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New blog: Neuroanthropology

21 December, 2007

I’ve been a little less active on Culture Matters of late. Not only did I have a really rough end of the semester (nothing like two new units from scratch to set you back), but I’ve also been working on getting a new blog project up and running, so I thought I’d let all Culture Matters readers in on it.

Since around 2002, I’ve become extremely interested in the neurosciences and the implications of new research in the brain sciences for socio-cultural theory in anthropology. This isn’t the space to go into it all, but new findings on neural and phenotypic plasticity allows us to think much more seriously about how culture might shape development, allowing us to think seriously about a kind of deep enculturation of the brain, senses, endocrine system, and the like. Researchers in fields that specialize in these topics are increasingly aware of the degree to which developmental variables affect developmental outcomes, creating opportunities for anthropological research to influence a host of other fields.

This might allow us to think more seriously about the organic dimensions of embodiment, as Tim Ingold has recommended. The relevance for applied anthropology are many: from medical anthropology to the study of trauma, from a reinvigoration of anthropological studies of childhood to the potential to engage in the public sphere with biological scientists who advocate reductionist approaches, a robust neuroanthropology might really enrich what we do.

So we’ve started a blog, Neuroanthropology, and you’re welcome to surf on over, check it out, and even join up as a contributor if this is your sort of thing (just contact me either through the blog or at greg.downey@scmp.mq.edu.au). I may cross-post a few things, but you should especially look for Daniel Lende’s discussions of stress, addiction, and medical anthropology’s links to neurosciences. It’s our Holiday present to the blogosphere.

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