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Why Menstruation Matters
Tuesday, October 16, 2018 - 18:45
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?
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Evening talk information
Our evening talks include discussion, are free and open to all.
Next evening class
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.