Past classes

Revolution in the age of Coronavirus

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20:30
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The global capitalist system will survive the present pandemic. But it's failure to contain Covid-19, a relatively mild disease, does not bode well for its ability to cope with further pandemics and climate disasters now being predicted by scientists. Such crises can only exacerbate other ominous  trends towards economic crisis, great power rivalry and war.
 
This is certainly a bleak scenario. But there is one glimmer of hope: that is that more of us will begin to realise that our species has to do better than capitalism if it is to survive. This talk will explore various aspects of revolutionary history, politics and anthropology in the hope of provoking discussion and debate on how humanity can escape its present predicament.

A Christmas fairy tale: The shoes that were danced to pieces

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20:30
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This tale from the Brothers Grimm has become a RAG tradition, told every year on the last day of the autumn term, just before Christmas. It tells of twelve princesses and their trips to go dancing in the underworld. This magical tale introduces us to universal mythological themes....

Living Cosmology - Disarming The Sacred.

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20:30
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BaYaka religion is direct, participatory and without priests. This talk will describe a religion based on song and dance in which participants commune directly with the forest spirits and ritually re-enact key moments in their cultural history.

How Hunter-Gatherers Ensure Sharing - A Woman’s Biggest Husband is the Moon.

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20:30
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Proper sharing and success in life are linked through a complex of beliefs called ekila. This talk will explore the overlapping ways that proper sharing is reinforced in the context of the gendered division of labour.  

Peer-To-Peer Connected Cosmos: Beyond Egalitarian/hierarchical Hunter-Gatherer Societies

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20:30
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The intimate kinship basis of minuscule hunter-gatherer communities extends to non-humans, who are often regarded as kin of sorts rather than as different sorts of persons. This paper addresses the limits of approaching their worlds from the binary terms “egalitarian” and “hierarchical.” These concepts impose onto their communities economic and political modern issues, moreover the premise that society is constitutive of commensurate individuals who can be compared and evaluated and thus be regarded as equal (or not). It is here argued that hunter-gatherers demonstrate more-than-human “kinship communities” constitutive of multiply-connected and incommensurate heterogeneous members engaging in skillful connection-work.

 

Touched: Hunter-Gatherers and the Anthropology of Power

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20:30
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Description
Theories of power and value are precisely that: theories.  We use them as frameworks to enable the recognition and sharing of empirical patterns and connections.  But real power, real value, is located first in the body.  When we transport principles which are viscerally, ritually embedded into an academic framework, we lose them.  This talk asks how it is possible to 'carry' valuable connecting terms such as 'n/om', ekila or even prana - deep body-thoughts - into theory without losing all but the husk.  Touch, one of the human fundamentals (now increasingly under attack) may be where the shared body becomes visible.  This talk will develop my writing on corporeal morality by looking at ways in which African hunter-gatherers in particular offer insight into systems of power and value which are inalienable from the collective body.
 

Touched: Hunter-Gatherers and the Anthropology of Power.

Class finishes
20:00
Speaker(s)
Description
Theories of power and value are precisely that: theories. We use them as frameworks to enable the recognition and sharing of empirical patterns and connections. But real power, real value, is located first in the body.  When we transport principles which are viscerally, ritually embedded into an academic framework, we lose them.  This talk asks how it is possible to 'carry' valuable connecting terms such as 'n/om', ekila or even prana - deep body-thoughts - into theory without losing all but the husk. Touch, one of the human fundamentals (now increasingly under attack) may be where the shared body becomes visible. This talk will develop my writing on corporeal morality by looking at ways in which African hunter-gatherers in particular offer insight into systems of power and value which are inalienable from the collective body.
 
Zoom ID
384 186 2174

Human Origins: Where are we now?

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20:30
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Description

During the past year, there have been so many stunning new discoveries in the field of human origins that some of our most cherished and long-standing assumptions have been thrown into chaos. Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum is the the world's foremost expert on human origins and will be bringing us up to date.

Human origins: Where are we now?

Class finishes
20:30
Speaker(s)
Description

During the past year, there have been so many stunning new discoveries in the field of human origins that some of our most cherished and long-standing assumptions have been thrown into chaos. Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum is the the world's foremost expert on human origins and will be bringing us up to date. The room will be packed so come early to make sure you have a seat!

Zoom ID
384 186 2174

The Survival of the Friendliest

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20:30
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Description

A powerful new theory of human nature suggests that our secret to success as a species is our unique friendliness.

For most of the approximately 300,000 years that Homo sapiens have existed, we have shared the planet with at least four other types of humans. All of these were smart, strong, and inventive. But around 50,000 years ago, Homo sapiens made a cognitive leap that gave us an edge over other species. What happened?

Since Charles Darwin wrote about “evolutionary fitness,” the idea of fitness has been confused with physical strength, tactical brilliance, and aggression. In fact, what made us evolutionarily fit was a remarkable kind of friendliness, a virtuosic ability to coordinate and communicate with others that allowed us to achieve all the cultural and technical marvels in human history.

The Anthropology of David Graeber

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20:30
Description

David Graeber's unexpected death on September 2nd this year shocked us all. This evening we will pay tribute to David's astonishingly rich contributions to anthropology and invite discussion of his academic and activist work.

Symbolism, Skyscape And Secret Societies In The British And Irish Neolithic Passage Tombs

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20:30
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This talk will introduce and critically review some interpretations of prehistoric passage mounds and draw attention to the potential role played by ritual congregations in their creation and use.

The revolutionary sex

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20:30
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Across species, sexual selection and sexual conflict – where the evolutionary interests of the sexes differ – provide the arena for the evolution of highly elaborate forms of signaling. Sexual conflict models, with complex psychological adaptations to situations of both conflict and cooperation between the sexes, can illuminate the evolution of the human symbolic domain of language, art and ritual.
     This talk centres on sexual strategies and counter-strategies – a dynamic arms race between the sexes – as the main engine of the evolution of human cultural cognition and symbolic behaviour. Strategic conflict and cooperation between the sexes intensified as offspring became larger-brained and so more costly to mothers in terms of time and energy required to care for them. Resistance to male dominance and exploitation culminated in a revolutionary outcome – human symbolic culture and communication.

Zoom ID
Please register for each talk via EventBrite to receive the ZOOM ID.

Did matriarchy ever exist?

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20:30
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Almost every indigenous society has a myth which tells of a time when women ruled the world. Professor Chris Knight will analyze a range of indigenous myths from Amazonia, Africa and Australia which describe the moment when men violently overthrew women's rule and established patriarchy through terror. He will then survey ethnographic, archaeological and genetic evidence bearing on gender relations over the course of human evolution and history.

New class 1

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21:00
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Description of class

Zoom ID
384 186 2174

Studying Radically Up: Towards An Anthropology Of Intelligence Agencies

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Who really exercises power and how? The shadiest area is that of spies and 'intel'. Looking at different countries' agencies, interesting contrasts are apparent: the CIA is brazen about their central role in effecting at least 70 regime changes since WW2; Mossad operatives become national heroes; MI5 and 6 are extremely secretive by contrast. Their role in facilitating foreign jihadists, and in the Syrian conflict for example, raises many questions. Anthropological analysis of this role would start by looking at spies in their overall social and power structure, and questioning the overarching conception of 'intelligence'.

The sex-strike theory of human origins

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20:00
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Description

Chris Knight is best known for his 'sex-strike' theory of human origins. Instead of attempting to explain human cultural origins piecemeal, one theory for the incest taboo, another for language, yet another for religion and so forth, Knight's approach is designed to join up the dots. Confirmed by recent discoveries in population genetics, archaeology, the science of mythology and hunter-gatherer ethnography, this is one of the few successful attempts to put together the big picture, explaining religion, language, sexual morality and the whole range of distinctively human characteristics on the basis of one simple idea.

Zoom ID
Please register for each talk via EventBrite to receive the ZOOM ID.

The Origins Of Language

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This is a ZOOM webinar with Chris Knight on the Social Origins of Language. To prepare for it, please view RAG Vimeo here https://vimeo.com/147820097 with Chris Knight and Jerome Lewis of UCL and/or look at Wild Voices here https://www.journals.uchicago.edu/doi/pdfplus/10.1086/692905 Please register for this event on https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/wild-voices-the-extraordinary-story-of-how-language-first-evolved-tickets-102346856202 by April 21, 9 am BST. You will be sent the ZOOM link that day.

Revolution, Repetition and the Cult of Death: The Burials and Empty Tombs of Rosa Luxemburg

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Anthony Auerbach explores the posthumous career of Rosa Luxemburg (1871-1919) as martyr and icon of a failed revolution, how her missing body became the object of several burials and how the burial site became the focus of annual funeral rites. Auerbach considers the historical expectation of revolution in the light of a cult that compels repetition.

Class syllabus

Film Showing: ‘The Moon Inside You‘

Description

‘The Moon Inside You‘ is a brilliantly original ethnography of menstruation as experienced by women and perceived by men in our modern world. This is a rare London showing of an extraordinary film, directed by Slovak radical anthropologist Diana Fabianova. Quirky, fast-moving, bubbling with humour and flashes of insight, it follows Diana as she travels the world, trying to find out from school children, scientists, therapists, cab drivers, poets, rappers and men in suits what menstruation really means. The showing will be followed by questions and discussion led by Chris Knight and Camilla Power.

Class syllabus

The Revolution in Rojava: Strengths and Challenges

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Many socialists and anarchists have been celebrating recent events in Rojava, West Kurdistan, describing whats been happening as a genuine social revolution through which women have gained unprecedented equality and power. Some have described the result as a 21st century matriarchy. Jeff Miley has visited the region and reports on the revolution's strengths and also its challenges.

Class syllabus

“Becoming Animal and Becoming Human”. a Live Show by

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Marcus Coates spent 576 hours in the Northumberland countryside recording the birdsong of over 15 different species. The birdsong recordings were then slowed down up to 16 times. This enabled 19 singers to imitate the slowed-down birdsong while being filmed in their own domestic habitats, a bedroom or bath-tub for instance. The films are then speeded back up to reach the true pitch of the birds. In many other ways, Coates explores what it means to be human by becoming a shaman and metamorphosing into badgers rabbits and other nonhuman species. This live show in the Cock Tavern will take your breath away! Funny, shocking and powerfully thought-provoking, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfBgWtAIbRc

Class syllabus

Behind Every Good Man: Women's Production and Reproduction Among the Hadza Hunter-Gatherers of Tanzania

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The Hadza of Tanzania are one of the world's last remaining populations still using bows and arrows to hunt big game animals. This talk by a leading specialist will discuss women's contribution to their way of life in the light of modern theories about human biological and cultural evolution.

Class syllabus

Decoding Chomsky: Science and Revolutionary Politics (Book Launch)

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This evening will be the book launch of Chris Knight’s new book, ‘Decoding Chomsky: Science and revolutionary politics’, which has just been published by Yale University Press. The invited guests will discuss their take on the book. Jackie Walker and Jack Conrad are both political activists while Marek Kohn is a science journalist for the New Scientist.
The talks will be followed by wine, beer and snacks for everyone.
Discounted copies of the book will be on sale, signed with a flourish by the author!
‘Decoding Chomsky’ explores the roots of the post-war ‘cognitive revolution’ in science. Ranging from the radical art movements of the Russian Revolution to the influence of Pentagon funding on modern science, the book concludes with an exploration of current approaches to the origins of language and their implications for revolutionary politics in the 21st century.

The Cognitive Revolution: How Computers Changed the Way We Think

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Although ignored by the left, the cognitive revolution was in many ways the biggest intellectual upheaval since Galileo's discovery that the earth moves. From the early 1960s onwards, digital computation began revolutionising how philosophers, cognitive scientists, psychologists – even anthropologists and archaeologists – conceptualised what the human mind is like.

An Ancient African Egalitarian Civilization

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Jerome will present research tracing the long duration and resilience of a Central African hunter-gatherer 'civilisation'. This civilisation cannot be traced through archaeological evidence, but rather by combining genetic, ethnographic and ethnomusicological studies. These suggest a structural form or style that endures across different 'Pygmy' societies today despite genetic and other differences, such as speaking different languages.

The Prehistory of Sex

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What does it mean to be human? The human body is rich with evidence of how we evolved in the distant past. Why do the males of many primate species practice infanticide? Is sexual jealousy natural and inevitable? Were our prehistoric ancestors naturally monogamous or is polygamy more likely? Can modern genetic techniques determine whether early human kinship was matrilineal, patrilineal or some combination of these? In the past, scientists could only make guesses on such topics, but today we are beginning to discover some answers.

Echoes of the Dreamtime: Decoding Myths and Fairy Tales

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Language, art, music and culture emerged in Africa over 100,000 years ago, culminating in a symbolic explosion or ‘human revolution’ whose echoes can still be heard in myths and cultural traditions from around the world. We begin by introducing the approach to mythology of Claude Levi-Strauss, illustrating with a familiar fairy story from the Brothers Grimm collection.

Introducing Anthropology: Magical Myths and Fairy Tales

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Language, art, music and culture emerged in Africa over 100,000 years ago, culminating in a symbolic explosion or ‘human revolution’ whose echoes can still be heard in myths and cultural traditions from around the world. To illustrate the approach of Claude Levi-Strauss, we will begin by decoding a fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm collection.

The Masquerade and the Mobile Phone: How Do Local Religious Traditions Survive and Adapt in an Era of Globalised Technology?

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It is one of the truisms of social change theory that minority religious traditions tend to wither and die under pressure from globalised technology. The uncertainties these technologies (mobile phones etc.) create push communities towards global religions or secularism. While this can be shown to have occurred in many places, the paper presents two regional case studies, Central Nigeria and Arunachal Pradesh (NE India), where minority religions seem to have taken on board the advent of supposedly magical technologies without undue disruption. Indeed there is an argument to say that recording technologies are acting to reinforce and evolve ‘traditional’ practice. From consideration of the case studies, the presentation discusses what type of mental models might underlie these relationships with the supernatural world.

We Were Like Sisters: Collective Ritual Practices Among Women Sharing Direct Sales Cosmetics.

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According to anthropologist Camilla Power's 'Female Cosmetic Coalitions' model of human cultural origins, the world's first art was produced on the surface of the human body. Women in particular used red ochre cosmetics to establish and signal a special kind of sisterhood. Inspired by this theory, Elena Fejdiova offers a case-study suggesting that women in a modern urban context can still discover strength and solidarity in rituals of this kind.

What Makes People Weird? Menstrual Taboos Among Scientists in Western, Educated, Industrial, Rich and Democratic (Weird) Societies

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Western, educated, industrial, rich and democratic (WEIRD) countries produce scientists who share cultural assumptions which have nothing to do with science. Stemming from the days when universities were theological colleges, there are powerful taboos about menstruation and the moon which prevent scientists from being entirely rational when approaching the story of human biological and cultural evolution.

Rejecting the Illusion of Economic Growth: Can Lunarchy Work?

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Many economists argue that the concept of 'economic growth' has outlived its usefulness. One consequence of modern turbo-capitalism has been the escalating cost of time. Since 'time is money', time itself - time for enjoying life, for being with our children, for contemplating the stars - has become a scarce resource which no one can afford. When all humans were hunter gatherers, time was in abundant supply. Can we learn from extant hunter-gatherers how to re-set our clocks and reclaim time?

Lysistrata Decoded

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Camilla Power places Aristophanes' 'Lysistrata' in its classical Athenian historical context, exploring well documented traditions of women-only rituals staged periodically in real life in resistance to male power. Connecting ancient Greek mythical themes with variations found recurrently across the rest of the world, this stunningly original research throws completely new light on Aristophanes' timeless comedy.

The Incredible Bleeding Woman, a Cabaret Performance

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Celebrating International Women's Day, this is an uproarious fun evening with a cabaret-style presentation by a provocative band of women performance artists. ‘It is difficult to convey just how sexy, strange and fun it is to attend a Carnesky Production’, writes Professor Roberta Mock in The Times Educational Supplement

A Special World of Time: Lived Myths of the Bayaka Pygmies of Central Africa

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This will be an evening of hilarious and entrancing story-telling. Having spent many years living with the Bayaka Pygmies of Central Africa, Jerome Lewis describes the experienced narrators of his magical tales as larger-than-life characters actively participating inside their own myths.

An Amazonian Myth: The Hunter Monmanéki and His Wives

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Chris Knight chooses another myth, this time from Amazonia, to illustrate the effects of male dominance and patrilocal residence on women's lives. In this particular case, the myth conceptualises the damage done through the image of a woman cut in two, her legs and body sinking down to earth while her upper half flies into the sky.

Stories, Myths and Ways of Knowing Among Kalahari Hunters and Herders

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Chris Low has conducted long-term fieldwork in the Kalahari. Exploring overlaps between osteopathy and the shamanic medicine of African Bushmen hunter-gatherers and herders, he will introduce us to some of the most resilient, vibrant and enduring mythic and ritual traditions to be found anywhere in the world.

Biological and Social Anthropology: A Stormy Relationship

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Why is there such acrimony between anthropology's two camps, the social and the biological? This talk covers the history of often acrimonious and explosive splits which have afflicted our discipline since the Second World War. The speaker will suggest ways of overcoming these obstacles to future progress.

Myths of Aboriginal Australia: Rainbow Snakes and Song-Lines

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The entire continent of Australia was once criss-crossed by song lines, elaborate myths and ritual re-enactments binding people together over vast distances. Presiding over everything was an 'All-Mother' who was simultaneously a rainbow and a snake -- the gender-ambivalent Rainbow Snake. In Australia, a local version of her story would be bound up inseparably with waterholes, boulders and other prominent features of the landscape; recounting the Rainbow Snake's adventures meant following the tracks left by her and her children, sometimes over hundreds of miles. This talk explores the underlying structures of kinship, marriage and ritual action which tie all these stories together.

Decoding Chomsky's Linguistic Theories: Science and Revolutionary Politics

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Noam Chomsky has been described as the world's only 'super-intellectual'. This talk is about Chomsky's 'cognitive revolution' which has dominated much of intellectual life in the West since the early postwar period, with particular reference to the effect it has had on anthropology and the social sciences. You will be surprised by the many paradoxes as the tale unfolds.

On the Evolutionary Origins of the Human Egalitarian Syndrome

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Humans exhibit a strong egalitarian syndrome, i.e., the complex of cognitive perspectives, ethical principles, social norms, and individual and collective attitudes promoting equality. The universality of egalitarianism in mobile hunter-gatherers suggests that it is an ancient, evolved human pattern. I will discuss recent work in theoretical evolutionary biology aiming to understand the forces that could have driven the transition from hierarchical to egalitarian groups in our ancestors. I will consider the phenomena of food sharing, monogamous mating, helping the weak against the strong, as well as the effects of within-group inequality on the success of collective actions.

Baseball, Sorcery and Husband Stealing Among a Matrilineal (Miskitu) People of Nicaragua

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This presentation examines the politics of women's baseball amongst the matrilineal Miskitu of eastern Nicaragua. It focuses on the role of sorcery and the practice of institutional husband stealing as a weapon of war in the context of a regional tournament that took place earlier this year in the Pearl Lagoon basin.

Palaeolithic Politics – and Why It Still Matters

Description

Humans have always been politically creative, rarely settling down with just one social order. Egalitarian hunter-gatherers are well aware of the possibilities of hierarchy, just as people in hierarchical systems often experiment with egalitarianism. Life in the palaeolithic was far more interesting that most people think.

Woman's Biggest Husband is the Moon

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Jerome has many years experience in the field, working with the Bayaka hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin in Central Africa. This is a ground-breaking study of the central importance to women of the link between their bodies and the Moon. Bayaka men are made aware that even though, as husbands, they may have some sexual expectations, the Moon's own demands come first! Women's solidarity is fundamental to the unusually egalitarian dynamics of Bayaka society.

The Sex-Strike Theory of Human Origins

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Description

Professor Chris Knight is best known for his highly original 'sex-strike' theory of human biological and cultural origins. Instead of attempting to explain human nature piecemeal, one theory for each component, Knight's approach is designed to join up the dots. Spectacularly confirmed by reasons discoveries in archaeology, this is one of the few successful attempts to put together the big picture, explaining religion, language, sexual morality and the whole range of distinctively human characteristics on the basis of one simple principle.

Between Heaven and Earth: The Skyscapes of Iberian Megaliths

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Modern society, with its skyscrapers and light pollution has lost touch with the sky, but the historical and ethnographic records attest that all other societies have a deeper relationship to the sky and the celestial objects - sun, moon and stars. This talk will therefore introduce the topic of cultural astronomy and why the skyscapes of past societies cannot be ignored if we are to understand them. In the second half, these ideas will be applied to northwestern Iberia during the Neolithic period (about six thousand years ago) to try to uncover the celestial meaning and symbolism encoded in some of the earliest stone monuments of Europe.

Sexuality in Humans and Other Great Apes.

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Black and white, raw and cooked, sick and healthy, we and them, animals and humans, good and bad: we have a strong tendency to pigeonhole our world in dualistic categories. This is particularly true with respect to dimensions related to gender and sexuality. Who doesn't think in "male and female" or "straight and gay"? Such a binary approach to life is certainly practical, allows us to make fast decisions and provides some sense of security. However, dichotomous structures are social constructs and do not correctly reflect physical or biological realities. The "real world" is fuzzy, full of gradualism. In this talk, we will explore the sexuality of our monkey and ape relatives, asking whether they, too, relate to one another in binary terms.

‘The Sleeping Beauty’ and Other Tales: The Deep Structure of Magical Myths

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The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss was the first to discover that the world's magical myths and fairy tales all express the same underlying logic. Across all six continents, they are ultimately a single anonymous voice, 'One Myth Only', or so many variations on a theme. Rather as astronomers can still detect an echo of the Big Bang with which the universe began, so by listening to these myths we can detect an echo of the momentous events in which human language and culture were born. When Levi-Strauss' insights are applied to a familiar fairy story from the Brothers Grimm, the picture which emerges is breathtaking.

Mother Scorpion: Sex and Gender Among the Miskitu of Nicaragua

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Among the Miskitu, a hunter-horticulturalist-fishing people on Central America's Mosquito Coast, women's actions are centred on 'confederacies of sisters', groups of matrilineally related females. Meanwhile, men as spouses attach themselves to these confederacies from the outside, focusing on typically difficult relationships with their senior in-laws. The notion of a 'confederacy of sisters' capturing and consuming brothers-in-law or sons-in-law from outside the group finds its traditional representation in the figure of Yapti Misri, a female scorpion with hundreds of breasts.

The Musical Precipitation of Spirits, Saints, and Selves: Ritual, Music, and Trance in Algerian Popular Islam

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Description

Algerian diwan is a Sufi-inspired music ritual tradition that coalesced out of the trans-Saharan slave trade with the displacement of sub-Saharan populations in Algeria, particularly Hausa, Bambara, and Songhay ethnolinguistic groups. Under three centuries of Ottoman rule, sub-Saharan communities were heavily influenced by the local, popular religious practices and socio-political organization of Sufi brotherhoods. Consequently, diwan developed into a syncretic Afro-Maghrebi ritual practice drawing from what are often labeled 'pre-Islamic, animist, magical' ritual practices of 'black Africa' (bīlād es-sūdān) while absorbing many of the same structures of other musical traditions within popular Islam rooted in North Africa: saint veneration, trance, and ritual healing. In diwan rituals, music precipitates and structures emotional trance and spirit possession trance by 'heating' the energy ('ḥāl') of the ritual in order to 'call' the spirits to possess the bodies of hosts. My ethnographic approach arises out of this fundamental, local concept of ḥāl: a collective, affectively attuned, and nuanced social field without which trance of any kind is impossible. By fleshing out the sensorial phenomena of ḥāl and its local narrative, I examine the role of musico-ritual aesthetics to attend to physical, mental, and emotional needs of diwan adepts and to provide the means for spirits and saints to be reconciled with multiple aspects of the self and the diwan community at large.

Size Matters!: The Scalability of Modern Hunter-Gatherer Animism

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Cultural anthropology has for decades been committed to the multiculturalist tenet that all cultures should be equally approached, regardless of their population and community size. In this talk, I will highlight the unintended distortive effect of this approach when studying modern hunter-gatherers. I argue that the miniscule size of hunter-gatherer communities, shaping how they scale their world and imagine it, is a cardinal factor that should not be overlooked. I will examine the distortive effect of scale-blind studies of indigenous animistic beliefs, a long-studied topic that now enjoys much renewed interest. Key terms in the analysis of animism too often derive from large-scale modern social ontologies, as a result of which we fail to appreciate the intimate nature of interpersonal and interspecies relationships prevailing in the miniscule communities of hunter-gatherers.

How Words Shape Human Cognition

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A common assumption in psychology and linguistics is that words map onto pre-existing meanings. I will argue that this view is mistaken and that words play a much more central role in creating meaning than is generally acknowledged. In the first part of the talk, I will present a range of empirical evidence for the functions of language beyond communication, focusing on categorization and visual perception. On the presented view, many of the unique aspects of human cognition stem from the power of words to flexibly create categories from perceptual representations, allowing language to act as a high-level control system for the mind. In the second part, I will discuss the consequences of adopting this view for thinking about the evolution of language and culture.

Selfish Genes, Sociobiology and the Emergence of Modern Darwinism

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When Richard Dawkins' book 'The Selfish Gene' was published in 1976, it caused an outrage on the left. Marxists, feminists and others took the book to be a celebration of laissez-faire economics and competitive individualism. But when we look at the versions of Darwinism which had prevailed in the previous period, it becomes clear that 'selfish gene' theory represented a major scientific advance. Far from justifying selfishness, the new Darwinism explains in a convincing way why instincts of solidarity and generosity are commonplace throughout the natural world. Today, one of the major figures in human evolutionary theory is the feminist thinker and 'selfish gene' pioneer Sarah Hrdy, whose book 'Mothers and Others' explains how cooperative childcare was the critical factor which gave rise to our species. Hrdy's work represents a modern scientific vindication of the traditional Marxist theory, popularized by Frederick Engels, that early human kinship and family life was based on collective rather than individual parenthood. This talk will review the catalogue of misunderstandings which led the left across most of the western world to respond to a scientific controversy by tragically backing the wrong side.

Forest Voices: The Baka Rainforest Pople and Their Fight for Cultural Survival

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The Baka live in a world of giant trees and natural sounds where to listen ensures survival. Over thousands of years their culture has become extraordinarily musical. Song and dance permeate their lives for ritual, for fun, and to unite and create harmony within the group.
The Baka’s traditional lifestyle is currently under threat as they are being forced out of their forest home to live in roadside villages. Here they face extreme poverty, discrimination and exploitation and are made ashamed of their forest traditions.
Global Music Exchange has been taking a a group of Baka musicians around other Baka villages all around Southern Cameroon. The concerts draw the disparate populations together where, after the music, they are shown films in the Baka language and encouraged to speak to camera so that their voices can be heard. A young film-maker, Davey Poremba made a film of the December 2015 tour and this film will form the main part of the talk.
After the film Martin will present a question and answer session where any aspect of Baka life and their current situation can be discussed.

How Narco-Trafficking Constitutes a Coastal Nicaraguan Society

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This talk is concerned with the relationship between narco-trafficking, myth-making and the perceived failure of the autonomy process in the small coastal communities on Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast. It assesses the role of this sector of the regional economy in subsistence, development, law and political processes, while examining the actions and perceptions of local people within those communities negotiating various configurations of the relationship between narco-trafficking and an autonomy process that many deem to have floundered. Although the discussion draws on cases principally from the Pearl Lagoon district, it is argued that the conclusions are applicable to coastal communities in other parts of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, and in a number of aspects to rural communities in other parts of Latin America.

The Role of Gesture in Traditional Narratives

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The gestures that we use when we speak are an often-overlooked part of what makes us human. This evening we will learn how gestures are closely linked to the human language faculty. We will also examine how gesture and culture are closely linked. Finally, we will look at how gesture is a unique part of human cognition that differentiates us from computers and also from other animals.

Tracing the Palaeolithic Origins of World Mythology

Speaker(s)
Description

The classic ‘Cosmic Hunt’ myth tells of how an animal is traced by hunters into the forest, where it escapes by becoming one of the constellations in the sky. Starting with this story, Julien d’Huy uses computer models and phylogenetic analysis to track the movement of mythic tales across cultures and continents. The ‘Cosmic Hunt’, together with tales of dragons and serpents, all show evidence of the migratory patterns of humanity dating back thousands of years.

How Womankind Got Torn in Two. a Myth from the Amazon

Speaker(s)
Description

Chris Knight continues his exploration of key myths from Levi-Strauss’ ‘Mythologiques.’ ‘The Hunter Monmaneki and his Wives’ is an Amazonian Indian (Tukuna) myth which tells of a profound and destabilizing shift from periodic to non-periodic marriage, resulting in contradictions for women which tear them apart. If you want to know how women lost the power, come along!

Book Launch: ‘Human Origins: Contributions from Social Anthropology’

Description

'Human Origins: Contributions from Social Anthropology' is an exciting new book edited by the all-woman team of Camilla Power, Morna Finnegan and Hilary Callan. Many will see the book as a refreshing development, ending the long-standing absence of social anthropologists from debates about human evolution. Signed copies of the book will be available, plus drinks and refreshments.

In Praise of Lying: Self Deception Can be a Matter of Survival

Speaker(s)
Description

Volker Sommer, Professor of Evolutionary Anthropology in the University of London, will talk about the necessity of lying. His recent book, In Praise of Lying, stresses the fact that all of us must sometimes lie in order to survive. Where social dynamics are highly competitive, as they among monkeys and apes, fluency in deception is is a matter of life and death. Deceptive body language, such as feints that mislead as to the intended direction of attack or flight, is observed in many animal species including wolves.

How Marriage Became Permanent. a Myth from the Plains Indians

Speaker(s)
Description

'The Wives of the Sun and Moon' is one of the key myths of Claude Levi-Strauss' monumental study, Mythologiques. This evening will take the form of a story-telling followed by a workshop and class discussion to decode the message of the myth. Originally, according to this story, marriage was not a fixed state but a once-a-month honeymoon. Everything started going badly wrong when permanent wedlock was installed.

The First Americans: Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Perspectives

Speaker(s)
Description

This talk will survey the archaeological and ethnohistory of the Ojibwa (Chippewa), who are one of largest groups of the Algonquian speakers, currently located in Canada and the US. The Algonquian language group is the most populous and widespread of the Native American indigenous peoples and covers an area from the Atlantic Ocean, into the interior along the St Lawrence River and around the Great Lakes. The experience of the Ojibwa, specifically, enables us to gain an understanding of the centuries’ old conflicts with white settlers, governments and corporations over land, water, and mineral resources. Even if different lines of evidence (genetic, linguistic, archaeological, anthropological, ethnohistoric) are considered, the identification of the homeland of the Ojibwa remains a challenge.

An Australian Aboriginal Foundation Myth: The Two Wawilak Sisters

Speaker(s)
Description

Recorded in numerous versions, the story of the Two Wawilak Sisters is probably the best-known of all Aboriginal Australian myths. It explains the origins of the whole of Aboriginal culture, locating the source of magic and ritual in two young women's synchronized menstruation. Once this myth has been understood, it opens the door to the wonders of Aboriginal mythology as a whole. This evening's talk will be illustrated with many beautiful works of Aboriginal art.

Team Reasoning: How People Think in Groups

Speaker(s)
Description

Huge swathes of literature in economics, philosophy and evolutionary anthropology are devoted to the supposed problem of explaining how groups manage to co-operate in such scenarios as the tragedy of the commons, the prisoner’s dilemma, the stag hunt, and so on. There are many suggested solutions, appealing to iterated games, evolutionary stable strategies, and other ingenious devices. But the whole literature is based on a false premise—that group actions result from psychological processes in which each agent works out an answer to ‘what should I do?’ In truth, however, individual humans find it just as natural to ask ‘what should WE do?’, with all then playing their parts when an answer is reached. This kind of ‘team reasoning’ makes the cooperation in the standard problems trivial.
Game theorists think it’s a cheat. They insist that group actions are nothing but a bunch of individual actions, and that individuals are designed by evolution to further their own interests. But they are missing the point. Given that the best way to further your own interests is often to think as a team, it would be odd if evolution hadn’t favoured a proximal psychological mechanism that makes it natural for humans to team-reason.
From a descriptive point of view, team thinking is no less prevalent among humans than individual reasoning. And from a normative perspective, it is surely just as rational to start with ‘what should WE do?’ as with ‘what should I do?’.

The Master, Claude Lévi-Strauss, on How to Decode Myths and Fairy Tales

Speaker(s)
Description

The world's magical myths and fairy tales are all variations on a small number of themes. Ultimately, according to the great French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, they amount to One Myth Only, a single web of mythology embracing the entire human species. One consequence is that once a particular story has been successfully decoded, it can serve as a key to the interpretation of neighbouring myths....

Sharing Like Sisters: Ritual, Egalitarianism and the Morality of Cosmetic Exchange

Speaker(s)
Description

In the environment of direct sales cosmetics, small groups of Slovak women forged cosmetic coalitions through costly bodily rituals. These energetic, emotionally intense and highly expressive Bakhtinian rituals were the necessary precursor to rigorous sharing among the women who participated in them. This sharing centred on careful equalization of their access to beauty products and ability to use them through collectively monitored demand sharing.
In these rituals, collectivized female sociality emerged. It was characterized by energetic assertive loudness, uproarious laughter, lewd jokes, exaggerated feminine behaviour and bonding. The social hierarchies among the women relaxed and were replaced by ritual egalitarianism with the specific morality of sharing, cooperation and reciprocity, all inhibiting any dominance hierarchy. This morality was represented among the women as bonds of kinship. In their bonded collectives, women shared ‘like sisters’.
The carnivalesque cosmetic rituals routinely accompanied by outbursts of shared laughter fostered the emergence of a temporal collective culture of reversal that subverted the individualism, isolation, competition and modesty of the expected everyday feminine behaviour, giving way to loudness, joking, sharing, cooperation, immodesty and commitment to the coalition. It reversed the economic logic of direct sales and replaced it with a moral economy of sharing. The collectively expressed ritualized female agency resisted the existing hierarchies between men and women. In ritual mode, coalitions of women reversed the relationships of dominance and appropriated the ritual time and space for themselves.

Rule by the Moon in Human Origins and Evolution

Speaker(s)
Description

Chris Knight has always claimed that the moon played a much larger role in human evolution than is generally thought. This lecture will summarize his overall theory of the origins of religion, ritual, language and symbolic culture. For our distant African ancestors, the moon became crucial from the moment we left the shelter of forest life and began occupying open savanna territory. In this new environment, early humans sought safety in numbers to counter the threat posed by lions and other large cats whose night vision was far superior to ours. Lions prefer to hunt when the moon is dark, which explains why even to this day, hunter-gatherer women choose to sing in chorus at dark moon to keep dangerous predators away. Unlike our ape relatives, women have a menstrual cycle of the length you would predict if synchronizing with the moon had been adaptive in our evolutionary past.

How Collective Childcare Works in Practice

Speaker(s)
Description

Anthropologists now widely agree that Homo sapiens evolved with our especially large brains thanks to unusually supportive childcare arrangements. Whereas an ape mother must care for her infant all by herself, evolving humans developed complex systems of cooperative childcare, mothers choosing to live with their own mother and other relatives in order to share childcare tasks. In this workshop, we will explore how sexual relations during human evolution underwent a series of profound changes, with male energies increasingly harnessed to provision and assist mothers and their babies. When did the incest taboo come into force, and why? How does sex in human societies connect up with economics? This session will explore such basic questions as the ultimate nature of distinctively human kinship, family life, economics and sexual morality.

Saturday Afternoon Play-Reading Workshop: ‘The Story of Go'

Speaker(s)
Description

This dramatisation depicts a human society 12,000 years
ago in deep crisis because their way of life is changing.
The women have withdrawn access to sex but the men
are no longer able to go on a big-game hunt to make a
collective provision of food. The full moon is coming and
tensions break out around the emerging movement
towards hierarchical organisation amongst the men. The
dilemma expresses itself in the story of an adolescent
transgender person who attempts to resolve the
difficulties.

Spirits of the Forest: Self-Government Through Polyphonic Singing

Speaker(s)
Description

Ingrid Lewis has spent many years with the Bayaka forest hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin. In this emotionally powerful practical workshop, she will reveal what she has learned from these people about how to manage social conflict, create harmony and ensure mental and physical well-being, all through polyphonic singing. Everyone can do this. Previous singing experience not required!

From Music to Language: A Bayaka Perspective

Speaker(s)
Description

An exploration of the many connections between music and language. Jerome is a leading figure in the field of language evolution, and one of the very few to base his thinking on his experiences living with a contemporary hunter-gatherer population. Drawing on many years of fieldwork with the Bayaka people of the Congo Basin, he shows how women's polyphonic singing, designed to keep dangerous predators at bay, forms one part of the explanation for human vocal skills, while another is the Bayaka hunter's skill in imitating animal cries.

‘Woman's Biggest Husband is the Moon’

Speaker(s)
Description

Jerome has many years experience in the field, working with the Bayaka hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin in Central Africa. This is a ground-breaking study of the central importance to women of the link between their bodies and the Moon. Bayaka men are made aware that even though, as husbands, they may have some sexual expectations, the Moon's own demands come first! Women's solidarity is fundamental to the unusually egalitarian dynamics of Bayaka society.

Ice Age Art

Speaker(s)
Description

Camilla Power has published widely on the origins of art, bringing out the importance of gender relations. She has made a special study of the cave paintings and Venus-figurines of Upper Palaeolithic Europe, asking whether the artists were likely to have been men or women, and whether the recurrent female imagery was intended to represent matriarchal power. She will argue that one interpretive approach is to draw on evidence from the lives and ritual experiences of extant hunter-gatherers such as the Hadza of Tanzania, among whom her fieldwork was conducted.

Two Songs for Red Girl: Music and Language in Eastern Amazonia

Description

The Araweté are 500 maize cultivators and hunters that live in Eastern Amazonia in seven villages in the Brazilian State of Pará. They have been in contact with Brazilian government representatives since the late 1970s and most of them currently speak Portuguese. The two songs examined in this talk belong to the “Music of the Gods” poetic genre, although they are quite unique. One of them is a “spirit capturing” song in which the shaman searches the outskirts of the village at night to capture the Anĩ spirits, who are often responsible for deaths amongst the Araweté. What is important, here, is that these two songs – the song that captures spirits and the one that heals lost souls – are connected through the same event. Red Girl, my neighbour who loves listening to recordings of shamanic songs, was pierced by a spirit’s arrow and became gravely ill. The Songs were her relatives' attempt to rescue her from this dire situation.

Music, Morality and the Creation of Value in Mongolia

Speaker(s)
Description

Among the Altai Urianghai people in a rural district of western Mongolia’s Hovd province, musical knowledge, practice and performance are means through which people engage with overlapping historical influences, create and maintain different cultural traditions and attempt to ensure good future outcomes. This talk will explore how musical knowledge is an important, highly valued resource, leading to performers being highly venerated. Musical performance becomes an ethical practice, one that is collectively shared although key custodians hold individual responsibilities. In this talk, I will ask how understandings of value can move beyond economics to encompass shared cultural resources of other kinds, along with their esoteric potential. I will also explore how the moral musical practice of Altai Urianghai performers engages with national discussions and delineations of contemporary Mongolian culture.

Everyday Communism in Slovenian Underground Music Venues

Speaker(s)
Description

Imagine you are a teenager, with nowhere to go in the evenings. You cannot attend your favourite shows but perhaps you could make use of a rehearsal space to stage your own shows with a few of your friends. Without idealizing things, I will give you some typical examples of venues in Slovenia to show how a communist moral economy lies at the heart of many underground music scenes, everyone contributing according to their ability while taking according to their need.

Why Menstruation Matters

Speaker(s)
Description

This talk examines the biological and cultural impact of menstruation in human evolution. It looks into which species menstruate and why this evolved. What effects would highly visible menstruation have on hominin social systems? Why did menstruation become a critical biological signal and how did this affect the emergence of symbolic culture? The widespread distribution of menstrual taboos and observances indicates their great antiquity in human belief systems. Can we offer any predictions about the various forms these take in different societies?

The Sleeping Beauty and Other Tales: The Science of Mythology of Magical Myths

Speaker(s)
Description

The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss was the first to discover that the world's magical myths and fairy tales all express the same underlying logic. Across all six continents, they are ultimately a single anonymous voice, 'One Myth Only', or so many variations on a theme. Rather as astronomers can still detect an echo of the Big Bang with which the universe began, so by listening to these myths we can detect an echo of the momentous events in which human language and culture were born. When Levi-Strauss' insights are applied to a familiar fairy story from the Brothers Grimm, the picture which emerges is breathtaking.

The Sex Strike Theory of Human Origins

Speaker(s)
Description

Professor Chris Knight is best known for his highly original 'sex-strike' theory of human biological and cultural origins. Instead of attempting to explain human nature piecemeal, one theory for each component, Knight's approach is designed to join up the dots. Spectacularly confirmed by recent discoveries in archaeology, this is one of the few successful attempts to put together the big picture, explaining religion, language, sexual morality and the whole range of distinctively human characteristics on the basis of one simple principle.

Doctors of the Dreaming: How the Shamans of 'primitive' Communism Offer Us a Key to the Communism of the Future

Speaker(s)
Description

Alan Cohen is part of a rare species, a marxist who has had a life-long interest in shamanism and the so-called 'mystical' traditions of humanity. Long ago, in 1976, he was awarded a Bachelor of Letters at Oxford for his thesis, 'The Small Grey Bird, a study of forms and patterns in shamanism and ecstatic experience' and, more recently, is the author of 'The Decadence of the Shamans: shamanism as a key to the secrets of communism', published as a booklet by the Radical Anthropology Group in 2012. The PDF of the original 1991 version can be found on the RAG website: http://radicalanthropologygroup.org/sites/default/files/pdf/pub_decadenc...

Class syllabus

How Revolutions Create Worlds: An Anthropologist Reflects on the Cuban Revolution

Speaker(s)
Description

Martin Holbraad's main field research is in Cuba, where he focuses on Afro-Cuban religions and revolutionary politics. Having completed in 2002 his doctoral thesis on the role of oracles and money within the diviner cult of Ifà in socialist Cuba, his research since has focused on such topics as the relationship between myth and action, the consecration of objects, and, more broadly, the relationship between cosmology, politics and other forms of social invention.

Class syllabus

Anthropology as Necessary Unlearning in Refugee Camps, Courts and Schools

Speaker(s)
Description

This talk will explore the mechanisms through which refugees and asylum seekers lose their voice from the moment they are asked to fill in a questionnaire or explain their case to an immigration official. Their spoken sentences are rendered incomprehensible and in some cases apparently untruthful from the outset, in being disconnected from their original context. The stories told by refugees are not recorded in full as delivered but are instead summarized and re-told in terms deemed appropriate by the immigration authorities. Too often, the written interview record conflates what the applicant said with the interpreter's re-telling and the decisoin-maker's summary. Decision-makers allow themselves levels of linguistic flexibility which is not allowed either to translators or to applicants. As a result, indigenous concepts of space, time, religion, vocation, ethnicity, class, morality and justice are too often lost in translation. Effective training of police officers, teachers, translators and court officials is required. This re-education should focus primarily on 'forgetting' - deliberately setting aside culturally prevailing forms of cultural knowledge and expertise as the condition of genuine listening.

Class syllabus

Returning to Religion: Why a Secular Age is Haunted by Faith

Speaker(s)
Description

How can one explain the resurgence of religion, even in a western context of rationality, postmodernity and scientific endeavour? The persistence of religious expression has compelled even diehard secularists, or proponents of the 'secularization thesis', to rethink their positions. Jonathan Benthall explains precisely why societies are not bound to embrace western liberal rationality as an evolutionary inevitability. He shows that the opposite is true: that where a secular society represses the religious imagination, the human predisposition to religion will in the end break out in surprising, apparently secular, modes and outlets.Concentrating on what he calls 'para-religion', a kind of secular spirituality that manifests itself within movements and organisations who consider themselves motivated by wholly rational considerations, Benthall uncovers a paradox: despite themselves, they are haunted by the shadow of irrationality. Arguing that humanitarianism, environmentalism, the animal rights movement, popular archaeology and anthropology all have 'religiod' aspects, his startling conclusion is that religion, rather than coming 'back', in fact never went away.
A human universal, the 'religious inclination' underlies the fabric of who we are, and is essential for the healthy functioning of any society.

Class syllabus

No More ‘Full Moon Faces’: The Anthropology of Appearance and Social Change Among Young Women in Matrilineal Bhutan

Speaker(s)
Description

Anthropologists have recently explored changes in ideal body size among young American women, confirming what psychologists suggest is an influential 'thinness schema' of female beauty internalized through images of women in film, TV and print media. But is the causal relationship between mass media representations and female beauty exaggerated as these images circulate far away from their culture of origin?
In 1999, the Kingdom of Bhutan became one of the last countries in the world to broadcast television. Information and communication technology (ICT) use has jumped since then: 58% of all households owned a TV and 92% a mobile telephone in 2013. How has the recent explosion in global mass media flows affected young Bhutanese women's beauty ideals? What is the impact of these images on their notions of self, on their material bodies? Is the 'thinness schema' spreading? If so, how does it interact with existing cultural models of female beauty, labor and status in a still-largely agrarian society? What are the political and ethical implications of these new 'beauty regimes' in the land of Gross National Happiness?
In this paper I address these questions through ethnographic and survey data on the socialization of beauty ideals, body image and self-concept among undergraduate women in Bhutan. Though my initial findings suggest that thin body ideation is high, rising, and correlated specifically to media socialization, I explore its relationship to wider structural transformations in class and gender in Bhutanese society as well as deeper unconscious dynamics of discipline and morality.

Class syllabus

Menstruating Together in Theatres and Tents and Other Unlikely Locations

Speaker(s)
Description

Live artist Marisa Carnesky explores how the practice as research performance project Incredible Bleeding Woman came together and the process involved behind the show. Themes of menstrual synchronicity, re-inventing menstrual rituals and popular cultural representations of menstruation in horror film will be explored. In this lecture, Marisa will also show footage from the performance project including new original films of performers from the work and tell stories of the experience of touring, running workshops and presenting versions of the work in London, Croatia, Finland, Australia and Scotland and talk about the future plans of the project.

Class syllabus

The Cultured Chimpanzee: Bridging the Animal-Human Divide

Speaker(s)
Description

Everyday language readily distinguishes animals from humans. The former are perceived as instinctual and savage, the latter as reflective and cultured. Indeed, depending on ethnic background, people favour different technologies, customs and values – traits considered to be hallmarks of "culture". However, recent studies reveal similar degrees of intraspecific variance for many non-human animals, too – particularly for societies of our closest living relatives, the primates. For example, chimpanzee populations differ in dietary preferences and tool use pattern, but also in terms of what is considered socially acceptable. This creates a quasi-religious group-based morality and identity. Such constructions of "us" versus "them" regularly lead to violent clashes between neighbouring ape communities – intergroup conflicts that also permeate the course of human evolution. Cultural boundaries therefore create a sense of belonging as well as xenophobic feelings – conceptualized by anthropologists as "we-ness" (entitativity) versus "other-ness" (alterity). An evolutionary perspective can help us to better understand our often parochial attitudes

Class syllabus

Ancient Matriarchies of the Chinese Borderlands: Myth or Reality?

Speaker(s)
Description

From time immemorial, numerous illiterate tribes have created, through the impossible terrain of the Sino-Tibetan Marches, fiercely independent kingdoms which thrived until the early 20th century. Many of them pledged allegiance to the Chinese Empire, as did the little-studied matriarchal “Nu Er Guos” queendoms described in the Chinese Annals until 742. Today, these regions are less isolated, but in spite of the Chinese influence, polyandry is making a come-back. Marriage-less matrilineal societies still flourish in a few remote valleys and courtship customs implying that women would cherry-pick among pretenders have only recently disappeared. Could this unusual state of affairs be the remains of these ancient matriarchal queendoms?
Or is it also that the extreme remoteness of these realms has preserved age-old traditions once common elsewhere? Both Chinese and Greek earliest texts stated that people “knew their mothers but not their fathers.”
I will argue that, contrary to current western androcentric assumptions, patriarchy is not timeless and the nuclear family is not universal. Rigorous ethnographic scholarship demonstrates that around the globe humans have adopted many different reproductive strategies, all of which were successful and many of which endured until today despite the spread of monotheistic religions and globalization. Time has come for academia to base its claims on facts rather than theories whose primary purpose was, and still is, to justify the status quo.

Thursday Workshop Roar for Matriarchy

Speaker(s)
Description

This year, RAG has tapped into a huge and growing interest in matriarchal societies. Did matriarchy ever exist? More importantly, can our beautiful planet be rescued from patriarchy and restored to some kind of gender-egalitarian rule? Tonight's meeting will be given over to planning for an International Women's Day event. Beyond that, we will be thinking of Donald Trump's scheduled visit in October, organizing to give him the Matriarchal welcome he deserves...
Steve Bannon has issued a dire warning to US President Donald Trump: "The anti-patriarchy movement is going to dramatically alter the power structure across the world. I think it's going to unfold like the tea party, only bigger," the former White House chief strategist told Bloomberg News. "It's not Me Too. It's not just sexual harassment. It's an anti-patriarchy movement." He added: "Time's up on 10,000 years of recorded history. This is coming. Women are gonna take over. This is real."
OK sisters, let's bring it on.

A Personal Account of My Life Among the Hadza from 1957 to 1961

Speaker(s)
Description

James Woodburn is the world’s leading hunter-gatherer ethnographer, and was the first to realize that immediate return hunter-gatherers – those who don’t store food – belong in a distinct category of politically egalitarian people. Inhabiting a savanna environment in the Yaeda Valley, Tanzania, the Hadza are still bow-and-arrow hunters and their traditional ways can teach us much about how all of us once lived.
James is a marvelous raconteur, and this talk will be full of fascinating detail about how the Hadza once were, when game animals were plentiful. Don’t miss it!

The End of the World? Amerindian Perspectives on Climate Change

Speaker(s)
Description

Rosalyn will be talking about her time spent in the Callawaya communities of North Eastern Bolivia, where diviners cultivate subsistence crops on the skirts of mountains still considered deities. The narrative leads the reader into an animate landscape where climate change is borne by winds that are simultaneously collections of gases and conscious deities; where change is expected and small scale farmers swiftly adapt a centuries old system of cultivation to the changing humours of the mountain they inhabit.
Catastrophic change is occurring in the region as young people are drawn away from the fields and flocks that sustained their forefathers by desire for commodities and especially western clothes, which transform them into western consumers. As they make this transition, eating processed foods rather than the nutritious fruits of exchange relationships with the mountain, both they and the mountain become weaker. The landscape is contaminated by the litter they throw away. It suffers from the lack of sustaining agricultural work fed into it, as well as the absence of rituals where once their ancestors played music to mountain and weather deities. Some people suspect that soon the mountains will become volcanoes and bury them all beneath a stream of lava. Climate change refers here to this entire phenomenon of change.
This is a local view of climate change, within a landscape simultaneously mythological and scientific, connecting the everyday action of the consumer to changes in the world we inhabit through connections hidden within the western scientific cosmos.
* * * * *
Contemporary mythological accounts of climate change among indigenous peoples in Latin America connect changing weather and conditions to the actions of telluric spirits, inherent in the elements, or the source of valuable resources. Until recently, people were mindful of these spirits and worshipped them; yet now, tempted by migration to cities and extractivism, are ceasing to depend on these landscapes for their subsistence.
Interestingly, mythologies across several societies tell us that it is when we stop revering these spirits, and humans stop sharing with each other, that the world ends, considered to be underway. In some places spirit worship has been reinstated in an attempt to combat climate which is change, considered inseparable from mining, logging and other disrespectful practices, reanimating the landscape to contest capitalism.

The Next Major Transition in the Evolution of Our Species

Speaker(s)
Description

The evolution of life on earth has not been a purely gradual process. Instead, our present world is the outcome of eight revolutionary leaps or 'major transitions', ranging from the origin of the DNA code to the emergence of language in our own species. When is the next revolution due?

Myth, Marriage and the Neccessary Domestication of the Dangerous 'other'

Speaker(s)
Description

Mark Jamieson will analyse a set of myths from three Amerindian groups, the Miskitu of Nicaragua, the Kuna of Panama and the Tatuyo of Colombia. In their different ways, the stories address what many in Lowland South and Central America consider to be the most fundamental existential issue, the need to domesticate through marriage those imagined and represented as dangerous 'others'.

‘Decoding Chomsky: Science and Revolutionary Politics’ (Book Launch, Paperback Edition)

Description

Noam Chomsky has vigorously disputed the arguments made in Chris Knight's book, 'Decoding Chomsky'. This launch of the new paperback edition will offer a chance for readers to ask questions, debate the issues and challenge Chris Knight's far-reaching conclusions. If you haven't read the book, it doesn't matter: you will learn all you need to know here!

Women's Role in the Origins of Language

Speaker(s)
Description

It was once rare for language origins theorists to even mention women. But the anthropologist Sara Hrdy has changed all that. Traditionally, labour was considered the co-operative framework within which language evolved. Hrdy's point is that while this is true, the kind of labour which gave rise to language was cooperative childcare.
Chris Knight will build on this insight to explain how language presupposes very special levels of honesty and trust. The necessary mutual understanding was established in the first instance between mothers who, for the first time, were willing to trust someone else hold their baby without harming it. In place of 'the tool-making ape' or 'the hunting ape', modern evolutionary science now places 'the baby-sitting ape' centre stage.

How Fossil Fuel Use Became Unsustainable

Speaker(s)
Description

Anthropology is not just the study of 'other people' - Western culture and society is included, too. This talk by one of the world's leading specialists will explain the shocking history of fossil fuel consumption in the industrialized world, focusing on the second part of the last century.

A Plains Indian Myth: The Wives of the Sun and Moon

Speaker(s)
Description

The Plains Indians of North America traditionally pictured a woman's marriage as a to-and-fro movement between two quite different husbands, one the Sun and the other the Moon. Womankind's marital intimacy was viewed not as a static or permanent state but as a periodic one – her monthly 'honeymoon'. Building on the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss in his four-volume analysis of 1,000 Native American myths, Chris Knight will explain why it made sense to conceptualize conjugal relations in this way.
think of , showing how ues',

Australian Aboriginal Myths of the Origins of Fire

Speaker(s)
Description

Across Australia, Aboriginal myths say that during the Dreamtime, women secreted fire in their vulvas, hiding their firesticks whenever a man approached. The myths go on to say that one day, a male hero stole fire from a woman and handed it over to men. In this workshop, a number of different versions of the myth will be analyzed using the techniques developed by the founder of structural anthropology, Claude Levi-Strauss. We will explore whether such myths help us to reconstruct changes in gender relations across Australia in the distant past.

Chris Knight is 75! the Russian Revolution is 100! Rag Social Evening

Speaker(s)
Description

Chris Knight is 75! The Russian Revolution is 100! Celebrate on Saturday Nov 18th, 6.30pm - midnight. Upstairs at The Horseshoe Pub, 24 Clerkenwell Close, London EC1R 0AG (tube Farringdon). Live performers include Dorten Yonder ceilidh band, Jackie Walker (songs from her one-woman show), Chris Gray (Irish rebel songs), Amanda McLean (ballads of socialist resistance). General chorus: The Internationale. Students enjoy free beer until the money runs out... so get there early! Wear something red!

Communism in Motion: How Hunter Gatherers Make Egalitarianism Work

Speaker(s)
Description

Drawing on her fieldwork with the Bayaka forest hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin, Morna explains how women take the initiative in regular riotous yet playful rituals to make sure that men behave. She calls this 'communism in motion' because gender egalitarianism is never a fixed or settled state but has to be constantly nurtured and established anew. Morna's feminist message is politically uncompromising. One not to be missed!

A Christmas Fairy Tale: The Shoes that Were Danced to Pieces

Speaker(s)
Description

This delightful fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm has become a RAG tradition, told every year on the last day of the autumn term, just before Christmas. It tells of twelve princesses and their periodic trips to the underworld, the narrator treating patriarchal marriage as a cruel punishment imposed on a coalition of sisters who had previously been free to dance the nights away. This magical tale introduces us to universal mythological themes which will be explored more fully in the Spring Term. Chris Knight will show how all such tales make sense in the light of the theory that human sexual morality was initially established by women.

Women, Cosmetics and the Origins of Art

Speaker(s)
Description

Camilla Power has published widely on the origins of art, bringing out the importance of gender relations. She has made a special study of the cave paintings and Venus-figurines of Upper Palaeolithic Europe, asking whether the artists were likely to have been men or women, and whether the recurrent female imagery was intended to represent matriarchal power. She will argue that one interpretive approach is to draw on evidence from the lives and ritual experiences of extant hunter-gatherers such as the Hadza of Tanzania, among whom her fieldwork was conducted.

How Language Evolved from Music.

Speaker(s)
Description

An exploration of the many connections between music and language. Jerome is a leading figure in the field of language evolution, and one of the very few to base his thinking on his experiences living with a contemporary hunter-gatherer population. Drawing on many years of fieldwork with the Bayaka/Mbendjele people of the Congo Basin, he shows how women's polyphonic singing, designed to keep dangerous predators at bay, forms one part of the explanation for human vocal skills, while another is the hunter's skill in imitating animal cries.

‘Spirits of the Rainforest. Self-Government Through Polyphonic Singing’

Speaker(s)
Description

Ingrid Lewis has spent many years with the Bayaka forest hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin. In this emotionally powerful practical workshop, she will reveal what she has learned from these people about how to manage social conflict, create harmony and ensure mental and physical well-being, all through polyphonic singing. Everyone can do this. Previous singing experience not required!

Human Evolution: Where are We Now?

Speaker(s)
Description

During the past year, there have been so many stunning new discoveries in the field of human origins that some of our most cherished and long-standing assumptions have been thrown into chaos . Chris Stringer of the Natural History Museum is the the world's foremost expert on human origins and will be bringing us up to date.

Red Ochre and the Emergence of Homo Sapiens

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Ian Watts, a founding member of the Radical Anthropology Group, recounts his experiences as an archaeologist in Africa, exploring how modern Homo sapiens evolved. Ian is the world's leading specialist in the ochre record of human evolution, and was part of a team who, while excavating Blombos Cave in 2002, discovered the world's earliest art. He is currently working intensively to sort out the sequences in Border Cave, which features a remarkably continuous stratigraphic record of human occupation spanning about 200 ka.

‘Woman's Biggest Husband is the Moon'. an Example of Women's Solidarity and Power in a Hunter-Gatherer Society.

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Jerome Lewis has many years experience in the field, working with the Mbendjele hunter-gatherers in the Congo Basin in Central Africa. In this talk, he will discuss the symbolic significance of the Moon to women in this society. A Mbendjele husband is made aware that even though he may expect attention from his wife, the Moon's monthly demands on a woman come first. Women's singing, dancing and ritual solidarity is fundamental to the unusually egalitarian dynamics of Mbendjele society.

Noam Chomsky: The Responsibility of Intellectuals 50 Years On.

Description

PLEASE NOTE VENUE: University College London, Institute for Advanced Studies, AS Forum, Ground Floor, South Wing, Gower St., WC1E 6BT. Hosted by UCL Press, this book launch will include a panel discussion with dissident intellectuals Milan Rai, Jackie Walker and Chris Knight. 'The Responsibility of Intellectuals 50 years on' is a collection of essays by Noam Chomsky, Jackie Walker, Craig Murray and other prominent writers and activists. A highlight of the book is Chomsky's irate denunciation of one of the editors, Chris Knight, whose chapter details the extent to which Chomsky's ideas about language were developed in reaction to the military priorities of MIT, the institution where he worked.

Continuity and Change Among a Community of East African Hunter-Gatherers.

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The Hadza foragers of Tanzania, one of the world’s few remaining hunting and gathering populations, are currently experiencing large scale shifts in their ecological, nutritional, and socio-political landscapes. Climate change, increased interaction with aid organizations, heightened participation in ethnotourism, and the expansion of wildlife conservation areas have led to conspicuous changes in their identity, patterns of subsistence, and degree of market integration. Despite a long standing (and ever growing) interest in conducting research among the Hadza, very few data are available on how such changes are impacting subsistence and mobility. Here, I discuss my recent trip to Tanzania where I worked with Hadza community members who acted as data collectors and research informants. We collected baseline information on ecological change, land rights, food and water insecurity, and the implications of sharing an ever-shrinking amount of land with an ever-growing number of people (both from within their community and outside). These data not only act to dispel the myth that foragers remain immune to the products and processes of modernization, but also contextualize contemporary variation in subsistence regimes and highlight the resiliency that foragers exhibit in the face of change.

Why Menstruation Matters.

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This talk examines the biological and cultural impact of menstruation in human evolution. It looks into which species menstruate and why this evolved. What effects would highly visible menstruation have on hominin social systems? Why did menstruation become a critical biological signal and how did this affect the emergence of symbolic culture? The widespread distribution of menstrual taboos and observances indicates their great antiquity in human belief systems. Can we offer any predictions about the various forms these take in different societies?

The Sleeping Beauty and Other Tales. Introducing the Science of Mythology

Description

The French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss was the first to discover that the world's magical myths and fairy tales all express the same underlying logic. Across all six continents, they are ultimately a single anonymous voice, 'One Myth Only', or so many variations on a theme. Rather as astronomers can still detect an echo of the Big Bang with which the universe began, so by listening to these myths we can detect an echo of the momentous events in which human language and culture were born. When Levi-Strauss' insights are applied to a familiar fairy story from the Brothers Grimm, the picture which emerges is breathtaking.

Existence as Resistance: An Indigenous Voice from Brazil

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What are the threats facing Amazonian indigenous rights and environmental activists under Brazil's current far-right President, Jair Bolsonaro? Brazil is home to an immense diversity of peoples and cultures, guardians of ancestral knowledge, who today wish to share some of their wisdom and visions for a better world. With the rainforest burning across much of Amazonia, and in dialogue with Extinction Rebellion activists, tonight's speaker from the Tukano Amazonian tribe will survey the current indigenous panorama in her people's struggle to build alliances that can contribute to the protection of mother nature, cultural diversity and human rights across this vast region.

Evolution, Revolution and Human Origins

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Chris Knight is best known for having developed the 'sex-strike' theory of human biological and cultural origins. Instead of attempting to explain human nature and social life piecemeal, one theory for the incest taboo, another for language, yet another for religion and so forth, Knight's approach is designed to join up the dots. Spectacularly confirmed by recent discoveries in population genetics and archaeology, this is one of the few successful attempts to put together the big picture, explaining religion, language, sexual morality and the whole range of distinctively human characteristics on the basis of one simple idea.

Contemporary Monsters in Central Australia

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Based on fieldwork with the Warlpiri people of Central Australia, I will discuss the significance to them of monsters such as kurdaitcha (humanoid killers with superhuman strength and powers) and pangkarlangu (giant hairy cannibals). I will argue that behind these supernatural monsters which haunt the Warlpiri are the realities of neo-colonial violence and the threat of extinction.

The Origins of Radical Anthropology

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Anthony Auerbach explores three aspects of the origins of radical anthropology: an intellectual lineage which reaches to the roots of anthropology as a science; a biographical arc which stretches between scholarship and political praxis; and a founding text: Chris Knight's unpublished doctoral thesis, Menstruation and the Origins of Culture: A reconsideration of Lévi-Strauss’s work on symbolism and myth (1987).

The Dragon: Making Sense of a World Wide Myth

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Description

Everyone is familiar with the mythical motif of the Dragon. In myths and fairy tales across the world, we find different versions of a snake-like, coiling creature which connects earth and sky, dwells in water, breathes fire and has a particular fondness for young maidens. In this talk, Chris will be proposing a revolutionary new way of decoding dragon myths. The dragon has nothing to do with folk memories of dinosaurs. Instead, it belongs to the sphere of human ritual, particularly initiation ritual. The dragon is a way of representing matrilineal kinship and women's solidarity through menstrual synchrony, a social force often depicted negatively under conditions of patriarchy. Some of the most persuasive evidence for this new interpretation comes from Aboriginal Australia, where stories about a Rainbow Snake are not disembodied myths but are still acted out in ritual performance.

How Anthropology Might Inspire Anti-Capitalist and Extinction Rebellion Activism

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Description

The looming threat of climate catastrophe is forcing us all to re-think everything we thought we knew. Extinction Rebellion is a movement in urgent need of a scientific language and a sacred cosmology to replace the old patriarchal religions and attitudes which have dominated our minds up to now. In Radical Anthropology, we aim to assist Extinction Rebellion in every way we can, while suggesting that rule by the moon and gender egalitarianism of the kind practiced by hunter-gatherers can powerfully inspire our vision of a future world.

From Harlem to Hanoi: Recovering Black Radical Anti-Imperialism During the Era of Global ‘68.

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This evening's lecturer will trace the Black Panther Party's organizational evolution in Oakland, California, where hundreds of young people came to political awareness and journeyed to adulthood as members. Challenging the belief that the Panthers were a projection of the leadership, Robyn Spencer draws on interviews with rank-and-file members, FBI files, and archival materials to examine the impact the organization's internal politics and external repression had on its evolution and dissolution. She shows how the Panthers' members interpreted, implemented, and influenced party ideology and programs; initiated dialogues about gender politics; highlighted ambiguities in the Panthers' armed stance; and criticized organizational priorities. Spencer also centers gender politics and the experiences of women and their contributions to the Panthers and the Black Power movement as a whole. Providing an overview of the party's organization over its sixteen-year history, tonight's speaker will show how the Black Panthers embodied Black Power through the party's international activism, interracial alliances, commitment to address state violence and desire to foster self-determination in Oakland's black communities.

Christianity in Anthropological Perspective

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Jesus of Nazareth was a revolutionary freedom fighter, leading a mass movement of Jewish resistance against the Roman occupation of his country. After the defeat of his uprising and his capture and crucifixion by the Romans, the memory of 'the Messiah' was preserved by diverse groups of followers. In one of these traditions, that of Saint Paul, the real Jesus became transformed into a sacrificial lamb. As in ancient traditions throughout the world, blessings were believed to flow from the shedding of blood. It is this mythologized 'Lamb of God' who is still revered by Christians today. In this talk, we will explore why the earliest Christian communities were organized along strictly communist lines.

Dangerous Laughter: Egalitarianism and the Batek of Peninsular Malaysia

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Description

In the Batek’s forest, laughter and mockery are often subject to taboo, and inappropriate laughter or mockery can cause storms, madness, ill-health, or even death. However, although these taboos are viewed and described with utmost seriousness, people also find great pleasure in laughing together and making jokes. In fact, this pleasure is often intensified when the laughter or joke is forbidden and risks catastrophe. This sets up a dynamic whereby it is largely up to individuals whether they choose to follow the taboos, or to ignore them and succumb to the pleasure of sharing in subversive laughter. Speaking to debates on power and ethics, this paper therefore both outlines the Batek’s laughter taboos, and asks how managing the conflicting demands of laughter shapes people’s ethical values, particularly in relation to power, authority, and egalitarianism.

Dragons in the Waters of Borneo: Power, Protection and Threat

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Beliefs about snake-like water spirits or dragons are ubiquitous in SE Asia, and Borneo is no exception. These beliefs derive from east and west, from the Chinese lung and the Indian naga, as well as from an earlier stratum of beliefs deriving from both an Austronesian and a pre-Austronesian heritage. In 2017 I began research on these beliefs in Sarawak and I will discuss some of these here. These spirits are closely associated with water and its power both to fertilize and to destroy, and this is reflected in complex beliefs around their relationship with humans.

God, Climate Change and Farmers in Rural Punjab, Pakistan

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Description

In rural Punjab, farmers conceive of their relationship to the world around them in ways that build on complex ideas about God and the supernatural that are influenced by orthodox Islam as represented in the Qur’an as well as more syncretic notions that have their origins in pre-Islamic religious practices and beliefs from the Indian Sub Continent. Here, we examine the ways that local Punjabi farmers conceptualize Nature, God and themselves. We look at the ways these conceptualisations influence their explanations for the negative effects of environmental and political change over the past two decades.

Galton, Eugenics, and the Legacy of Anglo-Saxon Nativism

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Description

Francis Galton was a key developer and promoter of eugenics in Britain, circa 1900. This included patronage of research and posts at University College. Fast-forward a century. Galton and eugenics have become deeply politicised along the fault-line of “race,” and UCL executives are asked to explain why their institution “celebrates” an individual who activity promoted schemes to harm fellow citizens and who sought to organise the state to only serve the aspirations (or fantasies) of self-selecting, middle class, nativist Anglo-Saxons. In this presentation I will raise some of the questions I’ve seen arising thus far in recent discussions about Galton and his “legacy,” including: self-interested patronage, naïve empiricism, legacy with dissociative identities, empathy-supplied apathy, defensive heritage management, and more. The aim will be a provocation into a discussion: how do we reference the past so as to better move ourselves forward as a community?

Lunarchy in the Kingdom of England

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Description

Comedy in the formal dramatic sense has its roots in popular ritual uprising — misrule, especially of a female kind. From Aristophanes to Shakespeare it shares a structure deriving from ancient mythico-ritual syntax. In this talk, Camilla Power will compare the Classical Greek comedy of the sex strike Lysistrata with the Merry Wives of Windsor, a comedy first performed at the Tudor English court on an occasion of royal ritual. Falstaff is revealed in the character of both lunar trickster and presiding native genius of the Kingdom of England.

Did Matriarchy Ever Exist?

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Description

This lecture will discuss myths of matriarchy, which are found all over the world. Is there any truth in the idea that women once exercised political power over men? Many feminists have dismissed such stories as ideological narratives invented simply to justify men's rule. These scholars argue that biology prevents women from exercising real political power, that sexism prevails everywhere and that patriarchy has always existed. There will be discussion of the ethnographic, archaeological and genetic evidence for and against these ideas.

Existence as Resistance: An Indigenous Vision from Brazil

Speaker(s)
Description

What is the indigenous situation in Brazil today? Brazil is a country with a great diversity of peoples and cultures, guardians of ancestral knowledge, who today wish to share some of their wisdom and visions of the world. In dialogue with Extinction Rebellion activists, tonight's speaker will survey the current indigenous panorama to build alliances to shift the actual dominant paradigm, and to encourage the creation of strategies that can contribute to the protection of mother nature, cultural diversity and human rights across this vast region.

The Dragon: Making Sense of a Worldwide Myth

Speaker(s)
Description

Everyone is familiar with the mythical motif of the Dragon. In myths and fairy tales across the world, we find different versions of a snake-like, coiling creature which connects earth and sky, dwells in water, breathes fire and has a particular fondness for young maidens. In this talk, Chris will be proposing a revolutionary new way of decoding dragon myths. The dragon has nothing to do with folk memories of dinosaurs. Instead, it belongs to the sphere of human ritual, particularly initiation ritual. The dragon is a way of representing matrilineal kinship and women's solidarity through menstrual synchrony, a social force often depicted negatively under conditions of patriarchy. Some of the most persuasive evidence for this new interpretation comes from Aboriginal Australia, where stories about a Rainbow Snake are not disembodied myths but are still acted out in ritual performance.

An Amazonian Myth: The Woman Who Was Torn in Two

Speaker(s)
Description

Chris Knight continues his exploration of key myths from the French anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss’ four-volume masterpiece, 'An Introduction to the Science of Mythology' (‘Mythologiques.’) Tonight's narrative, ‘The Hunter Monmaneki and his Wives’ (Tukuna tribe, Amazonia), tells of a profound shift from periodic to non-periodic marriage, resulting in contradictions for womankind which eventually tear her apart. If you want to understand the ultimate origins of patriarchal marriage and the family, come along.

A Plains Indian Myth: When Women Lost Their Power

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'The Wives of the Sun and Moon' is one of the key myths of Claude Levi-Strauss' monumental study, Mythologiques. This evening will begin with a story-telling followed by a workshop and class discussion to decode the message of the myth. Originally, according to the Arapaho Indians of North American Plains, marriage was not a fixed state but a periodic alternation between one kind of relationship and another, a once-a-month honeymoon followed each month by divorce and re-union with kin. Everything started going badly wrong when hunting and gathering gave way to gardening, the lunar calendar gave way to a seasonal/solar rhythm - and womankind became subject to wedlock as a permanent state.

Myths of the Origins of Fire

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In this talk, Camilla Power examines myths of the origin of fire from African and Australian hunter-gatherers (including Mbuti, Hadza and Yolngu). These share a logic of women's periodic withdrawal of sex and cooking fire. With control of fire goes control over meat/flesh, but this was ultimately stolen from women by men. Can interpretation of these hunter-gatherer materials help us to decode the Greek story of origins of fire (and death) stolen by Prometheus? In this mythic series, we find the same themes of control over fire, meat and access to sex. Prometheus appears in the guise of a hunter-gatherer trickster. But why does he end up chained to a rock with his liver being eaten and regenerating every day? And why does his encounter with Io, transformed into a heifer and ceaselessly pursued by a gadfly, form the main scene of 'Prometheus Bound'?

Massage and Bushman Shamanism

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Description

The Bushmen of southern Africa are widely recognised as 'shamans'. Whilst this is a valuable way of describing their cosmology and healing, the terms 'shaman' and 'shamanism' are far from precise descriptions of what Bushmen actually think and do. In this talk I wish to discuss massage practices among Bushmen to provide both a more thorough introduction to Bushmen and Bushman healing, but also to highlight the contingent ways that scholars frame and write up their fieldwork experiences and interpretations. The talk will include brief film clips of a massage performance among Bushmen.

Sorcery and Spirit Owners on the Mosquito Coast, Nicaragua

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This presentation explores the relationship between religion and economics in Miskitu-speaking villages in eastern Nicaragua. I show how, in these communities, the penetration of capitalist relations of production and exchange is resulting in greater economic inequality and growing concerns with sorcery and other forms of supernatural violence.

Against Nature? Homosexuality and Evolution

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Same-sex behaviour is often condemned on the grounds that it is "against nature". Indeed, selection favours those who leave more offspring. Nevertheless, homosexual behaviour is widespread - not only among humans, but other animals alike. Doesn't this constitute a paradox for Darwinian theory? And should we make connections between what goes on in nature and what is morally desirable? The talk will address these controversial topics.

Emerging Patriarchy in the Mythology of a Previously Egalitarian Society

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Description

Ethnographers of Congo Basin hunter-gatherers have emphasised ritual as a levelling mechanism that sustains egalitarianism by strengthening community spirit and mediating power evenly between individuals and subgroups. My talk will discuss how both mythology and ritual are involved in mutual causal interactions with other factors of social life that mark the emergence of inequality among a small community of Baka former hunter-gatherers. An emerging ideology of male predominance in mythology mirrors the same phenomenon in ritual, kinship practices and household economics. I argue that this preoccupation with patriarchal concerns in mythology is one of several strands of evidence pointing to the centrality of gender politics in the emergence of inequality among the Baka.

Gender and Ritual Power Among African Hunter-Gatherers

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Description

In this talk, Camilla Power explores the relation of sex and gender among African hunter-gatherers. Egalitarian peoples like Khoesan Bushman, Congo Forest hunters and the Hadza of Tanzania have a straightforward sexual division of labour: men hunt; women gather. But gender does not reduce to a masculine/feminine binary. Instead, evidence from Bushman rock art, story and initiation ritual reveals a fluid and mutable gender transformative through time for men and women. Central religious concepts - the Moon, the Eland, Trickster - all show this gender transformation in relation to the lunar cycle. Rather than a hierarchical opposition of masculine over feminine, gender oscillates between a 'gender of power' which fuses features of the sexes, and a 'weak' gender which disambiguates the biological sexes. Evidence from Central and East African groups is compared.

Kinship and Human Origins

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The social organization of mobile hunter-gatherers has several derived features, including low within-camp relatedness and fluid meta-groups. Although these features have been proposed to have provided the selective context for the evolution of human hyper-cooperation and cumulative culture, how such a distinctive social system may have emerged remains unclear. I present an agent-based model suggesting that, even if all individuals in a community seek to live with as many kin as possible, within-camp relatedness is reduced if men and women have equal influence in selecting camp members. This model closely approximates observed patterns of co-residence among Agta and Mbendjele BaYaka hunter-gatherers. The results suggest that pair-bonding along with increased gender egalitarianism in human evolutionary history may have had a transformative effect on human social organization.