Primeval Kinship: How Pair-Bonding Gave Birth to Human Society

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Overview

At some point in the course of evolution—from a primeval social organization of early hominids—all human societies, past and present, would emerge. In this account of the dawn of human society, Bernard Chapais shows that our knowledge about kinship and society in nonhuman primates supports, and informs, ideas first put forward by the distinguished social anthropologist, Claude Lévi-Strauss.

Chapais contends that only a few evolutionary steps were required to bridge the gap between the kinship structures of our closest relatives—chimpanzees and bonobos—and the human kinship configuration. The pivotal event, the author proposes, was the evolution of sexual alliances. Pair-bonding transformed a social organization loosely based on kinship into one exhibiting the strong hold of kinship and affinity. The implication is that the gap between chimpanzee societies and pre-linguistic hominid societies is narrower than we might think.

Many books on kinship have been written by social anthropologists, but Primeval Kinship is the first book dedicated to the evolutionary origins of human kinship. And perhaps equally important, it is the first book to suggest that the study of kinship and social organization can provide a link between social and biological anthropology.

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Editorial Reviews

Nature

Bernard Chapais offers a powerful and controversial new account of hominid origins...His book offers us one more scenario of our human trajectory...Chapais‘ thesis urges us to consider very carefully why humans are so different.
— Monique Borgerhoff Mulder

Evolutionary Psychology

Chapais has written a bold, new book that promises nothing less than the unveiling of the original, earliest form of human society and an account of how it developed over evolutionary time. The book indeed fulfills this promise, presenting a persuasive, well-argued, logical evolutionary scenario based on empirical data and a sound comparative method...Primeval Kinship presents powerful arguments concerning the origin and evolutionary path of human kinship. It reopens old questions, long abandoned, about the origins of human society, and addresses them with a brilliant synthesis of recent primate data. Chapais has demonstrated that primatology is now positioned to make significant contributions to the study of human kinship. This work will undoubtedly open further debate and inspire further research. It effectively dispels the view that human kinship is a purely cultural construction or that kinship can be understood outside the framework of our primate legacy.
— Linda Stone

Primates

Primeval Kinship represents a bold effort to integrate two wildly disparate disciplines, primatology and cultural anthropology, to understand long-standing questions about the evolution of human society. With an increasing tendency toward specialization in science, there are few who dare step outside of their comfort zones to attempt broad, wide-ranging syntheses on problems that go to the heart of what it is to be human. In this regard, Chapais should be lauded for his labors and for an extremely stimulating read. His reasoned and careful treatment of the primate data provides considerable food for thought about how and why we have come to be the way we are.
— John C. Mitani

Robert Wald Sussman
Primeval Kinship is a treasure chest of comparative research on human and primate social structure, organization, and behavior. This book will reignite and reinvigorate discussions of the evolution of primate and human society. It will be a model from which future social and physical anthropologists, primatologists, and social scientists can build.
Nature - Monique Borgerhoff Mulder
Bernard Chapais offers a powerful and controversial new account of hominid origins...His book offers us one more scenario of our human trajectory...Chapais‘ thesis urges us to consider very carefully why humans are so different.
Evolutionary Psychology - Linda Stone
Chapais has written a bold, new book that promises nothing less than the unveiling of the original, earliest form of human society and an account of how it developed over evolutionary time. The book indeed fulfills this promise, presenting a persuasive, well-argued, logical evolutionary scenario based on empirical data and a sound comparative method...Primeval Kinship presents powerful arguments concerning the origin and evolutionary path of human kinship. It reopens old questions, long abandoned, about the origins of human society, and addresses them with a brilliant synthesis of recent primate data. Chapais has demonstrated that primatology is now positioned to make significant contributions to the study of human kinship. This work will undoubtedly open further debate and inspire further research. It effectively dispels the view that human kinship is a purely cultural construction or that kinship can be understood outside the framework of our primate legacy.
Primates - John C. Mitani
Primeval Kinship represents a bold effort to integrate two wildly disparate disciplines, primatology and cultural anthropology, to understand long-standing questions about the evolution of human society. With an increasing tendency toward specialization in science, there are few who dare step outside of their comfort zones to attempt broad, wide-ranging syntheses on problems that go to the heart of what it is to be human. In this regard, Chapais should be lauded for his labors and for an extremely stimulating read. His reasoned and careful treatment of the primate data provides considerable food for thought about how and why we have come to be the way we are.
Irshad Manji
To his credit, Kelsay refuses to whitewash the role of religion in fostering the violence he discusses…Yet his analysis also respects the nuances of Shariah reasoning. Kelsay appreciates Islamic history and delves into detail…about how theologians, jurists and dissidents decided what constitutes a just war. Like their Christian counterparts, Muslims have asked and asked again: When may battle be waged? Can noncombatants ever be targets? How much force is proportional? Does negotiation take precedence over a quick and easy victory? Kelsay could have brought these questions to life had he given us something—anything—about the personalities of the questioners and not merely the process they followed. Stick with him, though. By forensically dissecting the development of Shariah reasoning he illuminates the situation we now face, in which classical Islamic scholars are trumped by bloodthirsty bandits who pose as thinkers.
—The New York Times
Dallas Morning News

[Kelsay] makes a good argument that classical Islamic reasoning was diverse because it always recognized that legal judgments were contextual rather than ideological. This gives way to a diversity of legal reasoning in the modern world, exploding the myth of a single "Islamic" approach to either the necessity or the means of war in achieving political aims...A must-read for those who want to move beyond hype and fear to a nuanced understanding of the multiple possible futures before the Muslim world.
Robert Hunt

New York Times Book Review

Kelsay shows that today's freelance fatwa-hurlers rarely capture the best of Islamic thought, but are not wholly divorced from it either. Their pronouncements attempt to pass for "Shariah reasoning," a tradition of reconciling the Koran's passages and the Prophet Muhammad's examples to changing times...To his credit, Kelsay refuses to whitewash the role of religion in fostering the violence he discusses...Yet his analysis also respects the nuances of Shariah reasoning...By forensically dissecting the development of Shariah reasoning he illuminates the situation we now face, in which classical Islamic scholars are trumped by bloodthirsty bandits who pose as thinkers.
Irshad Manji

Library Journal

How has the concept of jihad been understood over the course of Islam's history? Do Islamic militants have any justification in defending their actions as necessary elements of jihad? These are the kinds of questions Kelsay (religion, Florida State Univ.; coauthor, Just War and Jihad) here addresses. One section of the book examines the historical understanding of religious reasoning (particularly regarding war), while the other deals with recent applications of that reasoning. Kelsay notes that, historically, authoritative religious reasoning was done primarily by religious scholars and jihad was understood in terms of Islamic just-war criteria. In the last two centuries, however, individuals have claimed the right to do religious reasoning apart from scholars and to justify jihad in nonwar situations. Thus, the Taliban and Osama bin Laden today advocate violence against civilians, and this is contrary to how jihad was once understood. Kelsay describes a battle between democratic Islam and militant Islam for the minds and hearts of the Islamic people. A thought-provoking work; a valuable addition to all libraries.
—John Jaeger

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674046412
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/15/2010
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 508,155
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Bernard Chapais is Professor of Anthropology, University of Montréal.
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Table of Contents

  • Preface

  • 1. The Question of the Origin of Human Society
  • A Forsaken Quest
  • The Deep Structure of Human Societies

  • I. Primatologists As Evolutionary Historians
    2. Primatology and the Evolution of Human Behavior
  • The Phylogenetic Decomposition Principle
  • Reconstructing the Exogamy Configuration

  • 3. The Uterine Kinship Legacy
  • Primatological Theories and Primate Legacies
  • Appraising Primate Kinship
  • The Domain of Uterine Kindred in Primates
  • How Are Uterine Kin Recognized?
  • The Origin of Group-wide Kinship Structures

  • 4. From Biological to Cultural Kinship
  • Beyond Consanguineal Kinship
  • The “Genealogical Unity of Mankind”
  • The Bilateral Character of Human Kinship

  • 5. The Incest Avoidance Legacy
  • Elements of a Primatological Theory of Incest Avoidance
  • Humankind’s Primate Heritage

  • 6. From Behavioral Regularities to Institutionalized Rules
  • The Anthropologists’ Treatment of the Primate Data
  • The Westermarck Knot
  • The Morality Problem
  • Lessons from Comparative Anatomy

  • II. The Exogamy Configuration Decomposed
    7. Lévi-Strauss and the Deep Structure of Human Society
  • Reciprocal Exogamy as a Deep Structuring Principle
  • Reciprocal Exogamy as Archaic
  • The Convergence beyond the Critiques
  • Lévi-Strauss and the Primate Data

  • 8. Human Society Out of the Evolutionary Vacuum
  • Leslie White and the Primate Origins of Exogamy
  • Elman Service and the Primitive Exogamous Band
  • Robin Fox and the Initial Deconstruction of Exogamy

  • 9. The Building Blocks of Exogamy
  • Pinpointing the Distinctiveness of Exogamy
  • Reconstructing Human Society: The Task Ahead
  • A Once Irreducible System

  • III. The Exogamy Configuration Reconstructed
    10. The Ancestral Male Kin Group Hypothesis
  • The Patrilocal Band Model
  • Male Philopatry in Apes
  • The Homology Hypothesis
  • Updating the Ancestral Male Kin Group Hypothesis
  • The Gorilla Alternative

  • 11. The Evolutionary History of Pair-Bonding
  • The “Invariant Core of the Family”
  • Pair-Bonds as Parental Partnerships
  • The Pitfall of the Modern Family Reference
  • A Two-Step Evolutionary Sequence
  • Monogamy as a Special Case of Polygyny
  • The Evolutionary History of the Sexual Division of Labor

  • 12 Pair-Bonding and the Reinvention of Kinship
  • The Fundamental Equation of the Exogamy Configuration
  • Kinship in the Ancestral Male Kin Group
  • Fatherhood
  • The Institutionalized Denial of Paternity
  • The Development of Agnatic Kinship Structures

  • 13. Biparentality and the Transformation of Siblingships
  • Chimpanzee Siblingships
  • Fatherhood and the Evolution of Strong Brotherhoods
  • Fatherhood and the Brother–Sister Bond
  • The Added Effect of Shorter Interbirth Intervals

  • 14. Beyond the Local Group: The Rise of the Tribe
  • Male Pacification as a Prerequisite for the Tribe
  • Females as Peacemakers: The Consanguinity Route
  • Females as Peacemakers: The Affinity Route
  • The Initial Impetus
  • The Prelinguistic Tribe

  • 15. From Male Philopatry to Residential Diversity
  • Some Serious Discrepancies
  • The Emergence of Residential Diversity
  • Ancestral Patrilocality and Grandmothering

  • 16. Brothers, Sisters, and the Founding Principle of Exogamy
  • The First Step: Outmarriage
  • Affinal Brotherhoods and the Origin of Exogamy Rules
  • From Siblings-in-Law to Cross-Cousins
  • The “Atom of Kinship” Revisited

  • IV. Unilineal Descent
    17. Filiation, Descent, and Ideology
  • The African Model of Unilineal Descent Groups
  • The Chestnut within the Model

  • 18. The Primate Origins of Unilineal Descent Groups
  • Group Membership through Birth
  • Kinship-Based Segmentation
  • The Genealogical Boundaries of Exogamy
  • The Unisexual Transmission of Status
  • Primitive Corporateness
  • A Multilevel Structure of Solidarity

  • 19. The Evolutionary History of Human Descent
  • Female Kin Groups as Precultural Matriclans
  • The Residential Basis of Proto–Descent Groups
  • The Latent Patriclan
  • Matrilineality as a Male Affair

  • 20. Conclusion: Human Society as Contingent
  • References
  • Index

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