Featured publications

 

Leisure and Death: An Anthropological Study of Death and Dying

Leisure and DeathDr Jonathan Skinner’s co-edited volume Leisure and Death: An Anthropological Tour of Risk, Death, and Dying explores how leisure practices are used to meditate upon—and mediate—life. Considering travellers who seek enjoyment but encounter death and dying, tourists who accidentally face their own mortality while vacationing, those who intentionally seek out pleasure activities that pertain to mortality and risk, and those who use everyday leisure practices like social media or dogwalking to cope with death, Leisure and Death delves into one of the most provocative subsets of contemporary cultural anthropology.

Winner of the 2020 Ed Bruner prize.

'Leisure and Death opens up important new connections and lays the ground for further work to be done on this topic . . . an evocative, compelling collection' — Fiona Murphy, Dublin City University.

'A truly exciting book that will make a significant contribution to both death studies and the study of leisure and tourism' — Arnar Árnason, University of Aberdeen.

Status does not predict stress: Women in an egalitarian hunter-gatherer society

Together with their recent Ph.D. graduate, Piotr Fedurek, CRESIDA members Julia Lehmann and Colette Berbesque, along with other colleagues in the Life Sciences, have co-authored a new publication showing that the widely held association between physiological stress and social status is not universal. Despite the strength of the purported association, the relationship between stress and social status has not been explored in any egalitarian hunter-gatherer society; it is also under-investigated in exclusively female social groups. Based on an analysis of women’s Hair Cortisol Concentration (HCC) along with two domains of women’s social status (foraging reputation and popularity) in an egalitarian hunter-gatherer society, the Hadza, the research team hypothesized that higher social status would be associated with lower physiological indicators of stress in these women. Surprisingly, they did not find any association between either foraging reputation or popularity and HCC. The results of the study suggest that social status is not a consistent or powerful predictor of physiological stress levels in women in an egalitarian social structure, challenging the notion that social status has the same basic physiological implications across all demographics and in all human societies.

Geographic variation in the human birth canal

Dr Lia Betti has co-authored a recent publication showing that there is substantial geographic variation in the shape of the female pelvis across human populations, and that most of the differences can be best explained by migration of humans across the globe (aChildbirth Wellcome Trust.jpgnd genetic variation accumulated along the way). These results are important for our understanding of human evolution, especially in challenging the leading obstetrical dilemma theory. The results are also important for obstetric training and practice in modern multiethnic societies and suggest that a revision of textbooks and guidelines might be needed to include the wider spectrum of pelvic shape diversity shown by this paper. The study has been widely covered in the press, including: Science, Agence France Presse, The Guardian, The Scientist and The New York Times. It also featured as one of Science’s favourite new stories of 2018, where the coverage states that “Far from just a paradigm shift, the work could improve practices surrounding childbirth.” 

 

Linguistic laws in chimp gestural communication

Old ChimpanzeeProfessor Stuart Semple has co-authored a new publication providing evidence that chimpanzees’ gestural communication follows the same mathematical patterns – known as linguistic laws - as are seen in human language, indicating that the gestures of our primate cousins may be more similar to our own language than previously thought. CRESIDA newsletter.pdf

Lead author of the study, Raphaela Heesen, said: “Primate gestural communication is, of course, very different to human language, but our results show that these two systems are underpinned by the same mathematical principles. We hope that our work will pave the way for similar studies, to see quite how widespread these laws might be across the animal kingdom.”

The study has been widely covered in the press, including a live interview on BBC's Today programme and articles in New Scientist, the Daily Telegraph, the Evening Standard, the Daily MailYahoo NewsThe Sunday Post, the MetroIrish News and the Royal Society Blog.