Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226240862 Published April 2015
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9780226240725 Published April 2015
E-book $10.00 to $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226241050 Published April 2015 Also Available From

Mixed Messages

Cultural and Genetic Inheritance in the Constitution of Human Society

Robert A. Paul

Mixed Messages

Robert A. Paul

368 pages | 6 x 9 | © 2015
Paper $30.00 ISBN: 9780226240862 Published April 2015
Cloth $90.00 ISBN: 9780226240725 Published April 2015
E-book $10.00 to $30.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226241050 Published April 2015
As social and symbolic animals—animals with language and systems of signs—humans are informed by two different kinds of heritage, one biological, the other cultural. Scholars have tended to study our genetic and symbolic lineages separately, but in recent years some have begun to explore them together, offering a “dual inheritance theory.” In this book, Robert A. Paul offers an entirely new and original consideration of our dual inheritance to date, going deep inside an extensive ethnographic record to outline a fascinating relationship between our genetic codes and symbolic systems.
           
Examining a wide array of cultures, Paul reveals how the inherent tensions between these two modes of transmission generate many of the features of human society, such as marriage rules, initiation rituals, gender asymmetry, and sexual symbolism. Exploring differences in the requirements, range, and agendas of genetic and symbolic reproduction, he shows that a properly conceived dual inheritance model does a better job of accounting for the distinctive character of actual human societies than either evolutionary or socio-cultural construction theories can do alone. Ultimately this book offers a powerful call for a synthesis of the traditions inspired by Darwin, Durkheim, and Freud—one that is critically necessary if we are to advance our understanding of human social life.
Review Quotes
New Scientist
“Most of the time our genes and culture both work to enhance our survival, but in this riveting book Robert Paul argues that our genetic and cultural inheritances are often in conflict. His exploration takes us from the Mbaya people of South America to the fundamentalist Shaker people in the US to Japan’s kamikaze pilots. Who are we really? Robots controlled by our genes or robots of our cultures? Read this book to find out.”
Choice
“Paul’s intent is to stress the dual inheritance theory that extends Darwinian theories and methods from biology and population genetics to human and sociocultural life. Quantifying evolving trends, as seen through the author’s extensive use of the HRAF (Human Relations Area Files) to show ethnographically how ideas are copied, perpetuated, and spread through specific cultures, he extends Boyd and Richerson’s use of the model. The convincing text is useful for understanding and explaining the depth and breadth of symbolic systems and how they evolve and are ‘passed on’ from generation to generation. As Paul so eloquently shows here, the ‘scientification’ of ethnography provides a fascinating opportunity to bridge the divide in the discipline between socially grounded and biologically grounded practitioners. He argues that to see a complete account of human life, anthropology cannot be either/or, but must be both/and to be true to the subject matter. For students of anthropology as well as for biology students, so that what the author proposes can be accomplished. . . . Highly recommended.”
American Anthropologist
"Mixed Messages is an important and thoughtful addition to the literature on evolutionary approaches to ethnographic data."
Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association
Mixed Messages is an extraordinary book, in my eyes perhaps the most important anthropological publication of its generation.”
Evolutionary Studies in Imaginative Culture
"An extremely broad-ranging and informative investigation of cultural dynamics in small-scale societies."
Peter J. Richerson, University of California, Davis
“Paul uses Dual Inheritance Theory as a tool for ethnographic interpretation in a highly original way. Using a rich array of ethnographic evidence, he very effectively demonstrates that culture is a brawny phenomenon that is key to understanding why humans are so different from even our closest primate relatives.”
Tanya Luhrmann, Stanford University
Mixed Messages is a characteristically brilliant analysis of one of the deep puzzles of our existence: how dual inheritance—genetic and cultural—shapes what it is to be human. The clear-eyed and ethnographically rich analysis both summarizes the issue and takes the discussion forward. The clarity and the rigor of the argument are remarkable, as are the insights into gender and power.”
For more information, or to order this book, please visit http://www.press.uchicago.edu
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