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Homo anthropologicus: unexamined behavioural models in sociocultural anthropology

Deschenaux, Ivan ORCID: 0000-0002-7737-6255 and Matthews, William ORCID: 0000-0002-1614-1428 (2024) Homo anthropologicus: unexamined behavioural models in sociocultural anthropology. Anthropological Theory. ISSN 1463-4996 (In Press)

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Inferences from ethnography in sociocultural anthropological arguments frequently rely on an unexamined model of the human mind and behaviour. Across a range of theoretical approaches, human thought and behaviour are implicitly understood as coherently following a single underlying cultural logic, described in terms such as of ‘ontology’, habitus, political strategy. We term this implicit model Homo anthropologicus, by analogy with Homo economicus. Both simplify human behaviour and can thus lead to errors in its interpretation. We examine examples of Homo anthropologicus in anthropological approaches to ontology, caste, state evasion, and habitus. We propose that such accounts are erroneous in light of the multiple cognitive systems involved in human thought and behaviour, discussed with close reference to dual process theory. Unlike Homo anthropologicus, Homo sapiens’ behaviour is frequently inconsistent. Whilst anthropologists have long acknowledged this is the case, in practice, as we demonstrate through our examples, inconsistency is frequently seen as a problem to be explained away rather than as a feature of behaviour to be accounted for in its own right. We therefore conclude by calling for a greater degree of methodological reflexivity when making inferences from ethnography.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: © 2024 The Author(s)
Divisions: Methodology
Subjects: H Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2024 17:21
Last Modified: 25 Jan 2024 11:45

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