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1. Research Philosophy

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Human-Primate Relationship
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2. Projects

Human-Chimpanzee Social Relations

in a Japanese Research Setting

Long-term Etho-ethnography | 

                    Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University

                                    Short-term multi-sited ethnography | 

                                                        Research locations in Japan & field site in Africa 

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3. Publications & Output

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Interspecies Socialization

Humans and chimpanzees in captive settings

Gabriela Bezerra de Melo Daly

Social transmission of behavior between species is a multifaceted phenomenon that requires a theoretical and methodological refinement beyond concepts such as enculturation. There are contexts in which species-typical patterns necessitate social support to develop; for instance, new chimpanzee mothers in captivity that learned caretaking body techniques from humans. To address cases not fully categorized as  "cultural" or "instinctive," this paper discusses human-animal social relationships from a new perspective, namely, interspecies socialization. Three scenarios are outlined – when humans or chimpanzees learn (a) another species’ patterns, (b) shared patterns, and (c) one’s own species-typical patterns through interspecies interaction. The theoretical reflections and ethnographic examples were mainly based on a long-term etho-ethnographic work at the Primate Research Institute of Kyôto University. Moreover, the paper outlines the basic interdisciplinary methods available to potential etho-ethnographers. Overall, interspecies socialization is proposed as a prolific concept where the blurring of the boundaries – between nature and culture and between species – plays an important role in learning.

Anthropology of primatologychimpanzees, ethnoprimatology,  etho-ethnography, interspecies socializationsocial learningsymmetrical anthropology

Daly, Gabriela B. de M. 2019. "Interspecies socialization: Humans and chimpanzees in captive settings." Cahiers d'anthropologie sociale 18, no. 1:


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Drawing and Blurring Boundaries between Species

An etho-ethnography of human-chimpanzee social relations at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University 

Gabriela Bezerra de Melo Daly

How do humans and chimpanzees set and blur boundaries between species when interacting with each other? This is the leitmotif of this etho-ethnography at the intersection of social anthropology, social studies of science and primatology. This endeavor is based on long-term fieldwork conducted in a cognitive sciences laboratory in Japan, which teaches chimpanzees language-like skills as means to understand their
perceptual world. However, in this laboratory setting, the human-chimpanzee relationship is a vital part of the research philosophy and both species constitute a hybrid community of affections, social relationships, and scientific partnering. As a comparative effort, a short-term multi-sited ethnography was conducted following the theme across institutions in Japan of zoo, sanctuary and field-site type, in addition to the Japanese field station for the study of chimpanzee culture, in Bossou, Africa. Moreover, this work draws on the experience of becoming, at the same time, an experimenter in the targeted laboratory. The result is multifold. We shall explore first, the history as well as the caretaking and research practices in chimpanzee studies at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University (KUPRI). Then, we shall investigate the dynamics of physical boundaries in dangerous interspecies social interactions; the experimental boundaries of testing and being tested by chimpanzees; and the symbolic boundaries concerning human and nonhuman personhood. As a result, four major points are brought to light in a renewed perspective, namely (a) interspecies socialization (b) the embodiment of interspecies social relations in space (c) interspecies social relations in scientific settings (d) animalcentric perspectives on personhood. We conclude with the hopes and prospects for a fruitful dialogue across disciplines. Overall, the differential endeavor of this work consists in mobilizing concepts and tools from both primatology and social sciences to propose a more symmetric analysis of the human-animal relationship.  


Etho-ethnography, interspecies social relations,  chimpanzee research
symmetrical anthropology,  Japanese primatology,  hybrid communities


Daly, Gabriela Bezerra de Melo. 2018. "Drawing and blurring boundaries between species: An etho-ethnography of human-chimpanzee social relations at the Primate Research Institute of Kyoto University." PhD dissertation, École Normale Supérieure.

This work received honorable mention in the international PSL Dissertation Prize  (2018-2019, France) in the category Science-Humanities Interface. It is currently being adapted into a book. 

Gabriela Daly interviewed by Radio France


Interviewed by Radio France

La langue des singes (The language of primates)

Gabriela Bezerra de Melo Daly

Presentation of the radio interview by France Culture

"Comment communiquer avec les singes ?

En apprenant leur langage, répond Gabriela Bezerra de Melo Daly. Cette jeune femme brésilienne, étudiante en anthropologie socioculturelle et en primatologie est partie au Japon faire son « terrain » dans un laboratoire de singes dits parlants, capables d’utiliser des symboles humains, comme des numéros et des kanji japonais. Car, oui bien sûr, il est possible d’interagir avec ces primates. Et Gabriela de s’interroger : pourquoi la notion de culture devrait-elle être uniquement réservée à nous autres, humains ? Voilà une des questions qui l’a poussée à quitter le Brésil où elle a grandi pour sillonner le monde : en se rendant au Japon mais aussi au Danemark, en Italie, aux Etats-Unis, en Allemagne et en France. Une quête placée sous le signe de la connaissance et sous la bonne étoile de sa mère."

"Mes conseils de lecture:

« Les origines animales de la culture » de Dominique Lestel , philosophe et éthologue français né en 1961 Une source d’inspiration pour penser la question de la culture animale, par la voie de la philosophie et par des exemples tirés de l’éthologie. « Par-delà Nature et Culture » de Philippe Descola , anthropologue français né en 1949. Pour reconceptualiser Nature et Culture, tout en réfléchissant aux relations homme-animal chez nous et chez les autres peuples du monde. « Nous n’avons jamais été modernes - essai d’anthropologie symétrique » de Bruno Latour , sociologue et philosophe des sciences français né en 1947. À mon avis, ce livre est l’œuvre fondatrice la plus importante de l’anthropologie symétrique. L’auteur retrace les problèmes d’une « super socialisation » de la Nature et d’une « super naturalisation» de la Culture."

Daly, Gabriela B. de M. "La langue des singes." France Culture: Le Monde est un Campus. Radio France, October 5, 2015.


Obs: Full radio interview currently unavailable

Revue de Primatologie 2012


Nature and Culture Intertwined or Redefined?

On the challenges of cultural primatology

and sociocultural anthropology

Gabriela Daly Bezerra de Melo

The modern categorization also referred to as modern constitution has set Nature and Culture apart as two distinct ontological provinces, separating the pole of human beings and culture from the pole of non-humans and nature. Recent sociocultural anthropology and social studies of science have revisited the historical abyss between Nature and Culture and have shed light on the manifold conceptualizations of both terms across human cultures. For instance, non-Western indigenous relationships between humans and non-human animals have blurred the boundaries of continuity and discontinuity, supporting a hybridization of the modern Nature-Culture poles. Moreover, social studies of science have insisted that scientific practice is permeated by problems that are neither “natural” nor “social” because Nature and Culture become part of the inquiry, not the solution. If any interdisciplinary exchange is to be set in motion between cultural primatology and sociocultural anthropology a re-conceptualization of Nature and Culture should be called for. Whereas cultural primatology traditionally employs paradigms long abandoned by sociocultural anthropology, leading to a simplistic naturalization of culture in the eyes of anthropologists, it can be said that cultural anthropology remains reluctant to engage in dialogue with life sciences, alarmed it might be reduced to them. To this extent, primatological models of culture that emphasize social learning over methods of elimination appear to meet a demand.  Nature and Culture have become intertwined, but between an over naturalized culture of primatologists and a super socialized culture of anthropologists lays the challenge of redefining both Nature and Culture.


Cultural primatology, models of tradition, paradigms, science studies, social learning, sociocultural anthropology


Gabriela Melo, D. B. de. 2012. "Nature and culture intertwined or redefined? On the challenges of cultural primatology and sociocultural anthropology." Revue de primatologie 4, online document 4.

Obs: in future publications the order of the surnames have been legally altered. 

Revue de Primatologie 2012


Primates et Sociétés : La sortie de l’état de nature

(Primates and Societies: Getting out of the State of Nature)

Thomas Robert and Gabriela Daly Bezerra de Melo


Le tricentenaire de la naissance de Jean-Jacques Rousseau constitue une occasion de rappeler ou d’introduire ses idées fondamentales ainsi que de les appliquer à des domaines, comme celui de la primatologie, qui peuvent, de prime abord, sembler bien loin des préoccupations du philosophe genevois. Ainsi, le concept d’état de nature, élaboré dans la première partie du second Discours, et la dichotomie sous-jacente entre nature et culture servent de fil conducteur au sein même de chaque article ainsi qu’entre les différentes perspectives présentées dans ce dossier. Des études historiques sont combinées à des investigations philosophiques actuelles afin de mettre en avant les relations complexes que les primatologues entretiennent avec leur sujet d’étude. Si les perspectives présentées peuvent diverger, toutes s’accordent sur la nécessité d’éviter anthropocentrisme et ethnocentrisme dans la pratique de la primatologie.

English (Text in French)

Rousseau’s tercentenary is a good opportunity to introduce his fundamental ideas and to apply them to new domains, such as primatology. The concept of the state of nature, developed in the first part of the second Discourse, and the dichotomy between nature and culture that it implies are treated in the different contributions presented in this volume. Historical studies are combined with philosophical investigations in order to emphasis the complex relations between primatologists and their object of study. Even though the different perspectives may diverge from each others, all the contributors insist on the necessity to avoid both anthropocentrism and ethnocentrism in the context of primatology.

Robert, Thomas and Gabriela D. B. de Melo. 2012. "Primates et Sociétés: La sortie de l’état de nature." Revue de primatologie 4, online document 1.

Obs: in future publications the order of the surnames has been legally altered. 

By Andre Mouton on Unsplash

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