San Diego City College Student Journal of Anthropology
Edited by Kelsey Trevino
Published by Arnie Schoenberg
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
The Unstoppable Killer: Malaria
By Dmitry Losevskiy
Evolution: Genetic Drift and Natural Selection
By Kelsey M. Trevino and Matthew Bradshaw
Racial Constructions in the United States: Beyond White and Black
By Carrigan Davis
Women in Science in the United States and Japan
By Susan Chan
Informal Economies: the Roma and Annawadi
By Abigail Santana
By Lukas Mueller and Jesus Leon
Human Brain Evolution and Artistic Creativity
By Joey Wozniak
Gender and Sexuality in the Museum
By Ailyn Leon and Jessica Wade
Early Human Linguistic Development
By Gabriel Sevilla and Ricardo Sanchez
The Unstoppable Killer: Malaria
By Dmitry Losevskiy
Malaria is the deadliest disease in the human history. Fossil evidence suggests that the disease has been carried by mosquitoes for more than twenty million years, which means it is been following us throughout our evolution and it has killed a lot of us along the way (Al-Hamidhi). Some researchers have suggested that half of all humans who ever lived died from malaria. It killed one hundred million people between 1900-1950, despite efforts to contain it (Recht).
Over the coming decades it was eradicated from much of the world. In 1946, the CDC was founded to combat malaria in the US (Lim). New initiatives which started in the late 90s have helped to slow the transmission of malaria significantly. From their research, it has been established that, in the last fifteen years, malaria has been declining. That positive outcome was achieved through different techniques and methods such as mosquito nets, rapid diagnostic testing, and treatment. The numbers are impressive of that outcome: more than thirty-five percent drop in new malaria cases; over sixty percent drop in mortality caused by malaria, including sixty-five percent drop in death among children (under age of five). Since the CDC started, fifty-four years later, ten countries are malaria-free (Lim). Despite these huge improvements in the battle with malaria, it continues be a killer. This is occurring because parasites are becoming drug resistant. But, it does not stop scientists to keep searching and developing a new drug against the killer.
One way progress in the reduction of malaria is achieved is through a massive scale-up of the mosquito nets that are an effective malaria control. Mosquito nets have protected millions from infection, illness, and death. Nets make a physical barrier from malaria-carrying mosquitoes, and the pesticide intertwined into the nets kills the mosquitoes before they can transmit the disease from one person to the next (Lim). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one of the major vector control tools to reduce malaria transmission is the large-scale use of insecticide-treated bed nets.
Multiple studies were conducted by US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found that insecticide treated nets (ITNs) significantly reduced the incidence of malaria infection in children in an area with moderate levels of parathyroid resistance and considerable malaria transmission (Lim).
According to Graves PM, Brabin BJ, Charlwood JD, Burkot TR, Cattani JA, Ginny M, study found there were one thousand-nine-hundred and nine infections with Plasmodium falciparum over nine hundred and five person-years at risk (PYAR), resulting in an observed incidence of two point one infections per person-year (iPPY). ITNs were used during ninety-seven percent of the PYAR. The main vector was Anopheles funestus: mortality in WHO tube assays after exposure to 0.05% deltamethrin was 38% (95% confidence interval (CI) 29–47), and resistance was due to elevated oxidase enzymes. After adjusting for potential confounders, the incidence of malaria infection among ITN users was 1.7 iPPY (95% CI 1.5-2.1) and among non-bed net users was 2.6 iPPY (95% CI 2.0-3.3). Use of ITNs reduced the incidence of malaria infection by 30% (rate ratio 0.7; 95% CI, 0.5-0.8) compared to no bed nets. Analysis found that of one deltamethrin ITN, which was distributed in the study area for every two individuals in each household plus one extra ITN for households with an odd number of residents. A fixed cohort of 1,199 children aged six to 59 months was seen monthly for one year and at sick visits to measure malaria infection and use of ITNs. Insecticide resistance among malaria vectors was measured. The effect of ITN use on malaria incidence was assessed, adjusting for potential confounders using generalized estimating equations accounting for repeated measures (Graves).
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, funding for nets slowly improved from 2004 when five point six million nets were delivered, to 2010, when one hundred and forty-five million nets were distributed in sub-Saharan Africa. (www.cdc.gov).
Another way how the progress in the reduction of malaria was achieved is through a massive scale-up of rapid diagnostic testing (RDT) to have an effective malaria control. An implementation of such a technology allowed doctors to test a diseased person or the one with symptoms to be tested in time, and to find for them an appropriate treatment (Recht). In Latin America, the diagnosis by microscopy analysis of thick and thin blood smears remains the standard method, which requires qualified scientists to use microscopes and being able to identify different stages of parasite morphology and distinguish between P. falciparum and P. vivax infections (Recht). This technology allowed easier access to rural and remote areas, where usage of microscope analysis is lacking. With RDTs, malaria can be found simply by taking finger prick blood sample. Moreover, according to Recht, an availability of these tests allows correct diagnosis of mixed infections at once. For an example, in four years, the supply of RDTs has enlarged ten times, from fourteen hundred tests in 2011 to fourteen thousand tests in 2015 (Recht).
Another way how the progress of reduction in malaria was achieved is through a massive scale-up of the treatment to have an effective malaria control. According to Janet Hemingway, “there are four new medicines that have reached clinical Phase II, where they have been shown to be active in curing malaria: OZ439, a third-generation endoperoxide; KAE609, an inhibitor of the parasite sodium channel PfATP4; KAF156, whose mechanism of resistance includes the previously unannotated cyclic amine resistance locus; and DSM265, an inhibitor of the parasite dihydroxyorotate dehydrogenase (DHODH)”. She is stating that all four products are fully active against primary clinical isolates. There are other drugs against malaria such as artemisinin, but the newly discovered medicines have long half-lives.
Despite all of those methods to fight malaria, it continued to kill people every year in many countries and remains to be a significant cause of mortality. The World Health Organization estimates that half of the world’s population is at risk of malaria, with most deaths happening in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Carter, despite that malaria is widespread in Zambia and other countries, in the countries of Europe all malaria is imported and less frequently seen by health professionals. According to Recht, malaria is an important public health concern. He stated that, in Latin American tropical and sub-tropical areas there are still several malaria prevalent areas that cause a substantial problem to local populations. In his study, Recht found that the majority of malaria cases in South America occur in the Amazon region. For example, in 2015, the four countries reviewed here accounted for eighty-three percent of malaria cases in the Americas: Brazil (24%), Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (30%), Colombia (10%), and Peru (19%). In 2015, more than four hundred thousand people died of malaria and there were two hundred fourteen million new cases (Recht).
Malaria became unstoppable because occurring parasites become drug resistant, and many scientists dedicate their study to drug resistance. Anti-malarial drugs, especially when given as monotherapy in the past for a period of time, have resulted in drug resistance (Recht).
The study established that the drug resistance is due to mutations arising in target parasites such as P. falciparum or P. vivax (Recht). Resistance to artemisinin in P. falciparum has arisen in Southeast Asia with subsequent identification of a molecular marker in the propeller domain of the kelch13 (k13) gene, however ACT has been effective so far elsewhere including in the South American countries reviewed here, although surveillance for resistance markers is recommended in neighboring regions such as Guyana and in mining areas in the region where artemisinin is available for sale and self-treatment is common (Recht). A retrospective survey using medical records from 1992 to 2008 in Manaus, Brazil, showed that parasite clearance detected by microscopy in patients with P.falciparum infection treated with ACT (N = 1554) was reported by day 4 in 1528 (98.3%) patients, whereas there was delayed clearance (between days 4 and 7) in the remaining 26 patients (1.7%) (Recht). Although a recent global survey of ACT resistant parasites which included South American samples from the Peruvian and Brazilian Amazon as well as from the Colombian coast indicated that all parasite isolates analyzed from this region lacked k13 mutations associated with resistance, these results should be interpreted with caution. A very recent report from Cambodia has identified artemisinin-resistant P. falciparum isolates without k13 mutations, indicating that there may be additional genes that when mutated contribute to artemisinin resistance in these parasites. In the Americas, CQ is still used widely for vivax malaria. Although there are reports of CQ resistance in the Brazilian Amazon where the majority of malaria cases and especially hospitalizations are due to this type of malaria, CQ is believed to remain quite effective. although not conclusive, one of these studies suggests a possible association between anemia and CQ resistance. Regular drug resistance surveillance is suggested, although reliable assays based on genotyping are not yet available due to the lack of a validated molecular marker associated with CQ resistance in P. vivax (Recht).
Despite resistant parasites that can survive existing drugs and keep killing people, scientists keep developing and searching ways to create something new against malaria. For example, in 2017, according to results from an FDA-supervised clinical trial published in the latest issue of The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Tulane University researchers have developed a new drug that is effective against non-severe cases of malaria. The consequences are significant and innovative drugs are necessary to construct derived immunities against drug-resistant strains of the parasite (Tulane University). Scientists used this method on sixty-six men volunteers in Mali with uncomplicated malaria “defined as malaria that is not life threatening” (Tulane University). According to Tulane University researchers, one half were treated with AQ-13 and the other half received artemether and lumefantrine. Both drug groups had similar cure rates. However, five participants in AQ-13 group left the study or were lost to follow-up and two participants in the artemether/lumefantrine group had late treatment failures with recurrence of their original infections. Researchers hope to expand testing of the drug to more participants, including women and children, before it can be widely recommended as a new treatment (Tulane University). Dr. Donald Krogstad, senior author and professor of tropical medicine at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said, “The potential long-term implications are bigger than one drug. The conceptual step here is that if you understand the resistance well enough, you may be actually be able to develop others as well.” (Tulane University). He added, “Compared to the current first-line recommendation for treatment of malaria, the new drug comes out very well” (Tulane University).
In conclusion, despite an enormous number of annual death by malaria, fatalities are declining. The scope of malaria is enormous, causes in some cases are unknown, treatments and solutions still need to be improved. However, most prominently, scientist achieved substantial progress in fighting a disease. With the persistence which we have, and with the funding towards research and development, modern medicine will be able to achieve the elimination of malaria in the future. Hopefully, in the nearer future.
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Carter, Chris and Priscar Sakala Mukonka. "Malaria: Diagnosis, Treatment and Management of a Critically Ill Patient." British Journal of Nursing, vol. 26, no. 13, 13 July 2017, pp. 762-767. EBSCOhost, libraryaccess.sdcity.edu/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/ login.aspx?direct=true&db=rzh&AN=124094085&site=ehost-live.
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Tulane University. "New drug effective against malaria: Promising clinical trial results could give doctors a new tool against drug-resistant strains of malaria parasite." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 September 2017. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170912184901.htm>.
Evolution: Genetic Drift and Natural Selection
By Kelsey M. Trevino and Matthew Bradshaw
In this essay we will describe evolutionary theory, focus on both genetic drift and natural selection, and present examples of each of these evolutionary forces. Evolution is a theory that is highly supported by the anthropological community. It describes the occurrence of natural changes in species over time, and it is through personal observations and research that we will begin to unravel the ways in which evolution works. We will explain recent anthropological findings in support of the theory of natural selection as seen in nature, and continue on with describing the process and occurrence of genetic drift, describing these forces of evolutionary theory. We chose these forces because they are among the most supported in the anthropological community, and are key to understanding the evolution of a species.
To begin, we had recently visited the San Diego Zoo to observe primate behavior, particularly focusing on the behaviors of the new world Capuchin monkeys in captivity. Our hypothesis questioned what behaviors the Capuchin Monkeys would exhibit due to their being raised in captivity, our leading question being: what might our findings indicate about the effects an environment can have on the development of a species?
There are two variations of Capuchin monkey, the Robust Capuchin and the Gracile Capuchin. The difference between these two monkeys is that the Gracile Capuchins have slightly longer limbs to accommodate to a more forest heavy environment, and rounder skulls. Whereas Robust capuchins have stronger jaws since their diet consists of eating more hard foods such as nuts, as well as tufts of fur, which is a physical trait not seen in the Gracile Capuchins. The Robust Capuchin was the variation of the species that we had focused our observations on. Recent studies, according to a zookeeper at the San Diego Zoo, suggested that these two variations of Capuchin have developed separate genus and have thus evolved into completely unique species. It has been continually argued that the difference in the appearance of the Capuchins is the result of the species being divided at some time by the formation of the Amazon river, and being left to evolve according to the slightly different environmental conditions that this resulted in.
The primate enclosures were large open air cages, decorated with trees and play structures meant to mimic their natural Costa Rican habitat. The behaviors of these primates in captivity were interesting, considering that they were in a man-made habitat versus a natural one, they exerted behaviors that were not typical of the primates had they been observed in the wild. The primates went about themselves for the most part, climbing the play structures, eating, and sitting isolated for long periods of time. Another observer had explained to us that they came to see the Capuchins once a week. They explained how the oldest of the Capuchins was years past the age that the primates naturally live to, and that the animal mostly lingered around the bottom of the enclosure since it was no longer fit to be climbing the way the other younger Capuchins did. We were told that in nature the monkey would have already died to to natural conditions, however it continues to thrive even in this vulnerable state because of the regular care it receives from the keepers.
In addition to this observation, we’d also noticed that the rest of the Capuchins behaved considerably independent of each other, lacking the typical grooming or playful social behaviors that are seen in primates outside captivity. Being in captivity has shifted natural interactions to ones that better accommodate the conditions of being observed and cared for by humans for multiple generations, as well as being in close proximity to the same Capuchins for their entire lives. Natural behaviors are changed, the monkeys in captivity have a longer life expectancy, and perform muted versions of social interactions demonstrated by primates in the wild. It is made clear in our observations that after generations of living without threat, these Capuchins have been nurtured to the point where they behave in ways completely unique in comparison to Capuchins found in the wild. An environment can have a significant impact on a species, with time the conditions for survival will determine how a species will develop. In the case of the San Diego Zoo Capuchins, it can be predicted that overtime the monkeys living in this non-threatening environment will become fully dependent on their caretakers, losing much of their natural behavior, and perhaps this change may trickle down to physical changes that better accommodate to the zoo’s man-made habitat. We saw behavioral changes that happened during the lifetime of Capuchins, where they reacted to captivity differently than they would in the wild, but if they continued to be bred in captivity, we predict that biological changes would also occur to make the Capuchins more suited to their new environment.
This prediction can be supported by Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection, which indicates that a species will develop overtime based upon conditions under a particular environment that provide better chances for survival and reproduction. As defined by a recent guide conducted by UC Berkeley, a species and its relation to natural selection goes as follows: Species are subject to having variation, this can be the pattern on a cat’s fur or even the texture of a person's hair, and variation is determined by the genetic traits a parent carries, also known as allele frequencies. Secondly, we must understand that there may be something naturally impacting the rate of reproduction, those of a species who are better adapted to surviving in their environment are more likely to reproduce. Whereas those who are not are likely to be eaten, or killed under some harsh conditions determined by their environment. Lastly, due to hereditary traits some characteristics will be passed down to the next generation, the physical traits of the next generation relying on trait genetic basis. These traits that are carried down will be heavily influenced by the variation of a species, and the natural impacts that the environment has caused for the species.
The theory of natural selection takes these same ideas and describes how overtime they have influenced how species evolve. The result of evolution is due to the environment, rate of reproduction, and the change in allele frequency. Knowing all this, the evolutionary theory claims that with time, a species will evolve in a way that best accommodates to their environment. A species cannot reproduce if they are too vulnerable in the conditions they are living in, and so they adapt and change to better their chance of survival. These changes could be as simple as a beetle becoming a less noticeable color, so that it will be less visible to predators. Or it can be as significant as a species becoming bipedal to allow for more efficient migration.
In Richard Dawkins widely acclaimed book, The Greatest Show on Earth, the author delves into the science behind the theory of natural selection and Evolution. In this book Dawkins presents many examples from recent findings to demonstrate how evolution is always occurring, and he presents examples of the changes and variation in species to show how an environment can influence the ways a species will develop overtime.
In the text Richard Dawkins takes these same ideas and illustrates how they seem to occur before our eyes, and one example that was particularly interesting was one he had used of guppies. A guppy is a tropical fish native to northeast South America, and has become one of the more widely popular breeds of fish for freshwater aquariums. This species of fish has demonstrated, through distribution across the globe as an aquarium fish, that it is highly adaptable and can adjust to a variety of habitats and environmental conditions. In this species of fish, the males are more brightly pigmented than the females as they use their impressive colors to attract mates. Through selective breeding humans have bred many aquarium guppies to have more vibrant coloration than what might otherwise be occurring naturally.
Dawkins tells of a biologist by the name of Dr. John Endler who has been studying guppies from the Trinidad, Tobago, and Venezuela regions. In his research, Endler had found that even in neighboring mountain streams there existed significant differences in the appearances of the male guppies, the variation in color ranging from more neutral to extremely colorful. Keeping in mind how aquarists were able to make the guppies even more vibrant through selective breeding, Dr. Endler had found that even in close proximity to one another, species of guppies had strikingly different appearances based on the conditions of the habitats they were living in. Dawkins writes,
Endler showed, by elegant quantitative comparisons between many locations in Venezuela and Trinidad, that the streams where the males were less bright were also the streams where predation was heavy. In streams with only weak predation, males were more brightly colored, with larger, gaudier spots, and more of them: here the males were free to evolve bright colors to appeal to females (134.)
Both natural selection and sexual selection come into play and cause variations in the evolution of the guppy based on the conditions of their environment. The male guppies traits were naturally selected to best accommodate the fish for the best chance of reproduction. In one case, it is more beneficial to the fish to not be seen by predators than it is to attract mates. In the other less threatening environment, the guppy had less threats from predators so it could then evolve into a more vibrant and colorful fish, sexual selection leading to the physical developments of this particular guppy population, the best opportunity for this species being to attract a female and then reproduce.
Both the findings from this text and our observations of the Capuchin monkey provide support for the theory of natural selection, and sexual selection, thus indicating that the environment is the cause for selective evolution. We will now get into describing the physical evidence in support of evolution, emphasizing the theory on genetic drift.
Causing considerable change in the evolution of species is genetic drift. Also known as a change in Allele frequency or gene variants. In small reproductively isolated populations, special circumstances exist that can produce rapid changes in gene frequencies totally independent of mutation and natural selection (Palmer.) These changes are due solely to chance factors, and the smaller the population, the more susceptible it is to random changes, thus resulting in genetic drift. (Palmer) Genetic drift is one of the major affecting catalysts that help shape our species. In larger populations, genetic drift is not as significant, but it could cause total collapse in smaller populations. To fully understand genetic drift, we need to examine all of the different causations using the scientific method. The steps of the scientific method are as follows: ask a question; do background research; make a hypothesis; test hypothesis; analyze data; and finally communicate results (Science Buddies.) Scientists use this method to study genetic drift and the other areas of evolution because it is tried, and is an effective anthropological tool until disproved. To further understand genetic drift, we have to examine the important areas of the topic in relation to evolution.
In any given population, allele frequencies fluctuate. Genetic drift has played a significant role in the human evolution, and by using tools such as a Punnett square, scientists are able to measure genotypes and phenotypes and determine whether or not they will be heterozygous or homozygous. Allele frequency and probability seem to be the meat and potatoes of the topic of genetic drift due to the fact that in a given population, allele frequencies fluctuate. For example, scientists liken terms like micro-evolutionary processes and include genetic drift to describe variance in the human development. One study contends that when “Applying a microevolutionary framework within- and among-population variance/covariance (V/CV) structure was compared for several functional and developmental modules of the skull across a worldwide sample of modern humans.” (Smith) V/CV patterns in the basic cranium, temporal bone, and face are proportional within and among groups, which is consistent with a hypothesis of neutral evolution; however, mandibular morphology deviated from this pattern.” (Smith) As a neutral evolutionary process, genetic drift has played a significant role in human evolution. Along with consideration of the other processes, one can start to understand an anthropological view of evolution. In addition, “Degree of intergroup similarity in facial, temporal bone, and mandibular morphology is significantly correlated with geographic distance; however, much of the variance remains unexplained.” (Smith) “These findings provide insight into the evolutionary history of modern human cranial variation by identifying signatures of genetic drift, gene flow, and migration and set the stage for inferences regarding selective pressures that early humans encountered since their initial migrations around the world.” (Smith)
Using mathematical models to study genetic drift has become a necessity in understanding this topic better. Scientists are able to measure genotypes and phenotypes and determine whether or not they will be heterozygous or homozygous. Homozygous means “an individual having two identical alleles of a particular gene or genes and so breeding true for the corresponding characteristic” (Webster.) Heterozygous means “an individual having two different alleles of a particular gene or genes, and so giving rise to varying offspring” (Webster.) “Since genetic drift is measurably effective only in small populations, it must have played a major role in the early stages of human evolution when our populations were tiny” (Palomar.) “However, even in large societies, such as the United States today, there are small, culturally isolated communities like the Amish and Dunkers of rural Pennsylvania and the midwest that are mostly closed breeding groups” (Palmer.) “In such sub-populations, genetic drift is still an important evolutionary mechanism” (Palmer.) In addition, genotypes and phenotypes play a role in identifying the DNA sequence and genetics. "Genotype is an organism's full hereditary information.” (Webster) "Phenotype is an organism's actual observed properties, such as morphology, development, or behavior” (Webster.) Studying DNA is exciting, but in terms of genetic drift and evolution, it is very complex. “As one of the few cellular traits that can be quantified across the tree of life, DNA-replication fidelity provides an excellent platform for understanding fundamental evolutionary processes” (Lynch.) “A potentially revealing hypothesis for mutation-rate evolution is that natural selection primarily operates to improve replication fidelity, with the ultimate limits to what can be achieved set by the power of random genetic drift” (Lynch.) Sequencing DNA has become a highly complex field, making genomic studies a rather tricky field. Some genomic areas are so complicated they cannot be sequenced. Some unusual patterns repeated in the genome are shared only between Apes, Bonobos, Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and Humans (Singer 1.) Other mathematical models such as Wright-fisher and the Moran models help measure allele frequency. Selection pressure and sampling error also can play significant roles in allele frequency. “The Hardy–Weinberg principle states that within sufficiently large populations, the allele frequencies remain constant from one generation to the next unless the equilibrium is disturbed by migration, genetic mutations, or selection” (Webster.) When speaking of genetic drift, anthropologists must take into consideration all of these aspects in order to make accurate assessments.
The bottleneck effect may be the most significant area of genetic drift. Some other examples of genetic drift should be thought of when thinking of primates. “Plant species distributed across terrestrial islands can show significant genetic divergence among populations if seed and pollen dispersal are restricted” (Nistelberg.) We assessed the genetic connectivity between populations of Grevillea georgeana, restricted to seven disjunct inselbergs in semi-arid Western Australia” (Nistelberg.) One interesting study concluded that we show that although selection may have played an important role in diversifying hominin facial morphology in the late Pliocene, this is not the case during the early evolution of the genus Homo, where genetic drift was probably the primary force responsible for facial diversification (Ackerman.) The bottleneck effect speaks to when populations get very small and genetic drift becomes the driving force. Alleles can, in this situation, be reduced to nothing; essentially this could result in the demise of an entire species when they become vulnerable to things like disease or climate change. In other cases, a group can splinter from a bottleneck thus forming its own group. This phenomenon is known as the Founder’s Effect.
The bottleneck effect speaks to when populations get very small and genetic drift becomes the driving force. Alleles can be reduced to nothing; essentially this could possibly end a species when they become vulnerable to things like disease or climate change. In other cases, a group can splinter from a bottleneck thus forming its own uniquely developing group. Scientists continue to make discoveries using different branches of research, and it is through the scientific method that we learn how humans and other species have evolved. “The evolution of man has been characterized by recurrent episodes of migration and settlement with infectious disease a constant threat” (Ermini.) “This long history of demographic change, together with the action of evolutionary forces such as natural selection and genetic drift, has shaped human genetic diversity” (Ermini.)
Overall there is considerable evidence to support the theory of evolution, and show how a species and the development of later generations respond directly to the environment. In many cases genetic drift and natural selection can be easily observed as shaping evolution, as seen in the work of Richard Dawkins, the observations made on the Capuchin Monkeys, or the research conducted by anthropologists. In any case, genetic drift and natural selection continue to make an important impact on the evolution of a species, remaining as strong scientific description of evolution.
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Racial Constructions in the United States: Beyond White and Black
By Carrigan Davis
Race in the United States has been a rigid social construction since before the founding of the republic. Racial differences and the development of various ethnic identities have been affected by the rigidity of racial categories in the United States, these include American Indian or Alaskan Native, Black or African American, Native Hawaiian or other Asian Pacific Islander, and White. These racial categories “promotes the illusion of natural, objective, and evident divisions” (García 203). The racial divide in the United States is predominantly between whites and blacks but many Americans fall into the “racial middle”, a term coined by Eileen O’Brien in her book The Racial Middle: Latinos and Asian Americans Living Beyond the Racial Divide to bring attention to the population of Americans that do not identify as either White or Black, specifically Latinos and Asian Americans. In America's Sacred Ground: Religion, Race, and Ethnicity in Indian America author Khyati Y. Joshi provides insights into the lives and experiences of second generation Indian Americans, an ethnic group that is often grouped into the potpourri of Asian Pacific Islanders racial category.
For the purposes of this paper, I will be comparing the development of the various ethnic identities of three growing ethnic groups that are impacted by the rigid definitions of race, the overall experiences of these ethnic minorities, and how they compare themselves to Whites and Blacks. These groups include Latinos, Asian Americans, and Indian Americans. The social construction of race plays a large role in society and shapes the way we see ourselves and others. Through recognizing the impacts of race on the development of ethnic identities, we can observe and challenge the notions of what it means to live beyond the racial dichotomy.
The growth of racial middle groups in the United States grew exponentially post-1965 after the Immigration Act of 1965 was put in place (O’Brien 6). The Immigration Act replaced an immigration quota system where each nationality were given an allotted allowance of entry into the United States based on their representation in past U.S. census statistics. Educated immigrants from India, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, and Korea began to arrive in large numbers. Many immigrants from Latin American countries such as Cuba and Puerto Rico began to increase dramatically. By the end of the 20th century, immigrants from Asian countries comprised 30 percent of all immigrants, while immigrants from Latin countries increased significantly as well (O’Brien 6). This growth of diversity in the United States brought in millions of second generation Indian Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos to explore the development of ethnic identities in a society where individuals are divided into a racial dichotomy.
In the early 1990s, the U.S. census used the category of Asian Pacific Islanders to combine formerly separate ethnic groups such as Japanese, Chinese, and Hindu into one broad racial group (O’Brien 29). The ethnic groups stated before had been previously offered as options over the past century (O’Brien 29). The broad scope that racial categories encompass do not take into account the diverse and often times complex mix of familial influences, societal influences, history, personal experiences, and contexts that make up an individual’s racial and ethnic identity. Individuals of Asian descent can be anyone from Indian to Chinese to Korean, all of which have diverse cultures. Due to religion, language, and phenotype differences brought on because of colonization, both Filipinos and Indian Americans show ambivalence toward their relationships with the Asian Pacific Islander racial category. Indian Americans in particular were not included in the Asian Pacific Islander racial category in the U.S. census until the 1980s. Up until that point, Indian Americans were given the option of “White” or “other race” (Joshi 92).
For individuals from Spanish-speaking countries that identify as Latino, the racial category of “Latino” is not an option on the U.S. census. Latinos are given a separate question that assumes all Latinos share a collective identity under the ethnic category of “Hispanic origin”. Latin Americans are constructing a fluid definition of race and ethnicity against the United State’s rigid definitions of race. Much of the Latin American community would prefer to identify both their race and ethnicity rather than being swept into the ethnic category of “Hispanic origin”. The ethnic category of “Hispanic origin” is much like the racial category of Asian Pacific Islanders in the sense that it comprises a wide variety of nationalities and ethnic identities that are not united by a repertoire of cultural traditions (O’Brien 11).
Research offers insights into how Latinos and Asian Americans feel about themselves compared to Whites and Blacks. Collectively for Latinos and Asian Americans, surveys reveal that individuals in both racial categories identify more with Whites than Blacks though this type of research only asked respondents to place themselves in between the racial dichotomy of White or Black. When given the chance to freely response, the interviewees were most likely to discuss the ethnic groups within their own racial groups. The results show that the racial middle tends to overlap with Whites more than Blacks, but not to the point of the racial middle “becoming White” (O’Brien 30).
Eileen O’Brien, discusses ethnic identities as fluid, “sliding scales or continuums in the minds of the respondents rather than hard and fast classifications” (O’Brien 30). Between both Asian and Latinos, some respondents chose to regard themselves as primarily their ethnic identities or in a more panethnic way. For Latinos, some would racially categorize themselves depending on what the circumstances were or who was asking. Many respondents often based their racial and ethnic identities by evaluating themselves compared to others in their racial or ethnic groups and determining who is “more Mexican” or “less Asian”. The shift in the meaning has to do with the perceived expectations of how individuals that belong to a certain ethnicity or racial category are supposed to act, look, speak, and behave.
In Race and Ethnicity , author Justin García relates his own experiences with social constructions of race and having a racially ambiguous appearance. García recalls living in different parts of the United States and depending on which region he was in, García’s race and ethnicity was perceived differently. The races García was presumed to be ranged from White to Italian to Puerto Rican to Mexican. For García, physical appearance has impacted his thinking about race and ethnicity as socially constructed concepts in the United States. García discovered that racial and ethnic identities are: a deeply entrenched social belief that another person’s racial or ethnic background is obvious and easily determined from brief glances and can be used to predict a person’s culture, behavior, and personality (García 202). García points out that an individual’s racial and ethnic background cannot be determined from physical appearance alone and that racial and ethnic backgrounds do not coincide with personality or culture. Eileen O’Brien and Khyati Joshi’s work both show that many ethnic minorities “compete” for ethnic authenticity, comparing themselves to other members of their racial or ethnic group. Often times, ethnic authenticity compares how an individual of a perceived race looks and behaves. While García focuses on phenotypic aspects of ethnicity and race, Joshi and O’Brien take into account religion, language, and behavior that are commonly associated with ethnic and racial groups. For example, in the case study conducted by Khyati Joshi in New Roots in America’s Sacred Ground: Religion, Race, and Ethnicity in Indian America , one respondent, Binu, felt that she was “less Indian” and more White when interacting with other Indian Americans (Joshi 148). Binu grew up in a predominantly White neighborhood and belonged to a devout Malayali Catholic family. Joshi’s case study provides insight into the experiences across the Binu’s life span, chronicling her life as a Catholic Indian American. When Binu reached college, she began to notice differences in her religion of Catholicism compared to other Indians who were Muslim or Hindu by majority. Binu reported feeling “more White and less Indian” around Indians that were Muslim or Hindu, even stating that many were shocked to learn that she was a Christian. For Binu, being a Catholic Indian American made her feel that was less Indian and did not fit into the ethnic majority of other Indians and felt competition for authenticity in Indian America.
Many Americans fall into the racial middle, providing insight into the development of ethnic identities of individuals who do not identify as White nor Black. The racial middle define their own interpretations of race and ethnicity living alongside Whites and Blacks. The impacts of racial constructions is emphasized through the feeling of isolation from members in other racial groups and members within their own ethnic or racial groups. For minorities within the racial middle, competition for ethnic authenticity is a common experience afflicting almost all the members within their respective communities at some point in their lives. In the United States, the growing racial middle continues to challenge the rigid notion of race and redefines race and ethnicity as fluid, allowing those in the racial middle to shape their unique identities.
García, Justin D. “Race and Ethnicity.” Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural
Anthropology , American Anthropological Association, 2017, pp. 200–225,
Joshi, Khyati Y. New Roots in America's Sacred Ground: Religion, Race, and Ethnicity in Indian
America . Rutgers University Press, 2006.
O'Brien, Eileen. The Racial Middle: Latinos and Asian Americans Living Beyond the Racial
Divide . New York University Press, 2008.
Women in Science in the United States and Japan
By Susan Chan
Women have been a part of the professional workforce for centuries now. Since times have changed, during the industrial revolution and times of war, many responsibilities were placed upon the shoulder of women. In addition to gender specific roles, women are now becoming more common in the workforce across a broad spectrum of careers. However, it challenges conventional social views of what position a woman holds. Male dominance has been seen to be rooted deeply biologically as well as socially.
Looking back to the 'hunter gatherer' era of history, women were biologically equipped to give birth and nurse the young, while men were biologically equipped to hunt and defend the tribe; thus began the formation of gender roles in early society. By taking the same traditional gender roles and applying that to an advanced and industrialized civilization, it is evident that there is still discrimination between the sexes. Advanced civilizations like the United States and Japan have leading industries in technology, research, and science. With advanced doctrine and education, it would seem women would have a larger role in the science profession. However, women are still underrepresented in the science workforce in both the US and Japan. Most professional women are left out of high level accountable positions in companies and are discriminated against in promotions, wages, and even retirement. To better understand the long-standing segregation between men and women in science, we must look at cultural and societal implications, education level and opportunities in the workplace between the United States and Japan by using a holistic ethnological approach. Through ethnological research of history, language, personal experience and education and labor statistics, we can begin to understand the reason why women are underrepresented in the STEM workforce in Japan and America.
The culture of the Japanese, although diverse, is extremely different than the American culture . Women in Japanese culture are not held in high esteem in the professional world. It is seen in the culture of Japan that
The role of women in Japanese society has traditionally been subordinate to that of men in law, politics, economics, and social relations. For a generation before World War II a few women who had been in contact with the Western world had fought a hard campaign for the emancipation of women, but with very limited success. During the war the women of Japan were organized on a large scale to aid in the war effort, through the Greater Japan Women's Association, but this organization was dominated by the government and controlled by men. (Kan 1)
Since Japanese women are seen as subordinate, they are typically not given the same opportunities as men in their field. They are not able to gain the knowledge and skills which one acquires in the workplace.
Japan differs culturally from the United States in many ways. Their strict and formal culture enforces the rigidly distinguished social groups in Japan. This can be seen through the organization of race in Japan. Unlike many other countries, Japan not only separates people into race, but racial categories as well. (García 16) Japanese culture is very diverse. During the 1950s, there was an increase of interracial families due to the American military stationed in Japan. With Japan being close to many other countries, immigration increased during the 1980s. Although Japan seems to be a historically diverse country, there seems to be racial discrimination between the Japanese people and the burakumin population.
Though physically and genetically indistinguishable from other Japanese people, the burakumin are a socially stigmatized and outcast group. They are descendants of people who worked dirty, low-prestige jobs that involved handling dead and slaughtered animals during the feudal era of Japan in the 1600-1800s. In feudal times, they were forced to live in communities separated from the rest of society, had to wear a patch of leather on their clothing to symbolize their burakumin status and were not permitted to marry non-burakumins. (García 16)
Despite the cultural, technological and educational advancement of the Japanese, discrimination against burakumin people still persevere in their culture. Besides the prejudice of senior generations as well as the disfavor of inter-categorical marriage, the burakumins are still met with certain negativity in the workforce. (McDowell 19) The employment of the burakumin caste is typically seen in low-standing jobs such as slaughterhouses, undertakers, butchers, physical labors, and tanners. Cultural stereotypes of the burakumin still exist today as well. The burakumin caste in still seen as lazy, feeble-minded and even violent. (McDowell 19) The same struggles that the burakumin face culturally in Japan is the same struggle that women in Japan face. The issue of gender discrimination in the Japanese is still deeply rooted in their culture today.
Despite cultural prejudice, there has been an increase of women in the Japanese workforce as well as schools. “Since 1995, the number of women entering college has increased by three hundred percent and female work force in non agricultural sectors has doubled” (Osako 1978) Although there has been an increase of women in the workforce, women still account for only about 10% of the work force in science fields. (Kuwahara 2001) Due to the male-dominate nature of their culture, Japanese women, despite efforts to rise above the prejudice, find it hard to gain respect and responsibilities in the science field. Keiko Nakamura, a biochemist in Tokyo, recalls that even though she has her masters in biochemistry, she finally received a job in a chemical company but not as a chemist. Instead she was invited to lead the company in the Laboratory of Social life Science, thus reinforcing the stereotype that women should be in more nurturing fields . Despite achieving degrees in biochemistry, Nakamura was not able to get a job in her field. It seems that regardless of the opportunities that an advanced civilization like Japan has, it is still difficult for women with an education to benefit from those opening chances to succeed in the workplace. Based upon the strict cultural background of the Japanese, it also seems that aside from economic and technological advancement, the sexual segregation that is deeply rooted in the culture hinders the advancement of women in the field of science as well as the professional workforce.
In contrast, women in America have achieved more equality through multiple civil rights revolutions beginning in the early 19th century compared to their Japanese counterpart. As a result, America now has a higher participation rate of women in advanced career fields than that of Japan who has not yet had a dramatic civil rights movement. Although traditional gender roles still play a large part in how women are perceived, women have gained more power and respect in the American workforce compared to their Japanese counterparts. Many women in the United States hold high paying jobs and high management positions in the workforce. Also, women make up about half of the total workforce in America that is college-educated. (Department of Labor 2017) Culturally, America seems to support women in the workforce as well as getting a good education. It seems that women are a large part of our professional culture today. Based on the United States Department of Labor, women account for 57% of the current workforce. (Department of Labor 2017) Although the US seems to be doing more to eliminate the sexual discrimination of women, it doesn't mean that it doesn't exist.
Culturally, America has come a long way from discrimination, even though traditionally women did not have equal rights as men. America is still very much a male-dominated culture. Women were previously seen only in the kitchen and established themselves as homemakers and good wives. It wasn't until men were shipped off to fight the wars did women enter the workforce. In American history, there was a time of women's suffrage, when women fought for equal rights in the workplace as well as rights to vote. In a way, they were also similar to Japan in that women were subordinate to men economically, politically and socially. However, since the civil rights movement, there has been an increased effort to eliminate gender inequality. Although there has been an increase of the ratio of women versus men in the science field, women still only account for about 29% of the science professional workforce. (NSF, S&E Indicators 2016) As researchers at the University of Colorado pointed out, “Women are disproportionately less represented in scientific professions despite increased numbers of women receiving advanced training in these disciplines (NSF,S&E Indicators 2016). Within science, technology, engineering and mathematics-STEM for short-workplaces, they are overrepresented in low-status institutions, low-status positions, and part-time work, advance less rapidly, are paid more poorly, and are more likely to leave for other types of work” (Archie, T., Kogan, M., & Laursen, S. L. 15) It seems that despite differences in culture, both Japan and the United States culturally still support a male-dominated work environment as well as unequal opportunists for women.
Besides cultural implications that affect women in the science field, societal factors are also a major component in why women are such an underrepresented part of the STEM workforce. Gender equality and ideology is one of the main causes as to why women are scarce in the science work force. Gender ideology is “a complex set of beliefs about gender and gendered capacities, propensities, preferences, identities and socially expected behaviors and interactions that apply to males, females, and other gender categories.” (Mukhopadhyay, Carol C, et al 44) Gender ideology goes hand in hand with gender equality due to the fact that they are so closely related.
In Asian society, much of gender ideology and equality stems from their deeply rooted customs of traditional and family values. Many Asian households have a hierarchical system that divide family duties between the sexes. (Vogel 687) This hierarchy is not only divided by age and gender, but race and ethnicity as well. In my own family, as a traditional Chinese woman, I was brought up under the assumption that since I was the youngest in the family, I have to respect my elders. This means that my older brother was able to invoke the “law of respecting your elders” and take the last cookie from the cookie box. As a female in the family, this means that I was tasked to do housework and cooking while my older brother focused on bringing my family “honor” by getting good grades so he could get into a good college. The gender ideology of women in Japan was that women were housewives. They were to be attentive to the duties of the household and care of the family. Besides the stress of taking care of the children and making sure they were studying hard and doing well in school, women were tasked to cook and clean. On top of the stress of managing a household, women were expected to be subservient to their husbands as well as the mother-in-law. Since women were saddled with the responsibilities of the household, the ideology of what is expected of women is that of a housewife.
Besides the gender ideology that Japanese women were subservient housewives, the Japanese kinesics and language enforced this behavior. Kinesics is a word used to “designate all forms of the human body language, including gestures, body position, movement, facial expressions, and eye contact.” (Light 4) An example of kinesics is that in American society, it is considered strength, respect, and confidence to make eye contact and shake someone’s hand when meeting them for the first time. While in Japan, eye contact is considered inappropriate and people typically bow. (Light 4) Body language can give insight to how a society is organized. In Japanese society, people prefer to maintain greater distance between one another. (Light 4) The Japanese language like kinesics implement a need for women to be subservient. Therefore, Japanese women speak in a feminine style and language.(Light 17) This particular style of language is characterized by the use of only female expressions that center around respect. It is also characterized by being more soft-spoken with more adjectives, politeness, and repetitive speech patterns with a higher pitch. Also, Japanese female language typically avoid using formal words and speech that is correct in syntax. (Dubuc 294) The inequality of gender is rooted so deeply into Japanese society that even though times are changing, it is still very difficult to break away from society norms.
In contrast, American society differs in many ways on gender ideology and equality. Equality is a recurring message in American history. From the Revolutionary war to the Civil War, equality is something that many Americans have fought and died for. While American society did generalize women as wives and homemakers, women have been at the forefront of American history for years. Many women who lost their partners and husbands during the Civil War chose to volunteer as nurses to join the cause. During the World War, women took of the jobs of men because many left home to aid on the war effort. Although many women were expected to be the picture perfect wives of many men in society, that was not always the case. With the women's suffrage movement, women's right to vote, the gender ideology of American women drastically changed. While the traditional ideology of a women's role in society is still that of a domestic nature, this ideology has declined dramatically throughout the past few decades. (Brewster 478) During this time, we see an increase of women joining the workforce with a 26.7% increase between the years of 1965 to 1996. (Brewster 485)
The traditional roles of gender began to change in American society. With an increase of women in not only the workforce as well as education, more women are postponing marriage and having children. Many women are choosing to focus more on their careers rather than focus on starting a family. Also, there is in an increase of women who are the sole providers for their families or are the bread winners for their family. This change in roles of women began to alter the gender ideology of women in American society. Instead of being seen as subservient to men, like the Japanese, women in American are seen as strong independent individuals capable of providing for their families.
Although gender ideologies of women have changed in the United States, gender inequality is still something that plagues the American society. With an increase of women in the work force, one would think there would be fair and equal pay for the same participation in the workforce. However, that is not generally the case. Based on the Women's Bureau in the United States Department of Labor, there is a wage gap between women and men in America. It is said that women earned 21% less than men in annual earnings in 2014. (Department of Labor 2017) Even though it seems that women make up more than half of the workforce, they still perform more of the household duties than their counterparts. Another statistic that the Department of Labor found is that women spend on average 1.27 hours a day in child care in 2014 while men spend only 0.83 hours. Women also spend an average of 1.74 hours a day in household activities like cleaning and cooking compared to the 1.25 hours spend by men (Department of Labor 2017). It seems that although gender ideology has changed in America, gender inequalities still exist and gender roles still have an effect on society.
The society in which women live in has shaped public views of how women should be treated in the workplace. It also has a considerable effect on how working women interact with their families. Another sociological factor in why women are not a regular part of the workforce is the fact that there is not a lot of support for women with families or for women who are prospective and soon-to-be mothers. Masako Osako from the University of Illinois conducted a study on the factors that seem to plague the Japanese professional women. What she found was that Japanese women failed to achieve professional equality with men due to lack of career opportunities and deficient child care facilities. This was first seen by her observation of the Japanese workforce. It seems that there were only two categories of women that work in the office, the young and the old. This is because many women who start off in the professional workforce retire early to start a family and never re-enter the workforce. (Osako 20). Nakamura, who has a Master's degree in biochemistry from the University of Tokyo stated in an interview in 1993 that she left her career as a budding scientist to have children. “there is no good system to support young women who have babies.” (Koppel 1993) This is a decision that many Japanese women in science still make today.
While Osako has found women who defy the societal views on motherhood and careers, many of them are faced with tremendous stress as well as stigma. Osako reported that of the 21 women she interviewed that worked and had children, 78% experienced problems with arranging child care, 30% reported problems with helping children with homework and 56% of those women were met with criticism from members of their community. (Osako 18). Due to Japanese culture so deeply rooted in family, many of these women have their mothers or mother-in-laws take care of the children while they are at work. Osako found that 17 of the 21 women she interviewed live with or near their parents so that this arrangement could be an option. Another option is that many women drop the children off at daycare and the grandparents would pick up and watch the children after the center closed. Many women attribute their success in their careers to their spouse and grandparents, because they know that without their help and support, they would not be able to pursue their careers and have a family at the same time. Other women are not so lucky and have to choose between a career and having a family. Osako notes that
Improved child care facilities may encourage women's work participation. But given the demands of the Japanese office, the regular nine-to-five day-care cannot adequately meet professional women's needs. Competent live-in help could ease the burden, however, ordinary professionals cannot afford this help because of crowded housing conditions and the wage system. Since Japanese wages are based on length of service more than on technical qualifications, when the woman is young enough to have small children, her and her husband's wages are low. (Osako 23)
It seems that if there was a better system to support women having a career as well as a family, there would be more women in not just the workforce but in the science field as well.
Although America is more progressive when it comes to mothers in the workforce, America has a whole set of problems that seems to afflict women in American society. With more women in the workforce, the American governments support of these women comes in the form of subsidized care. This is the availability of state assistance for paid parental leave (Davis and Powell 675). Although the United States offers programs like paid family leave, there are a lot of inadequacies within the policy that leave many American women in need. Since the United States does not have a national paid leave policy, the leave period and pay varies between different states, the type of work, length of work, employer size and work history. This means while most states follow federal law of up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, certain states, like California, allow for up to 6 weeks of partial paid leave. Only 12 out of the 50 states provide their own paid leave laws (Isaacs 2017). This means many women in the workforce cannot afford to leave or are forced to provide inadequate care for the children, or decide to leave the work force altogether.
Despite such lacking parental leave policies, working mothers have been on the rise in America. Not only has the American government failed to institute national policies for paid parental leave, the government also failed to institute policies that support child care. This means that many women in the workforce, who are the primary earners for the families, may need to pay up to $10,000 a year in childcare (David and Powell 710). While some states like North Carolina and California offer childcare subsidies, the wait list for these range from 20,000 people to 280,000 people long (David and Powell 711. This means that many parents do not get the money they need to afford childcare. This in turn discourages women to stay in the workforce and thus exacerbates the welfare system. It seems that despite advancement, societal gender ideology and roles still puts stress on gender inequality in both Japan and the United States.
Education functions for many different purposes. One function of education is to provide institutions like schools that teach knowledge to prepare students to acquire jobs and contribute to their society (Cowall 6) While one would hope that education bares no discrimination between race and gender, it seems that current gender-ideology does impact the opportunities that different genders receive in education. Based on gender roles in Japanese culture, women's education reflected the roles in which society expected. The idea is that with education comes “good wives and wise mothers.” (Scantlebury 6). Thus, before the 20th century, education in Japan was segregated and women only had funding for primary school. It wasn't until the early 20th century that several universities begin to admit women.
Education in Japan is vastly different from the United States. While schools are assigned by counties in the United States, in Japan, schools are decided based on tests. Students in middle school take a test to see which high school they can get accepted into. The pressure of doing well in school is extremely high in Japan. Many students not only attend school, but go to after school programs that focus on helping students prepare for the high school entrance exams. About 38% of students in secondary school attend after school academics. (Scantlebury 14). However, gender disparity is apparent even before post-secondary schooling. In Japan, all but one of their top high schools are entirely male. This means that, even before a female student has a chance to take the exam, structural barriers already limit a girls access to an equal education. (Scantlebury 6). On top of structural barriers, educational barriers include putting students on different curriculum. Many high schools in Japan have a “tracking” system in which certain students take classes that are predominately science based, the other take a mix of social and science classes, and then the third track is just a curriculum based on social sciences (Scantlebury 5). Although the ideals of gender based curriculum is no longer standing in schools, the tracking in Japanese high schools has an effect on women choosing to get into the science field.
Besides early discrimination of girls in education, higher education does not prove to be any less forgiving in Japan. Since young girls are weeded out in terms of applying for a prestigious high school, it is even more difficult to get into college. While students have to juggle grueling hours of study time, gender became more apparent at the university level. Males that choose to go into the science field believe that choosing the sciences and a major and career is linked to gender. (Scantlebury 13). Cultural views on gender strongly affect how students choose their majors. Based on a study of 175 university students in Japan, it seems that gender ideology is something that is invisible to their society. While 81% of Japanese women majoring in the science field were able to see the disparity of gender inequality, 67% of males majoring in the science field responded that they did not understand the question they were asked (Scantlebury 14). Women in college tend to choose majors that they feel would give them a better opportunity of finding jobs. Many women end up dropping out of STEM fields due to inadequate support for females. Also, based on traditional family views, many women choose to leave their education early to start a family. These disparities in education shows that gender roles are an invisible issue in the culture of the Japanese people.
American women have been a part of the science field for centuries. Historically, women in America had limited access to education, but that is no longer the case now. Traditional gender roles are still something that young boys and girls are introduced to either by society, or family values. Gender ideology like girls wear pink while boys wear blue is something that is instilled by society even before children are born. Since gender roles still play an important part of American society, it affects the persistent gender gap in the science fields. Research shows that schools can actually foster gender disparities, both by highlighting them or pushing them aside. This can be seen through the actions of teachers as well as peers. Another example of how this can occur in schools across America is the use of particular instruction methods as well as segregating extracurricular activities based on gender (Legewie and DiPrete 262). Based on a study done by Lee Shumow and Jennifer Schmidt, they found that not only did high school science teachers spend up to almost 40% more time speaking to male students in class, teachers spent 43% more time explaining content to boys as well as 92% more time talking about extraneous materials (Klein 2014). The overall consequence of gender ideology in our country and reinforced behavior in schools help to formulate girls decisions when they choose whether to major in STEM fields or not.
While women have been closing the gender gap in the workforce as well as with bachelor's' degrees, the numbers decline more visibly in higher-education, most notably at the graduate level. Graduate school is a critical point in the education of STEM fields because it provides students socialization into their field of study. However many women report occurrences of discontentment and enmity in graduate level studies. Research done by the University of Colorado Boulder found that many female graduate students experience sexism and exclusion from the males in their class. They also found that institutions lacked role models for female students (De Welde and Laurensen 577). This is seen by a new metaphor called the “glass obstacle course”, used to describe the unseen circumstances that limit women in STEM graduate studies, which makes it difficult for women to navigate. This glass obstacle course is characterized by the ideological and structural barriers that are presented to women which are unanticipated and unbreakable (De Welde and Laurensen 571). The American society advocates for equality among not just the different races but gender as well. However, even with the growth America has seen, gender ideology and roles are still a part of our society.
While Japan is an evolved and forward country, many women still experience gender disparities. We have seen that not only does culture and society shape the reasons why women are underrepresented in STEM workforce but education proves to be a factor as well. Junko Tsuchiyagaito, a graduate chemistry student in Tokyo states that “the image of women in science is that of someone whose hair is disheveled and who does not care about beauty. Men think you are not cute.” (Tanikawa 2013). Japanese comic books, called manga, commonly depicts this in school settings like this page of the 2017 manga Kiss him, Not me!
Figure 1 © 2017 Junko/Kodansha Comics [CC license doesn’t apply]
This correlates to another reason why so few women work in the STEM field. A large scale survey done in 2013 by the Japan Inter-Society Liaison Association Committee for Promoting Equal Participation of Men and Women in Science and Engineering or EPMEWS, found that as job positions increased the percentage of females decreased. The ratio between graduate students, assistant professors, associate professors as well as professors present huge gaps in female positions. While there are a total of 1891 jobs reported for assistant professors in Japan, women only account for 541 of those jobs, of the 2173 jobs available for professors, only 293 of those jobs account for women (EPMEWSE 9)
The ability to work in the STEM workforce is dependent on the education you receive, because so few women choose majors in the STEM field, the workplace reflects that disparity. Since science fields are so male dominated, it present a glass ceiling in which women are unable to break. This glass ceiling, different from the glass obstacle course, is the unseen barriers that women have in the workforce. One of the major glass ceilings is salary. It seems that males receive a higher salary in all categories. From the lowest which is under 1 million JPY, males dominate 336 to 244. As salary increases, so does the gap between female and male. Of the 2065 people making a salary of 6 million JPY, only 550 of them are female and 1515 of them are male (EPMEWSE 9) Another disparity in the STEM workforce is the availability of jobs for women. We see that there are gender gaps in doctorate level jobs like professors, compare to jobs like research technician and research associate, women account for 59-62% of those jobs. Since those jobs are basic research positions, there is no requirement for a doctorates degree. (EPMEWSE 5). Due to demands in STEM fields, it is more difficult to balance work and family life. Many women report having to choose to between work and family. 64.7% of women in STEM fields report having no children while only 44.4% of men do not have children and for those women who do have children, 63% of women report juggling between their career and child care (EPMEWSE 36). Many women also report that balancing family and work is difficult and they are met with lack of consideration for child and family care in performance evaluations (EPMEWSE 47). Since males dominate STEM fields, women experience a plethora of issues that characterize the glass ceiling. Typical work space environment is hostile due to high volumes of males which create a male-oriented mindset. Thus, the workplace environment has a lot of social and gender bias as well as lack of role models for females.
While American women double the amount of women in Japan that are working in STEM fields, it does not mean they do not experience the same issues. Based on the National Science Foundation “Women remain underrepresented in the science and engineering workforce, although to a lesser degree than in the past, with the greatest disparities occurring in engineering, computer science, and the physical sciences.” (NSF, Science and Engineering Indicators 2016). Women in STEM fields continually experience male-oriented work environment and ideology. Many women enter STEM fields at a critical stage in their lives since they are in their late twenties and early thirties. During this time, women have to decide whether or not they are going to choose to focus on their career, focus on their family, or to try and do both. This proved to be one of the biggest glass ceiling for women in STEM fields because more pressure was put on them to take care of their family than their spouse. Since more men occupy STEM fields, it is more difficult to understand the pressure to balance work and family life. Also, since women are battling the clock, many of them miss opportunities to advance their education. By putting their education on hold, they are less likely to earn high-paying jobs because they do not qualify.
Women in the science field no only receive less attention, less opportunity to advance, but also sexism. Many times, women are perceived in the field to have bribed to accomplish their achievements. Women who dressed like normal women were seen as conniving because they must have 'slept with someone to get it done', or they used feminine charms instead of intellect (De Welde and Laursen 578). During job interviews, many women report being asked if their experiences would have been different if they were men (De Welde and Laursen 578). With little to no female representation in the workforce, women do not have a mentor to help balance difficulties found in the workplace. Based on a study done by the University of Boulder Colorado, women working in STEM fields revealed they are less productive, satisfied, and have less interaction than their male counterparts (Archie 354).
Gender roles have played a large part in different societies. Whether it is the Japanese culture or the American culture, it seems that both advanced countries experience gender disparities. By looking at the cultural and social influences and applying them to the STEM education experience and STEM workforce, we can see that women in both countries experience the same glass obstacle course in education and the same glass ceiling in the workforce. Through careful ethnological observation, I believe that many of the issues seen in both countries result from deeply rooted customs that are hard to break. While both countries have made gender discrimination in the workplace a public issue, it seems that having real change will be difficult. Although the government, schools, and businesses could try and enact policies that encourage women to participate in STEM majors and workforce, if the male-oriented perspective of these institutions do not change, I believe that it will be hard to increase those numbers.
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Informal Economies: the Roma and Annawadi
By Abigail Santana
People all over the world fall through the cracks of the global economy clinging to the hope that tomorrow brings a better future. “Bury me Standing” by Isabel Fonseca depicts the Gypsy life as it really is, without the fantasy and romance that many associate with their folklore. Fonseca also informs us that the Gypsy people all over Eastern, Western, and Central Europe still have their unique language that is a combination of the various places they have traveled to. The slums of Mumbai have been popping up near developing cities to combat the lack of affordable housing in an overpopulated country. In “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” Katherine Boo describes the ways in which those who live in the slums survive the harsh environment and social injustice of the state. The people of the slums of Annawadi have been dreaming of leaving since they built their makeshift huts. The language of both cultures are vastly different, however, the Gypsy people across Europe still have lingering words that are roots form the Indian or Hindi language. Also, the common trait of the Gypsies and low casted Indians is their ability to keep going even in tough economic times. Many impoverished people throughout the world rely on informal economy to survive. The focus of this paper is the informal economy. I will be highlighting the informal economy in the modern-day undercity in Mumbai, India and that of the Roma people, also known as Gypsies.
Sarah Lyons in “Economy” describes, the informal economy “includes a diverse range of activities that are unregulated (and untaxed) by the state…Informal economies include people who are informally self-employed and those working informally for other people’s enterprises. In some parts of the world the informal economy is a significant source of income and revenue” (7). In other words, the informal economy is run by the citizens themselves and not governed by strict government economic sanctions. People create their own way of life, depending on little help from government agencies. Many people who are part of the informal economy are those who are impoverished and need a different way of making ends meet. Furthermore, it is found mostly at impoverished areas around the globe. The informal economy helps those who are impoverished due to a failing formal economy.
The language barrier can be a difficult hurdle to jump. In “Language” Linda Light states that, “human language can be considered a culture’s most important feature since complex human culture would not exist without language and language could not exist without culture” (Light 1). This concept of language and culture being intertwined is the basis for the linguistics field. How language is passed on and interpreted from one person to another is a key factor is the cultural uses of language. With the immigration of Muslims to India, maybe it is possible to see a transition of the language as the cultures collide. The Gypsies language has brought their culture together with their unique way of communicating with each other; while keeping outsiders away.
There are many tall tales of the Gypsies, or the Roma as they prefer to be called, this is because of the mysterious past they share. From 1991-1994, Isabel Fonseca travelled all over Europe. While researching Gypsies by living with different families, she took part in participant observation. The textbook defines participant observation as “that the ethnographers participated in the daily lives of the people they studied, learned their languages, and became immersed in the ordinary workings of others’ societies” (Laura Nader 9). Throughout her observations in the daily lives of the Roma people Fonseca noticed many similarities within the Gypsy culture even though they all have been separated for many generations. Most, if not all, performed work that was not part of the formal economy. Therefore, the trade the Romani men use has no tax or supervision from the state, and thus they propel their way through society in the ways of their traditions. They weave baskets expertly, train dancing bears, trade with goods bought in one place and travel to another to sell as “exotic products”. Many of the skills they provide were passed down from generation to generation making the techniques of their culture unique to them.
During her time in Albania, there was a seventy percent unemployment rate throughout the state (Fonseca 37). Fonseca stayed with a family called the Dukas. Their thirty-year-old son, Nicu, had a decent job in a factory and quit, “he wanted to work, but like most Gypsies he had no use for regimented wage labor” (29). He wanted to make money on his own time. He and his brother-in-law Arben, would sell imported fabric from “Stanbuli” (30). Nicu eventually made enough money to buy his own apartment for himself, his wife and their children. This would have taken much longer if he kept his formal job at the factory. The most important aspect in the Gypsy culture is keeping a close-knit family. As many as three or four generations will live together and the new bride, or as they are called in Romani “boria”, moves into the husband’s family house, called patrilocal residence, the women’s job is that of keeping up with all the daily chores around the house. The boria, takes pride in this work as they feel it gives them purpose, while many of the unemployed husbands sit around doing nothing (Fonseca 41).
Education is not a priority to the Roma people. Many are illiterate and the furthest back in history they go is “the oldest person in the village” (Fonseca 87). There is little to no documentations of what went on throughout their history. Fonseca even noted that many of the atrocities the Nazi’s put them through has also been lost within their culture because no Roma will talk about “ancient history” (87). With no one in the village writing anything down, the only documentation of the Gypsy people comes from outsiders, such as missionaries, Nazi records, anthropologists, journalists and so on. Many linguists that study the gypsies have documented that many of the words in their Romani language are like Hindu, or Indian. Thus, the consensus from many linguistic anthropologists is that the exodus of the gypsies started in India some thousand years ago (Fonseca 100).
Throughout her research she found that since they have no traditional history, they can make up anything, and the outsiders are none the wiser. The “curse to roam the earth” is a common theme in many religious texts for the Gypsies. The most familiar is the story form the Christian bible in which a Gypsy blacksmith forged the iron nails to crucify Jesus. The Gypsy could only give the Roman soldiers three instead of four because, the fourth one would not cool down it remained red hot and followed the Gypsy everywhere he went (Fonseca 91). The constant migration around for thousands of years caused the Roma to pick up little bits of trade work as well as developing of the Romani language. Even though the Gypsies have been persecuted for much of their existence: “indeed their preferred lines of work have always enforced separateness and solidarity; as much as the language itself, their professions are the key to their cultural survival” (97). This is because for many of the Roma they have not integrated with the surrounding areas that they live in. Some families have been in one village for generations but still do not consider themselves as part of the community, they keep their language and their preferred career choices that are not part of the global economy. The obscure origins of the Roma people being traced back from Europe to India is fascinating.
The people of the Mumbai undercity are called Annawadi by the locals. It is a slum located behind the international airport; surrounding much of the slum are luxurious hotels and a developing city (Boo 5). The residents that live here are poor, and they build their small cramped huts using materials that were left in the garbage, or stolen from construction sites. The people who can’t get a job in the airport or hotels work as entrepreneurs; recyclers, threading marigolds or other trinkets to sell outside the airports, brothel workers, beggars, and other various odd jobs (Boo 4). All of which are part of the informal economy of India. Few if any of the residents have access to go to school. Many of the children in the slum work in the factories or as scavengers.
In the center of this ethnography is the Husain family, who are a minority in the slum because they are Muslim while most families are Hindu. Zehrunisa Husain, Abdul’s mother, says, "it's easy to break a single bamboo stick, but when you bundle the sticks, you can't even bend them,’ she told her children, ‘it's the same with family and with the people of our faith. Despite the petty differences, Muslims have to join up in big sufferings."(Boo 77). It is because they are one of the few Muslim families in the slum, they need to keep together to survive. Many of their neighbors are jealous that the family is doing so well. The recycling business was in a economic upswing in 2007-2008 due to all the construction and the summer Olympics in Beijing (Boo 6). They have the most profitable recycling business in the slum. Their oldest son Abdul is the main source of the family income; he sorts the garbage that he buys from other citizens that collect trash all over Mumbai. Abdul then takes the sorted trash and sells them to the recycling company for a profit. The family is saving up to buy property out of the slum. It may be cliché but the saying, “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure”, comes to mind. Just about everyone in Annawadi wants to leave for a better life, “in the Indian caste system, the most artfully oppressive division of labor ever devised, Dalits, once termed untouchables, were at the bottom of the heap” (Boo 42). Paul McDowell describes the Indian caste system as,
“India’s caste system consists of four varna, pure castes, and one collectively known as Dalit and sometimes as Harijan—in English, “untouchables,” reflecting the notion that for any varna caste member to touch or even see a Dalit pollutes them…In caste systems, membership is determined by birth and remains fixed for life, and social mobility, moving from one social class to another, is not an option… The topmost caste is the Brahmin or priestly caste. It is composed of priests, governmental officials and bureaucrats at all levels, and other professionals. The next highest is the Kshatriya, the warrior caste, which includes soldiers and other military personnel and the police and their equivalents. Next are the Vaishyas, who are craftsmen and merchants, followed by the Sudras (pronounced “shudra”), who are peasants and menial workers.” (Paul
Even though the caste system has been abolished form modern day India there remains a rigid social status that is difficult to get out of. However, if one has the right connections or grit they can scrape by in this society. In the twenty first century, it seems odd to hold on to what was written hundreds of years ago. No longer does anyone want to just have the life they are born in, not when there is opportunity to do better. Abdul is noticing the trend that few, if any, “hold onto the old ways of being, everyone wants, he says that people now want a better life” (Boo xvii). So, where the formal economy fails there are people that will create their own way to survive in the slums, and hopefully succeed further.
There is also government corruption in the slums of Annawadi. At the center is Asha, the first female slumlord: “slumlord was an unofficial position, but residents knew who held it” (Boo 18). The slumlord is usually put in power by corrupted political figures including police officers. Asha was also a kindergarten teacher at the local public school, so her position as a teacher was the bridge between the formal and informal economy of having the perks of the slumlord. She would perform task and “favors” for the community that would mostly benefit her own family and the corrupt politics that surround Annawadi. The kind of political corruption is part of the reasonings why the informal economy is so important for the survival of the residents.
In conclusion, both ethnographies tell the stories of the people that would have no voices to tell their own. The Roma and the slum dwellers of Annawadi all try different ways of getting by through the tough economic world. Although the Roma have lived in one place for generations, they are considered to be social outcast and they like to keep it that way. Romani have a hazy history and an even more mysterious language with bits and pieces taken from everywhere they have traveled. These different lingual roots are the only way to show that they have a history at all. The Gypsies have been roaming the earth for longer than they care to reminisce about. The lack of writing and education has not slowed the progress of the Roma people as they still find ways to eat and prosper with help of the family unit all working together to get by. The Indian slums are not a place of much happiness but with the little they have; many residents strive to be better. Here I have outlined only a few details from the ethnographies in which people find a way to survive without much help from the formal economy.
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By Lukas Mueller and Jesus Leon
Cultural transmission is a process of social reproduction in which the culture’s technological knowledge, behavioral patterns, and cosmological beliefs are communicated and acquired; it is the means by which culture in all of its forms is permitted to exist. In his list of communication system design features, the linguist Charles Hockett describes cultural transmission as “the need for some aspects of the [communication] system to be learned through interaction with others, rather than being 100% innate or genetically programmed” (Light). Regardless of whether the transmitted cultural “traits” are applicable to acquiring subsistence or to pleasing tribal deities, the act of transmitting skills or knowledge seems to be based on the same fundamental processes. Through making comparisons between ethnographic studies of the Aka of Africa and of the Huichol of Mexico, and using insight gained from other anthropological works, it becomes clear that culture and social existence can be just as powerful as environment in shaping the way that knowledge is valued, shared, and ultimately used.
The way that a people define themselves and their relationship with the experienced universe is not always easy to decipher from objective conditions or reductionist logic. The realities that individuals experience are products of nature, nurture, and learning history; culture can have an influence on all of these, so that there are differences in the way that different cultures interpret and describe the world. Furthermore, the descriptions of particular aspects of life within a culture may have acquired either symbolic elaboration, if important, or symbolic impoverishment, if irrelevant. Thus, while a tribe subsisting off of nearby fish will surely benefit from transmitting only skills and knowledge relevant to fishing technique, tools, and geography, it should also be recognized that knowledge about how to participate in a fish related ceremony adds value to the cognitive process, the cultural identity, and the multifaceted reality within which that identity exists. Conversely, a tribe living high in the inland mountains might not even have a word for the ocean, much less would they have need to create myths, stories, or rituals to elaborate the concept.
Knowledge and skill involving the abstract or social aspects of reality are sometimes as important as cultural traits involving the concrete, and can propagate through a culture’s population in analogous or even identical ways. This idea is supported by research conducted by Bronislaw Malinkowski in the Trobriand Islands of Papua, New Guinea; he applied a functionalist approach to religion, believing that the unavoidable differences between reality and human plans created problems which could be addressed through religious ceremony. Malinkowski noticed that the Trobriand tradition of taking long dangerous boat journeys to neighboring islands to exchange ritual items required extensive ritual preparation , while shorter journeys required no such rituals. Malinkowski reasoned that,
Longer trips were not only more dangerous, but also provoked more anxiety because the men felt like they had less control over what might happen. On long voyages, there were many things that could go wrong, few of which could be planned for or avoided… religious rituals provided a way to reduce or control anxiety when anticipating these conditions (Henninger-Rener).
In addition to the pragmatic functions that religious ceremonies might provide to individuals, they also serve to strengthen the fabric of culture itself by providing shared values and concepts, contributing to the confederation of individuals within a shared cultural identity. The knowledge aspects of ritual tradition can be approached through an analogy: The driver of an automobile can operate the vehicle and get to where they are going, even if they don’t really understand how the engine works, and a passenger can go with them. For instance, the functional utility of a ritual may be obscured to those participating in it, and may not even be understood fully by the person conducting it, but it still performs its function. Knowledge of something’s value or function does not require knowledge of its internal mechanics.
While it may be easy to understand the purposes behind the acquisition and transmission of pragmatic cultural traits (which are self-explanatory through their direct relation to survival), it is a different task altogether to understand the purpose behind implicit beliefs which are described using abstract symbols. Unlike knowledge of the concrete, which involves components that are common in human experience, knowledge of the abstract requires exposure to the symbolic manifestation of conscious experience that are unique to every culture. The way that the people of a culture understand reality is reflected in the semantic web of their symbolic references; the interplay of these references form what can be thought of as a kind of “symbolic ecology” in which concepts are created, maintained, and destroyed as a result of their intermingling. Much like the objects and creatures of nature form a dynamic “web of life”, the references and ideas of language form a dynamic “web of meaning”. Learning about how an ecology of symbols functions as a whole can provide a person with an understanding of cultural context, and allow them to gain access to the true purpose of symbols: meaning. While, the Huichol and the Aka each have their own practical and spiritual traditions, it is only after deep inspection that one can begin to make accurate intuitive assumptions about the deeper meanings of some cultural practices. While practicing participant observation is useful in the acquisition of such well informed intuition (Nader), this analysis focuses on the more obvious or functional aspects of cultural transmission for either the concrete or abstract knowledge of each culture; this approach represents an attempt to avoid the uncertainty inherent in speculation. While the Huichol are well known for their propensity for shamanic ceremonial knowledge and spiritual art, the cited ethnographic study of the Aka focuses largely on practical knowledge. It is the goal of this ethnology to examine the transmission of knowledge independently of its type. Thus, in comparing different aspects of each culture based upon their informational aspects we can also compare abstract knowledge transmission to the transmission of more objective knowledge or skills, and make observations that transcend both cultures.
The Huichol cosmology is so steeped in symbolism that a complete analysis is beyond the scope of this paper. Nevertheless, it is vital to review a core summary of Huichol lore, which will serve as a primer for the examination of cultural transmission. The Huichol are an indigenous population of Northern Mexico that have earned distinction for the symbolic richness of their culture, rites, rituals and religious beliefs. Huicholes are a polytheistic tribe that make different idols for each separate god. Idols are providential to the Huicholes, so idols are often buried in caves or temples away from prying eyes. Every god is sacred to the Huicholes, and it is therefore imperative that the symbolic artifacts which link them to the Huicholes in reality be protected from harm. Idols of central importance are buried within cavities of the temples. A temple doubles as a divine sanctuary for a god, and also as a place of worship for Huicholes.
Symbolism of the Huichol Indians describes the layering of Huichol symbolism:
He once counted 47 gods recognized by the tribe...every rock of peculiar shape is considered a deity...the mythical ancestors or their belongings. However, it would be a mistake to assume that all gods are in reality different... A great number are necessarily only different impersonations of the same God. Women are considered as the daughters of the goddesses, and men as the sons of the gods, each one belonging to a particular God. Each god has his animals, which, as an Indian explained to me, stand in the same relation to the God as to the hens to the master of the house (10).
This example is illustrative of the Huichol tendency to superimpose different symbols into the same meaning (at least in ritual contexts). The Huichol have pragmatic reasons for this, and upon closer inspection it becomes apparent that a cloud is interchangeable with the tail of a deer in Huichol art because each has been come to be associated with the same primitive abstract, a discrete manifestation of an essential generality: subsistence (rain brings corn, and deer brings meat). This is shown in the passage, “A spiral painted on the rear shaft of an arrow, the blood of the deer, and the color red, are also emblems of life; and health, life, and luck are symbolized by cotton wool, by the hair from the tale of the deer, by the deer itself, and by the color white” (Symbolism of the Huichol Indians, 213). The Huichol also derive their religious mythology from the stars in the sky; each one, according to the Huicholes, represents either a god or a goddess. It may be difficult for outsiders to understand the way of the Huicholes because they live their religion on a daily basis. A devout Catholic typically spends one day out of the week, Sunday, to practice their religion at mass. In contrast, Huicholes have a god for almost every object they come across. Bowls, for example, are not merely decorative objects, but have a much deeper meaning than mundane kitchenware. Symbolism of the Huichol Indians goes on to state that “the principal food all the year-round is corn and beans... Hunting of deer and the killing of cattle are always connected with religious ceremonies, their meat being eaten at religious feasts” (7). This shows that the elements which are central in the corporeal lives of the Huichol people are symbolically extended to incorporate aspects of existence that are more abstract, mental, and spiritual; this is one of many examples of the Huichol proclivity to associate abstract or incorporeal notions with particulars found in what is presumed to be objective reality.
The Aka pygmies are foragers who live relatively undisturbed for what is presumed to be a long time in their native tropical forest habitat in southern Central Africa and Northern Congo. At the time this study was conducted, it was uncommon to find quantitative data on cultural aspects such as the transmission of knowledge about subsistence skills and artifact production. Aside from the lack of data, impetus for this study arose from a model of cultural transmission developed by Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman (1981): “[The model] indicates that quantitative data on mechanisms of transmission of cultural traits, such as subsistence skills, could be useful in predicting within-group variability, stability of cultural traits over time and space, and the evolutionary processes in culture.” It should be noted that the term “cultural evolution”, as used in this study, does not carry the same meaning as the term “cultural evolutionism”(Cowall); “cultural evolution” is not meant to define a culture as civilized or savage, but is rather used to describe the state of efficiency that has been obtained in the performance of activities derived from culturally transmitted knowledge. For example, a village having one skilled fisherman (or one shaman) would be more “culturally evolved” if more people had the same (or similar) skills or knowledge. Paradoxically, the spread of a harmful behavior, or even the spread of something like laziness can also, in this context, be thought of as cultural evolution. However, for the ethnography under analysis, cultural evolution is the accumulation of non-genetic adaptations that enable a culture to better deal with the demands of both the natural world and the social world. Considering the fact that all non-genetic adaptations are acquired through learning (either knowledge or skill), or stored implicitly as cumulative trans-generational knowledge in the form of artifacts, the transmission of cultural knowledge can be generalized into some basic elements: methods of transmission, modes of transmission, and repositories of cultural knowledge (artifactual, symbolic, or otherwise). A practical artifact is analogous to a ritual artifact in the sense that one has an effect on the natural environment, while the other has an effect on the social environment(for the group) and cognitive environment(for the individual); both exist as they do because of trans-generational knowledge that is stored as a physical object. In the case of each artifact, the stored knowledge it represents is implicitly defined by its function within the socio-environmental spectrum of cultural life. A ceremonial arrow has a particular function in the mental world of tribe members in a ritual or as cultural art, allowing them to anchor mental functions in persistent symbols, even if the only material function of the arrow does not differ from an arrow used for hunting. A minimum of four distinct modes of cultural transmission are posited, each having different effects on things like the difficulty of acceptance, variation between individuals or groups, and the rate of cultural evolution (i.e. how long it takes for more people to acquire a skill); the four acknowledged modes include: vertical (parent-to-child), horizontal (contagious), one-to-many, and many-to-one (concerted)(“Cultural Transmission Among Aka Pygmies”, 923). The Aka study selected 50 skills (cultural traits) many of which are important for the biological imperatives of survival and reproduction while some of which had greater social significance The tribe members were surveyed about which of the 50 skills they each possessed, and who in particular had showed them how to execute the skill. When a child answered that any combination of their parents had taught them, it was then verified whether the answer was accurate. Only 3 deviations were found out of 1,400 responses (Cultural Transmission among Aka Pygmies, 928) (1397/1400= .998… that is to say: children were 99.8% accurate in knowing the source of skill knowledge). The results of the study showed that parents were the overwhelming contributors (80.7%) in the process of cultural transmission; this implies that vertical transmission is the most important mode of cultural transmission, especially between generations.
According to the Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman model, vertical transmission is a “conservative mode of transmission; It assures slow evolution while allowing individual variation”. This means that there is variation in the distribution of skills within a community, but also that a particular cultural trait is resistant to not only extinction, but to saturation of the culture as well (Cultural Transmission Among Aka Pygmies, 932). It is important to note that, for the Aka, parental contribution was greater for things like food acquisition skills (89.3%) than things like dancing and singing skills (51.9%). “Watching others” (besides parents) is also important, but is most often employed “in learning situations where there are relatively few skilled individuals” (“Cultural Transmission Among Aka Pygmies”, 929). Regardless, of how concrete the knowledge or skills under analysis are, it is not difficult to see that the processes involved in cultural transmission do not change much when dealing with abstract or immaterial cultural constructs. In the case of the Huichol, associating an abstract with a concrete artifact or symbol allows them to treat an indeterminate or otherwise intractable concept as a discrete object, and illustrates applicable knowledge, or skill, while “using” it within the schema of a ritual or performance. For the Aka, mastering the use of a fishing net involves using culturally accumulated knowledge and transgeneration effort (in the form of the net artifact) within the schema of food acquisition. Victor Turner is quoted as having described ritual,
as ‘a stereotyped sequence of activities ... performed in a sequestered place, and designed to influence preternatural entities or forces on behalf of the actors’ goals and interests.’ Rituals have a concrete purpose or goal, such as a wedding ritual that results in a religiously sanctioned union between people, but rituals are also symbolic. The objects and activities involved in rituals “stand in for” or mean more than what they actually are (Henninger-Rener).
Whether a stereotyped sequence of activities performed in a function-specific location involves praying at a temple or fishing in a stream, the objects and activities are employed for a concrete purpose, regardless of whether or not the objects have physical functions or mental functions.
While many people hold religion to be the sacred truth, it can nonetheless be analyzed from the position that religion is but a subcategory of folklore, mythology, and storytelling (with the distinct quality of providing answers to existential questions). The lexicon required to describe the physical world that surrounds us is comprised of words that reference physical realities. The lexicon used to describe realities that do not physically exist are by nature linked, at most, only tenuously to the physical characteristics of things. The Huichol use ceremonial artifacts to assist in the cognitive tasks involved in the execution of their rituals; through the use of persistent objects as symbols for transient mental states, they can extend their capacity for symbolic processing. For example, pen and paper - themselves cultural artifacts - extend the memory and processing power of the humans that use them, even if all of the cognition is not happening within the skull of that person. Repositories of cultural knowledge are also maintained in symbolic records, whether those records take the form of symbolic art or formalized script. Immaterial (or distributed) repositories can also be seen in traditional music, art, performance, religion, and storytelling. These traditions are ways that cultural knowledge can be stored and disseminated, while being stored across a community of minds (brains), as one might expect in those cultures that rely on oral tradition.
The spiritual reality that permeates the day to day life of all Huicholes takes the form of a consistent and continuous analogy that reflects the happenings in the physical and social world. Aside from analogies, the symbol system that the Huichol use to transmit culturally vital information is both nature oriented and dualistic. Stories, art, song and ceremony all possess a structure that maintains continuity between human and natural existence, duality between up and down, front and back, hot/dry, wet/cold, masculine/feminine; the dualistic categorization of perceptions and their analogies provide the axes upon which sit their cosmology. Arturo Gutierrez del Angel expounds upon the importance of ritual performance and its meaning:
The importance attributed to the proper performance of Huichol ceremonies is incredibly intense: “The [implements] of sacrificial rituals form a unity out of cosmological and sociological oppositions… On one side of the dangerous in the dark… Even the disintegration of community in the most basic social categories. On the other side, the rising Sun and the return of human community…: The continuation of the universe and the return of orderly social life (Blood in Huichol Ritual, 117).
According to Victor Turner, “dominant ritual symbols condensed different thoughts and actions into a single representation...”; These two characters together might be considered a "unification of disparate significata”, each meaning something by itself, but together they create a more inclusive meaning: "disparate significata are interconnected by virtue of their common possession of analogous qualities or by association in fact or thought" (Blood in Huichol Ritual 115).The Western impression of storytelling and language are very fixed, and it is quite difficult to imagine a story that is told in an unfamiliar manner while having it retain its identity as a story. The Huichol show us that there are many ways to pass on cultural knowledge through storytelling. Carl Lumholtz, the author of Symbolism of the Huichols, gave credence to the work of his contemporary, Frank Hamilton Cushing, noting that,
it was easy to infer… that these creature prayer shields, hung up at intervals in the God houses and temples, were, in the first place, highly developed forms of such little dance shields as the Zuni and other northern Indians use in their secret dramas. If hung up at more regular intervals and accordingly in more orderly array, in the temples, they would speedily come to be regarded as ‘speaking shields,’ and so would ultimately be graven and painted on the walls of the temples themselves, precisely as are the shield like iconic grounds, our so-called ‘glyphs,’ of the ancient Maya ruins. (Symbolism of the Huichol, 216).
It seems that the highly symbolic tradition of the Huichol Indians relies heavily on spatial orientation and identity through analogy. While the divine aspects of their cosmology touch nearly every aspect of Huichol life, it is apparent through their system of symbols that there is a preoccupation with commonly encountered elements of subsistence and threats to mortality. This takes shape in Huichol culture through the posturing of storytellers between life-giving aspects of reality and its more destructive elements, even if these dichotomous polar opposites are referred to indirectly through suggestive symbolism and art that must be interpreted.
The tendency for an audience to accept statements made by storytellers surely relies on the same rules that normal discourse abides by. Thus, a storyteller that adopts a tone that implies “with your permission” is much more likely to receive acceptance of their message. Prominent anthropological authors have noted that, “Often the more polite an utterance, the less direct it will be syntactically” (Light). This seems to match up with the way that knowledge is transmitted through ceremony and ritual. One can easily see that concrete references with singular literal meanings are quite direct, while more symbolic or abstract representations of reality are less direct. It seems likely that the acceptance of information that is not confirmable by concrete reference is more likely when a storyteller is polite about its delivery, just as people are more willing to cooperate with people with whom they have a positive relationship (which can be cultivated by being polite, one of many ways to be respectful and persuasive without being forceful). Transmission of cultural knowledge is much more likely to be conducted between individuals that have intimate or familial ties, trust relationships, or possibly admiration; this can be seen in both the ceremonial storytelling of the Huichol and in the skill acquisition of the Aka.
The transmission of cultural knowledge is sometimes enacted through a bidirectional transference, involving interactivity, or it may involve a “one-to-many” distribution of information. Ceremonies conducted by shamans involve some degree of feedback, but are mostly unidirectional. Insight into aspects of Huichol shamanism can be garnered from the examination of “Blood in Huichol Rituals”:
In the play of social relations, some people are included some are excluded; not everyone achieves the power to manipulate blood. The highest offices of the cargo system, such as those that undertake the ritual pilgrimage to Wirikuta, are hereditary. Hence, only those that go to the sacred place have access to divinity through esoteric rituals (111).
This relates to the findings in the Aka study, which show that the transmission of culture through watching others, who are not your parents, is only significant when there is a sufficiently high knowledge differential. While physical skills are inaccessible to novices because of the learning curve, a parallel inaccessibility of knowledge can be artificially maintained through cultural practice. Thus, the ability of the Huichol initiate to command attention and transmit culture is at least partially dependent on actively making sure some knowledge is classified. Similarly, certain skills are not learned by Aka tribes people until they have achieved a certain level of stamina and strength, and they are not told hunting stories until they are themselves able to hunt. Such restricted access might be seen as incentive to perform the obligations associated with the rites of passage for a given culture; similarly, other tribes do not share adult stories with children who have not completed their “coming of age” rites, effectively creating a social barrier that must be crossed in order to achieve identity as a full member of the culture.
Huichol families possess symbolic artwork that is used as a primer for spoken stories or ritual ceremonies. The Huichol people grow up listening to stories told by their elders using these works, and eventually come into the role of interpreting them for others. This allows for the replication of the cultural knowledge across generations (with the assistance of an informational artifact, acting as a mnemonic), while providing some degree of interpretive flexibility. The author of “Huichol Gourd Bowls as a Microcosm” discusses how ceremonial objects (such as bowls) constitute miniature models of the cosmos and act as communicative vehicles between distinct cosmological levels. Certain colors correspond to masculinity or femininity through their associated primitive symbols such as fire and rain, or light and dark. This highlights a codified color-symbol system which allows for slight variation or artistic license. Huichols gourd bowls may be thought of as a materialized way of thinking about the larger sacred territory. In “The Huichol Gourd Bowl as a Microcosm”, Olivia Kindl observes that there is a principle “spatial replication” in both the topological organization of sacred territory and gourd bowls, amounting to what can be called a “homologous system” (49). A Huichol described the representations marking a bowl, the interpretations of which were passed down to her through successive generations:
As she explained the meanings of the figures, she also recalled a succession of sacred sites to which the figures referred. Each figure referred to the others as they helped her remember myths about the deity which the figure represented in the places to which she had once made pilgrimages. These objects are linked to a mental map for her; and by consulting it she recalled both the configuration of sacred territory and an account of the deities that live in distinct areas (“The Huichol Gourd Bowl as a Microcosm”, 50).
In this example of how artifacts can act as analogical elaborations of cultural knowledge, the votive bowl acted as both a mnemonic device for recorded knowledge and as a means to construct a geographical mental map. Gourd bowls should be read outward from the center of their beaded center in order to comprehend the message contained there. Much like English speaking cultures read from left to right, this convention for symbol processing indicates sequential and probably contextual elements in the symbol system used. Numbers also plays a role in the creation of legend, and may signify the unity of the natural world when used in storytelling. It also provides a coarse example of how the same methods are used to create and transmit knowledge about physical things as are used to think about that which is immaterial (i.e. numbers are abstracted from physical quantities, and then applied to non-physical quantities).
There are differences between every culture, but there are also commonalities. The schemas used to describe reality, the degree and fashion to which meaning is layered upon meaning, and the values that change with each socio-ecological relationship all vary with each culture. Anthropology studies what it means to be human. In the effort to define what humanity is, it is useful to examine what is similar across cultures that superficially seem the most distinct. Through the analysis of commonalities between the Aka Pygmies and the Huichol Indians, it can be shown that there is a parallel between the methodology of knowledge transfer for concrete practical knowledge and abstract ritual knowledge. Cultural transmission of knowledge takes a common form despite large differences in cultural particulars, subject matter, and the research emphasis of different ethnographers. The quality of either practical and ritual tools as cultural artifacts is measured by their efficacy in enabling the use of stored cultural knowledge, and directing it to produce a concrete result, regardless of how convoluted the process may be. In addition to artifacts, knowledge is transferred within and between generations through a variety of means, including storytelling, skill-building, observation, art, performance and religion. If the Aka and the Huichol can be used as representative examples, then humans seem to be the most receptive to cultural traits that are transmitted by people who fulfill the role of parents, or individuals who possess rare knowledge or exceptional ability. As was noted about the Huichol culture, rituals and ceremonies allow for the transmission of symbolically elaborated cultural knowledge that is often tied to aspects of material importance within a particular culture. Each kind of knowledge is context specific, and is most applicable in a specific setting or time; this is even true for spiritual knowledge. What starts as the context of ritual, perhaps in a temple, is internalized to create an “inner space” which can serves as a portable context. Cultures such as the Huichol take the context in which spiritual knowledge is applicable everywhere they go. Learning through analogy seems to be a universal human quality, and pronounced aspects of human existence tend to penetrate into other aspects of a given culture. Unlike concrete skills (i.e. subsistence knowledge), abstract or spiritual knowledge seems independent of circumstance. However, what is seen in the practices of different tribes is the superimposition of spiritual life over physical life; this means that the experience of spiritual knowledge is not necessarily context dependent, and can serve to elaborate, augment, or modify circumstantial knowledge. Aside from developmental constraints on the recipients of knowledge, there are no fundamental differences between the cultural transmission of concrete and abstract knowledge. While every culture on this planet is unique, much can be learned by bridging the gaps in our understanding of others, and seeing how people are fundamentally alike; it is the act of doing so which brings us toward a more enlightened contemplation of what it means to be human.
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Human Brain Evolution and Artistic Creativity
By Joey Wozniak
What separates humans from other hominids throughout evolution? Many early hominids are found to be skilled and intelligent, why did humans become the species that replaced the rest? Humans and other primates are separated by their cultural behavior. One aspect of culture that stands out among humans is our ability to create. The brain evolved in such a way that humans are able to envision an image and turn it into reality. Throughout this paper I will be discussing that distinction in the human brain, and its significance. This paper will reference different scientific articles about the creative human brain. I’ll talk about some key aspects of the brain that contribute to human creativity and how this relates to evolution. Perception in the human brain is a big part of creativity, and there are some examples of prehistoric art that shows us how humans painted thousands of years ago. Some well-preserved caves in France tell us a lot of the creative process. Ill also talk about the origins of art before it was put on a flat surface. Body decoration was probably one of the first forms of art and these techniques were an important step in the evolution of creativity.
The human brain is the fastest evolving organ, and with this rapid evolution comes the element of variability. Darwin makes an argument in, The Origin of Species, that this element is a key aspect of evolution. The variability of the brain cannot be described with concrete details. Instead we assume certain things about the brain based on intelligence, sensitivities, and creative abilities. Creativity through artwork is an expression of variability in the brain, and art is one of the most subjective parts of human culture. Creativity in humans is one of the most important parts of human culture, therefore variability is an important part of evolution.
When anthropologists look at art, they mostly study culture. But in biological or physical anthropology scientist look at physical aspects of humans that are inherited. Art is generally considered part of culture, behavior that is learned. Art in the present is learned through years of practice, and you can see the differences in art from different regions. Cultures around the world create art, and they all teach different methods. However in the field of biological anthropology scientists focus on evolution. Dennis O’Neil says about biological anthropologists, “They want to learn how our ancestors changed through time to become what we are today.” So looking at art through biological anthropology will look at the physical artifacts that we can see evolution of art. We also look at the evolution of the brain and how art shows this. Neurobiology is important in the study of hominids, we can look at similarities of humans to other primates. The fields become similar when study art. Creating art is cultural behavior, it evolved throughout history, and humans are the primates with the most creative part of the brain.
Art is something that is always subject to the perception of the viewer. Variability is an important part of human culture. So when we look at art through an anthropological lens, we can think of art as anything created that is not functioning directly towards the survival of humans. Art can be in the form of music, dance, sculptures, jewelry, quilts, fine arts, and others. Fine art is the subcategory that describes the art discussed in this paper, including paintings, drawings, sculptures, and carvings. When we discuss humans in prehistory, we talk about art created by anatomically modern humans. This distinction made by anthropologists separates humans, or Homo sapiens, from other hominids. Anatomically modern refers to the group of humans that was evolved to have an appearance consistent with the range of phenotypes in modern humans.
Studying art in cultural anthropology would look at the social aspect of the art. Why it was created, who was designated and why. A cultural anthropologist may also look at the significance of art in the particular society. In physical anthropology we study the methods used to create art, their tools, and the physical attributes of the brain that made the art possible. In order to do this we must look at evidence found at different sites. The evidence is dated from about 100,000 years ago to about 15,000 years ago. Anthropologists also use the distinction B.P, which simply means Before Present. This measurement is more general and accounts for the constant aging of artifacts.
Much has been learned in the past 25 years about the human brain. Semir Zeki, Professor of Neurobiology at University College London, writes an article about how the brain is connected to visual aesthetics. The brain perceives certain lines in different ways when responding to artwork. Orientation-selective cells respond to straight lines, these are the neural building blocks of the perception of form (Zeki, 2001). Other types of art emphasize movement, and de-emphasize color and form. Zeki asserts through the research of neurobiology that these types of painting stimulate the V5 area of the brain, or the motion center. What he’s saying is that the brain has different responses when you see different types of paintings. So subjective reactions to artwork are neurological as well as cultural. The paintings that focus less on form and more on movement stimulate the motion-selective cells rather than the orientation-selective cells in the brain. According to Zeki, “Artists are, in a sense, neurologists who unknowingly study the brain with techniques unique to them.” (Zeki, 2001).
Visual art offers advantages in the advancement of human society. Our culture is improved by the presence of creatives. On the opposite end, some creative minds are outcast from society, called deviants from the norm. However the intense individualism that is a commonality in the art world often causes brilliance in the expression of creativity. We see this as we look at artwork throughout history, even prehistory shows its share of artwork, and evolution can be seen throughout the ages. Variability causes individuals to perceive art differently. Semir Zeki claims, “This is why we normally assign art to a private, subjective world; its richness lies in the fact that its power to disturb and arouse varies between individuals. In so doing, we do not acknowledge sufficiently, if at all, the extent to which that subjectivity and variability is based upon a commonality.”(Zeki, 2001). Basically, the brain is connected to aesthetics in ways we do not quite understand, but what we can see is that subjectivity connects all of us. We are all different in our culture, and how different individuals see art shows that. We can communicate with one another through the commonality of variability. We all have different opinions that can be discussed.
Evidence has been found to prove that the human brain evolved rapidly from the Upper Paleolithic period of human history. Recent findings in African caves show the use of color and skilled craftsmanship dating to about 164,000 years ago (Morriss-Kay, 2010). The cave paintings found in Africa show that European Paleolithic paintings have a long history behind them. Art was conceived in Africa, and made its way across the world. Humans were learning this behavior in different parts of the world before cave paintings were created in Europe. The European Upper Paleolithic period left a great deal of fossils that we can learn from, however the Middle to Upper African Paleolithic period left few works in the form of cave painting. Artists worked with wood to create sculpture, which is a material that does not fossilize. From the cave paintings and stone carvings that survived, we can infer that there was a historical artistic tradition in early humans in Africa (Morriss-Kay, 2010).
Although hominid history dates back around 6 million years, there is little record of ingenuity for millions of years afterward, due to the use of perishable materials. Any art that was created was not made with materials that fossilized, so scientists have no evidence. Most of what scientists are able to study comes from early Homo sapiens, about 40,000 years ago. This material is made up of cave paintings, showing Ice Age animals and other scenes of early humans. One very well-preserved set of cave art was discovered almost 80 years ago in the Lascaux Cave, near Montignac, France. These paintings are a spectacular example of human artistry; they date back to 15,000 years ago (DiChristina, 2013). After the sudden emergence of human creativity, we find evidence of rapid evolution of creative skill. This evolution coincides with the evolution of the human brain, proving that aesthetics evolved with human cognition.
Before anatomically modern humans arrived in Europe 40,000 years ago, they were making art in Africa. However most of this art was not on flat surfaces like the paintings found in France. Homo sapiens would decorate their bodies with pigments, or beads created from shells. Evidence of this was found in the Blombos caves of South Africa, dated around 100,000 BP (Morriss-Kay, 2010). The early practice of body painting in Africa can be identified as the roots of modern day body art in the form of tattoos and cosmetics. The evidence of creativity in South Africa suggests that humans were highly developed and performed cognitive artistic activities. African skulls found in Ethiopia show that early humans were anatomically modern around 160,000-195,000 BP (Morriss-Kay, 2010). Body decoration is an important step in the evolution of the creative process, humans first learned to use color on their body, then evolved to create outside of the body.
The earliest known practices of creating art separate from body decoration is the process of piercing bones, teeth or shells to create necklaces. The necklaces in early human culture would symbolize status or importance of the individual wearer. The creators of the art pieces may not have been the wearers, which suggests a hierarchy in the culture of these people. The evidence shows that creativity evolved enough in the human brain for the societies to have certain people designated for creative design. This also confirms Zeki’s conclusion that variability is key in creative evolution. Not every hominid’s brain is evolved in such a way that they can see something in their head as aesthetically pleasing, and make real.
Morriss-Kay suggests in her article, The Evolution of Human Artistic Creativity, that there may be alternative explanations to the use of body decoration. Face-painting could have been used simply to camouflage one’s face in order to better hunt prey. Humans that coexisted in different groups may have also colored themselves to differentiate the groups from one another. There’s evidence found to be from 30,000 BP that shows ostrich eggshell beads were used to trade with other Kenyan tribes in exchange for food (Morris-Kay, 2010). The practice of creativity and decoration may have just been a result of the early human’s instinct of survival.
The evolution of the creative human brain was only something learned through culture, early men were shown to create on different continents. The practice of body decoration using color evolved in Middle Paleolithic Europe away from the original African sites. There is at least 70 European Neanderthal sites that produced blocked of polished pigments that could have been used in a similar way to those of the African Homo sapiens (Morriss-Kay, 2010). This evidence shows that Neanderthals used different pigments for camouflage or decoration at least 60,000 years ago (Morriss-Kay, 2010). The Neanderthals used the paint for survival purposes rather than decoration as art.
When humans first created art separate from their bodies it was in the form of patterns. Decorative patterns were found on an ochre block in South Africa dated 77,000 BP, and etched into a piece of flint from 54,000 BP in the Levant (Morriss-Kay, 2010). There is also evidence of pattern engravings in bones from Lower Paleolithic Europe. Some of these remains may be associated with Neanderthals, and even some earlier hominids. The concept of deliberately making patterns is an early stage of creative evolution, however remains like this show that early humans felt the need to craft in some way. Morris-Kay states in her article, “The cognitive activity underlying pattern-making is complex, involving planning and intention, but the original idea of pattern may be a function of the brain.” What she’s saying here is that even if these humans did not consciously believe they were artists, or they were doing anything special, they had the brain make-up to plan and complete these designs. There are a few different states the brain can be in that cause someone to see patterns, such as a migraine, temporal lobe epilepsy, or on certain drugs. This stage in the evolution of creation seems more about brain functions rather than conscious creativity. Although the patterns created by early humans may not be as beautiful or impressive as those after thousands of years of evolution, every stage of the creative brain is key in how we see art in the present.
The painting found at the Lascaux cave in France show the sophistication of human creativity during the Upper Paleolithic era. There are about 600 paintings throughout the cave, depicting horses, deer, bison, and other animals that were present in this area during the time period, there’s also the presence of around 1400 engravings with similar depictions. This region is France is home to many decorated caves from the same time period. This may show that there is some kind of ritualistic or spiritual aspect to the culture of these early Homo sapiens (Groeneveld, 2016). Archeological records show that this area was occupied by anatomically modern humans, but the cave itself may not have been regularly inhibited. The cave was only temporarily occupied by the artists designated to create inside the cave, and this speaks about the cultural practices of these early people. It is also shown that the cave was lit with sandstone lamps, fueled by animal fat, and also by fireplaces throughout the cave. These humans were using tools to improve their working environment, they were trying to do the best work possible. The artists used pigments created from minerals found in their environment, but the minerals used for these pigments were found about 250 kilometers away (Groeneveld, 2016). The artist collected their materials and lived in a cave to get this work done. These humans had developed enough artistic desire that they planned this work and went to great lengths to complete it.
Upper Paleolithic humans had developed stone tools to complete various tasks in the interest of survival. The cave paintings in France suggest that these humans were not only interested in surviving, but they had a desire to thrive as a culture. Simon Worall concludes, “Without Art, we’re not human.” (Worall, 2017). What he means is that in the evolution of species, the development of creativity in the human brain sets us apart from other species. He does not limit this view to fine art, even though that is the focus of this paper. Worall goes on to add, “Whether it’s painting, building airplanes, or figuring out how to make a paycheck last to the end of the month, it all stems from the same creative capacity.” Basically the variability of the human brain is a characteristic that defines our culture. Worall’s point is applicable in the case of the humans that created the Lascaux cave in France. Not only were these people creating tools to survive, they created tools for making art. Some images were created by painting with their fingers, others used brushes made of hair, and some were blown on the wall through a hollow bone (Groeneveld, 2016). This evidence shows the capacity of the human brain at this time, these people were driven towards aesthetic beauty in addition to other evolutionary developments.
The abundance of prehistoric art discovered in Europe creates a very Eurocentric idea of the origins of creativity. There are plenty of examples of cave art, engravings, and relief sculptures, 95% of these resources are found in France (Morriss-Kay, 2010). The Eurocentric view comes from the many examples of cave art that scientists can see throughout Europe. These caves may have just been the ones that survived over others in Africa, but it’s the evidence that shows us the most about humans from this time. Another example of well-preserved cave art comes from a different site in France near Vallon-Pont-d’Arc. This site, known as the Chauvet Cave, contains similar pieces to those in the Lascaux cave, but these are dated around 30,000 years ago (Groeneveld, 2017). Manual dexterity in humans can be proven by the evidence found in this sight, even 15,000 years before the creation of the Lascaux cave. However, we can see that the processes were different between the two cultures. The painters in the Chauvet cave did not use brushes like the later artists did, they used charcoal and animal hides to create their art on the walls of the cave. Therefore, we can see the evolution of Paleolithic tool-making by looking at early human artwork. The artwork in the Chauvet cave was originally thought to be a similar age as the Lascaux cave, but this one is now considered to be much older. Finding artwork as detailed as this from 30,000 years ago caused scientists to reconsider the history of human creativity (Groeneveld, 2017).
Zeki discusses a field he hopes to see in the future called neuroaesthetics, where he says scientists will study artistic creativity and achievement based on the process of perception. Human evolution in creativity, as I have discussed throughout this paper has been leading up to science such as this. Human activity is based on the laws of the brain and its organization. Zeki asserts that theories of aesthetics are unsatisfactory if not neurobiologically based. Gillian Morriss-Kay affirms this theory when she examines the importance of studying the history of human art. According to the article; humans that were producing art, although culturally different, were anatomically modern; therefore the development of their art is important to study. I have discussed some of the remains that give us a guide of the evolution of cognition, but there’s so much more art that can give us an understanding of the process of the early Homo-Sapien artists.
We have seen the different types of art that contributed to the way humans craft and perceive art in the present. Perception in the brain is a key part of the artistic process. We have different neurological responses to different aspects of art. I have discussed when humans began to create art on the flat walls of a cave, and how these paintings teach us about early people. Cave art was a very well developed stage in the evolution of art as a whole. To get to this process, humans first had to paint their faces, and pierce shells to decorate themselves. Then, they separated art from their bodies and saw patterns that they had to carve or draw. Variability in the brain was a vital part of the process over the thousands of years of evolution that made our brain the way it is now. In this paper I’ve reviewed the works of a few scientists that tackle the topic of the creative human brain. These scientists and so many others can help make sense of the past and try to understand the evolution of creativity. In the future, as Zeki identified, I hope to see more research into the creative brain. Humans have been doing art for thousands of years, it is vital part of our culture. Zeki is quoted as saying, “Art has been a creative refuge for other unsatisfied ideals created by the brain through its abstractive process, thus hastening our cultural evolution.” Without the face painters, pattern carvers, cave painters, engravers, and other artists throughout history, humans may not have evolved with the same cultural significance that separates us from other species.
DiChristina, Mariette. “How Human Creativity Arose.” Scientific American, 1 Mar. 2013,
Groeneveld, Emma. “Chauvet Cave.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 12 Feb. 2017,
Groeneveld , Emma. “Lascaux Cave.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 6 Sept. 2016,
Morriss-Kay, Gillian M. “The Evolution of Human Artistic Creativity.” Journal of
Anatomy 216.2 (2010): 158–176. PMC. Web. 14 Sept. 2017.
O'Neil, Dennis. “Fields of Anthropology.” What Is Anthropology: Fields of Anthropology,
Worrall, Simon. “How Creativity Drives Human Evolution.” National Geographic, National
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Zeki, Semir. “Artistic Creativity and the Brain.” Science, American Association for the
Advancement of Science, 6 July 2001, science.sciencemag.org/content/293/5527/51.full.
Gender and Sexuality in the Museum
by Ailyn Leon and Jessica Wade
This research paper talks about the relationship between one’s sexuality and their interpretation of art. Sexuality plays a major role while observing nude women or men in art. We started our observation at the San Diego Museum of Art on a Sunday, which means lots of different people with different backgrounds gather to enjoy some art. Our test groups were mostly adult perceived heterosexual couples with or without children, and with the exception of a male perceived homosexual couple. One of the main factors we wanted to focus on was the reaction of the observer to the paintings and how it affected them. We found it very difficult to truly identify the observers’ reactions but for others, it was rather easy and obvious. Our hypothesis is that a person’s sexual orientation is related to the time they spend viewing nude paintings of the male and female form. Human sexuality is also displayed through personal front: physical appearance and the manner in which a person presents themselves.
The San Diego Museum of Art is a fine arts museum located at Balboa Park in San Diego, California. As in the Museum website claims “The San Diego Museum of Art is one of the largest and most diverse museums in the region”. This museum first opened as The Fine Arts Gallery of San Diego in 1926 and was later changed to its current name in 1978. The San Diego Museum of Art is visited by a million people each year to view the extensive art collection. We started our observation on the 5th of November, 2017, at 1:00 PM. The museum was full as it usually is on a Sunday. The public were mainly middle aged Caucasian couples, a few Hispanic and Asian couples and single Caucasian men and women. Each person was either reasonably dressed formally or completely casual (shorts and flip-flops). While walking through the museum to find more participants, there was one teenage girl playing the violin next to a certain art piece, which looked like there was a relationship between the symphony she was playing in the art piece. Upstairs in the second floor there was a group of male musicians playing the flute and the clarinet, they had quite a few individuals observing them and patiently listening. This was a problem for us as people were observing the music and not the various nude paintings throughout the museum.
For this ethnography we focused on people’s reactions on two different works of art. The majority of observations were on “The Hunt” by Alfredo Guttero and a sketch for the mural “Life and Industry” by Jorge Gonzalez Camarena. These two paintings were part of an exhibit on Latin American art that the museum was displaying for the autumn months. “The Hunt” by Alfredo Guttero portrayed three men hunting a deer in a jungle filled with snakes. The painting was very colorful and was composed of geometric shapes with sharp contrasting lines. The three men in the painting had bulging muscles; two of the men were wearing a headband, t-shirt, very short pleated skirt and high boots while the man in the center of the painting was only wearing a headband and a very short pleated skirt. This painting highlighted masculinity and the strength of man while reminiscing on the idea of Greek theology. When one briefly glances at this painting, the first thing noticed is the muscular men. Displayed directly to the right of “The Hunt” was a sketch for the mural “Life and Industry” by Jorge Gonzalez Camarena. This painting displayed a naked woman and man placing their hands near each other, with a bolt of lightning forming between. Behind them appeared to be a large boulder, and on the right side of the painting appeared to be grains of wheat. The woman was in the center of the painting with her breasts exposed and her face visible. The man was directly behind her with his face turned to the side so that it is not visible; all that can be seen of the man is his silhouette and hand.
This painting had supernatural imagery and perhaps represented the power created by the union of man and woman, emphasizing on the woman. When one briefly glances at this painting, the first thing noticed is the naked breasts of the woman. We focused our research on “The Hunt” and “Life and Industry” which were conveniently located next to each other. In my opinion, these two paintings had a stark contrast in their representation of masculinity and femininity based upon the nude bodies. The museum’s choice of which artwork to display is related to media anthropology. Media anthropology focuses on media practices: the habits and behaviors of everyone who interacts with media, including the producers and consumers. In the instance of our research project, media includes the artwork presented by the museum. The artists are the media producers while the museum is the media distributor. Guests at the museum are consumers of media. Media practices include why and how: the artist created the media, the museum chose to display the media, the consumer views and interprets the media. The museum has a choice in what artwork it displays. A museum displays art based upon its target audience: what type of people they want to attract. At the time we visited the San Diego Museum of Art, an exhibit on Latin American art was being displayed. This exhibit showed that the museum was targeting an audience of Latin American descent. Since San Diego has a vivid LGBTQ community, one could assume that the museum was also targeting that community through their artwork presentation. Supporting this assumption was the museum’s choice to display “The Hunt,” with its emphasis on semi-nude males. Media practices also refers to where the museum places each painting. It is arguable that “The Hunt” and “Life and Industry” were purposely placed next to each other to contrast the masculinity with the femininity. Ailyn Leon Jessica Wade Anthropology 103 MW Mini-ethnography We tried to be discrete and not take up a lot of space, we observed while seated on a bench that was perfectly in front of the paintings: “The Hunt” and “Life and Industry.”
At first we pretended to be engaged with the “rules” of an art gallery; we pretended to look at paintings but, at the same time, observed the people that were also observing the paintings. An hour into the observation, we decided to sit down and be more relaxed since people were noticing what we were doing, even the security personnel were concerned. It was difficult to do our work because we felt it was in some degree inappropriate but we were not obnoxious with our note taking and timing. One of us took note of the people’s appearances and their actions while the other took record of the time people spent observing a certain painting. As one does while interpreting someone’s age, we decided to look at their face and body appearance, clothing choice and hair color. We also noted if they were accompanied by children or not. The biggest difficulty was deciding their sexuality with the first impression they made on us. However, they made it easy with the sharing of affection to their partner: holding their hand while observing the art and taking their partner’s hand to direct them to the next one. Over the course of two hours, we recorded thirty six people observing “The Hunt” and “Life and Industry.” There were twenty one males and fifteen females accounted for. Among everyone, twenty two people were dressed nicely in formal clothes while thirteen people were dressed casually. To set criteria for age, we recorded people who were under eighteen as children, people aged twenty to thirty as young adults, people aged thirty to fifty as middle aged adults, and people over fifty as elders. Among the thirty six participants, there was one child, five young adults, twenty five middle aged adults, and five elders. Seventeen people viewed the paintings alone while nineteen people viewed the paintings with either their family, friend, or significant other. Among the thirty six people, we perceived six males to be homosexual. To estimate age we took in account their personal front: personal appearance such as clothing style, wrinkles, hair color and degree of balding.
We inferred the museum guests’ sexual orientations also based upon their personal fronts: appearance, clothing, facial expressions, and posture that makes an impression to others. We perceived males to be homosexual based upon having a feminine appearance: stylish clothes, up tight posture, soft and high pitched voice. Some of the men we perceived to be homosexual were wearing knit sweaters, tight pants and had long hair. Their posture was very stiff and upright; they often had their arms crossed over their chest and were touching their faces while they viewed the art. Four out of the six perceived homosexual males were at the museum with quite possibly their significant other: another homosexual-appearing male with whom they stand close together and chat quietly with. When they talked, their voices were soft spoken and high pitched. We perceived males and females to be heterosexual based upon gender roles: males having loud, deep voice and open posture while females have a soft, high pitched voice and up tight posture. These perceptions may be somewhat based on sexual orientation stereotypes, but it is also helpful to determine sexuality based upon who was with whom. For example, a male and female couple are perceived heterosexual while a male couple is somewhat perceived homosexual. In this research project we analyzed the performing culture of museum guests: the everyday activities engaged by people. We observed museum guests as they viewed art work, noting on how they viewed the artwork and the social interactions between them.
An example of cultural performance would be Persons 24 and 25. These people were apparently a homosexual couple: two older men wearing sweaters and standing with an upright posture, touching their faces as they view the art. They viewed the masculine painting for a minute, took a picture of it, and then they viewed the feminine painting for forty seconds. Seeing as how most people viewed the paintings for about fifteen seconds each, these two men show that they have an appreciation for art. Their perceived homosexuality is emphasized by the fact that they spent more time viewing the male painting and took a picture of it. By spending more time viewing the artwork, these men’s love for art also portrays their sexuality. The average perceived heterosexual male would not spend as much time viewing the art; this is shown from the mode of about fifteen seconds of viewing time for each painting. Out of the thirty six participants, twenty people looked at “The Hunt” longer than they looked at “Life and Industry.” The gender ratio is divided equally, with ten men and ten women. Out of the ten men, six men are perceived to be homosexual. The mean amount of time viewing this painting was sixteen seconds, with a mode of seven seconds. The least amount of time viewing this piece was three seconds while the most amount of time was one minute and fourteen seconds. Within the twenty people that spent more time looking at “The Hunt,” nine people simply glanced at or didn’t even notice “Life and Industry.” These nine people consisted of seven females and two perceived homosexual males. Named Person 10 and Person 34, these two perceived homosexual males provided interesting insight as to how one’s sexuality affects the way they perceive art. Person 10 was a young adult male wearing a red shirt and tight capri jeans. I determined his homosexuality based upon his tight pants, long hair and upright posture. He was at the museum alone and was walking through the exhibits at a very fast pace compared to that of the other art viewers. He glanced about the artwork as he hurried through the exhibit, not stopping to closely observe any pieces. When he saw “The Hunt,” he stopped for three seconds to stare at the painting before he hurried away. While he spent the least amount of time observing this painting, his peak of interest provided insight to his sexuality. Person 34 was a middle aged man wearing a nicely pressed suit and was at the museum by himself. We determined his homosexuality based upon his posture as well: as he observed the painting he stood upright and caressed his face with his hand. He viewed “The Hunt,” for one minute and fourteen seconds before walking away, not even noticing the feminine painting. The fact that he spent the most amount of time viewing this painting but did not acknowledge “Life and Industry,” supports our idea of his homosexuality. Out of the thirty six people, fourteen people viewed “Life and Industry” longer than they viewed “The Hunt.” The fourteen people consisted of nine men and five women; the male to female ratio was almost two to one. None of the nine men were perceived to be homosexual. The mean amount of time viewing this painting was thirty one seconds, with a mode of twenty five seconds. The least amount of time viewing this painting was three seconds while the most amount of time was one minute and seven seconds. Within the fourteen people that spent more time looking at “Life and Industry,” five people glanced at or did not even notice “The Hunt.”
These five people consisted of three women and two men. It was hard for us to judge the sexuality of the three women, but they were all alone and dressed nicely. Two of the women were young adults and possibly students, while the other woman was an elder. These women did not appear obviously lesbian: appearing masculine through personal image and body stance. If these women were talking with other people, perhaps we could perceive their sexuality. More information was needed. One of the men that simply glanced at the masculine painting is Person 29: a young white man with long dreadlocks, wearing a button up plaid shirt and skinny jeans. Alone at the museum, he viewed the feminine painting for fifty seven seconds, taking pictures of the painting and information plaque. He then walked around and viewed other paintings for a few minutes, before returning to the feminine painting and viewing it for another ten seconds. By focusing on the female nudity and ignoring the masculine painting, Person 29’s perceived heterosexuality was displayed. A perceived heterosexual couple, Person 13 and 14, provided more insight as to how sexuality affects painting viewing time. Person 13 and 14 are a middle aged Hispanic couple whom were probably married. They walked and talked together in Spanish. Together they viewed “The Hunt” for fourteen seconds; together they viewed “Life and Industry” for nineteen seconds. They continue to keep walking through the exhibit, but then a couple minutes later the husband returned to the feminine painting, by himself, to view it for another thirty one seconds. The husband’s interest and the wife’s disinterest in female nudity supports the idea that sexuality affects interpretation of art. Among the thirty six participants, there were two participants with special situations whose preference for either the masculine or feminine painting was not accounted for. Person 32 and 33 were a middle aged Hispanic couple. Dressed formally, they walked through the exhibit together and were probably married. The husband was having a conversation on his phone that he was obviously absorbed in, leaving him to follow his wife through the exhibit.
Together they viewed the masculine painting for nine seconds; together they viewed the feminine painting for five seconds. With the wife leading the amount of time viewing each painting, her sexuality was displayed through her preference for the masculine painting. I believe that if the husband had not been distracted with his phone call, then the couple would have spent more time viewing the feminine painting. Another participant who was not accounted for was the child in the family of Person 19, 20, and 21. The parents were middle aged with a baby in a stroller and their son looked to be around eight years old. The parents walked together through the exhibit while the son ran ahead of them. The son first viewed the paintings by himself, viewing the masculine painting for ten seconds and the feminine painting for eight seconds. Before he ran off, the boy made a random one second gesture of holding his arm up towards the painting. Perhaps he was mimicking the gesture of the couple in the painting, or perhaps he was testing the boundaries of the “do not cross” line on the ground in front of the art. With the son running ahead, the parents viewed the paintings. Together they viewed the masculine painting for seven seconds and simply glanced at the feminine painting. After the parents continued through the exhibit, the little boy came back to the paintings to view the masculine painting for another five seconds and the feminine painting for another seven seconds. In total, the little boy spent an equal amount of time, fifteen seconds, viewing both paintings. These equal results possibly relate to the curiosity and not yet developed sexuality of a child.
The media practice of the museum’s placement of art affects the museum guests based upon their sexualities. As the results from this study suggest: perceived heterosexual females and perceived homosexual males prefer to view the nude male painting while perceived heterosexual males prefer to view the nude female painting. This research study suggests that the sexual orientation of the museum guests affects their media practice of how they interact with the paintings. Of the twenty people who preferred the nude male painting, nine people did not pay attention to the nude female painting. These nine people were composed of seven perceived heterosexual women and two perceived homosexual males. Of the fourteen people who preferred the nude female painting, five people did not notice the nude male painting. These five people were composed of three women and two perceived heterosexual men. By spending more time looking at one painting and not noticing the other, these peoples’ sexualities are displayed through their media practices. With all the basic information: the museum guests’ personal appearances and their reaction to the two paintings, we believe that everyone displays a front image to others. We paint a picture of what we want people to think of us. Sometimes that desired “aesthetic” does not come across but there is always an attempt. A performance is an act that is presented in a play. If we think of our everyday life like a play, we are not putting our true selves out there; we act out in front of strangers so we don't get judged. Gender and sexuality is a performance too; the clothing that is labeled as “feminine” and “masculine’’ becomes a factor to our identity. A perfect example are drag queens: a man dressed in exaggerated “feminine’’clothing, with layers of makeup to create a more female face structure. Drag queen style is portraying an unrealistic, physically unattainable image of women. Relating to our research study: as anthropologists we purposely modified our personal front so people were not suspicious of us.
We put forth much effort to appear as though we were everyday museum guests, and not students observing the personal nature of others. If the museum guests were aware that they were being watched, they probably would have modified their personal front as well by not showing interest in the nude paintings. We returned to the museum on a Saturday afternoon. There were not many people to interview but we managed to find some younger audience. Older people were not interested in being interviewed about their gender and sexuality. We believe that how we physically appeared to the participants had a big impact on their impression of us. We were dressed semi-formally. Jessica was wearing a black dress with flat shoes, while Ailyn was wearing high-waisted trousers with a crop top and boots. These questions were asked to the participants: what gender do you identify as; what sexuality do you identify with; who are you at the museum with; how does this exhibit make you feel (sexual versus nonsexual content). The first participant was twenty nine years old, she identifies as a female and her pronouns are she and her. She was not comfortable to tell me her pronouns because she had never been asked before. She expected me to know that she is a woman.
The first participant is heterosexual and was not comfortable talking about her sexuality. She laughed and said, “Isn’t obvious?” She was with her sister and her sister followed along with the rude tone. We believe that the first participant felt attacked because most heterosexual people assume that gender and sexuality correlates. The second participant was twenty three years old. She identifies as female and her pronouns are she/her. The second participant is heterosexual; at first she hesitated to specify but then admitted it and laughed. She was with a female friend. The third participant was 21 years old, with he/him pronouns. He identifies himself as a homosexual male. When asked these questions, he responded with pride. He was the only participant that appeared to be confident with what he was saying. Our conclusion with these interviews is that most heterosexuals do not feel as if they need to explore in their sexuality because this world is already heteronormative. Gays, lesbians, bisexuals, asexuals, and transgendered people are almost obligated to know every little detail that it requires to have that sexuality. It is not just their interpretation of their sexuality and their loved ones around them, but they also have to face negative social and psychological problems from strangers, due to their sexuality. According to a CNN article “The fascinating, if unreliable, history of hate crime tracking in the US” this includes physical trauma; twenty percent of federal hate crimes are against the LGBTQ+ community. Forty percent of two million young people are LGBTQ+ members who have been thrown out of their homes because of disapproval from 11 their families. The LGBTQ+ community has to fight through to all of the hate being thrown at them and be proud of whom they want to love. With our interviews, the participants appeared less flexible to tell a stranger their gender identity and/or sexuality. We believe that one’s gender and sexuality is their personal business only and should not be judged by anyone. However, sexuality is also something that needs to be celebrated. Sexuality is experienced by everyone, we should not be blamed for “choosing” what we like.
It is arguable that the United States of America is traditionally a cisgender country: the majority of citizens identify with the gender and sexuality that they were born with. This isn’t anyone’s fault but society’s. When we are born we get our own “gender appropriate” clothing chosen for us. The pink and blue connotation has much to do with it. To grow up in a heterosexual home means that most of our gender perspective comes from our heteronormative parents and community. If someone does not identify as our biological sex assigned at birth, life is usually very complicated for this person. In our American society we do not have much exposure to the variety of gender identities. First of all, because America is a very religious country, we are taught that there is only two genders and two sexualities, in which one of them is a sin. Adulthood is the time when most people have explored the world and are informed about other genders and sexualities. Today is it easier to find people that are similar to you through the internet, which is a very helpful tool to obtain more exposure. Also, the pride parade is supportive to people who may feel that they are the only “different” person in their community.
We believe that the results of these observations prove our hypothesis correct: a person’s sexual orientation is related with the time they spend viewing nude paintings of the male and female form. Human sexuality is also displayed through personal front: physical appearance and the manner in which a person presents themselves. Sexual orientation is presented in many ways: from observing an art piece to the way we introduce ourselves to society with our own unique sense of style of fashion. As we make choices, we make them taking into account our own gender and sexuality. The way we carry ourselves, the postures and gestures count too. Even though it is arbitrary to predict someone’s gender and sexuality, we tried to be respectful and make unbiased decisions. We based our perceptions of participants through the stereotypical and general appearance of average people.
Brown, Nina, et al. Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology. American Anthropology Association.
Balboapark.org. (2017). About the Park | Balboa Park. [online] https://www.balboapark.org/about. Middlebrook, H. (2017).Hate crime tracking: Fascinating, unreliable. (2017) [online] CNN. http://edition.cnn.com/2017/01/05/health/hate-crimes-tracking-history-fbi/index.html
Early Human Linguistic Development
By Gabriel Sevilla, Ricardo Sanchez
What makes humans unique compared to their ape and primate relatives? For starters humans are rational thinkers. They have the ability to process what they observe and based off of that observation, can assess right from wrong. This behaves as a hesitation in the human reaction, and is unlike all other primates which mostly react by instinct. Apes and primates have not been able to demonstrate such capacity that humans possess. In the text by Arnie Schoenberg, Introduction to Physical Anthropology it informs us that homo sapiens, apes, primates and monkeys all descend from one shared relative. Have we found the remains of that shared ancestor? Not quite, but anthropologists did manage to find the remains of many individuals in the split between apes and early hominins: such as the australopithecus Lucy. And so we ask: what caused early humans to develop such distinct physical features, linguistics, and culture? For this paper we will focus on the linguistic development of early humans and how it differentiates humans from their closest primate relatives.
Many scientists have dedicated years to researching the linguistic development of early humans. With this comparative research between primate and human communication, as discussed in the article Primate Vocal Communication: A Useful Tool for Understanding Human Speech and Language Evolution, by Fedurek P. “We see that studying the similarities and differences between human and primate vocalizations, comparative research has the potential to clarify the evolutionary process that shaped human speech and language.” So the method used in order to help clarify the development of early human communication skills was by primate observation. The journal mentioned before provides information on experts going to the wild and observing primate behavior from a distance, while closely focusing on signs of calls, gesture, and vocal use to communicate with one another. However, gestures will be excluded from this research due to the fact it raises controversy among experts to what came first in human communication development, vocal development or gestures. In the process of how human language or communication developed, experts were able to break down three main aspects of primate vocal behavior. The first was focused on behavior of functional reference which we will go into more depth later. The next is distinctive call combinations amongst the primate groups. The last is vocal learning which now involves a focus on the primates reaction to communication meaning if it is actually understanding the message being given, or is it just reacting due to instinct? The data provided in in this observation was enough information to indicate that primate vocal communication exhibits key features characterizing human language (169.) By observing primate behavioral communication, we can figure out how the transition to our modern language development came to be.
So what is functional reference anyways? This is a term that mostly applies to non- human species and the reason being is as stated earlier, our communication behavior is on another level from the rest. As mentioned in the journal “functional reference is the ability to produce a call that functions to convey a “message” to conspecifics about an object or event in the external world” (174.) To be more clear, if someone were to scream “BOMB!!!!” your reaction would be instant fear and need to get out of the area. That alarm call just made sent a message which you recognized and understood as there being a risk of a tragic event. This is a message most of us would react similarly to. Why is this relevant? Primates have been observed to produce distinctive vocal calls know as alarm call to let others known which predator is lurking near them. One sends out the call and the others listen to the call and understand what’s happening. This process of sending and receiving is what the experts are focusing on. An example given in the journal Primate Vocal Communication a study conducted on Vervet Monkeys demonstrated “they had three alarm call for three different predators; one for leopards, one for snakes, and the other for eagles or vultures flying around in the sky” (178.) The method used here was called a playback experiment which basically focused on the calls having any meaning to the other primates listening in the sense that those three call represented different classes of predators. What was retrieved from this particular experiment was that the primate listening responded in exactly the same way as when they encountered the predator. What does this mean? It means in some way they understood the message they heard. The key word here is understood, these studies indicate the continuity of primate and human communication shedding light on how our own comprehension skills evolved.
Now that we have informed you on the findings of functional reference in primates to provide clues to early human development in communication, we will now be discussing the second aspect called call combinations and see its contribution to this development. So just as a reminder, the functional references study was focused on the primates reaction and understanding to an alarm call. But for this section, call combination focuses on the capacity for the primates to produce a unique call for the specific event or thing. The studies also show how calls can enable flexibility in the calls they do. There is also evidence of primates combining calls in potential complex sequences. On a study conducted on Campbell's monkeys can transform a specific eagle alarm call into a more general alarm call, indicating arboreal disturbance, by generating acoustic variation in a way functionally similar to suffixation in human language. With that being said it illustrates how combining calls can enable a greater flexibility in terms of functional usage of calls.
Humans share a variety of similarities with chimps and primates. One of them being our
linguistic learning. Humans have the unique feature of being able to imitate any sound with our vocal apparatus. This is possible because of our larynx that generates the acoustic variations. Our vocal plasticity is one of the key factors of our speech. We do share our vocal plasticity with other animals like birds and seals. In recent studies they have shown that chimps and orangutans have developed a sort of human like linguistic sounds for different purposes. The chimps in captivity do a novel raspberry sound as a attention-getter, while the orangutans have learned to whistle (Fredurek 163.) But those sounds do not really take advantage of the larynx which is important for speech production. Every single attempt to teach a primate to speak has failed because the vocal repertoire of primates is genetically determined and fixed (Fredurek 163). Spider monkeys, from their first day of life are able to produce acoustically adult like vocalization. Vocal production in primates is determined and learning has almost nothing to do with the development of it (Fredurek 163.) Primates are not able to learn or improve their vocal production, what they have is predetermined. Despite that, primates are able to modify the acoustic structure of their calls. Baboons modify their temporal features and grunt vocalization as they move from different habitats (Fredurek 164.) Studies have shown that primates adjust their calls under different social circumstances like humans change their voice depending on the circumstances. Also several studies on chimpanzee long calls show that dialects form in chimpanzee and non human apes (Fredurek 164.) This geographically separated chimps produce acoustically different pant hoots or distance calls. Alarm calls are also something that primates use to alert each other. They have different types of alarm for either prey or predator. Humans carry the FOXP2 gene which is used for the control of the oro facial muscles. The FOXP2 gene is very similar to genes in other mammals, its protein is identical in chimpanzees and gorillas (Fredurek 164.) But the human gene is different, the primate protein sequence differs from the human one. Researchers believe that changes in the human gene allowed the development of human speech. Primates have very limited vocal plasticity which at the end is the major reason for primates not being able to develop speech. But most non human primates do have some vocal ability, depending on the area they live or the different circumstances they may come upon. They have different calls for different purposes like for warning or for just mating (Fredurek 16.) Humans and other Primates may be similar but at the same time very different. Humans have the genes that allow us to develop speech. The genes can be almost identical but some small difference can create the biggest change. The FOXP2 gene is a clear example of that. Humans carry this gene while apes and chimps carry something identical but different proteins give a different effect (Fredurek 164.) When primates and humans encounter any social problem like predators or life and death situations it is normal for to change vocal tone. Primates have some vocal plasticity but will never develop speech as humans have.
Our closest relatives in the animal kingdom are chimps, bonobos, gorillas and other tree hanging primates. But there are still many features that make humans unique compared to primates. The human brain gives us the capacity to process many things like actions and reactions. Apes do not function in an advanced manner as humans, linguistic development of humans differs from our closest relatives the apes: Primates use many sign calls and vocals to communicate with one another. In the process of how language or communication developed experts broke down the three main aspects of primate vocal behaviors: First, behavior of functional reference, second is the distinctive call combinations amongst the primate groups, last the reaction of primates to communication. Primate vocal communication resemble a little human language. Primates share some similarities with humans although our linguistic development is much more advanced. But primates have vocal reactions to everything in their lives. It is not a speech driven reaction but howls or even whistles. Humans developed speech completely unique in the animal kingdom, but it remains that humans carry significant linguistic similarities to primate cousins.
"Primate Vocal Communication: A Useful Tool for Understanding Human Speech and Language
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