Dawn Prince-Hughes (born January 31, 1964 in Carbondale, Illinois) is an anthropologist, primatologist, and ethologist who received her M.A. and PhD in interdisciplinary anthropology from the Universität Herisau in Switzerland. In 2000 she was appointed an adjunct professor at Western Washington University. She is the executive chair of ApeNet Inc., has served as the executive director of the Institute for Cognitive Archaeological Research and is associated with the Jane Goodall Institute.
Prince-Hughes is the author of Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, Gorillas Among Us: A Primate Ethnographer's Book of Days, Expecting Teryk: An Exceptional Path to Parenthood, The Archetype of the Ape-man: The Phenomenological Archaeology of a Relic Hominid Ancestor, Adam, and the editor of Aquamarine Blue 5: Personal Stories of College Students with Autism. Her new book, Passing As Human/Freak Nation: How I Discovered That No One Is Normal was released in December 2009[dated info].
As a young adult, Prince-Hughes was employed at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. She watched how silverback male gorillas cared for their families and paternally intervened to resolve conflicts, thereby setting the tone for community behavior. She came to conclude anger often stems from embarrassment, and humor is a natural response to fear.
Prince-Hughes challenges the predominant scientific paradigm, which says the nature of mankind's cognitive processes is clearly distinct from that of other primates. In most scientific circles, ascribing human characteristics to animal minds is anathema. From her observations, Prince-Hughes has formulated several contrarian scientific conclusions, perhaps most notably that Bonobos (Pygmy Chimpanzees) can actually speak English if one just learns to understand the accent.
In Songs of the Gorilla Nation, Prince-Hughes describes how she learned techniques to manage her Asperger syndrome from experiences observing and interacting with gorillas at the Woodland Park Zoo. In Gorilla Nation, she explores how working with gorillas helped her escape her social isolation. Asperger syndrome may be accompanied by difficulties processing stimuli, sensory sensitivity, and social awkwardness. As suggested by the title, which speaks of a 'nation' of gorillas, the author conveys an eyeview of the world from the perspective of primates, effectively demonstrating how people and gorillas are subsumed emotionally, socially, and spiritually under the same rubric.
Expecting Teryk follows Dawn and her partner's journey from meeting and connecting to becoming parents.
Gorillas Among Us compresses Prince-Hughes' many years of observing captive gorillas through an enclosure—visitors usually average only a few seconds—into a diary chronicling the lives of one gorilla family. She creates a blended portrait of both peoples—gorilla and human.
- The Archetype of the Ape-man: The Phenomenological Archaeology of a Relic Hominid Ancestor, 2000, ISBN 978-1-58112-119-3
- Adam, 2001, ISBN 978-1-890711-10-8
- Gorillas Among Us: A Primate Ethnographer's Book of Days, 2001, ISBN 978-0-8165-2151-7
- Aquamarine Blue 5: Personal Stories of College Students with Autism (editor), 2002, ISBN 978-1-4000-8092-2
- Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey Through Autism, 2004, ISBN 1-4000-5058-8
- Expecting Teryk: An Exceptional Path to Parenthood, 2005, ISBN 978-0-8040-1079-5 (hbk), ISBN 978-0-8040-1080-1 (pbk)
- Passing As Human/Freak Nation: How I Discovered That No One Is Normal, TBP Dec 2008, ISBN 978-0-307-34553-0
- Arizona.edu - Gorillas among Us: A Primate Ethnographer's Book of Days (introductory chapter excerpt), Dawn Prince-Hughes (April 19, 2001)
- PoeticGenius.com - 'The Memory Tribe', Dawn Prince-Hughes, Poetic Genius Society (July/August, 2001)
- NWSource.com - 'One day, a gorilla touched her soul', Jennifer Langston, Seattle Post-Intelligencer (April 17, 2004)
- WesternFrontOnline.com - 'Author demands human rights for gorillas', Amber Hurley, The Western Front, Western Washington University (January 28, 2002)
- Audio links
- LOE.org - 'Gorilla Therapy: Dawn Prince-Hughes talks about her new book, Songs of the Gorilla Nation: My Journey through Autism' (August 13, 2004)