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  • Writer's pictureArnold Schroder

#58: The Raven Politics of Terra Incognita

(01/18/2023) A uniquely stand-alone episode of the Fight Like An Animal 2050 fictional series usually reserved for Patreon, here we describe a future in which insights from anthropology and biology on the ecological determinants of social structure are used by revolutionaries to create a society capable of survival. Combining the rapidly developing possibilities of synthetic biology with the long-standing anthropological paradigm of egalitarian hunter-gatherers, our story envisions a world in which technology is used as a means of creating a surplus for everyone, in an evenly distributed fashion, negating the ability to concentrate resources on which human dominance hierarchies depend. We examine the subsistence strategies of societies in Papua New Guinea and highland Southeast Asia to validate the claim that, rather than the wild or domesticated status of food resources, what is salient in determining social form are their spatial distribution, abundance, and predictability. We relate these resource characteristics to the fluidity of social formations which seems to be decisive in enabling egalitarianism among foragers and cultivators alike. Never eager to neglect a cross-species framework, we also examine the extremely fluid social formations of transient ravens, the sacred animals of this podcast.

Bibliography for episode 58:

Heinrich, B. (1991) Ravens in Winter. Vintage.

Heinrich, B. (2011) Conflict, cooperation and cognition in the common raven. Advances in the Study of Behavior 43:189-237.

Inglehart, R. (1977) The Silent Revolution: Changing Values Among Western Publics. Princeton Legacy Library.

Lorenz, K. (1950) Part and parcel in animal and human societies. In: Lorenz, K. (1971) Studies in Animal And Human Behaviour vol. 2. Harvard University Press.

Marzluff, J. M., Heinrich, B. & Marzluff, C. S. (1996) Raven roosts are mobile information centres. Animal Behaviour 51:89–103.

Roscoe, P. (2002) The hunter-gatherers of New Guinea. Current Anthropology 43(1):153-162.

Woodburn, J. (1983) Egalitarian societies. Man 17(3):431-451.

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