Race, Sex, and Human Evolution
A three-part lecture series exposing biases that underlie the study of our evolutionary past
Professor Claudine Cohen - Director, Biology and Society Studies École Pratique des Hautes Etúdes, Paris
The descent of women: gender issues in human evolution
February 16, 8:00pm - Frick Fine Arts Auditorium
The question of the place and roles of women has long been marginal in scenarios of human evolution. “Prehistoric Man” fueled scientific debates and popular representations since the 19th century, while prehistoric women often remained objects of fantasies and commonplaces. Myths inspired by the Biblical Genesis or inherited from the Judeo-Christian tradition, and the status traditionally assigned to women in family and society, projected stereotypic views of them in the prehistoric past. More recently, the sciences of human evolution and prehistoric cultures have attempted to overcome “women’s archaeological invisibility”. But what have new discoveries and interpretations contributed to giving a place and consistency to the condition of women in the prehistoric past? What evolutionary roles, social places and status, what powers, real or symbolical, have been assigned to them? I will examine hypotheses drawn from evolutionary biology, paleontology, archaeology and artistic interpretation that forged new research orientations, but which also created new myths that enveloped traditional frameworks. Through these questions, I will address not only the status of the sciences of human prehistory as disciplines, but also the stories they construct and the ways in which they are deeply linked to different social, political, economic contexts. In short: What are the relationships between anthropological sciences and society?
Location and Address
Frick Fine Arts Auditorium