Evolving humanity, emerging worlds
Manchester, UK; 5th-10th August 2013
Human origins in sociocultural and biological perspectives (IUAES Commission on Theoretical Anthropology)
Location University Place 4.206
Date and Start Time 06 Aug, 2013 at 09:00
This panel will bring together scholars from very different fields, in order to discuss a possibility of anthropology understood holistically, where different sub-disciplines complement each other and increase our general knowledge of the multifaceted world that we inhabit.
The main aim of this panel is to bring together both "social" and "biological" anthropologists, and to discuss a possibility of an anthropology understood holistically, where different scholarly disciplines complement each other and increase our understanding of the multifaceted world that we inhabit.
The issues of relationship between race and culture (like the new IUAES Statement on race, but see also Kaszycka, Štrkalj and Strzalko 2009), evolution of different forms of behaviour, language and cognitive processes, as well as the influence of other scholarly disciplines (such as, but not limited to, psychoanalysis) cannot be properly understood without an attempt to further our communication. On the other hand, ignoring recent advances in "biological" (as well as different forms of medical, physical, etc.) anthropology does not help "social" or "cultural" anthropologists in their attempt to engage critically with contemporary world. We believe that the best way to do this is to open a dialogue between anthropologists working in different fields, a dialogue that should lead to increased understanding and exploration of fascinating wealth of our research.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Study on variation of primate hair: an approach to evolutionary biology
Biological variations are the prime properties of evolution which shape the body are generally considered as signatures for understanding the evolution. Like other organs and parts of a body hair has a range of variations and the details of hair strands offer certain definite and variable features.
Hair is a taxonomic characteristic of mammals and displays various taxon specific differences. Tricho-taxonomic studies of different mammalian species have been carried out, but scanty information is available on Primates. Recent studies of comparative genomics, population genetics, gene-expression analyses in terms of research work on morphological and quantitative variables, started to make inroads into the complex genetic architecture of human developmental biology. In order to understand the evolutionary features and variation within and between hair of three male adult non-human (apes) primate species (150 hair strands) and human male (50 hair strands), a study of histomorphological and quantitative variables was undertaken. The results on histomorphological study on incidences medullation demonstrated significant (p<0.05) clustering of all kinds of medullation in apes and human. However, histomorphological cuticular scale revealed unique feature of crenate type in human in comparison to non-human primates having flattened types. Examination on quantitative variables vindicated shaft diameter of human were significantly higher (p<0.05) than the shaft diameter of non-human primates. On the other hand, medullary diameter demonstrated significantly (p<0.05) smaller in human in comparison to that of the non-human primates. Result of the correlation analysis, however, revealed significant (p<0.05) positive correlation between human and chimpanzee in terms quantitative variables of shaft and medullary characters. The cardinal feature of the present study revealed the significance of hair histomorphological and quantitative variables for the study of variation and evolution.
Importance of scanning technology in the study of Paleoanthropology: an integrative approach
Scanning techniques are meant for daily challenges. It usage in the study of human origins is really exciting which can give a glimpse on handedness, neuronal development and activated brain parts. This paper ascertains its advantages, discoveries and disadvantages.
We are aware of various scanning techniques and its usage in our daily life. As a scholar in anthropology we study human in every spheres and therefore we can use this to study human origins dealing with the evolving brain, ecto and endo morphology. The scanning techniques first came into existence around the 18th century but sooner the study of various types of fossils emerged, the interest began among the paleontologists, anthropologists to place them within the evolutionary tree. The imaging techniques are of two types: structural (ComputerizedTomography) and functional (Positron Emission Tomography and Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging). The computational methods in paleoanthropology are known as "reverse engineering" meaning data acquisition from physical objects (Zollikofer et al., Evol. Anthro., 41-56, 1998). The CT scan helps in determining fossil tissue and endocast which helps to transform 2D images to 3D conceptualizing virtual reality to real virtuality. But this study limits in fossil portion destruction and therefore there is a high priority of fossil decay. Secondly, PET helps an experimenter to understand the neuroanatomical correlation of the living brain function and its behavior. Therefore, this technique helps a Paleoanthropologist to determine the cognitive and perception-action skills as the activity changes reflecting the activated brain parts. But the PET scan limits its importance for scanning one at a time. Thus FMRI is unique which is meant for non-ionizing radiation and scanning the subject is unlimited. Through this technique a biological anthropologist can determine the handedness, neural connectivity for the study on brain development.
Re-opening the Pandora case
This paper ascertains that scientific findings now prove that female brains have the same potential than male brains. Until now gender equality policies have been enforced on the basis of ethics and not of science, time has come for a change that will have huge implications on women’s condition.
Books based on flimsy science as "Man are from Mars, Women are from Venus" have been world-wide best sellers and equal rights for women have been mainly requested by the UN on the basis of moral values.
Still, in the same way that better science and (FST) had finally proven that racial categories are biologically meaningless even if differences between Caucasians, Mongoloids and Africans are obvious to the eyes, neuroscience has now proven (Vidal 2005, Jordan-young 2010, Fine 2010) that brain differences between individuals of the same sex are much broader than differences between larges groups divided by sex, that brain plasticity is nearly limitless well into middle age making negligible the influence of hormones in the womb, and that the brain of a newborn female baby has exactly the same potential than the brain of a male baby.
Better archeological technologies have now revealed that many warriors' tombs were in fact female warriors' tombs, contesting the universality of "blood taboos".
A review of Chinese Sui and Tang Annals describing in details one real matriarchal society will deliver the final blow to the theory of female inborn lack of leadership qualities (Chinese scholars never much bothered about that "barbarian" society because most still believe in the "early matriarchal stage"). I own a house in the remote mountains where this absolute matriarchy existed until 1270 years ago.
This paper relies mainly on scientific publications (more specifically those of the neurogenderings network) to prove that women do not have genetically determined roles.
On green eyed monsters and methodical triangulation
Cross-Cultural Psychology and Cultural Neuroscience are increasingly leading the public discourse on "culture" while social and cultural anthropologists refrain from research on the biological foundations of cultural phenomena. With our research project on envy in cross-cultural perspectives we want to propose a way for contributing to newly emerging research agendas in the "hard sciences".
Subdisciplines of Psychology and Neuroscience are ever more concerned with studying "culture". From the perspective of Cultural and Social Anthropology they are building their research on dichotomizing study designs and restrictive hypotheses. Despite this Cross-Cultural Psychology and Cultural Neuroscience do not only dictate scientific discourses, but also highly influence public perceptions of 'culture' in the mass media.
In our project by the title "Are Germans really green-eyed monsters? Cross-cultural perspectives on benign and malicious envy" we are aiming at bridging the gap between the different disciplines through the implementation of a mixed methods approach. Researching on envy by combining quantitative measures (i.e. functional magnetic resonance imaging, psychometric scales) and qualitative data (interviews, focus group discussions), comparing samples from Germany, Japan and Indonesia and working in an interdisciplinary team of psychologists, neuroscientists, sociologists and anthropologists we are trying to contribute to a holistic view on emotions.
With this talk I will reflect on our methodical triangulation with its possibilities and limitations for a "classic" anthropological study on "culture" (in the specific field of emotion research) and will present first results of our current project.
Women and birth
In this panel we will talk about the perception of birth in different cultures, but with the focus on Serbia. Our main interest is in the prevention of birth, and how it became a taboo theme.
We will examine different kinds of preventing pregnancy. When we discuss birth control, we mean different contraceptive techniques condoms, pills, surgical prevention of pregnancy, role of alternative medicine, and other. Social norms - like religion, politics, media and economic circumstances - also construct and influence the attitudes to pregnancy and birth. Are the modern way of living, as well as development of medicine and technology, important factors in raising/decreasing unwanted consequences? We will also discuss the imposition of the other's will on women, throughout the centuries. It is only in modern times that women finally won the freedom to make decisions related to pregnancy and birth. The disappearance of patriarchal society pushed back the age when young people enter in sexual relations, and this is anotyher aspect that must be taken into account, as it influences women's ability to build their own careers.
Anthropology and medicine: teaching medical students about ancestral variation and race
Following the claim that “improved medical training” on human variation and race “can sharpen diagnostic skills” (Braun et al.,PLOS Med.,2007,4), it is argued in this presentation that the basic instruction on human variation should be introduced in medical curricula and that anthropologists should play a significant role in this process.
The relevance of human ancestral variation and race in medical research and practice is currently being vigorously debated. This polemic seems to be characterized by numerous disagreements and misunderstanding (some of which have already been resolved in anthropology). The reasons for these are many and of varying nature. It would appear that one of the most important reasons is the lack of adequate education on human variation that student from medical and allied medical disciplines receive during their studies. It is argued in this presentation that small but efficiently developed and implemented curricular interventions, introduced across a number of clinical and preclinical subjects, could induce positive changes in students' understanding of biological variation and race within the clinical context. It is further suggested that these changes in education should be conceptualize by an interdisciplinary team of experts in which the anthropologists should play the prominent role. While one cannot expect that proposed curricular interventions would resolve all the contentious issues relating to race, variation and their medical implications, they might constitute a decisive step in the right direction.
Becoming Anthropos: We are primates and not homo economicus
This paper examines how human/animal (non-human) boundary entail exclusion of others and crisis of our life. I will discuss this issue from various perspectives of philosophy, anthropology and primatology.
The purpose of this paper is to examine how human/animal (non-human) boundary has been created and developed many struggles for people under exceptional conditions. I will start my discussion from Giorgio Agamben's explanation of the "anthropological machine", Roberto Esposito's warning of the "persona" as well as Osamu Nishitani's concern on the segregation between anthropos and humanitas, followed by Japanese primatology established by Kinji Imanishi and Jun-ichiro Itani, which has a tendency trying to understand human as a member of primates (animal).
A transformation of human life from nomadic style inherited from primate societies to settled style would be one of the most significant event in human history. Masaki Nishida labeled the transformation as "settled style revolution": since human has chosen settled lifestyle, a desire of accumulation has become paramount. This entails changes of way of communications, population growth, beginning of food production (agriculture), emerging civilizations and the great transformation illustrated by Karl Polanyi. This path leads to produce a rational economic man or homo economicus. According to Michel Foucault, they have moved to the next stage nowadays. That is to say, homo economicus could be recognized as "entrepreneur for himself" under neoliberal governmentality. It is safe to say that our life is in crisis under new style of management of life through bio-power.
The paper concludes that becoming anthropos, inspired by "becoming animal" mentioned by Gilles Deleuze repeatedly, might become a method to recapture the life of anthropos under severe conditions of neoliberalizing and globalizing world.
How contextual factors become inscribed "beneath the skin": insights from Croatian youth modernity competence case study
The question how contextual factors become inscribed “beneath the skin“ to shape individual health outcomes and well-being in youth is problematized within the framework of the nascent culture theory in the study of health, the life history theory and our recent case study.
The question how contextual factors become inscribed "beneath the skin" to shape individual health outcomes and well-being in youth is problematized within the framework of the nascent culture theory in the study of health and the life history theory. By following Dressler's arguments for ethnographic critique of theory and examination of how a theory is instantiated within specific cultural contexts, or a cohort, I will discuss our recent case study aimed at studying the relationship between cultural changes and individual health outcomes in high school seniors from Zagreb (Croatia) by integrating biomarkers with ethnographic research and by applying a novel theoretical and methodological concept, termed youth modernity competence. Youth modernity competence implies modernity knowledge, acceptance and integration of differences in individual modernity orientations in everyday life domains. We hypothesize that youth modernity competence is associated with specific patterns of subjective and objective stress measures as well as with delayed effects such as pre-migration expectations. The association of youth modernity competence, stress and pre-migratory expectations is moderated and/or mediated by the effects of cultural context and coping.
Life at the border: Nim Chimpsky et al.
Drawing upon the life and work of a chimpanzee mamed Nim Chimpsky, this article discusses the the relations of humans and other species. While experiments with the sociality of chimpanzees are often misguided, it is argued, they usually bring home important points about ourselves and our relations to other species.
Chimpanzees seem to occupy a special position in recent writings on the nature-society divide, as a liminal species at the main border of modernist discourse. Partly drawing upon the life and work of Nim Chimpsky (1973-2000), a chimpanzee raised in experimental and familial settings in the US in order to test hypotheses about innate and acquired mental capacities, especially language, this article discusses the history of comparisons of chimpanzees and people and, more broadly, the relations of humans and other species. If one takes Chimpsky's near-namesake Noam Chomsky seriously, assuming that language as we know it rests on an innate language "device", one is inclined to ask what such a device consists of, how it developed, and what might be learned through comparisons of humans, other primates, and other "lower" species, an issue only recently addressed by Chomsky himself (see Hauser, Chomsky, and Fitch 2002). I shall argue that academic debates about language and mind generated by Chimpsky, other chimpanzees, and their human and non-human collaborators reflect different understandings of the nature-society divide and what used to be called the "animal kingdom." While experiments with the language and sociality of chimpanzees and other species are often non-conclusive and sometimes misguided, they usually bring home important points about ourselves and our relations to other species.
Relational psychoanalysis and anthropology
What can study of "object relations" tell us about human behaviour? And is this applicable to contemporary anthropology? These are the key issues that the paper will deal with.
The paper focuses on "object-relations" theorists, such as Bollas, and their possible contribution to an "intersubjective" or "relational" approach in anthropology. Through several examples, especially from recent studies of Southeast Asian communities, the author points that contemporary anthropological research could benefit from these aspects of psychoanalysis. Another important area where these two fields could benefit from each other's insights is the renewed interest for individualism (following Dumont), especially as it becomes obvious that various forms of individuality are not limited to the so-called "Western" (or industrial) societies, but exist cross-culturally.
Methodological individualism in anthropology
The paper deals with methodological individualism in anthropology. Why holistic theories are dominant in anthropology, and what kind of methodological individualism is pertinent for anthropological research?
Conceptual ambiguities and meanings of individualism in anthropology are examined: the notions of epistemological individual (actor) and a psychological individual (person); methodological individualism and theories based on the concept of rationality; methodological individualism and political indiviualism (liberalism); cultural individualism and methodological individualism. Contributions of different classical and contemporary authors who have based their research on epistemological individual actor are analyzed. This includes both anthropology and other disciplines and research topics relevant for anthropology. Marginalisation of Rational Choice Theory (RCT) in anthropology is discussed in detail, by comparing the status of this theoretical approach in anthropology, sociology and economics. Other individualistic approaches, such as cognitivist theory of action are discussed as a possible framework for addressing many theoretical issues in anthropology.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.