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CENTRAL AFRICAN HUNTER-GATHERER RESEARCH TRADITIONS - page 15 / 43

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Over 15 researchers were associated with The Harvard Ituri Project (Bailey and DeVore 1989) and as director Bailey trained and influenced several researchers including Aunger’s (1992) research on Mbuti and Efe food taboos and Jenike’s (1985) research on Ituri subsistence seasonality. My students have focused on the lives of Congo Basin children and include Fouts’ work on Bofi forager weaning (Fouts et al. 2001) and parent-offspring conflict (Fouts et al. 2005) and Meehan’s work on Aka allomaternal care (2005).   

These brief biosketches provide insights into our publications and the U.S. research tradition with Congo Basin foragers. I am a cultural anthropologist interested in children and social learning, while Bailey is a biological anthropologist interested in subsistence patterns and social relationships, as well as growth and nutrition. Famous evolutionary theorists influenced both of us, so the theories and methods that guided our research were similar. Evolutionary and child development research projects were problem-oriented and tested specific hypotheses. Research methods were systematic and quantitative; both of us utilized focal follow observations (Extended observations of “focal” individuals; Bailey followed men, I followed babies), the type of observations Ichikawa felt were inappropriate for humans.  But Bailey and I also had pronounced differences. I viewed culture, or socially transmitted information, as having its own properties and an important force influencing human behaviour, whereas Bailey felt culture did not have any special properties. My background and training emphasized the importance of forager cultural models or ideas about research topics (e.g., their criteria of a good father) whereas Bailey’s training in primatology and human biology led him to focus on what people did rather than what they said. In contrast to the other traditions, American studies frequently involve narrowly-focused research questions and, in many cases, are explicitly guided by evolutionary theories such as behavioural ecology.

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