizes human influences as unnatural. Riley draws attention to the interaction between cultural anthropology and primatology, as both study humans and other primates that overlap in habitats. She describes the rapidly expanding area of ethnoprimatology, and its emphasis on ecological sympatry (how multiple species occupy and navigate the same environment). Rather than seeing humans as separate from nature, she emphasizes that they are a part of the environment, and an important selective pressure on primate species.
What is sociological theory, and do humans fit into it? What are human niches and their relation to non-human primate species. What is behavioral plasticity, and how does it relate to human influence? How can cultural anthropologists contribute to primatological research? How can primatologists contribute to cultural anthropology?
Finally Riley (2013) highlights the relationship between conservation and applied anthropology. Many conservation projects serve to protect or preserve land for endangered primates, but are difficult to put into practice without the cooperation of the humans around them. Riley (2013) reminds us again that we need to recognize humans as a part of nature, and collaborate with cultural anthropologists to achieve sustainable conservation goals that work for both the humans and non-humans.
What is “informed primatology?” How does Riley’s concerns affect other disciplines’ approach to primate research? Compare Riley’s (2013) article to Strier’s in Primate Ethnographies. Are they the same, or are there important differences? How does this relate to anthropological primatological theory?