Naomi Quinn, Robert Sapolsky and Claudia Strauss: Our Discussants

For the Encultured Brain session we have three great discussants.

Naomi Quinn is Professor Emeritus in anthropology at Duke University. From her profile there, here’s a snippet of why she is such a great person to discuss our work: “Her enduring interest is in the nature of culture: its sharedness, force, enduringness, and thematicity. She is part of a current effort in cognitive anthropology to explain these and other properties of culture on the basis of schema theory and, within this framework, to relate culture to language, cognition, motivation, affect, psychodynamic processes, and individual experience, research and theory represented by a series of books, book chapters, and articles.” She is the co-editor of one of the foundational texts in psychological anthropology in the last 25 years, Cultural Models in Language and Thought. And she and Claudia Strauss co-authored A Cognitive Theory of Cultural Meaning, which brings us connectionism, schema theory, language and more to bear on the hard problem of culture and meaning.

Robert Sapolsky is a professor in biology, neurology and medicine at Stanford. He is author of the classic Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers and lots more great books besides. An expert on stress, baboons, inequality, and more, Sapolsky is one of the most integrative and popular scientists around. His most recent book is Monkeyluv: And Other Essays on Our Lives as Animals. The Publishers weekly blurb makes one blush: “There are many things one might expect to find within the covers of a collection of essays by a Stanford professor of biology and neurology: a rich understanding of the complexities of human and animal life; a sensitivity to the relationship between our biological nature and our environmental context; a humility in the face of still-to-be-understood facets of the human condition. All these are in Sapolsky’s new collection, along with something one might not expect: wry, witty prose that reads like the unexpected love child of a merger between Popular Science and GQ, written by an author who could be as much at home holding court at the local pub as he is in a university lab. ”

Claudia Strauss is professor of anthropology at Pitzer University. Strauss is co-editor of another classic in recent psychological anthropology, Human Motives and Cultural Models. Her chapter in that volume, What Makes Tony Run? Schemas as Models Reconsidered (Flickr even has the schema!), still presents a consideration of individual-cultural relations that stands as a direct challenge to neuroanthropological work today. Along with Naomi Quinn, Strauss introduced a 2006 issue of Anthropological Theory on key terms – like the imaginary (her chapter) – in psychological anthropology.

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