The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist
F. B. M. De WaalISBN: 0465041760;
To watch apes dressed in human clothing and mimicking human manners--an old standby in films and television shows--can make some human viewers uncomfortable, writes the noted primatologist Frans de Waal. Somehow, by doing so, the apes are crossing some line in the sand, a line that speaks to issues of culture, which humans alone are presumed to have. But culture, in de Waal's estimation, does not mean using an oyster fork properly or attending smart gallery openings. Instead, it "means that knowledge and habits are acquired from others--often, but not always, the older generation." Culture implies communication and social organization, and in this, he notes, humans by no means have a monopoly. A sushi chef learns by acquiring knowledge and habits from more accomplished masters, but so do chimpanzees learn to wash bananas in jungle streams, and so do birds learn to break open mollusks on the rocks below them. Closely examining anthropocentric theories of culture, de Waal...
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