Barbara Smuts

American anthropologist

Barbara B. Smuts (* 1950) is an American anthropologist and psychologist noted for her research into baboons, dolphins, and chimpanzees.



Reflections (1999)

Reflections, in The Lives of Animals (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-691-07089-X, pp. 107-120.
  • For the heart to truly share another's being, it must be an embodied heart, prepared to encounter directly the embodied heart of another. I have met the “other” in this way, not once or a few times, but over and over during years spent in the company of “persons” like you and me, who happen to be nonhuman.
    • p. 108
  • When I first began working with baboons, my main problem was learning to keep up with them while remaining alert to poisonous snakes, irascible buffalo, aggressive bees, and leg-breaking pig holes. Fortunately, these challenges eased over time, mainly because I was traveling in the company of expert guides—baboons who could spot a predator a mile away and seemed to possess a sixth sense for the proximity of snakes. Abandoning myself to their far superior knowledge, I moved as a humble disciple, learning from masters about being an African anthropoid. Thus I became (or, rather, regained my ancestral right to be) an animal, moving instinctively through a world that felt (because it was) like my ancient home.
    • p. 109
  • There were 140 baboons in the troop, and I came to know every one as a highly distinctive individual. Each one had a particular gait, which allowed me to know who was who, even from great distances when I couldn't see anyone's face. Every baboon had a characteristic voice and unique things to say with it; each had a face like no other, favorite foods, favorite friends, favorite bad habits.
    • p. 111
  • When a human being relates to an individual nonhuman being as an anonymous object, rather than as a being with its own subjectivity, it is the human, and not the other animal, who relinquishes personhood.
    • p. 118
  • My own life has convinced me that the limitations most of us encounter in our relations with other animals reflect not their shortcomings, as we so often assume, but our own narrow views about who they are and the kinds of relationships we can have with them. And so I conclude by urging anyone with an interest in animal rights to open your heart to the animals around you and find out for yourself what it's like to befriend a nonhuman person.
    • p. 120
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