Eastern Oregon University > Academics > EOU alumnus explores relationship between humans and monkeys in rural Japan

EOU alumnus explores relationship between humans and monkeys in rural Japan

EOU alumnus explores relationship between humans and monkeys in rural Japan

June 04, 2020, LA GRANDE, Ore. –  Recent EOU alumnus, Calvin Edward, ‘15, earned the nickname “The Monkey Guy” from peers and professors in Tokyo. Edward prepared a case study for his graduate school research in regards to human-monkey (macaque) conflicts in urban and forested areas of Nikko City, Japan. 

“The species has a very rich and interesting history within Japanese culture,” Edward said. “I immediately fell in love with the topic.”

Edward presented his research, “Primate Pandemonium: Wild Macaque Management in Rural Japan” through a virtual EOU Colloquium on Thursday, May 28. 

During his time at EOU, Edward studied anthropology and sociology. Now a master’s student at the London School of Economics, he has mingled elements of zoology with his work, making his official field of study anthrozoology. Anthrozoology is the study of human and nonhuman animal relations across culture and location.

Due to the confines of geography, humans and wildlife have conflicted in various parts of the world. In rural Japan, monkeys often steal from humans and cause significant damage to agriculture and property. 

The residents and local government of Nikko City feel these damages are not incidental, but malicious. They view the acts as a violation of the boundary that separates humans and wildlife.

Edward focused his master’s dissertation work on this phenomenon. 

“I hope to challenge the ways in which people understand themselves in relation to nature, animals, and so on by highlighting that we as a species not only think about other beings but are also thought about by other beings,” Edward said. “Humans are objects of others’ thinking.”

Edward’s Colloquium explored avenues to put monkeys back into their designated spaces as a means to protect human property, infrastructure and ideological placement in relation to wild animals. 

“Rethinking the placement of humans in relation to nonhumans (animals, environments, etc.) will be a necessary step in creating and facilitating a more just and sustainable world,” he said.

“Looking past the monkeys and people of Nikko,” Edward said, “I think there’s a little bit of something here for everybody, since we all have some kind of relationship to nonhuman animals that we often fail to think about critically.”

As a next step in Edward’s research, he plans to observe the relationship between feral dogs and humans in landfill settings.

Written by PR Intern Briana Rosenkranz.