The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist - F. B. M. De Waal
Date Listed 22/11/2016
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The Ape and the Sushi Master: Cultural Reflections of a Primatologist
F. B. M. De Waal
The Ape and the Sushi Master is a popular science book by Frans de Waal. It is an overview of animal behavior and psychology, with emphasis on primates.
It pays special emphasis on the anthropomorphological traits of primates of several different species. It also includes a short history of anthropomorphology and some of the field's pioneers.
What if apes had their own culture rather than an imposed human version? What if they reacted to situations with behavior learned through observation of their elders (culture) rather than with pure genetically coded instinct (nature)? In answering these questions, eminent primatologist Frans de Waal corrects our arrogant assumption that humans are the only creatures to have made the leap from the natural to the cultural domain.The book's title derives from an analogy de Waal draws between the way behavior is transmitted in ape society and the way sushi-making skills are passed down from sushi master to apprentice. Like the apprentice, young apes watch their group mates at close range, absorbing the methods and lessons of each of their elders' actions. Responses long thought to be instinctive are actually learned behavior, de Waal argues, and constitute ape culture.A delightful mix of intriguing anecdote, rigorous clinical study, adventurous field work, and fascinating speculation, The Ape and the Sushi Master shows that apes are not human caricatures but members of our extended family with their own resourcefulness and dignity.
Inspired by the work of Japanese primatologist Kinji Imanishi, whose cultural tradition emphasizes interconnectedness among living things, de Waal argues for an end to the West's anthropocentric bias in science. De Waal prefers a "Darwistotelian" approach, which would seek "to understand humanity in the wider context of nature" and build a concept of human identity "around how we are animals that have taken certain capacities a significant step farther" than have other species. Lucid and engaging, though at times loosely focused, de Waal's "reflections" will likely capture the attention not only of zoologists and social scientists but of animal-rights advocates as well.