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The Death of Alcibiades.  Timandra tries to protect him.


Byblis turning into a fountain. From Ovid's Metamorphoses.
She figures in the argument about whether Golding or his nephew Oxford (or both) translated the work into English.
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1884.


Supposed portrait of William Shakespeare (left)
and Edward de Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford (right)


Stratford Grammar School (The King's New School) 1553


New Book One

From the Jacket:

Robin Fox turns his analytic eye on the Shakespeare authorship issue, and asks and answers some stark questions both classic and original. He attacks shibboleths on both sides of the debate, and comes to his own conclusions.

• Why did Hamlet delay?
• What was the crime of Oedipus?
• Why did Malcolm get cold feet?
• Was there a plan to educate England under the Tudors?
• Why do Henrys IV, V, VI and VIII get plays and not Henry VII?
• What were the Grammar Schools? Were they good?
• What was the education of royalty? How did it differ?
• Could only a grammar school boy have written the plays?
• What is going on in the Latin Lesson? Who was the teacher?
• Who really translated Ovid? Golding or his nephew?
• What were the Petty Schools? What was a Pedant?
• Why did pronunciation matter? Who would have cared?
• What did the Earl of Leicester want with the Black Book?
• Why did the Earl of Oxford sue his steward?
• Who was the model for Timon of Athens?
• Where do Robin Hood and Will Scarlet come in?
• What does Timon owe to Oedipus?
• What does Shakespeare owe to evolution?

The jacket cover is a painting by Thomas Couture (1857) of Timon of Athens in the wilderness, confronting the whores Timandra and Phrynia and the two banditti. Timon is a central figure in the argument about the authorship. I say that the name Timandra is a kind of feminine of Timon, but there was a historical Timandra who was a hetaira (courtesan) of Alcibiades  and was there at his death (Plutarch).

Below is a review that appeared on by the well-known children's author Alan Venable

5.0 out of 5 stars Shakespeare and Oxford's education and fortune September 25, 2012

By Alan Venable

I'm one of those with a serious armchair interest in the Oxford Shakespeare argument, and I appreciate books like this one from a thorough-going academic who's willing to sweat the details. I've read most of the basic books on the subject (Looney, much of Ogburn, Anderson, etc., which are the places to start if you're new to this subject. (The most fun to start with is of course Mark Twain's short "Is Shakesepeare Really Dead?" The best new book is far and away is the late Richard Roe's book on Shakespeare in Italy). This short book by Fox helped my understanding in two major ways.

First, its thorough chapter on Tudor schools gave me a clearer perspective on the fairly certain education of Oxford and the possible education of Stratford Shakespeare. The book does not fly off (as some others do) into arguments that Stratford Shakespeare's education was bad, but rather argues on the evidence that it could have been quite good if he did go to the Stratford grammar school. But from there Fox goes on to explore how Oxford's was also certainly basically a grammar-school-textbook-based early education--hugely enriched. I hope the book will steer other Oxford proponents likewise away from trying to say that Stratford Shakespeare was all but illiterate. Fox ties this argument into how pedants and apparent schoolmasters are caricatured in the plays in ways that are more consistent with the Oxford perspective than the Stratford one.

Second, I greatly appreciated Fox's careful discussion of Oxford's fortune and why it disappeared, in the context of a major social/political shift that took off with Henry VII and that led to the draining on not only the Oxford fortune but of other noble wealth in land. Fox doesn't say that Oxford was smart about his money (far from it) but he shows how his wardship allowed the crown and people around him to hack away huge amounts of what he had--which was probably much less than appears at first glance. Fox also shows how Oxford's behaviors with money were not so different from how other young nobles behaved in similar circumstances at the time. Fox ties this aspect of Oxford's life also closely with the plays, especially Timon of Athens.

There's lots more in the book, and lots of good leads for still further reading.

Don't be turned off by the opening pages, in which Fox should be clearer about what were only his early thoughts when discovering Shakespeare as a boy and what were his later, more mature conclusions. Also don't be turned off by the early Freudian Oedipal stuff. The book gets more and more useful and engaging after chapter 1; and, overall, the many ways that Fox connects the book to his own life experiences (in an English grammar school, for one) enrich the rest of the book.



Please note on pages 108-9 in the first printing I have "Speke" where it should be "Cheke" - as it is correctly in the preceding pages. I don't know how this happened. I must have been thinking of (also John) Speke who went with Richard Burton to find the source of the Nile. These were men who were heroes of my youth.  Age brings memory problems and strange concatenations of people and events  that have their own perverse subconscious  logic.  Oh well.  One should at some point  quit, I suppose: but how does one do that?

A second printing has corrected this and other - usually more minor  -

The Old Fox
From a painting by Frank Wooton

“This work of seventeen outstanding essays is a fitting tribute to Robin Fox, one of the most eminent anthropologists and polymaths of our time, a courageous warrior who declared war on mainstream social science almost 50 years ago. He renounced its cultural relativism and ideologically-driven social constructionism that claimed to explain everything, and hence nothing, in his 1971 book (with Lionel Tiger) The Imperial Animal. His clarion call in this and numerous other works calling for investigations into pancultural human nature set me and countless others on the quest for biosocial theory in the social sciences. As this book, and a cascade of other books and articles can attest, he has lived to see his dream come true. Biosocial science has breached the shoddy walls of twentieth century social science and is about to take the castle keep.”

—Anthony Walsh, Professor of Criminal Justice, Boise State University (from the book jacket)



Robert Trivers

David Jenkins: Antelope: On Reading 'Participant Observer'

Personal and Confidential
Michael Egan: Mainstream Maverick
Lionel Tiger: This Guy, Fox
Michael McGuire: A Tribute and Personal Thanks...

Popularity and Drinking 
Kate Fox: Writing Popular Anthropology
Anne Fox: Drink and Duty: Extreme Drinking Rituals in the British Army

Laughter and Happiness
Sir Antony Jay: Understanding Laughter
Charles Macdonald: Joyous Equal and Free: Conditions of Felicity in Human Organizations

Kinship and Incest
Linda Stone: Kinship Constructed Us: The Implications of Primate Studies for Cultural Anthropology
Alexandra Maryanski and Jonathan Turner: Lighting the Red Lamp of Incest
Adam Kuper: Darwin and Cousin Marriage in England

Self and Epic

Alan Macfarlane: The Image of the Good Imperial Education
David Jenkins: The Ethnography of the Self: Anthropologists’ Autobiographies
Frederick Turner: The Universal Epic: A Research Challenge

Nature and Society
Bernard Chapais: From Human Nature to Human Society: Why Anthropology Cannot Ignore Biological Constants
Dieter Steklis: The Changing Nature of Human Nature
Mel Konner: Science and Anti-Science in Anthropology: A Look Back

Howard Bloom: The Consumerist Cosmos
Robin Fox: Last Word: The Razor's Edge

New Book Two


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Transaction Publishers: New Brunswick N.J.
AVAILABLE NOW! (Amazon or direct)


Dieter Steklis, Director of the Diane Fossey Gorilla Foundation, and friends.
Author of chapter "The Changing Nature of Human Nature"


Howard Bloom
"The Man Who Invented the Sixties"
by Sabine Allaeys


Michael Egan, Editor


Jonathan Turner


Alan Macfarlane, Cambridge and Nepal


Alexandra Maryanski


Fred Turner


Charles Macdonald


Bernard Chapais and friend


Kate Fox - popular anthropologist
Author of The Racing Tribe and Watching the English, and the chapter "Writing Popular Anthropology" in this book


When Current Anthropology was doing an interview with me about "life and work" etc they asked for a photo of me in "a typical working situation." I sent the one of my excursion into amateur bullfighting in Colombia.* (Courtesy Lionel Tiger) The tender-minded editorial staff were horrified and told me to send a very different one. So I sent the one of me on my farm with a shotgun. (Courtesy Anne Fox) ** They were about to send another apalled letter but Adam Kuper,who was then editor, said "Oh for God's sake print it. Who knows what he'll send next." So they did (or one very like it - I sent several.) I know this because Adam told me.

The whole interview, with Alex Walter, was republished in Conjectures and Confrontations (1997).

*See "Bullfight at Altamira" in The Passionate Mind.
**See "New Jersey Landscapes" in The Passionate Mind.

The witty cartoon on the cover - based on the famous TIME cartoon of the stages of human evolution (in which I had a hand) is by Lindsey Burrows by courtesy of The American Interest. She based it on my contention that while non-human primates have kin, they don't have in-laws: the real human innovation.

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"El Gringo Blanco"
Altamira de Coelho, Colombia, 1981

Antelope(man)  (kütstiwa) was the name the Indians of Cochiti Pueblo in New Mexico

gave to Robin Fox, because of his springy walk, they said.

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Robin Fox circa 1982

Robin Fox circa 1982

Robin Fox circa 1982


 David Jenkins

      On Reading Participant Observer
Defies chronology as a master trope
Weaves tapestries of twisted rope
And bits of bone and air
And travels light.
Crooked warp, angled weft, Antelope

Breathes no noisome complaint
Nor ruined lament
Nor tale of otherworldly firmament.
Instead he puzzles through
The randomness of animals
Who, despite all odds surpass their kind
Invent language and divine
The meaning of their fate. 

Antelope braids
Mystery from human sociability.
With prolixity Antelope wends
No dance nor skate nor yeasty brew
Nor chart and skew of kinship terms
Beyond their ability to convey
Connections primordial and fey.
Still, without weave or trace
Or dreaded count of shuttled thread,
Without Trickster’s antlered mask,
His girls provide the point at last.

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David Jenkins

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Charles Darwin and Emma Wedgwood
First cousins: see Adam Kuper's chapter

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Sir Antony Jay, co-author of Yes, Minister and in this book "Understanding Laughter."

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Linda Stone and friend, Nepal

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Lionel Tiger co-author of The Imperial Animal, and in this book "This Guy, Fox"

PARTICIPANT OBSERVER: Memoir of a Transatlantic life

“high-table picaresque”
     E. O. Wilson
“refreshingly scandalous”
     Phyllis Chesler
“whirlwind ride”
     Desmond Morris
“thoughtful and adventurous”
     Helen Fisher
“unfailing wit”
     Frederick Turner
“smiter of chicanery”
     Richard de Mille
“artfully written”
     William Wright
“independent and original”
     Mary Douglas
“fascinating and funny”
     Peter Cattaneo
“gracefully crafted”
     Melvin Konner
“intellectual odyssey”
     Lord Smith of Clifton
“brilliantly written”
     Nigel Barley, THES
“great read”
“complex and responsible”
     New York Sun
“elegant and amusing”
     Brontë Gazette
“witty and informative”
     New Things


Transaction Publishers 2004
Cloth: 575 pp. $44.95/₤28.95     ISBN: 0-7658-0133-7 / Buy this book on
Now available as an e-book (Routledge) on Amazon Books


"This  book is dedicated to all those who appear in it, including the apparently undeserving. Thank you all for an interesting life."



Part One: Stages in a Life

Ch. 1. The Child: Dancing for the Woolworth Ladies
Ch. 2. The Boy: Making it to the Next Foxhole
Ch. 3. The Youth: Coming in on Roller Skates
Ch. 4. The Student: Putting on the Masks
Ch. 5. The Novice: Mixing with the Yeast Enzymes
Ch. 6. The Initiate: Journeying Through Wonderland
Ch. 7. The Apprentice: Letting the Soul Catch Up
Ch. 8. The Idea: Challenging the Dominant Males
Ch. 9. The Career: Telling God Your Plans
Ch 10. The Book: Engaging the Living Fossils

Part Two: Scenes from a Life

Ch. 11 The Dances: Communing with Strange Gods
Ch. 12 The Man: Outwitting the British
Ch. 13 The Hetaerae: Surviving Sex in the Seventies
Ch. 14 The Bulls: Managing a Magus in Colombia
Ch. 15 The Meals: Eating Well while Thinking Big

Part Three: Reflections on a Life

Ch. 16 The Point: Connecting with the Teenage Murderer


“I listened, jaw-sagging, as a brilliant young anthropologist, Robin Fox, lectured on the intricacies of kinship systems.”
     David Attenborough, Life on Air: Memoir of a Broadcaster  (2002)

Participant Observer is the story of how Robin Fox, now one of the most prominent anthropologists of our time, born in England 'on the dole' in the Great Depression, managed against the odds to get to the point described by David Attenborough: at the London School of Economics in the mid-sixties. It goes on to tell how he went on from there to become a pioneer of what Robert Ardrey called “the revolution in the social sciences” - the revolution that, after a hundred years, took Darwin seriously in the study of behavior.

In the autobiographical tradition of Lévi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques, but crossed with a good dose of Angela’s Ashes, Fox, acting as the independent narrator of his own life, takes us on an exuberant romp through the thirties to the seventies of last century, over several continents but mainly Europe and America. It is a personal, historical and intellectual journey, which is at once intriguing, hilarious and moving. Without ever mentioning his own name, or any dates, he looks for all the impingements that caused the protean shifts in this sprawling mini-saga of the adventures of a child of the meritocracy.

Humble Beginnings

From the proverbial humble beginnings in the Yorkshire Dales, in a family whose income (the dole) was “a shilling a week less than Frank McCourt’s” he became one of those at the center of the great debate of the century: the contention about the nature of human nature in a world that had learned, or failed to learn, from Darwin. But it was a long road, peppered with strange events, brain-bending ideas, odd adventures, dangers and sorrows, loves and losses, and a spectacular cast of lively – often very strange – characters. From Bertrand Russell and Noam Chomsky, to Margaret Mead and Konrad Lorenz, via William Fulbright, Kingsley Amis, and Lionel Tiger, among many, many others. Throughout all this he floats, like Christopher Isherwood’s camera, at once observant and baffled, interested and amazed, sympathetic and cynical, but eternally curious.

Last  Gasps
He feels he has been the observer of a series of endings: the last gasps of now extinct ways of life. He saw the last of the old steam-powered northern-English wool towns of the industrial revolution and the moorland sheep-herding life that still surrounded them; of the pre-industrial farm-and-village Thomas Hardy countryside of southern England; of the ancient Grammar Schools before their destruction by doctrinaire socialism; of the old London School of Economics when it was still an international family, not just a big college; of the brave but failed experiment that was Talcott Parsons’ Social Relations Department at Harvard; of the innocent but troubled America of the fifties; of the last gasp of traditional Indian life in New Mexico and the Southwest; of “genteel Jane Austen England” in Devon; of peasant-crofter-fishing life in the Gaelic-speaking Irish islands; of the old American rah-rah men’s college at Rutgers and Princeton; of the amateur bullfight in provincial South America; of the intimate and eccentric world of anthropology before its rapid expansion in the seventies; and of the whole “deferential society” wounded in the sixties and seventies, and beginning to be erased by political correctness and egalitarian dumbing down in a world changed utterly by the baby boom, the pill and Vietnam.


Name Dropping
There is no index since many of the characters appear with only first names or epithets (“The Dean” – “The Vicar”) especially in the early chapters where they approach mythological status. The following are some of the better-known people encountered, in academia, politics, literature, entertainment, music, society and media, making (sometimes consequential, sometimes fleeting) appearances in Participant Observer:

…Billie Whitelaw, Harold Macmillan, H.R.H  King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, Glenn Miller, Frank Bullock, Raymond Firth, T. H. Marshall, Maurice Freedman, Isaac Schapera, Lucy Mair, Morris Ginsberg, Max Gluckman, Lonnie Donegan, Karl Po p per, Ernest Gellner, A. J. Ayer, Lucian Freud, Michael Oakeshott, Enoch Powell, Bertrand Russell, Peter O’Toole,  Peter Cattaneo, Tony Cattaneo, Julian Pitt-Rivers, John Barnes, Daryll Forde, Prince Peter of Greece and Denmark, Mary Douglas, Kenneth Oakley, Michael Chance, Leonard Williams, John Williams, Evon Vogt, Clyde Kluckhohn, Douglas Oliver, The Aga Khan, B. F. Skinner, Noam Chomsky, James Watson,  Tom Lehrer, Paul Friedrich,  Kim Romney, William Howells, Talcott Parsons, Robert Bales,  George Homans, Dell Hymes, John  F. Kennedy, John Whiting, Laura Nader, Kurt Vonnegut Jr, Roy D’Andrade, Francis Fergusson, Fidel Castro, Archibald MacLeish, Fred Eggan, Byron Harvey III, Nelson Jay, Esther Goldfrank, D. J. O’Connor, John Bowlby, Derek Hill, Peter Watkins, David Glass, Michael Young,  Joan Bakewell, Keith Hopkins, John Griffith, John Hajnal,  Patrick Bateson, Victor Turner, Dominic Behan,  Lord Raglan, Burton Benedict, William Golding, Charles Hart, Lionel Tiger, Virginia Tiger, John Napier, Les Hiatt, Julian Huxley, Cybill Shepherd,  Ernst Caspari, Joanne Woodward, Barbara Walters, Niko Tinbergen, Nathaniel Tarn, Trevor (Lord) Smith,  Earl Castle Stewart,  William Fulbright, Anthony Forge, Francis Huxley,  Frederick Turner,  Clement Heller, Jacques Monod,  Elzbeth Monod, Claude Levi-Strauss, Alex Comfort, David Attenborough, Milton Eisenhower, Desmond Morris, Jane Goodall, Louis Malle, Robert Ardrey, Ashley Montagu, Margaret Mead, Derek Freeman, Alan Lomax,  David Schneider, Lord Longford, Andrew Marshall , Conor Cruise O'Brien, Elizabeth Bowen, Rodney Needham, Kingsley Amis, Alexander Heffner, Mason Gross, Noel Annan, Godfrey Lienhardt, Iris Murdoch,   E. E. Evans-Pritchard, The Prince and Princess of Liège,  Colin Turnbull, Alexander Marshak, Robert J. Lifton, Jonathan Winson, Richard Lee, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Pierre Boulez, Jane Lancaster, Karyl Roosevelt, John Pfeiffer, Melvin Konner, Yehudi Cohen, Massimo Piateli-Palmarini,  Bob Guccionne,  Merv Griffin, Irven DeVore, Richard de Mille, Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Stuart Hampshire, Konrad Lorenz, William Golding, Erving Goffman, Jean Martinon, Jacques Mehler, Saul Bellow,  Adam Bellow, Countess of Hardwicke, Jean de Rothschild,  Evelynne Sullerot, Peter Vayda, Susan Sontag, Richard Lee, Omar Shariff, Napoleon Chagnon,  Maurice Girodias, Alex Shoumattoff, Prince Poniatowski,  Conrad Arensberg, Irving Kristol, Mel Lasky,  Irving  Horowitz, Mario Laserna, Gerardo Reichel-Dolmatoff, Bill Kristol,   Richard Poirier, Mason Gross,  Charles Lindberg, Harry Frank  Guggenheim, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, Marvin Harris, Daniel Bell, Richard Rorty, Tom Khun, Clifford Geertz, Joyce Carol Oates, Jane Curtin, Francis Fukuyama,  Robert Fagles,  Joe Namath, Jack Dempsey, Alfonso Ortiz, Joe Alsop, David Hamburg, Iraneus Eibl-Eibesfeldt, Baronessa Ricasoli, Karl Pribram,  Arianna Stassinopoulos  Huffington,  David Hamburg, Sherwood Washburn, Jilly Cooper, Edmund Leach,  A. L.  Rowse, Doris Lessing, Meyer Fortes, Leonard Cohen, Suzanne Grossman, Howard Bloom, Tony Jay, Isaiah Berlin, Jimmy Doolittle, James Gavin,  G. Edward Pendray, W. V. Quine, Jack Goody, Reo Fortune, Alister Hardy, Daniel Kahneman, Amos Tversky, Murray Gell-Man, Barnaby Conrad, William Hamilton, Richard Dawkins, Robert Trivers, Gordon Getty, Ann Getty, Maurice Bowra, Phyllis Chesler, Helen Fisher, Mary-Beth Whitehead and 'Baby M',  E. O. Wilson, Sam Huntington, Jeanne Kirkpatrick, John Bolton ....

Some of these might be post-Participant.  Some day  (perhaps)  I'll check. RF

There is no heavy hand of ‘research’ here; the story is told as it unfolds in his memory, which is capacious and detailed, but pointed and accurate, if a little hazy on chronology. Every page raises a laugh, provokes a thought, or taps the emotions. It is always human, sometimes sad, sometimes ridiculous, sometimes hilarious, but never less than interesting.

It is a kind of Cook’s Tour through the ideas and intellectual movements of mid-century, when the world changed and the foundations of the twenty-first century were set. It is the history of an education by a narrator in love with learning. Anyone who has had an education will be entranced, for the process has never been described like this before. To go on the author’s personal roller coaster ride (which he describes as ‘fact loosely based on fiction’) through this turbulent time is to understand better what we came from and where we are heading, but never in the process to be preached at. One reader described it as ‘the thinking man’s Angela’s Ashes’ – except that it is a lot more believable, a lot more informative, and a lot funnier.

Robin Fox has received many accolades for his previous writing (nineteen books to date.) The New Yorker praised Encounter with Anthropology for its “sympathy, wit, learning and acumen.” The New York Times Book Review said his essays in The Challenge of Anthropology were “erudite, witty, irreverent, creative, cryptic at times, challenging all the time, and free of academic cant.” The Chicago Sun-Times praised his writing in The Red Lamp of Incest for its “effortless elegance and charm.” Iris Murdoch called The Violent Imagination, “A free, wild book… a beautiful, strange work.” Ashley Montagu praised the same work for its “wit, humor, learning and insight.” The Saturday Review said The Imperial Animal was “one of the most creative contributions to the social science literature. It is also superlative writing… an impressive tour de force.” Napoleon Chagnon said Fox was “rapidly becoming the conscience of anthropology.” The poet and critic Fred Turner said The Passionate Mind was “A book bursting with wit, courage, panache, brilliance and defiant originality.” The American Anthropologist praised his essays as “witty, sarcastic, large minded, philosophically informed, inventive.” John Mella, the editor of Light, said his poetry “recalls Auden at his best.” Kurt Vonnegut said: “You write like an angel.” His first book, Kinship and Marriage, is still in print in more than half a dozen languages, fifty years after publication, and remains one of the most widely read anthropology texts in the world.

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1963 Paper Copy

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E- Book

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The Tribal Imagination

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Civilization and the Savage Mind

Harvard University Press – Spring 2011
ISBN 978-0-674-05901-6, $29.95, 432 pages

Is the savage in us our friend or our enemy?

Or both?

Can we make the enemy our friend?

Can we stop making the friend our enemy?

Is history coming to an end, or just getting more interesting?
Have we a human right to vengeance, or to arrange our children’s marriages?
What exactly is the freedom that we love so much?
Should we only marry cousins?
Is sectarianism inevitable?
Have we got the right Ten Commandments?
Was the real love triangle in Camelot between three knights?
What do Helen of Troy and Grendel’s mother have in common?
What do Seinfeld and Swinburne have in common?
Why do we rhyme poetry?
Was incest really the crime of Oedipus?
Why do we want time to end?
Can seafood sustain civilization?
What can the descendants of Adam tell us about democracy in Iraq?
Are cultural studies and fascism cousins under the skin?
Can we write our own script for the future, or is the past still guiding the pen?
Is the world flat, or is it full of tribal bumps?
Is human nature itself fundamentally tribal?

Freud feared that “the burden of civilization” might be too great, that repression of our instincts was like a dam ready to burst, and we were always ready to slip into savagery. Lévi-Strauss reassured us that the savage mind was universal and basically rational; our civilized minds were the same as their savage counterparts, we just gave them more to do. They both were right. But behind them stands Darwin. The savage in us is the residue of millions of years of evolution, and it got us where we are. But the savage mind evolved to deal with a world totally different from the world transformed by the miracle of modern industrial society.

It remains an open question whether the mind geared to living in small tribes can sustain the hugely complex world it has itself created so incredibly recently in evolutionary time. For world-renowned anthropologist Robin Fox the role of evolutionary science is not so much to explain what we do but to explain what we do at our peril. We take the world we know too much for granted; we must shock ourselves into seeing how recent and fragile it is.

In a sweeping survey of highly varied case histories, laced with the wit and elegance for which he has been often praised, Robin Fox considers our chronomyopic perceptions of time; the human part of human rights; tribalism and democracy; taboo and morals in the Torah; animal dispersion and human sectarianism; incest in literature from Osiris to Nabokov; the male bond in the epics; poetry, memory, and the brain; the origins of civilization; social evolution and the meaning of the tribes; the vicissitudes of folk culture; and the mythic and rational elements in the evolution of thought. He considers the possibility of a true family of man with a scientific basis in human genetic unity. In trying to run our complex and expensive societies we are faced with the perennial appeal of tribalism – our continuing struggle with the maintenance of open societies in the face of our profoundly tribal human needs, and our need to draw on that very tribalism to survive. There is a balance if we can work it out. Time is short.
The Tribal Imagination: Civilization and the Savage Mind



Prologue: The Miracle and the Drumbeats

Chapter 1: Time Out of Mind: Tribal Tempo and Civilized Temporality
Chapter 2: The Human in Human Rights: Tribal Needs and Civilized Ideals
Chapter 3: The Kindness of Strangers: Tribalism and the Trials of Democracy
Chapter 4: Sects and Evolution: Tribal Splits and Creedal Schisms
Chapter 5: Which Ten Commandments? Tribal Taboo and Priestly Morality
Chapter 6: Incest and In-laws: Tribal Norms and Civilized Narratives
Chapter 7: Forbidden Partners: Tribal Themes in Modern Literature
Chapter 8: In the Company of Men: Tribal Bonds in the Warrior Epics
Chapter 9: Playing by the Rules: Savage Rhythms and Civilized Rhymes
Chapter 10: Seafood and Civilization: From Tribal to Complex Society
Chapter 11: The Route to Civilization: From Tribal to Political Society
Chapter 12: Open Societies and Closed Minds: Tribalism versus Civilization
Chapter 13: The Old Adam and The Last Man: Taming the Savage Mind
Epilogue: The Dream Man

Appendix: Transitional Time at the Edge of Chaos

Prepublication comments on: The Tribal Imagination

“Written with his usual flair and vigor, and with a poet’s feel for language, The Tribal Imagination represents the culminating achievement of anthropology’s most distinguished, erudite, and intellectually adventurous representative. It is a landmark in evolutionary social science, an original contribution to literary history and analysis, and also — last but not least — a handsome tribute to Charles Darwin at this commemorative time. Its appearance should be a significant publishing event.”
Roger Sandall, School of Philosophical and Historical Enquiry, University of Sydney, author of The Culture Cult: Designer Tribalism and Other Essays.

“The Tribal Imagination manages to be erudite and logical yet engaging and entertaining at the same time. The intellectual pace of the book is the cognitive equivalent of being smacked by waves at the beach.”
Steven Faraone, Professor of Psychiatry, Neuroscience and Physiology, and Director of Medical Genetics Research, SUNY Upstate Medical University. Author of: Straight Talk About Your Child’s Mental Health. Co-author of: The Genetics of Mood Disorders; The Genetics of Mental Disorders; Schizophrenia: The Facts.

“The Tribal Imagination addresses what is probably the most significant theoretical and epistemological problem confronting the social sciences: the integration of human nature within their conceptual frameworks. It seeks to establish human nature’s imprint in a wide variety of domains, many of which are considered immune to the evolutionary perspective, e.g. literature, poetry and history.

It is written by someone whose background and perspective are unique in the field. Only Robin Fox could have written such a book because only he occupies the corresponding niche. Indeed I do not know of anybody else who can make use of evolutionary biology and cognitive psychology to enlighten classical literature and poetry, who can carry out what one would a priori describe as reductionist analyses of some of the highest forms of human symbolic activity, and yet do so without in the slightest bit lessening the richness of these phenomena.

The book is an elegant demonstration that human nature is omnipresent in the symbolic realm and that knowing about this is the best way to make sense not only of humankind’s unity but of its diversity as well.”
Bernard Chapais, Professor of Anthropology, Université de Montréal, author of Primeval Kinship: How Pair Bonding Gave Birth to Human Society.

“In The Tribal Imagination, Robin Fox brings to bear stunning insights from his wide knowledge of human societies and the philosophers, poets, and thinkers who have tried to understand them. He casts brilliant light not just on the human historical experience, but on contemporary issues from Iraq to human rights as well.”

Francis Fukuyama, Professor of Public Policy, Johns Hopkins University, author of The End of History and the Last Man, The Great Disruption, The Origins of Political Order: From Prehuman Times to the French Revolution

“One of our most prolific and brilliant anthropologists has done it again. Marriage rules of simple societies, the rise of civilization, modern international politics, and literary examples ranging from the Bible and Greek mythology to Shakespeare and children's rhymes are all grist for Robin Fox's mill, which grinds out a fine understanding of how human groups function, given the Darwinian imperatives operating in history, the dynamics of family relationships, and the possibilities and limitations of the human brain.”

Melvin Konner, Professor of Anthropology and Medicine, Emory University, author of The Evolution of Childhood, The Tangled Wing, Becoming a Doctor.

I wanted to use the following two pictuires on the front cover of the book, but the publisher thought that would be way too subtle and (quite rightly) used the wonderful picture of the boy with the gun (in what could be either Derry or Belfast NI.) Even so, I think the juxtaposition tells a wonderful tale and gets to the heart of the issue.  RF

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The Oath of the Horatii. Jacques-Louis David, (1784) (Paris – Louvre)

The Horatii, an aristocratic family at the height of Roman “civilization,” (669 BC) in their beautiful palace with their robes and armor take their blood oath on their swords to fight the Roman enemies from Alba Longa to the death. They will do this in a ritual duel with three brothers of the Curiatii family of Alba. Their women and children sit off to the side neglected and ignored. It is the epitome of male-bonding ritual, with the father, Horatius, and his three sons binding themselves to die if needed for the sake of their cause: the salvation of the city. The grandmother, in black, hugs the children.

One of the women, their sister Camilla (in white) is engaged to one of the Curiatii, and another, Sabina (in brown) is a sister of the Curiatii married to one of the sons. The Horatii brothers win their fight but two are killed. The remaining brother returns home and finds Camilla cursing Rome for the death of her fiancé. He instantly kills his sister for her impiety. For David this represented the triumph of selfless duty to the state over selfish loyalty to spouses, family and clan. Originally he was going to paint the killing of the Curiatii sister (the sketches exist) but changed his mind thinking it might just send the wrong message. For us it represents the ongoing battle of conflicting duties between kin and strangers, and kin and the state, that is one of our basic themes.

The story is in Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita (From the Foundation of the City. Circa 25 AD)

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Cocihiti Indian Ceremony circa 1883 photo Charles Loomis.

Compare the Horatii with the Cochiti Indians of New Mexico engaged in a peaceful “rain dance” ceremony in which all sexes and ages cooperate. It has beauty, order and grace, and is done for the benefit of all mankind. (“We all wear cotton,” the Cacique told me as an example, “we must make it rain wherever they grow cotton.”) Note that it has rained during the dance – a sign of blessing. There is however the cross of Christian “civilization” hovering over them on the mission gateway. The Cochiti dance before the church to honor its god while honoring their own.

Note the almost naked Koshare – the “sacred clown,” on the far right in front of the older men singing and drumming. The drum represents thunder. The women wear “tablitas” on their heads with the stylized cloud design. The gourd rattles and the men’s long hair (crowned with Mexican macaw feathers) symbolize rain. Children of both sexes as young as three take a full part in the daylong ceremony where the two “moieties” – Pumpkin and Turquoise, the two halves of the tribe, dance alternately. The meaning of the long pole with its feathers and fox skins waved over the heads of the dancers is a tribal secret. It’s handling, like the drumming of the hollow-log drums, is in the hands of a specialized cult. The so-called clowns – the other group is the Kwirena, organize and manage the dances in alternate years. They are the Rio Grande Pueblo version of the “mudheads” of Zuni. The dances I saw in the late 1950s differed in no detail from this picture in the 1880s. Some of the older people recognized themselves as children in Loomis’s photos.

(See Charles H. Lange, Cochiti: A New Mexico Pueblo Past and Present. Austin: Texas University Press, 1959. See Robin Fox, The Keresan Bridge: A Problem in Pueblo Ethnology, 1967, and Encounter with Anthropology – look under “Books”..

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