The 81st Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2012)

Social proximity and egalitarianism among hunter-gatherers vs. farmers in the Central African Republic


Anthropology, Washington State University

Saturday 8:30-8:45, Parlors Add to calendar

Egalitarianism is a defining feature of forager culture but qualitative and quantitative research among non-foragers has shown that gender and age segregation in social and economic life occurs during middle childhood. In this study, I question if this developmental pattern holds among Aka forest foragers of the Central African Republic when compared to Ngandu farmers who emphasize age and sex hierarchy. I hypothesize that Aka children will continue to affiliate with the opposite sex and a wider range of ages to a greater degree across childhood than Ngandu children. I collected a detailed quantitative record of children’s activities and social partners in both cultures. Controlling for structural features, frequency and variety of physical contact observed among Aka children was distinct from Ngandu children. Aka children were in physical contact with others twice as often as Ngandu children; half the observations of Aka children included touching; 14% of Aka children never touched someone, but 37% of Ngandu children never did; the Aka children were found to touch individuals of other age categories twice as often and individuals of the opposite sex three times as often as Ngandu children. Each of these trends is statistically significant and remains so across the age range sampled. Previous researchers have noted the high degree of physical contact among foragers. Based on ethnographic, neurophysiological, and endocrinologicaI evidence I argue that this is a continuation of a forager attachment pattern that facilitates social bonding and helps to maintain egalitarianism and cooperation in Aka communities.

Funding for this study was provided by the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

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