Animal Life Stories; or, the Making of Animal Subjects in Primatological Narratives of Fieldwork

  • Mira Shah
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature book series (PSAAL)


Although a semiotics of ethology treats individual animals and their behavior merely as signs of underlying evolutionary patterns, obscuring animal individuality, it relies on a methodology of participant, empathic observation and is mediated through narration. As autobiographical narratives of primatological fieldwork show, it therefore creates animal subjects: primatological fieldwork is based on a quasi-ethnological, empathic approach to the animal that can be linked to theories of intersubjective recognition. Written narratives of fieldwork create textual subjects by depicting life stories. Often using a melodramatic mode, these accounts challenge the narratives of evolutionary ethology and sociobiology by endowing animals with literary agency. The individual animal thus gains recognition as a story’s subject and the agency to lend practical identity to the human author of that story.


Primatology Fieldwork narratives Emotion Subjectivity Recognition Melodrama 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mira Shah
    • 1
  1. 1.Goethe-UniversityFrankfurtGermany

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