Neuroanthropology. Sometimes it’s straight-up neuroscience, sometimes it’s all anthropology, most of the time it’s somewhere in the middle.
We’re about intersections and convergences, about meshing the insights of neuroscience and anthropology into a more cohesive whole. Often with some psychology, philosophy, evolution and human biology thrown into the mix.
Greg is the cultural guy, now interested in bio stuff. Daniel is the bio guy, now interested in cultural stuff. Or, to say it differently, Greg does capoiera, mixed martial arts, other sports, and sensory stuff. Daniel does alcohol and drugs. Two very different styles of recreation.
We also have other bloggers contributing from time to time, from our undergrad students to neuroanthropologists in training. They’ve covered post-traumatic stress disorder, peeked into the Sundanese drummer Oseng’s brain, covered humor and breast cancer, and blogged instead of doing a final essay.
On site we’ve been known to take down memes and sample the flavors of the cultural brain. Sometimes we want to make biology and culture get along, other times we just want a super organismic body. We also cover places where you can study neuroanthropology and some considerations about going about those studies.
We provide weekly round ups, cover online resources, and have been known to throw some humor in from time to time. We have also hosted the anthropology carnival Four Stone Hearth and the mind and brain carnival Encephalon.
This blog is both public and scholarly, funny and profound. One challenge is to convey the breadth and depth of this site. So here is what we’ve done. If you just want the popular stuff, go to the page highlighting our popular posts. If you want to have fun surveying what we’ve done, check out our very own 2008 prizes, going from best one night stand to best hangover.
If you’re looking for more substantive material, head to our Examples and Theory page, where we round up our best work in specific areas and give the links to our statement pieces on neuroanthropology. Finally, if you want to explore everything we’ve done, you can check out our month-by-month recounting of the blog during 2008.
As a collaborative blog, we are headquartered in the departments of Anthropology at Macquarie University (Sydney, Australia) and the University of South Florida (Tampa, USA). We hope to bring together scholars from around the world interested in the implications of new findings in the brain sciences for social, cultural, and psychological theory in anthropology. Please join in!
In general, cultural anthropology has not kept abreast of new research in the neurosciences so that our theories of culture do not sufficiently take into account what we now know about the brain. A more open exchange is likely to produce a cultural anthropology that is not only more scientifically plausible, but also much more scientifically engaged with those interested in cultural variation (although they might not call it that) in a host of fields. We may find new evidence to work with on cultural theory, but we may also find new collaborators and new audiences, as long as we learn to speak their languages.
We also believe that neuroanthropology will help shape biological anthropology, where scholars have become increasingly interested in biocultural and integrative approaches. A firm grounding in neuroscience aids in the examination of behavior; in understanding how the environment, including culture, impacts people; and in developing novel approaches to human evolution. With links to social, cultural, and psychological anthropology, neuroanthropology also brings a critical perspective on how biological ideas are often used to essentialize and naturalize what are largely sociocultural processes.
‘Neuroanthropology’ is a broad term, intended to embrace all dimensions of human neural activity, including emotion, perception, cognitive, motor control, skill acquisition, and a range of other issues. Unlike previous ways of doing psychological or cognitive anthropology, it remains open and heterogeneous, recognizing that not all brain systems function in the same way, so culture will not take hold of them in identical fashion. Although we believe that human neural structure is biological and the product of evolution, we also recognize that the development processes shaping each individual include a host of other forces as well, so that we cannot privilege any single cause over all others.
So if you’re interested in what your brain looks like on culture, we welcome you to browse, sample, loiter, or otherwise check out what we’re doing at Neuroanthropology.