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Durham University

Institute of Advanced Study

Past Events

Professor Ruth Mace

Thinking About Emergence Public Lecture - The Cultural Evolution of Social Change: a view from evolutionary anthropology

1st December 2014, 18:15 to 19:15, Kingsley Barrett Room, Calman Learning Centre, Lower Mountjoy, Professor Ruth Mace FBA (University College London)



Professor Ruth Mace will discuss two major transitions in the evolution of modern populations, from an evolutionary perspective. She won’t talk about technological innovations, but about the cultural evolution of social changes that have fundamentally altered the way we live, generating the modern lifestyle. She will include in the talk a study of the rise of the complex states, from simple societies, using a macro-evolutionary, phylogenetic approach and taking the case of the austronesian language family. And she will also discuss the demographic transition to low fertility. Professor Mace will discuss changes within populations, including recent case studies from Poland and Ethiopia. Between them these two phenomena are ironing out a good proportion of the anthropological diversity in the world; are these social changes bringing about the end of anthropology in the process? 


Ruth Mace trained originally as a zoologist at the University of Oxford, where she did a PhD in the behavioural ecology of birds. She then rapidly moved into anthropology and started studying human behavioural ecology. Her early work was on the reproductive strategies of pastoralists in east Africa, but from there she has gone on to study human reproductive behaviour and also co-operative behaviour in many sites all over the world. She did pioneering work in the field of cultural phylogenetics, using techniques from evolutionary biology to examine cultural evolution. Recently she has been collaborating with the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, where she holds a visiting professorship, on the evolution of kinship systems in that part of the world. In 2008 she was elected a Fellow of the British Academy.

Map – The Calman Learning Centre is denoted at building number: 43.

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