BOOK: Primates in the Real World: Escaping Primate Folklore and Creating Primate Science

A new book may be of interest to readers of this blog:

Georgina Montgomery, Primates in the Real World: Escaping Primate Folklore and Creating Primate Science (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2015), 176 pp.

Publisher’s description The opening of this vital new book centers on a series of graves memorializing baboons killed near Amboseli National Park in Kenya in 2009–a stark image that emphasizes both the close emotional connection between primate researchers and their subjects and the intensely human qualities of the animals. Primates in the Real World goes on to trace primatology’s shift from short-term expeditions designed to help overcome centuries-old myths to the field’s arrival as a recognized science sustained by a complex web of international collaborations. Considering a series of pivotal episodes spanning the twentieth century, Georgina Montgomery shows how individuals both within and outside of the scientific community gradually liberated themselves from primate folklore to create primate science. Achieved largely through a movement from the lab to the field as the primary site of observation, this development reflected an urgent and ultimately extremely productive reassessment of what constitutes “natural” behavior for primates. An important contribution to the history of science and of women’s roles in science, as well as to animal studies and the exploration of the animal-human boundary, Montgomery’s engagingly written narrative provides the general reader with the most accessible overview to date of this enduringly fascinating field of study.

Montgomery briefly discusses how Darwin’s works (On the Origin of Species, Descent of Man, and Expressions of Emotions in Man and Animals) propelled an interest in primates into a cultural obsession (pp. 12-16).


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