An increasingly influential school of thought in cognitive science views the mind as embodied, extended, and distributed, rather than brain-bound, "all in the head." This shift in perspective raises important questions about the relationship between cognition and material culture, posing major challenges for philosophy, cognitive science, archaeology, and anthropology. In How Things Shape the Mind, Lambros Malafouris proposes a cross-disciplinary analytical framework for investigating the different ways in which things have become cognitive extensions of the human body.
The brain and the nervous system are our most cultural organs. Our nervous system is especially immature at birth, our brain disproportionately small in relation to its adult size and open to cultural sculpting at multiple levels. Recognizing this, the new field of neuroanthropology places the brain at the center of discussions about human nature and culture. Anthropology offers brain science more robust accounts of enculturation to explain observable difference in brain function; neuroscience offers anthropology evidence of neuroplasticity's role in social and cultural dynamics.
The pioneering linguist Benjamin Whorf (1897–1941) grasped the relationship between human language and human thinking: how language can shape our innermost thoughts. His basic thesis is that our perception of the world and our ways of thinking about it are deeply influenced by the structure of the languages we speak. The writings collected in this volume include important papers on the Maya, Hopi, and Shawnee languages, as well as more general reflections on language and meaning.
In The Foundations of Cognitive Archaeology, Marc Abramiuk proposes a multidisciplinary basis for the study of the mind in the past, arguing that archaeology and the cognitive sciences have much to offer one another. Abramiuk draws on relevant topics from philosophy, biological anthropology, cognitive psychology, cognitive anthropology, and archaeology to establish theoretically founded and empirically substantiated principles of a discipline that integrates different approaches to mind-related archaeological research.
Ten Thousand Things explores the many forms of life, or, in ancient Chinese parlance “the ten thousand things” that life is and is becoming, in contemporary Beijing and beyond. Coauthored by an American anthropologist and a Chinese philosopher, the book examines the myriad ways contemporary residents of Beijing understand and nurture the good life, practice the embodied arts of everyday well-being, and in doing so draw on cultural resources ranging from ancient metaphysics to modern media.
Greater knowledge and transparency are often promoted as the keys to solving a wide array of governance problems. In Instituting Nature, Andrew Mathews describes Mexico’s efforts over the past hundred years to manage its forests through forestry science and biodiversity conservation. He shows that transparent knowledge was produced not by official declarations or scientists’ expertise but by encounters between the relatively weak forestry bureaucracy and the indigenous people who manage and own the pine forests of Mexico.
Humans are, first and foremost, social creatures. And this, according to the authors of I'll Have What She's Having, shapes--and explains--most of our choices. We're not just blindly driven by hard-wired instincts to hunt or gather or reproduce; our decisions are based on more than “nudges” exploiting individual cognitive quirks.
The war machine is the motor of the social machine; the primitive social being relies entirely on war, primitive society cannot survive without war. The more war there is, the less unification there is, and the best enemy of the State is war. Primitive society is society against the State in that it is society-for-war.
—from The Archeology of Violence
From natural disaster areas to zones of political conflict around the world, a new logic of intervention combines military action and humanitarian aid, conflates moral imperatives and political arguments, and confuses the concepts of legitimacy and legality.
In recent years an interest in applying the principles of evolution to the study of culture emerged in the social sciences. Archaeologists and anthropologists reconsidered the role of innovation in particular, and have moved toward characterizing innovation in cultural systems not only as a product but also as an evolutionary process.