Format

Send to

Choose Destination
Hum Nat. 2017 Dec;28(4):434-456. doi: 10.1007/s12110-017-9297-8.

Interethnic Interaction, Strategic Bargaining Power, and the Dynamics of Cultural Norms : A Field Study in an Amazonian Population.

Author information

1
Department of Human Behavior, Ecology, and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany. john_bunce@eva.mpg.de.
2
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA. john_bunce@eva.mpg.de.
3
Department of Anthropology, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA. john_bunce@eva.mpg.de.
4
Department of Human Behavior, Ecology, and Culture, Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig, Germany.
5
Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis, CA, USA.

Abstract

Ethnic groups are universal and unique to human societies. Such groups sometimes have norms of behavior that are adaptively linked to their social and ecological circumstances, and ethnic boundaries may function to protect that variation from erosion by interethnic interaction. However, such interaction is often frequent and voluntary, suggesting that individuals may be able to strategically reduce its costs, allowing adaptive cultural variation to persist in spite of interaction with out-groups with different norms. We examine five mechanisms influencing the dynamics of ethnically distinct cultural norms, each focused on strategic individual-level choices in interethnic interaction: bargaining, interaction-frequency-biased norm adoption, assortment on norms, success-biased interethnic social learning, and childhood socialization. We use Bayesian item response models to analyze patterns of norm variation and interethnic interaction in an ethnically structured Amazonian population. We show that, among indigenous Matsigenka, interethnic education with colonial Mestizos is more strongly associated with Mestizo-typical norms than even extensive interethnic experience in commerce and wage labor is. Using ethnographic observations, we show that all five of the proposed mechanisms of norm adoption may contribute to this effect. However, of these mechanisms, we argue that changes in relative bargaining power are particularly important for ethnic minorities wishing to preserve distinctive norms while engaging in interethnic interaction in domains such as education. If this mechanism proves applicable in a range of other ethnographic contexts, it would constitute one cogent explanation for when and why ethnically structured cultural variation can either persist or erode given frequent, and often mutually beneficial, interethnic interaction.

KEYWORDS:

Amazonia; Cultural evolution; Education; Ethnic boundaries; Indigenous peoples; Norms

PMID:
28822079
PMCID:
PMC5662675
DOI:
10.1007/s12110-017-9297-8
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Springer Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center