King, Barbara J.

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King, Barbara J.

PERSONAL: Female. Education: Douglass College, B.A.; University of Oklahoma, M.A., Ph.D.

ADDRESSES: Office—Department of Anthropology, College of William and Mary, P.O. Box 8795, Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: College of William and Mary, Williams-burg, VA, professor of anthropology.

AWARDS, HONORS: Outstanding Faculty Award, Virginia State Council of Higher Education, 1999; Guggenheim fellow, 2002–03.


The Information Continuum: Evolution of Social Information Transfer in Monkeys, Apes, and Hominids, SAR Press (Santa Fe, NM), 1994.

(Editor) The Origins of Language: What Nonhuman Primates Can Tell Us, School of American Research Press (Santa Fe, NM), 1999.

(Editor, with Richard G. Fox) Anthropology beyond Culture, Berg (New York, NY), 2002.

The Dynamic Dance: Nonvocal Communication in African Great Apes, Harvard University Press (Cambridge, MA), 2004.

Contributor to journals, including Anthropology Theory and Behavioral and Brain Sciences. Editorial board member, Sign Language Studies. Has recorded lectures on human behavior and biological anthropology with the Teaching Company.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Evolving God: The Prehistory of Religion, for Doubleday, expected 2007.

SIDELIGHTS: Barbara J. King is a biological anthropologist whose primary research focus is on primate behavior, the evolution of language, and the links between human and primate communications pattern. King edited The Origins of Language: What Nonhuman Primates Can Tell Us. This collection of essays, primarily written by primatologists, analyzes the links between primate forms of communication and human language. The contributors to the book, noted James R. Hurford in a Quarterly Review of Biology review, are "well-known … scholars of distinction." And of all the contributors, Hurford noted that King's introduction "[stands] out as highly recommendable." King's The Dynamic Dance: Nonvocal Communication in African Great Apes is about social interactions among apes not involving vocal communication. Through King's work with the apes, Nancy Bent, writing in Booklist, believed that she "makes a strong case for the possible roots of human language."

King told CA: "For so long when I heard authors say, "the novel I am writing took a turn, and the main character surprised me," I didn't understand. I thought that was so unlikely: how could this creation of the author's mind not be under the author's complete control? Now I do understand, because I have been writing in a different voice, for a wider audience (not just academics), and tapping into a certain creativity than I had used before. When I write now, the text veers in crazily different-than-expected directions and drags me along. I love that.

"When I wrote The Dynamic Dance, it was the product of years of working with apes and wanting to convey how subtle and sophisticated I know their communication to be. The Guggenheim Fellowship was a joy because it gave me a concentrated year to do that, and I'll always be grateful. My just-finished Evolving God: The Prehistory of Religion was a much different process, because it's such a stretch for an apewatcher to write about the prehistory of religion! Yet I discovered connections all along the road—between what our ancestors did in terms of ritual and what we do, between the world of religion and that of science. I had a terrific time reading people like Martin Buber and Karen Armstrong alongside my usual crop of anthropologists and primatologists. I'm also anticipating the start of my new book: after decades of spending time with our closest living relatives, monkeys and apes, I have stories to tell….

"My strong wish is that I can provide just one more way for people to discover, explore, contemplate, and celebrate their connections with the natural world. To think in an evolutionary way is endlessly fascinating for me as I go about my daily life, with my husband, my daughter, my companion animals, and my students, and I want to share that."



Booklist, November 1, 2004, Nancy Bent, review of The Dynamic Dance: Nonvocal Communication in African Great Apes, p. 451.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, September, 2003, Chris Knight, review of Anthropology beyond Culture, p. 608.

Quarterly Review of Biology, March, 2001, James R. Hurford, review of The Origins of Language: What Nonhuman Primates Can Tell Us, p. 116.


Bookslut, (May 31, 2006), articles by Barbara J. King.

College of William and Mary Web site, (February 22, 2006), author profile.

Council for Human Development Web site, (May 31, 2006), author profile.

Teaching Company Web site, (February 22, 2006), author profile.

University of New Mexico Web site, (February 22, 2006), author profile.

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King, Barbara J.

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