The Cultural Evolution of Prestige: A Study Among the Matrilineal Khasi

  • 15 May 2018

    17:00-18:30, Butler Room, Nuffield College

  • Nuffield Social Networks Seminar   Add to Calendar
Speaker: Matthew Smith and Alexandra Alvergne

Matthew Smith is John Fell Fund Researcher and Alexandra Alvergne is Associate Professor in Biocultural Anthropology, both at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford

This event is part of the Nuffield Social Networks Seminar Series.

Theoretical models of cultural evolution have long emphasised that individuals do not acquire cultural traits randomly, rather they employ social learning strategies. One of the most widely applied models of social learning proposed to explain cultural transmission is the prestige-bias model where individuals infocopy the behaviour and traits of prestigious individuals. Although, this model is frequently used to explain acquisition patterns of culturally transmitted traits, the mechanisms behind the formation of prestige perceptions remains relatively understudied. In this paper, we employ Exponential Random Graph Models to inform on the processes underpinning the emergence of prestige in the Khasi, a matrilineal small scale society in rural India. We provide an empirical test of the theoretical predictions on the emergence of prestige, examining how social networks, kinship ties, age and material wealth shape prestige perception and nominations patterns.

The Nuffield Social Network Seminars are convened by Cohen R. Simpson & Laurin B. Weissinger.