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Practising infanticide, Observing Narrative: Controversial Texts in a Field Science

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Publication details

JournalSocial Studies of Science
DatePublished - Aug 2001
Issue number4
Number of pages25
Pages (from-to)507-531
Original languageEnglish


In recent years, social studies of science have developed a deep interest in the conduct of science in the field. However, studies of controversial field science remain relatively rare. This paper presents an analysis of a controversy about the origin of primate infanticide that began in the 1970s, and discusses the ways in which controversies in the field differ from those in the laboratory. Particularly important here is the inability of researchers to control the behaviour of their research subjects; to an important extent, the conduct of their research is dependent on the agency of their research subjects. Finally, it also points to the rôle played by the sciences of animal behaviour in the constructions of stories about the biological basis of human culture, a rôle that means that the investigation of controversy in these sciences is of paramount public importance.

    Research areas

  • anthropocentrism, closure, ethology, experiment, primates, trust

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