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Anthropology Lecture Series: Challenging the ascription of contemporary normativity to patterns and processes in human evolution

Speaker: Dr. Agustín Fuentes, Princeton University

Something has ‘normativity’ when it entails that some action, attitude or mental state is justified, is an action one ought to do, or a state one ought to be in. In the contemporary WEIRD academy, where most human evolution research is performed, there is a propensity to validate assumptions about ‘human nature’ via extrapolating justifications and explanations for particular contemporary concepts, beliefs and practices related to gender/sex, economics, and xenophobia from the human past. Such practice reinforces contemporary socio-political claims of normativity, and their concomitant structural violence, by connecting them implicitly and explicitly to assumptions about Homo evolutionary histories and making assertions about what constitutes a ‘human nature’. However, such extrapolations are often unwarranted, complexified, or even contradicted by the actual data available. In this talk I review a few key examples of these problematic practices, and their associated data and its analyses, with a goal to identify the biases, limitations, and possibilities of what the evolutionary record of the genus Homo can, and cannot, inform us about in contemporary humanity.

Free, open to all via Zoom.


Friday, February 4 at 12:00pm to 12:50pm

Virtual Event
Event Type

Lecture or Presentation

Event Topic



Faculty and Staff, Student


Anthropology, anthropology lecture series, Dr. Agustín Fuentes



College of Liberal Arts, School of Language, Culture, and Society
Contact Name

Shaozeng Zhang

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