September 2016 events in the excd.lab

1. We welcomed Dr Alice Mitchell and Dr Catherine Sheard to the VariKin project. Alice will be working on VariKin-Development, studying children’s understanding of kinship relations in Bristol and Tanzania, and Catherine will be working on Varikin-Evolution and providing admin support.

2. Fiona, Alice, and Peter are at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology this week for the Kinship Cognition and Practiceconference.

3. Fiona will also be speaking at the Cultural Evolution Workshop at the MPI for the Science of Human History on September 26, talking about the value of kinship to the field of cultural evolution.

February 2016 events in the excd.lab

1. In February we welcomed Dr Péter Rácz to Bristol and he’s started work on the VariKin-Usage corpus linguistics project.

2. In January Alarna and Fiona were working with Jamie Tehrani from Durham on a fairytales project.

3. The D-PLACE database is very near to release. In April, Fiona will be talking about D-PLACE at the European Human Behaviour and Evolution Association meeting in London.

4. Two further VariKin positions have been advertised: a PhD in Cultural Phylogenetics and a Postdoc in Kinship Concept Acquisition. See the People page for details.

5. Applications for the Quantitative Methods Spring School at Jena were launched.

6. We welcomed Evi Argyriou as a project assistant – she is collecting kinship term data from Dravidian and Athapaskan languages.

7. Fiona was in New Zealand in March, experiencing new kinship ties at a family wedding!

A second-hand treasure

Finding classic ethnography in second-hand bookstores or charity shops is one of my great pleasures. This weekend I rumbled a copy of Te Rangi Hiroa Sir Peter Buck’s “The Coming of the Maori” for the bargain sum of £2.50.

CotM-Buck
It’s a bit mildew-spotted on the outside but in great condition inside.

 

 

dedication
I wonder who Barbara was to get such a scholarly and interesting present from her Dad in 1958? (That’s my bookstamp there, yes, isn’t it great? I like ferns. A gift from my ever-thoughtful sweetheart.)

 

 

kete
One of the plates at that back: a collection of woven flax kits (kete). I remember trying to do even the most basic weaving as a kid and being astonished at the fine detail that skilled weavers can produce. The middle-left is particularly lovely.

Te Rangi Hiroa was an amazing man – an anthropologist, politician, doctor, health campaigner, and served in the armed forces – and all this at a time when discrimination against Māori people in public life was routine in New Zealand. The article linked here mentions the epilogue from “Vikings of the Sunrise” where Te Rangi Hiroa considers the passing of a traditional Polynesian way of life:

“The old net is full of holes, its meshes have rotted, and it has been laid aside.

What new net goes afishing?”

I had not realised before that this was where Witi Ihimaera took the title of his book of short stories “The New Net Goes Fishing”. Those stories were classic high-school reading when I was growing up, and I can see how the stories resonated with Te Rangi Hiroa’s theme.

D-PLACE crew in Fort Collins

I’m at the winter meeting of the D-PLACE team this week! We’re in Fort Collins, Colorado, being hosted by Mike Gavin, one of the PIs on the database project. D-PLACE is the Database of Places, Language, Culture, and Ecology. It brings together cultural data with linguistic phylogenies and environmental data so that scholars interested in explaining human cultural diversity can take the field forward. We’re hoping the database will be released in the next couple of months. About half the team is here, along with the two PhD students in the Transmission project.

D-PLACE + Transmission in Fort Collins. L-R: Ricky Berl, Hans-Jörg Bibiko, Kate Kirby, Damian Blasi, Stephanie Gomez-Ng, Fiona Jordan, Carol Ember, Russell Gray, Alarna Samarasinghe, Mike Gavin.

Funding opportunities to work in excd.lab

There are two upcoming calls for funding schemes that would allow postdoctoral researchers to come work with us at Bristol.

The first is the British Academy’s International Partnership and Mobility Scheme. These three-year and one-year awards are for research partnerships between scholars in the UK and scholars in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, the Middle East, Eurasia, South Asia, East and South-East Asia. The awards will allow for a number of different activities (see the link above) although you must be based at your present employing institution for the duration of the award. So – travel, training, workshops, collaboration. I’d be very keen on hearing from applicants who could add capability to the VariKin project.

The second is the Leverhulme Trust’s Early Career Fellowships. We have an internal selection process at Bristol that needs a draft application by early December, so please contact me now if you are interested. These Fellowships are for three years. I would be happy to host researchers interested in any aspect of cultural evolution, linguistic anthropology, or kinship. More broadly the Department has strengths in evolutionary anthropology and scientific archaeology.

 

 

 

the old and the new

Near Buxton, Peak District.

Posts earlier than this one are from my old “Culture Evolves!” blog (evolutionaryanthropology.wordpress.com). I’ve ported them here for longevity and archiving as they contain nine years worth of blogging activity, give or take the last three years of dormancy! At the very least they will give new members of my research group something to giggle over from the early days of science blogging.

[scrapbook] Tinbergen on differences and similarities

Oooh, aren't those colours nice. Feel free to steal this. There's no need for us all to make this slide over and over again.
Oooh, aren’t those colours nice. Feel free to steal this. There’s no need for us all to make this slide over and over again.

The amount of times I have read this paper … I should be able to quote it chapter and verse by now.

“The naturalist who studies animals in their natural surroundings must resort to other methods. His main source of inspiration is comparison. Through comparison he notices both similarities between species and differences between them. Either of these can be due to one of two sources. Similarity can be due to affinity, to common descent; or it can be due to convergent evolution. It is the convergences which call his attention to functional problems. “

Tinbergen, N. (1963). On aims and methods of ethology. Zeitschrift für Tierpsychologie, 20(4), 410–433.

Phyloseminar: Testing hypotheses about cultural evolution

I’m giving a Phyloseminar next Tuesday at 17:00 GMT.

“Testing hypotheses about cultural evolution”

Anthropologists had a name for the non-independence-of-species-problem way back in the 1880s. Solving “Galton’s Problem”, and the promise of comparative methods for testing hypotheses about cultural adaptation and correlated evolution was a major catalyst for the field of cultural phylogenetics. In this talk I will show how linguistic, cultural, and archaeological data is used in comparative phylogenetic analyses. The “treasure trove of anthropology” – our vast ethnographic record of cultures – is now being put to good use answering questions about cross-cultural similarities and differences in human social and cultural norms in a rigorous evolutionary framework.

Phyloseminar is an online videoconferenced series of seminar talks on (you guessed it) phylogenetic subjects. Details about how connect up to join in the live broadcast and ask questions are here. Alternatively, the seminars are recorded so that, no matter your time zone, you can watch them afterwards.

My talk is the second in a mini-series of seminars on Phylogenetics and Language. The first was by Simon Greenhill, previously interviewed on my blog here. You can watch his seminar here (and please do, as I will be building on some of what Simon said). Tom Currie will be giving the final seminar. Many thanks to Erick Matsen for the invitation.

New academic year, new job

This week I started my new position as a Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Bristol. I’m in the Department of Archaeology & Anthropology (which is quite a mouthful when you’re introducing yourself!). Very happy to be here, “here” being the UK, Bristol, and in a department not too dissimilar to the one where I was an undergraduate (at the University of Auckland), doing the closest to four-field anthropology that the UK currently has. Head of Subject Alex Bentley has dubbed this “Big-A Anthropology”.

This year I’ll be teaching Intro to Social Anthropology, and a third-year survey course in Advanced Issues in Arch & Anth. In the years to come I’ll be adding courses on kinship, linguistic anthropology, and interdisciplinary perspectives on the Pacific.