Patrick Clarkin’s Humans are (blank)-ogamous Series

The image Patrick Clarkin uses in his 6th installment of the “Humans are (Blank) -ogamous” is so excellent that I have to repost it & give props to Patrick, a biological anthropologist at UMass Boston.  In this series, he explores contradictions of the anthropological party line as taken in introductory courses re monogamy as the default human state (we always spend the rest of our time in all those courses “unlearning” those glib or overly simplistic “truths,” don’t we?  I always compare it to the levels of truth demolished as one rose thru the Order of the Hashishin…something I picked up in an anthropology class on “Cults, the Occult, & Secret Societies” by my undergrad mentor John Beatty).  Here are links to part 1, 2 (Promiscuity), 3 (Genetics), 4 (Physiology), 5 (Pair-Bonding & Romantic Love), & 6 (Synthesis).  I highly recommend wading thru!

Christopher Lynn

About Christopher Lynn

Christopher Dana Lynn is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Alabama, where he directs the Evolutionary Studies program.  Chris teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in biological anthropology, human sexuality, evolution, biocultural medical anthropology, and neuroanthropology.  He received his Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology in 2009 from the University at Albany, SUNY, where his doctoral focus was on the influence of speaking in tongues on stress response among Pentecostals.  Chris runs a human behavioral ecology research group where the objectives include studying fun gimmicky things like trance, religious behavior, tattooing, and sex as a way of introducing students to the rigors of evolutionary science.  In all his “free” time, he breaks up fights among his triplet sons, enjoys marriage to the other Loretta Lynn, strokes his mustache, and has learned to be passionate about Alabama football (Roll Tide!).  Follow Chris on Twitter: @Chris_Ly
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4 Responses to Patrick Clarkin’s Humans are (blank)-ogamous Series

  1. Pingback: Anthropology and Student Learning Outcomes Assessment

  2. Christopher Lynn Christopher Lynn says:

    Hi Jason
    Yeah, I don’t really know if there is an anthropological party line, but my impression from my own undergraduate & graduate education is that many of us say (1) serial monogamy “characterizes” the majority of human intimate relationships & that (2) there are LOTS of exceptions to this within & between cultures. And I think it’s important to say this because we really are interested in the pattern & the breaks from that pattern. What interests many of us I think (me, at least) & drives anthropological interest are exceptions to rules that force us to make up new rules when we’re trying to understand behavioral systems (I like systems theory & am reading Bateson’s cybernetics-oriented writings in my other screen at the moment, so bear with me). And, honestly, though I am prone to glib statements that oversimplify my true stance, I personally try to say both to students, & generally feel like a broken record all semester in hearing myself say “but this is just a statistical probability & many of us are exceptions to this tendency, but we don’t have time to go into all those exceptions, but here is one.”

    Should we teach the party-line? Yeah, I think we should if there’s some merit to it. I’ll be the first to say that Americans are the rare exception in, I dunno, sleeping 8 hours stretches in fluffy sound-proofed incubators or locking our babies away in cages in hermetically sealed rooms, which I also suspect contains some untruths that I’ll be unlearning. But when we inundate students with only & all diversity, my experience is that some of those students have their minds blown & stick around & some of them are overwhelmed & a bit put off & we never hear from them again (or maybe will in 20 years, when you & I have put in that kind of time). Though, I will admit, I am in no way committed to this line of thinking. The bottom line for me is that I try to do both &, taking my Anthro of Sex course as an example again, consistently have some students write in their evaluations, “I love the Science of Sex Appeal movie & Helen Fisher book (Anatomy of Love),” which are both about evolutionary pattern, & an equal number of students tell me, “I love the fa’afafine movie (Paradise Bent),” which is about “two spirit” gender identity & sexuality in Samoa. Both the patterns & the breaks from pattern always blow some minds & no doubt leave others cold.

    And lest deciding upon an answer should be a truth we have to unlearn, the Living Anthropologically post nails it when it says that what works one semester for one group of students doesn’t necessarily work the next semester for the next group (did I get that right? admittedly I skimmed it this afternoon when I got the ping back). Never the same river twice, right? My most successful evaluation/intervention, in my opinion, was this past semester in my Primate Religion & Human Consciousness course when I remembered to ask students a little past the halfway point what was working & how they would improve the course FOR THEM. They were honest & told me what they liked, what they wanted more of, & I made every effort to implement all their suggestions & feel like it dramatically improved the balance of the course. However, next year I’ll be back to square one.

  3. I second the injunction to visit Patrick Clarkin’s (blank)-ogamous series. Great stuff!

    One worry though is about the idea that monogamy is the anthropological party line for introduction-to-anthropology, which we then have to unlearn later. I’m worried about the unlearning, because really 90% of the students never take another anthropology course.

    So, two questions–is there really a monogamy-default party line in Intro? And second, if it’s something you would want to unlearn later, should we ever make it a default for intro? (I’ve been thinking about anthropology and student learning outcomes assessment.)

  4. Thanks, Chris. Much appreciated. The graphic looks much better on your site. I guess it doesn’t quite fit my site’s specs for whatever reason.

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