Explaining Culture Scientifically

Front Cover
Melissa J. Brown
University of Washington Press, 2008 - Science - 387 pages
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What exactly is culture? The authors of this volume suggest that the study of one of anthropology's central questions may be a route to developing a scientific paradigm for the field. The contributors - prominent scholars in anthropology, biology, and economics - approach culture from very different theoretical and methodological perspectives, through studies grounded in fieldwork, surveys, demography, and other empirical data. From humans to chimpanzees, from Taiwan to New Guinea, from cannibalism to marriage patterns, this volume directly addresses the challenges of explaining culture scientifically. The evolutionary paradigm lends itself particularly well to the question of culture; in these essays, different modes of inheritance - genetic, cultural, ecological, and structural - illustrate evolutionary patterns in a variety of settings.

Explaining Culture Scientifically is divided into parts that address how to think about culture, modeling approaches to cultural influences on behavior, ethnographic case studies addressing the question of culture's influence on behavior, and challenges to the possibility of a scientific approach to culture. It is necessary reading for scholars and students in anthropology and related disciplines.

 

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Contents

WHAT IS CULTURE? I
17
Toward an Integration of Chimpanzee
37
Cultural Evolution and Social Niche
55
MODELINGBASED CASE STUDIES I
73
Conditions for the Spread of Culturally Transmitted Costly
100
Sexually Transmitted Infections as Biomarkers of Cultural
117
ETHNOGRAPHIC CASE STUDIES I
137
The Structural Basis
162
A Cultural Species I
184
Inferences from Comparative Behavioral Experiments
211
CHALLENGES TO A SCIENCE OF CULTURE I
229
Coming to Terms with Culture
253
The Interesting
275
Future Considerations I
297
Contributors I
359
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About the author (2008)

Melissa J. Brown is assistant professor of anthropology at Stanford University. The other contributors are Kenichi Aoki, Christophe Boesch, Robert Borofsky, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd, Roy D'Andrade, William H. Durham, Marcus W. Feldman, Herbert Gintis, Joseph Henrich, Yasuo Ihara, James Holland Jones, Peter J. Richerson, Gregory Starrett, and Arthur P. Wolf.

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