Social Function of Storytelling

Did you know that the single most common social activity across tribal societies is storytelling? Anthropologist, Professor Polly Wiessner, has been studying the !Kung (Ju/’hoansi Bushmen in the Kalahari Desert of northeast Namibia and Botswana) since the 1970s. Her research finds that storytelling differs at different times of the day: around one third of stories told during the day are complaints, criticisms and gossip, another third is about economic issues, 16% is jokes and the rest are other topics like politics. The reason for the focus on complaints and gossip is that these stories regulate behaviour. Gossip in particular ensures … Continue reading Social Function of Storytelling

Being a Black Woman and Public Social Scientist

Dr Robin Nelson is a biological anthropologist and a wonderful public scientist. Speaking with NPR, she reflects on why it’s important for her to share her academic training to talk about women’s issues on Twitter. She also addresses the professional and safety issues she faces as a woman of colour. “I rarely identify as a feminist alone, as I am ever aware of the markedness of Blackness. Thus, with every tweet I am concerned about the ramifications, the blowback from living my politics in an unbounded public space. It feels professionally and personally risky to simply speak the truth of … Continue reading Being a Black Woman and Public Social Scientist