William and Mary Professor to Talk Love, Grief in Animals

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Courtesy of the College of William & Mary
Barbara J. King, chancellor professor of anthropology, will give the Tack Faculty Lecture on Oct. 28 at Kimball Theatre. (Courtesy of the College of William & Mary)

Update: To accommodate the “overwhelming response” to Barbara J. King’s upcoming lecture, William & Mary has changed the venue from Kimball Theatre to Commonwealth Auditorium in the Sadler Center, at 200 Stadium Drive on campus.

Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. The lecture begins at 7 p.m.

Parking is available in the Zable Stadium Lot, Old Dominion Lot, the James Blair lot and along James Blair Drive.


Renowned scientist and author Barbara J. King will be giving a lecture on “Wild Grief/Untamed Love: Emotions in the Animal World” as part of the College of William and Mary’s Tack Faculty Lecture series later this month.

King, the chancellor professor of anthropology at the college, is retiring from teaching and researching at the college after 17 years and this will be one of her final lectures.

“The anthropomorphism issue cannot be ignored,” King said. “For instance, when I hear that a monkey acted in a jealous way because one juvenile got a lot of attention and another juvenile didn’t, as a scientist I am going to be very skeptical. What would you need to see that is incontrovertible evidence of jealousy in an animal?”

The information presented in the lecture will be grounded in scientific data collected by trained observers and gathered from watching animals both in the wild and in captivity. In particular King will explore two of the most extreme emotions imaginable: grief and love.

Though at opposite ends of the spectrum, King suggests these two emotions are actually closely related. She characterizes love as a “ramped-up version of friendship,” and grief as the state that occurs when animals who love each other are separated.

“By ‘friendship,’ I mean animals who stay together in more than just survival-type situations,” King said. “[When they are separated] you see this outpouring in the animal left behind. They enter into an altered state.”

King has written a book on the subject of animal grief, “How Animals Grieve.” The book offers up many examples of domesticated and wild animals alike dealing with loss in ways that are recognizable to humans.

In her lecture King will share her personal experiences and observations collected over decades of experience and describe how she personally has begun to parse the subtle distinctions between friendship and love or sadness and grief.

In addition to sharing a wealth of information about the study of animal emotion, King will also address the vital question of why animal emotion is worth studying.

“Why do we care about these animals?” said King. “Part of the answer is that these animals have rich, complicated lives. And people are starting to understand that.”

The lecture will take place on Oct. 28 at 7 p.m. in the Kimball Theatre. Tickets are not required but those planning to attend should RSVP here.