Browsing All posts tagged under »rituals«

Murals versus Flags: A Symbolically Dense Landscape, continued

July 21, 2014 by


As I said in my previous blog, the Catholic areas in Belfast tend to be symbolically demarcated primarily with murals, while the Protestant ones are festooned with flags. The distinction is not absolute, and you can see the Irish Tricolor (green-white-orange) in two photographs in the previous blog. Still, they are mostly found in the […]

Belfast: A Symbolically Dense Landscape

July 18, 2014 by


Two weeks ago, after we were done with various Cliodynamics activities in Dublin, we went on a field trip to study the post-conflict landscape in Belfast. Our guide on this trip was Kevin Feeney. Exploring Belfast is best done with someone who knows which neighborhoods are safe, and which are not. Even though it has […]

A Tour of Sacred Places in Moscow

June 19, 2014 by


As I more-or-less expected, my trip to Toulouse, Moscow, and St. Petersburg was too intense (and the internet connection too iffy) for me to be able to blog. Lots of new ideas, impressions, and topics to blog about, however. One of these is a walk I took in Moscow last week, next day after the […]

Scott Atran, Jeremy Ginges, and Rumen Iliev. Devoted Actors, Devoted Realism, and the Territorial Imperative. A Commentary on Johnson and Toft.

May 8, 2014 by


What is the other commonwealth that remains standing now that the mundane commonwealth, embodied in the Roman Empire, has fallen? ─ Saint Augustine, The City of God (De Civitae Dei), on what survived and thrived after the Visigoths sacked Rome in 410 AD Peter Turchin’s Devoted Realism proposal is a laudable attempt to incorporate the […]

Yule in Denmark

December 28, 2013 by


In my previous blog I speculated that the Danes use ritualistic feasting as a way of creating a shared sense of belonging, which is an important basis for social cooperation and trust. Last week I was able to make more detailed observations on one such collective ritual. During the period preceding Christmas there are a […]

The Joy of Cooperation

July 1, 2013 by


Both the Sci Foo Camp at the GooglePlex and the symposium at the Evolution meeting in Snowbird were extremely productive and enjoyable experiences. I’ll write about some of the sessions I went to at the Sci Foo later. BTW, my own session on the strange decline of cooperation in America went very well; other highlights […]

Harvey Whitehouse: More On Social Glue (a response to commentaries)

June 10, 2013 by


The discussions in this forum have raised some big issues, ranging from the implications of two types of social glue for the evolution of groups (e.g. Waring; Smith) to the practical and ethical challenges of seeking public policy interventions based on our scientific theories and findings (e.g. Lanman; Waring). I agree with most of the […]

Another Nail in the Coffin: Poverty Point

May 28, 2013 by


In the two previous blogs I have been proceeding under the assumption that the standard ‘bottom-up’ theory is a bankrupt paradigm. (As a reminder, the standard theory says that agriculture came first and created conditions – production of ‘surplus’ – that made complex, large-scale societies possible, indeed, inevitable.) But so far I have only cited one […]

Why Become a Farmer?

May 20, 2013 by


The previous blog discussed Göbekli Tepe, which achieved a surprisingly high level of social complexity before the adoption of agriculture. In the language of philosophy of science, Göbekli Tepe is an anomaly for the reigning paradigm in theoretical archaeology, which posits that the adoption of agriculture was the pre-condition for, or even the cause of, […]

Complex Societies before Agriculture: Göbekli Tepe

May 17, 2013 by


A week or two ago I was sitting in a doctor’s office, when I realized that I forgot to bring any readings with me. As I was idly rifling through the usual stack, my roving eye was suddenly arrested by a cover of a two-year old National Geographic, which proclaimed THE BIRTH OF RELIGION: The […]

Zoey Reeve and Dominic Johnson: Identity (con)fusion: Social Groups and the Stickiness of Social Glue. A Commentary on Harvey Whitehouse

March 26, 2013 by

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead Harvey Whitehouse argues that we will be better able to resolve major challenges of the 21st century—civil wars, collective action, poverty, and environmental change—if we understand the “social glue” that binds […]

Douglas Jones. Modes of Interaction and Social Glue. A Commentary on Harvey Whitehouse

March 24, 2013 by

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Whitehouse convincingly argues for a distinction between two kinds of social glue – identity fusion and social identification. In his earlier work he related these to two memory systems, semantic and episodic (Whitehouse 2000). Here I take a different tack by briefly reviewing two modes of social interaction familiar to linguists and sociologists – the […]

Karl Frost. Ritual Theories, the Sacred, and Social Control. A Commentary on Harvey Whitehouse

March 22, 2013 by


I am quite enthusiastic about Whitehouse’s research program, an impressive body of empirical work in a variety of cultural contexts and using multiple methods, exploring diverging modes of religiosity and ritual practice and their implications for social structure.  I’m delighted to have been asked to respond to his post. I find Whitehouse’s divergent modes hypothesis […]

Timothy M. Waring. On the Application Methods for Various Types of Social Glue. A Commentary on Harvey Whitehouse

March 20, 2013 by


Whitehouse’s article on social cohesion provides a mix of research agenda and aspirational vision. The research agenda springs from the “Ritual, Community, and Conflict” project that he directs, but Whitehouse also aspires to employ an advanced understanding of social cohesion to “predict, prevent, and resolve civil wars,” and to “mobilize a global response to economic […]

Jonathan Lanman. Two Stars and a (Fourth) Wish: Ritual Theory and the Challenges of Fusing Humanity. A Commentary on Harvey Whitehouse

March 18, 2013 by

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There is much to admire in Whitehouse’s ambitious programme of research.  There is the testing of a theory that offers greater precision in describing and explaining social cohesion. There is the formulation of an account of psychological kinship that can serve as a reminder that cultural and evolutionary approaches can work together to produce compelling insights.  […]

Gordon Ingram and Karolina Prochownik: The Notion of “Identity Fusion” Raises More Questions Than It Answers. A Commentary on Harvey Whitehouse

March 16, 2013 by


In his target article Whitehouse describes a fascinating and extremely worthwhile program of research. We understand that this research is in its early stages, and so we are not too concerned that at the moment, his exposition of it raises many more questions for us than it answers. We offer up these questions, not really […]

Harvey Whitehouse Responds

March 15, 2013 by


I have just been reading through these very thought-provoking posts and there are many observations it would be great to discuss further, including the point that social glue can be used for immoral ends (Voron) and that often a darker side to ingroup bonding is outgroup hatred (Anderson and Zimmerman). Bill Swann echoes these points […]

William Swann: How can social glue foster cooperation rather than competition? A commentary on Harvey Whitehouse

March 14, 2013 by


In an audaciously ambitious article, Whitehouse proposes a solution to three of the world’s perennial problems: (a) predicting, preventing, and resolving civil wars; (b) channeling social cohesion for the collective good; and (c) mobilizing a global response to economic inequality and environmental threat. The solution, he contends, is to buttress our understanding of something he […]

Harvey Whitehouse. Three Wishes for the World

March 12, 2013 by


If you had three wishes to change the world, what would they be? Perhaps you would like to put an end to war? Reverse global warming? Or eliminate extreme poverty? The key to solving all these problems is glue. It doesn’t come in a tube. It’s a very special adhesive – the kind that holds […]

The Glue that Binds

January 31, 2013 by


There are certain things I miss about my first scientific love, ecology. Mostly it is being able to travel to neat places, like the Yellowstone or the Kruger National Park in South Africa, to commune with neat animals there. Bison in the Yellowstone National Park (photo by the author) But on the whole I don’t […]


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