First among equals: male-male competition among the bardi of Northwestern Australia and its implications for human evolution

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Publication Type dissertation
School or College College of Social & Behavioral Science
Department Anthropology
Author Coxworth, James E.
Title First among equals: male-male competition among the bardi of Northwestern Australia and its implications for human evolution
Date 2013-08
Description In this dissertation, I follow three avenues of inquiry regarding status competition among the Bardi - a group of part-time foragers living in northwestern Australia. The first focuses on how the current array of status-linked behaviors came to be so widely used. After a brief introduction, I present findings from a year-long ethnographic study of Bardi men. I review the recent, postcontact history of the region with special emphasis on venues of status competition. Relying upon comparative and historical evidence as well as theoretical inferences, I detail how two novel status-linked behaviors (i.e., wage labor and dealing with bureaucracy) emerged in the latter half of the twentieth century as well as the effects of religious and governmental interventions on more traditional activities such as big game hunting and gaining cultural knowledge. Describing how these options emerged provides key insights into the contemporary competitive environment in Bardi country, but a comprehensive picture of male competition there requires a sense of how men make use of these behaviors. The third chapter therefore engages the observation that men have many more options for seeking status when compared to other primate males, yet we know relatively little about how men cope with the sometimes-overwhelming array of opportunities. Focusing on whether men constrain their efforts to just a few behaviors or whether they make use of every available opportunity, I find that the most prominent men are known for their success in most, if not all, domains of status competition. In the fourth chapter, my coauthors and I build upon lessons from the Bardi case in reviewing distinctive attributes of men's competitive behavior. We begin with the observation that, as compared to status seeking among other male primates, men rely less on within-group violence, make use of a wider range of behaviors, and readily incorporate new opportunities into their behavioral repertoire. Through a survey of relevant ethnographic, primatological, and experimental evidence, we tie these characteristics to the uniquely human aptitude for and interest in sharing mental states with others.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Aboriginal Australia; Deference; Natural selection; Nonhuman primates; Prestige; Status
Dissertation Institution University of Utah
Dissertation Name Doctor of Philosophy
Language eng
Rights Management Copyright © James E. Coxworth 2013
Format Medium application/pdf
Format Extent 2,734,693 bytes
Identifier etd3/id/2522
ARK ark:/87278/s6sj4trg
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2013-11-13
Date Modified 2017-06-26
ID 196098
Reference URL