No single culture’s view of the world sums up the nature of reality — including our own.
This central teaching of anthropology is a hard pill for some to swallow. And yet the diversity of human perspectives is real. Effectively confronting the challenges that humanity faces in the 21st century —
- climate change
- population growth
- conflict over resources
— requires us to acknowledge and work with culture rather than against it.
The reason is that these aren’t engineering problems; there are no imminent technological fixes that don’t depend for their success on diverse human groups getting on board and cooperating.
This blog is intended as a space for meditating on and discussing these issues from a perspective that acknowledges the power of culture.
Some of the writings that have influenced the views taken in this blog are:
Jared Diamond. (1998). Guns, germs, and steel: A short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years. London: Vintage.
[a classic account of medium-term human history that explains the critical importance of animal and plant domestication]
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. (2009). Mothers and others: The evolutionary origins of mutual understanding. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
[how our evolutionary heritage affects our propensity to bond, communicate, and cooperate]
Tim Flannery. (2005.) The weather makers: How man is changing the climate, and what it means for life on earth. New York: Grove Press.
[primer on the causes and effects of climate change]
Richard A. Shweder. (2003). Why do men barbecue? Recipes for cultural psychology. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
[essays on the cultural shaping of morality, emotion, and development]
A Human View is curated by Jed Stevenson, an assistant professor at Durham University.
Jed has conducted anthropological fieldwork in Ethiopia and the Republic of Congo.
He also blogs about his family here.