One of Enoch Powell’s most famous quips was prompted by an encounter with the resident House of Commons barber: a notoriously chatty character, who enjoyed treating captive clients to his views on politics and the state of the world. When Powell went in for a trim, the barber asked the standard question: “How should I cut your hair, Sir?” “In silence,” was Powell’s instant riposte.
Even Powell’s political enemies have usually admitted, a bit grudgingly, that this was a rather good joke. But what they haven’t realised is that it has a history going back more than 2,000 years. Almost exactly the same gag features in a surviving Roman joke book: the Philogelos (or Laughter Lover), a collection of wisecracks probably compiled in the fourth or fifth century AD. As with most such collections, some of the jokes included were already decidedly old by the time they were anthologised. In fact, we can trace the “chatty barber” gag back to Archelaus, a fifth-century BC king of Macedon. The “how should I cut your hair?” question was standard even then. And Archelaus is supposed to have replied to his own garrulous barber, “In silence.”
Presumably part of the fun for Powell (who was a better classicist than politician) was that he knew exactly how ancient the joke was. Whereas others admired what they believed to be his spontaneous quip, he must have been taking pleasure in the secret knowledge that he was merely repeating the age-old gag of an ancient Macedonian king, and one that may already have been prompting more groans than giggles when it was featured in the Roman Philogelos.
Read full article at The Guardian
Titled Archaeology, Anthropology and Interstellar Communication and edited by SETI Director of Interstellar Message Composition Douglas Vakoch, the document draws on “issues at the core of contemporary archaeology and anthropology” to prepare us “for contact with an extraterrestrial civilization, should that day ever come.”
“Addressing a field that has been dominated by astronomers, physicists, engineers, and computer scientists, the contributors to this collection raise questions that may have been overlooked by physical scientists about the ease of establishing meaningful communication with an extraterrestrial intelligence. These scholars are grappling with some of the enormous challenges that will face humanity if an information-rich signal emanating from another world is detected.”
The fundamental structure of human populations has changed exactly twice in evolutionary history. The second time was in the past 150 years, when the average lifespan doubled in most parts of the world. The first time was in the Paleolithic, probably around 30,000 years ago. That’s when old people were basically invented.
Throughout hominid history, it was exceedingly rare for individuals to live more than 30 years. Paleoanthropologists can examine teeth to estimate how old a hominid was when it died, based on which teeth are erupted, how worn down they are, and the amount of a tissue called dentin. Anthropologist Rachel Caspari of Central Michigan University used teeth to identify the ratio of old to young people in Australopithecenes from 3 million to 1.5 million years ago, early Homo species from 2 million to 500,000 years ago, and Neanderthals from 130,000 years ago. Old people—old here means older than 30 (sorry)—were a vanishingly small part of the population. When she looked at modern humans from the Upper Paleolithic, about 30,000 years ago, though, she found the ratio reversed—there were twice as many adults who died after age 30 as those who died young.
Excerpt from an article written by Laura Helmuth at Slate. Continue THERE
Throughout its 5000 year history, debt has always involved institutions – whether Mesopotamian sacred kingship, Mosaic jubilees, Sharia or Canon Law – that place controls on debt’s potentially catastrophic social consequences. It is only in the current era, writes anthropologist David Graeber, that we have begun to see the creation of the first effective planetary administrative system largely in order to protect the interests of creditors.
What follows is a fragment of a much larger project of research on debt and debt money in human history. The first and overwhelming conclusion of this project is that in studying economic history, we tend to systematically ignore the role of violence, the absolutely central role of war and slavery in creating and shaping the basic institutions of what we now call “the economy”. What’s more, origins matter. The violence may be invisible, but it remains inscribed in the very logic of our economic common sense, in the apparently self-evident nature of institutions that simply would never and could never exist outside of the monopoly of violence – but also, the systematic threat of violence – maintained by the contemporary state.
Excerpt from an article written by David Graeber at EuroZine. Continue HERE
Using genetic analyses, scientists have discovered that Northern European populations—including British, Scandinavians, French, and some Eastern Europeans—descend from a mixture of two very different ancestral populations, and one of these populations is related to Native Americans. This discovery helps fill gaps in scientific understanding of both Native American and Northern European ancestry, while providing an explanation for some genetic similarities among what would otherwise seem to be very divergent groups. This research was published in the November 2012 issue of the Genetics Society of America’s journal Genetics.
Text and Image via Archaeology News Network. Continue HERE
The Baining—one of the indigenous cultural groups of Papua New Guinea—have the reputation, at least among some researchers, of being the dullest culture on earth. Early in his career, in the 1920s, the famous British anthropologist Gregory Bateson spent 14 months among them, until he finally left in frustration. He called them “unstudiable,” because of their reluctance to say anything interesting about their lives and their failure to exhibit much activity beyond the mundane routines of daily work, and he later wrote that they lived “a drab and colorless existence.” Forty years later, Jeremy Pool, a graduate student in anthropology, spent more than a year living among them in the attempt to develop a doctoral dissertation. He too found almost nothing interesting to say about the Baining, and the experience caused him to leave anthropology and go into computer science. Finally, however, anthropologist Jane Fajans, now at Cornell University, figured out a way to study them.
Excerpt from a text written by Peter Gray, Psychology Today. Continue HERE
What, if any, evolutionary advantage does intelligence give us?
Actually, less intelligent people are better at doing most things. In the ancestral environment general intelligence was helpful only for solving a handful of evolutionarily novel problems.
Suggested reading: “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” by Herrnstein, Richard J. and Charles Murray (1994)
You mean our ancestors did not really have to reason?
Evolution equipped humans with solutions for a whole range of problems of survival and reproduction. All they had to do was to behave in the ways in which evolution had designed them to behave—eat food that tastes good, have sex with the most attractive mates. However, for a few evolutionarily novel problems, evolution equipped us with general intelligence so that our ancestors could reason in order to solve them. These evolutionarily novel problems were few and far between. Basically, dealing with any type of major natural disaster that is very infrequent in occurrence would require general intelligence.
Suggested reading: “Evolutionary Psychology and Intelligence Research” by Satoshi Kanazawa, in American Psychologist; 65: 279-289 (2010)
Excerpt of an interview with Satoshi Kanazawa on intelligence. Continue HERE
SATOSHI KANAZAWA is Reader in Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written over 80 articles across the fields of psychology, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology and biology. One such was his widely reported article “Why Liberals and Atheists Are More Intelligent” (2010). His latest book is called “The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One” (2012).
Arguing that an anthropology that confronts the politics of academic knowledge can transcend its colonial origins to challenge enthnocentrism, Power and Its Disguises explores both the complexities of local situations and the power relations that shape the global order. The book begins by analyzing the politics of societies without indigenous states and non-Western agrarian civilizations in order to confront the politics of domination and resistance within the colonial contexts that gave birth to the discipline.The author then examines the contemporary politics of Africa, Asia and Latin America, showing that historically informed anthropological perspectives can contribute to debates about democratization by incorporating a ‘view from below’ and revealing forces that shape power relations behind the formal facade of state institutions. Examples are drawn from Brazil, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Indonesia, India, Mexico, Peru, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Sri Lanka, amongst others.Emphasizing the need to avoid both romanticism and blanket pessimism, the book shows how the study of micro-dynamics of power in everyday life coupled with sensitivity to the interactions between the local and global offers critical insights into such issues as state terror and ethnic violence, the emancipatory potential of social movements and the politics of rights, gender and culture. The book ends with discussion of the politics of academic research and academics’ efforts to play a critical role.
Text by the publisher, Powell Books.
Power and Its Disguises: Anthropological Perspectives on Politics (Anthropology, Culture and Society) by John Gledhill
Bruno Latour gives a lecture titled ‘Reenacting Science’ at Science Gallery, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland
Prof Bruno Latour visited Dublin City University on Friday, February 17th for a special seminar on interdisciplinarity, the arts and the sciences, entitled ‘From Critique to Composition’. Prof Latour is a leading figure in contemporary anthropology and science studies, but the reach of his influence is truly interdisciplinary.
Talk by Prof. Bruno Latour
Azim Premji University Public Lecture Series
March 23, 2012
About the Talk
Ecological crises in contemporary times have created problems for political representation. Existing political assemblies cannot handle these crises due to their scale, the esoteric character of the scientific knowledge necessary to apprehend them, and the intensity of conflicts of values that they generate. Digital resources suggest new possibilities for mapping the heterogeneous networks which link scientists, decision makers, media, citizens and other participants in public debates over ecological issues. They can create political assemblies where contending world views and modes of reasoning engage each other.
Total Landscape, Theme Parks, Public Space employs the theme park in identifying, dissecting and describing the properties of PROPASt – privately-owned publicly accessible space in a themed mode – a hybrid form of public space emerging in urban environments worldwide Mitrasinovic does not propose that theme parks and PROPASt are, or will ever become, desirable substitutes for democratic public space, but deliberately cuts across the theme park model in order to understand the principle of systematic totality employed when such a model is used to revitalize urban public space in the United States, Asia and Europe. In doing so, Mitrasinovic has created compelling and multifaceted inferences out of a plethora of minute details on the design and production of theme parks across continents. Mitrasinovic s central argument is that the process of systematic totalization that brings theme parks and PROPASt into the same conceptual framework is not only obvious through formal similarities, but also through systemic and symbolic analogies: through values, conditions and techniques that have been extended upon the entire social realm. By illuminating the relationship between theme parks and public space, this book offers critical insights into the ethos of total landscape, a condition that emerges from overpowering convergences of the following three domains: a/ a globally emerging socio-economic system organized upon the idea of systematic totality; b/ a material apparatus that establishes its dominance on the ground; and c/ a system of totalizing narratives -designed and operated by the media and entertainment industry- that establish its dominance in cultural imaginations across national boundaries. One of the central premises of this book is that theme parks and PROPASt are complex artifacts designed to materialize such convergences and to spatialize corresponding social and environmental relationships. Mitrasinovic builds his compelling narrative by simultaneously studying phenomena, processes, practices, and forms interwoven in the types of spatial production characteristic of the total landscape. In parallel, Mitrasinovic systematically builds the argument for the necessity of a meta-disciplinary conception of the artificial by juxtaposing and integrating a great variety of insights from both emerging and established fields. In that respect, this book is an essential guide to those interested in cities and urban futures, particularly to scholars and students of urbanism, architecture, design studies, cultural studies, media studies, geography, anthropology, sociology, economy, and marketing.
Download PDF HERE
Text via Amazon
Jan Sapp: Few concepts are as emotionally charged as that of race. The word conjures up a mixture of associations—culture, ethnicity, genetics, subjugation, exclusion and persecution. But is the tragic history of efforts to define groups of people by race really a matter of the misuse of science, the abuse of a valid biological concept? Is race nevertheless a fundamental reality of human nature? Or is the notion of human “races” in fact a folkloric myth? Although biologists and cultural anthropologists long supposed that human races—genetically distinct populations within the same species—have a true existence in nature, many social scientists and geneticists maintain today that there simply is no valid biological basis for the concept.
The consensus among Western researchers today is that human races are sociocultural constructs. Still, the concept of human race as an objective biological reality persists in science and in society. It is high time that policy makers, educators and those in the medical-industrial complex rid themselves of the misconception of race as type or as genetic population. This is the message of two recent books: Race?: Debunking a Scientific Myth, by Ian Tattersall and Rob DeSalle, and Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth, and Culture, edited by Sheldon Krimsky and Kathleen Sloan. Both volumes are important and timely. Both put race in the context of the history of science and society, relating how the ill-defined word has been given different meanings by different people to refer to groups they deem to be inferior or superior in some way.
Continue Jan Sapp’s article on American Scientist HERE
Continuing from the Dawn of Social Networks: Ancestors May Have Formed Ties With Both Kin and Non-Kin Based On Shared Attributes. HERE
If you ever sit back and wonder what it might have been like to live in the late Pleistocene, you’re not alone. That’s right about when humans emerged from a severe population bottleneck and began to expand globally. But, apparently, life back then might not have been too different than how we live today (that is, without the cars, the written language, and of course, the smartphone). In this week’s Nature, a group of researchers suggest that we share many social characteristics with humans that lived in the late Pleistocene, and that these ancient humans may have paved the way for us to cooperate with each other.
Modern human social networks share several features, whether they operate within a group of schoolchildren in San Francisco or a community of millworkers in Bulgaria. The number of social ties a person has, the probability that two of a person’s friends are also friends, and the inclination for similar people to be connected are all very regular across groups of people living very different lives in far-flung places.
So, the researchers asked, are these traits universal to all groups of humans, or are they merely byproducts of our modern world? They also wanted to understand the social network traits that allowed cooperation to develop in ancient communities.
Written by By Kate Shaw, Ars Technica. Continue on Wired HERE
Ancient humans may not have had the luxury of updating their Facebook status, but social networks were nevertheless an essential component of their lives, a new study suggests.
The study’s findings describe elements of social network structures that may have been present early in human history, suggesting how our ancestors may have formed ties with both kin and non-kin based on shared attributes, including the tendency to cooperate. According to the paper, social networks likely contributed to the evolution of cooperation.
“The astonishing thing is that ancient human social networks so very much resemble what we see today,” said Nicholas Christakis, professor of medical sociology and medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and senior author on the study. “From the time we were around campfires and had words floating through the air, to today when we have digital packets floating through the ether, we’ve made networks of basically the same kind.”
“We found that what modern people are doing with online social networks is what we’ve always done — not just before Facebook, but before agriculture,” said study co-author James Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, who, with Christakis, has authored a number of seminal studies of human social networks.
Via Science Daily. Continue HERE
Image above: The Hadza of Tanzania live as hunter-gatherers. (Credit: Courtesy of Coren Apicella/Harvard Medical School)