Kinship And Human Origins

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Mark Dyble

Kinship And Human Origins

Tuesday, February 12, 2019 - 18:45

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.

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Next evening class

Alice Rudge

Dangerous Laughter: Egalitarianism And The Batek Of Peninsular Malaysia
Tuesday, May 28, 2019 - 19:00
Daryll Forde Seminar Room, Anthropology Building, 14 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW. Tube: Euston Square. map

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.