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The language of dogs: intermediate forms in global culture

L Green


Jean-Jacques Rousseau, drawing on accounts of the Cape, shaped arguments and discourses about animal and human nature in the nascent disciplines of ethology and anthropology. This paper examines how the discourses of ethology and anthropology mesh and separate in South Africa by looking at two of the most important early South African writers on primates: late eighteenth century French explorer François Levaillant and early twentieth century Afrikaans writer and naturalist Eugene Marais. It examines their own attitudes towards, and their epistemological stance in, our unsettled primate universe. Levaillant and Marais, in writing of captive and wild baboons, find they are writing more generally of the cost of domestication, of the loss of some original power. In the case of Levaillant, the stance he produces – that of the intermediary between nature and civilization – forms part of his highly influential contribution both to anthropology and to the developing genre of safari or wildlife documentary writing. For Marais, the temptation to crude racial thinking seems to have been counteracted, to some extent, by his own addiction and self-awareness of characteristics he shared with other races and other primates

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eISSN: 2159-9130
print ISSN: 1013-929X