Violence: What's Culture Got to Do with It?

Session Date: 
May 16, 2014

All humans have the capacity for aggression and reconciliation. However, it is cultural institutions that harness aggression by shaping cognition, corresponding emotions and defining appropriate responses. A central question then arises: How do different societies devise cultural institutions to channel aggression and how these institutions work to their benefit or detriment in the long run? After all, management of violence has been a crucial factor in the rise and fall of groups throughout human evolution. In this talk, cultural institutions related to aggression and violence and their outcomes will be compared between two very different societies: Ju/’hoan hunter-gatherers of the Kalahari and Enga horticulturalists of Papua New Guinea. I will try to show "what culture has to do with it" and demonstrate real consequences.

File 2014_05_16_08_Wiessner.mp492.49 MB