San Diego City College Student Anthropology Journal Spring 2019. Cover photo of a group of people in a parking lot; a small girl in a pink dress helps a man adjust his tie, the man wears a red devil mask, with bull horns, a dark suit, and tan hairy leggings. Antother man in a dark suit and hairy leggings adjusts the back on the man's mask.

San Diego City College Student Anthropology Journal

Edited by Fernanda Corral

Published by Arnie Schoenberg

Volume 3, Issue 1

Spring, 2019

latest update: 6/25/22

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Table of Contents

“The Evolution of the Human Mind” by Sergio Cabrera and Trent Mcbride

“Separation of Species through Early Human Art and Culture” by Kelli Thompson

“Climate Change and Effects on Human Evolution” by Alexa Benz

“Lateral Gene Transfer” by Andrew Hinshaw

“Eradicating Malaria with Genetically Altered Mosquitoes” by Heather Gorman

“Primate Behavior in Captivity: Dealing with Depression” by Joel Bird, Emmanuel Flores, Ricky Hernandez, Haydee Martinez, and Elisabeth Vermeulen

“Cause and Effect: Organ Trafficking in Bangladesh, Israel, and Pakistan” by Florentino Asuncion

“Beyond the Binary: A Comparative Essay Between Native American and Thai Views of Non-Binary Genders” by Kimberly Ingalls

“Deaf Culture in Tanzania and South Africa” by Wilhelmina Chapell

“The Influence of Violence on the Development of Culture in Africa and Nepal” by Michael Cervantes


“The Evolution of the Human Mind” by Sergio Cabrera and Trent Mcbride

As science reveals human evolution, we are offered increased opportunities to understand our potential. We can utilize this new-found knowledge to transcend our current boundaries. Although we invest a large portion of our effort to develop tools, technology, and institutions, there are many valuable pieces of information that will further our understanding of what made us, humans, what we are, what elements led us to where we are today, and where we are headed. This literature review seeks to explore the origin and evolution of the human mind beginning with early humans and concluding with the future of our species. Analyzing various experiments and studies related to early humans, brain development and cognitive ability, we will explain how humans have come this far as a species and what direction we are going in. History will repeat itself unless we learn from it and progress within our experience.

The Origin of the Mind

The earliest evidence of hominins appears in Chad, Africa approximately 7 million years ago with the archeological find of Sahelanthropus tchadensis, a primate skull. However, this skull did not provide enough evidence to definitively postulate it was a bipedal ancestor of humans (Smithsonian Institution, 2018). Up to this point, we had various skeletons and fossils of our supposed ancestors, including the famous Australopithecus fossil, Lucy, but nothing established a definitive correlation with our ancestors. It was not until the discovery of the Laetoli Footprints did we have any palpable evidence of our human ancestors. These footprints that solidify our bipedal ancestors were found in 1978 by two scientists in Tanzania (Raichlen, 2010). They have estimated that these footprints are approximately 3.6 million years old, creating a 3 million year gap with little to no evidence of human life. The footprints validated the popular claim that the genus Australopithecus is, in fact, a stopping point within human taxonomy.

Establishing our general existence as a species is only a benchmark for our true evolutionary focus—human cognitive ability. The dawn of intelligence seems to be rooted in a critical transformation in our ancestors called encephalization. Approximately two million years ago, the genus Homo habilis rose to a certain level that re-classified itself within human taxonomy, triggering an enormously complicated sequence of steps that lead to our modern-day human brain. Following Homo habilis was Homo erectus. The two are primarily distinguishable because of the massive difference in brain size. Homo habilis had a brain size of approximately 600cc compared to its successor, Homo erectus, with a brain size of 800cc. The millions of years that it took for development eventually led to the modern human with a brain size of approximately 1300cc (Lumsden, 1983).

Approximately two and a half million years ago the first known tools were created (AHC, 2012). The appearance of stone tools established the first signs that Homo habilis had the ability to think beyond the means to survive. The significance of the appearance of tools is profound because it means that our ancestors began to truly use their cognitive abilities, they began to understand that using a sharp rock would have made their tasks easier. As archeologists uncovered more tools, they began to recognize a pattern in how these tools were made, a method referred to as flaking. Flaking is a method used to chip away fragments of rock to create a sharpened edge. This is important because not only did our ancestors realize they could use sharp objects to their benefit, they began to make sharp objects themselves. To take this a bit further we want to highlight an experiment that was conducted in 2018 by a group of scientists in London. The hypothesis for this experiment was rooted in the communicative abilities of these early Hominins, and how they shared the knowledge of stone tool creation. Their findings postulated that some form of gestural language was required to pass on the knowledge of flaking (Cataldo, 2018). To the current date, there is absolutely no evidence supporting the use of language in any form. Although there is no evidence beyond their claim, it seems logical that these early humans must have had some form of communication.

After the discovery of stone tools, the next big step in our cognitive development was discovering the first known burials. Approximately 300,000 years ago in Spain, Neanderthals began burying their dead. This discovery was so significant because of what it meant for the cognitive ability of Neanderthals. Having a system in place to bury the dead subsequently means that there must be some form of religious belief. Scientists believe that a concept so complex as religion would require the use of spoken language (AHC, 2012). There is no way to conceivably know the mode of communication or language that was used with these Neanderthals, but it is evident that these people had a way to communicate amongst themselves.

At this evolutionary stage, we could walk on two feet, which permitted the use of our hands. From there we understood that we could make and use tools. Then we thought of the afterlife and we began burying our dead. However, going from one event to the next took millions of years, and year after year something brilliant was taking its course to make all of this possible—natural selection. Natural selection is defined as, “a natural process that results in the survival and reproductive success of individuals or groups best adjusted to their environment and that leads to the perpetuation of genetic qualities best suited to that particular environment” (Merriam-Webster, 2019). Essentially, this means that our ancestors were considered the fittest species to continue to reproduce within that environment. Nature recognized that our ancestor’s genetic makeup best matched the environment and because of this, we have evolved and developed exponentially compared to our primate relatives.

The Evolution of Cognitive Ability

Following the evidence of our ancestral existence, bipedal primates began appearing everywhere. Homo sapiensand Neanderthals started to emerge all over Africa, Australia, Europe, and Asia (EMHS, 2013). Along with these appearances came new evidence of enhanced cognitive abilities. About 35,000 years ago, people that we refer to as Aurignacians lived in deep caves in Western Europe where they painted and engraved numerous animals and geometric forms. They occasionally did so with great mastery and with an obvious appeal to the aesthetic senses. The Chauvet Cave located in southern France is a great example of how artistic and resourceful our ancestors had become. Within this 30,000-year-old cave, there are over 100 different images created with various techniques that populate these walls (La Grotte Chauvet-Pont D'Arc, 2015). Our ancestors were no longer primarily focused on surviving, they were leaving a story behind for others to see, admire, and learn from.

Survival went from a point of urgency to a matter of strategy, and along with this, we became expressive creatures by means of art, jewelry, and advancements in the tool industry (i.e. Sexy Hand Axe). Becoming aware of the immense benefit of working together and creating more intrinsic groups allowed them to collectively think. Collaboration was an advantage in their environment and it created the means not only to endure, but to thrive. As a collective, humans began to understand that it was not necessary to travel with a hunter and gatherer mentality to survive, but it was possible to stop in a strategically ideal location to take on a more sedentary lifestyle. Once this shift occurred, human development skyrocketed.

Evidence supports that approximately 23,000 years ago near the Sea of Galilee in Israel, the first agricultural site indicated that a group of humans lived and farmed for grain (Snir, 2015). This type of lifestyle is extremely unprecedented in regard to human behavior. Typically, our ancestors traveled with the seasons and followed the warmth of the sun, growth of plants, and the presence of wild animals, as food. As tools advanced, an understanding of the environment grew, humans no longer needed to travel to survive. Instead, they began to create long-term camps that provided shelter for them and their belongings. Previously, moving with the seasons required these people to travel light and never allowed for more resources than what was necessary. A more consistent living arrangement allowed these people to do something that had never been done before—gain a surplus of resources. Having a designated location to store tools, weapons, food, and clothing gave rise to a new way of life.

Having a surplus not only allowed people to live in settled locations, but it also gave our ancestors a new reason to develop and advance beyond what had already been created. They now generated specific jobs to manage the different aspects of their camps. Jobs such as tool/ weapon making, clothing making, farming, cooking, and security became necessary elements to maintain their new lifestyle. With these jobs being divided among individuals and not being the responsibility of the entire group as a whole, they were able to focus on their craft and continue to make developments that made their jobs easier. For example, the farmer did not need to necessarily worry about how to make clothing or what was needed to secure their resources. Farmers could spend their time discovering new ways to grow wheat and grains, or how to better care for the cattle. They could focus on their specific trade without spending too much time worrying about every aspect of their survival. Our ancestors were able to start developing and improving exponentially in multiple areas.

This revelation ended the Paleolithic era and entered into the Neolithic Revolution. This new era brought domestication of plants and animals, new resources (clay, metal, iron), improved housing, specialization of jobs, and more settlements than ever before. The most important aspect of this era was the appearance of written communication. The significance of this allowed the transmission of ideas and concepts beyond one’s own settlement. Now, not only are humans developing within their own societies the are sharing that information with other people allowing them to develop and build upon their work. For the next few thousand years, societies rose and fell building upon what was left before them. Ancient societies like the Egyptians, Medieval Kingdoms, the Greco-Romans, Chinese Dynasties, The Roman Empire, the Renaissance, all lead to the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution created the building blocks for what our species is able to do today. These societies learned from one another, understood their mistakes, and improved from what was left behind. Every generation of humans has left behind a little more knowledge than what they started with, which allows for future generations to go beyond what was possible for them.

The Future of Our Species

Understanding our history is necessary in order to better understand our capabilities. Seven million years ago, evidence demonstrates that we once lived in trees. Years ago, we descended and began walking on two feet. Our brain began to grow in size allowing us to become articulate thinking beings. We became curious and strategic, which in turn began an era of advancement and creation. This pattern of advancement provides insight and permits reasonable hypotheses on what we can expect in our future. Technology is essentially the modern stone tool of our generation. In modern society, we use technology every day to make our lives easier. Because of technology, we have been able to change the world and create a globalized network of communication to continue the advancement of our species. Due to the impact of communication, the development of stone tools is analogous to how we communicate in present-day in order to share ideas and learn from one another. Before the age of technology, and after language was developed, communication with other people was difficult and sharing important relevant knowledge took a lot of time and effort. With the advancement of technology, we can share knowledge within seconds to various people on the other side of the world simultaneously. To further this point, we have the ability to share knowledge with people who speak different languages with the use of translating applications and websites. Communication was vital for ancestors to progress and it is just as important for our advancement today. We would argue that communication and the continued advancement of technology may be the most important aspects of our continued survival.

As the unknown continues to drive us towards discovery, whether it be for spiritual understanding, technological advancements, or our inherent hedonism, we have transformed discovery into control. Our ability to improve our species has done something amazing, we have removed natural selection as a factor from our species. It was natural selection that allowed humans to develop the brain and descend from the trees to walk on two feet. Natural selection allowed us to begin to think for ourselves. Now in the age of technology, natural selection has nothing to do with what will happen to humans. We create the change that we want to see. For example, the work done with DNA technology is groundbreaking and life-altering. Scientists have recently begun studying the ability of cloning genes that has a myriad of real-world implications. Such as “pest-resistant plants, vaccines, heart attack treatments and even entirely new organisms” (F. Sarah, 2019). This concept of manipulating DNA to defy the “natural order” of things is almost unfathomable. In early 2018, scientists in Shanghai defied the odds and cloned the first two primates in history (Cell Press, 2018). This milestone is extremely important because as primates ourselves, our DNA is closely related to that of monkeys. In fact, DNA research shows us that humans have many of the same genes as other life forms as well, including plants, bacteria, and other animals (Minerd, 2000). This research has relatively only just begun, and we have already made huge strides towards humanmade evolution. Speculation of the work that has already been done has led us to believe that one day scientists will be able to dictate and code every aspect of our DNA. We will literally be creating life without the need for sexual reproduction.

Another example of the strides our species has made in technology is the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI). This branch of computer science is dedicated to creating machines that have the ability to “think” like humans. Seven million years ago, humans did not exist. Now, in modern society, we are creating inanimate objects to think like we do. In 2016, a robot named Sophia was created. She is a human-like robot that thinks and talks for herself. She is the culmination of years and years of trial and error. And in 2017, she became recognized as a citizen of Saudi Arabia, becoming the first non-human citizen in any country around the world. We have come a long way from descending the trees, to building robots that can hold intuitive conversations. This technology will impact our society and future societies in a unique unparalleled fashion. This has implications in areas such as the job force, robot/human rights, and technological advancements. Our future is something that rivals concepts from a fiction book.

The human capacity to think, understand, question and explore is truly something incredible. We are living in unprecedented times where the sky is not the limit. For our ancestors, the sky began as a means of guidance and light. To the modern human, it is a place unknown that we have and will continue to explore. Mystery has been a catalyst on our quest to explore the unknown. We have a visceral drive to decipher the obscure and unfamiliar. It began when our ancestors discovered the use of tools. Their minds began to grow and question the things around them. Our minds evolved as time passed and we became inquisitive about every aspect of our lives. We have reached a moment in time where there are no boundaries by nature. The only obstacles we face are created by ethical standards we have established. The future is unknown, but we now have the foresight and understanding to create a future that we want to live in. Natural selection once decided who or what was fit enough to survive in this world—now, we decide what constitutes as fit to survive.


Cabrera, Sergio and McBride, Trent “Dust” 2019.

Works Cited

“Archaic Human Culture.” (AHC), Evolution of Modern Humans: Archaic Human Culture, 2012, Dennis Oneil , Link from chapter 6.1.3

Cataldo, Dana Michelle, et al. “Speech, Stone Tool-Making and the Evolution of Language.” PLoS ONE, vol. 13, no. 1, Jan. 2018, pp. 1–10. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0191071.

Cell Press. "Meet Zhong Zhong and Hua Hua, the first monkey clones produced by method that made Dolly." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 24 January 2018. <>.

“Early Modern Homo sapiens 201.” (EMHS), Evolution of Modern Humans: Early Modern Homo sapiens.Dennis Oneil, 2013,

F., Sarah. “Practical Applications of DNA Technology.”,, 2019,

Lumsden, Charles J. and Wilson, Edward O. “The Dawn of Intelligence: Reflections of the Origin of Mind” The Sciences, March/April 1983.

Minerd, Jeff. “Trend Analysis: Genetic Engineering Increases Human Power.” Futurist 34, no. 2 (March 2000): 23.

Raichlen, David A, et al. “Laetoli Footprints Preserve Earliest Direct Evidence of Human-like Bipedal Biomechanics.” PloS One, Public Library of Science, 22 Mar. 2010,!po=1.35135.

Schoenberg, Arnie. 2009. Introduction to Physical Anthropology.

Snir, Ainit, et al. “The Origin of Cultivation and Proto-Weeds, Long Before Neolithic Farming.” PLoS ONE, vol. 10, no. 7, July 2015, pp. 1–12. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0131422.

Staff. 2019 “Natural Selection.” Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Merriam-Webster,

Staff. “The Aurignacians.” La Grotte Chauvet-Pont D'Arc, 2015, .

Staff. “Walking Upright.” The Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program, 17 Oct. 2018,

“Separation of Species through Early Human Art and Culture” by Kelli Thompson

The emergence of art is a significant and crucial point in human evolution. Art separates humans from all other animals, as it is proof of higher cognitive function and abstract thought. The evolution of art coincides with the increasingly more advanced thinking of early human ancestors (Blum, 2011:196). From these examples, the culture in which these artistic creations were made can be better understood, which allows for interpretation of the early art and the weight it carries. Art is a determining factor in the distinction between humans and other primates.

In order to explore art, it should have a clear and solid definition. The modern interpretation of art covers everything that art has evolved into in the contemporary world, including music, dance, painting, drawing, bodily adornments, and more (Dissanayake, 2002:50). This broad array of mediums makes it difficult to decipher art from years past because we do not have any cultural information to which the art can connect. Did early humans intend to create something with meaning beyond practicality or pure instinct when they danced? To look at art from a scientific viewpoint in the evolution of the brain of a species, the art under question should be clearly seen as art by the ones who created it, otherwise, it would be too subjective to provide any substantial findings.

Does art have to have form? Can a few chicken scratches on a seashell be considered art? For the purpose of clarity, when examining art without context, I define art as anything purposely and methodically made outside practical purposes. Works such as hand paintings in caves are easy to see as art. Paint and pigments are applied to decorate a surface. No matter if the intention is spiritual, ritual, or purely aesthetic, it is art. Lines carved into a seashell are more difficult to determine because the intentions of the “artist” are unclear. What if the early human ancestors, referred to as hominins (Schoenberg, 2019:6), who made those carvings were only doing so to test out a sharp stone they were working with? The intentions and cultural background are not apparent. Nevertheless, I will include anything that could be considered the beginnings of art, as art did not start with someone going off into a cave and creating a masterpiece. It began as a slow process of humans being inspired to gradually step away from practical creations, such as tools, and verge into more aesthetic and symbolic things (Dissanayake, 2002:129). To narrow down the broad range which art encompasses today, I will not be discussing music, language, or dancing; rather I will interpret the deliberate mark makings such as paintings, carvings, and sculpture, as I believe these evolved differently than other forms of art such as dancing and language. Additionally, these art forms have been preserved from hundreds of thousands of years ago, whereas purely cultural art forms, such as dance, have not.

Art originally developed from tools that were becoming increasingly ornamental or aesthetic, with the first ones being made with green lava and smooth pink pebbles approximately 2.5 million years ago. Around this time, there is evidence of early human ancestors carrying around things other than tools for no practical purpose. While the hominins did not do anything to these objects for them to be considered a work of art, they are pretty things, which shows an interest in the aesthetic (Dissanayake, 2002:70). Hominins during this time period were known asHomo habilis; the first hominin close enough to Homo sapiens to be considered to be within the genus Homo (Schoenberg, 2019:6.5.1). Other examples of specialized tools are spearheads specifically crafted so the stone had an imbedded fossil in the center of the flat side of the spear, created 250,000 years ago (Dissanayake, 2002:71). These samples could be considered the earliest forms of art, as they mark the beginning of thought beyond simple survival or functionality.

The first art apart from decorated tools were carvings. One discovery of carvings made into seashells suggests that these carvings could be as old as 500,000 years old. Researcher Eugène Dubois found a mollusk shell with several deep, angular scratches that created a geometric, almost zigzag pattern across the outside of the shell (Kemp, 2017). While these scratches are distinct and deliberate, the intentions of the maker are not clear. It does not seem to be of any symbolic significance. However, it is so substantial because it was made by Homo erectus, a primitive species whom scientists did not think were capable of creating such marks (Kemp, 2017). Additionally, approximately 100,000 years ago there were more clearly defined marks on bones, varying in shapes and contour. This is the beginning of symbolic expression (Dissanayake, 2002:72).

From scratches on shells and bones, we move onto more clearly representational and artistic expressions of early hominins. The oldest rock art was found in Africa and was created 75,000 years ago (Blum, 2011:196). Around 70,000 years ago, stylistic differentiations of artifacts were emerging between different hominin groups around the world (Dissanayake, 2002:72). Blum hypothesizes that this major jump in artistic representation could be due to a genetic variant associated with changing brain function that appeared which allowed for better survival advantages, which made the hominins more intelligent, leading to a surge in art (Blum, 2011:196).

Dissanayake theorizes that due to the need for survival, hunter-gatherers needed to be interdependent. Finding food when food is not readily available would require more complex thinking, as they would learn to think ahead to what they need in the future. This kind of intelligence allows for the ability to learn, remember, and understand (Dissanayake, 2002:126). Hominins, as they evolved, grew to have larger brains, which allowed them to have more advanced thought processes, called encephalization (Schoenberg, 2019:6.1.2). As the hominins got better at finding and maintaining a food supply, they would inevitably have more leisure time. That, combined with the now evolutionary increase in intelligence, would cultivate an environment in which curiosity and creativity were sparking, leading to amplified artistic behavior and thinking (Dissanayake, 2002:127).

Lastly, we move onto the more advanced forms of art: cave paintings and sculptures. Hand stencils are considered the first style of painting. It is a technique in which the artist places their hand firmly against a rock face and blows pigment onto the hand, creating a negative painting of the hand. The earliest dated hand paintings are from 39,900 years ago and were created in caves in Indonesia. These incredibly old paintings survived the transitional years between the Middle and Upper Paleolithic periods and mark the true beginnings of art as we know it today. In the same cave, next to the oldest hand stencil in the world, is a depiction of a pig painted 35,400 years ago (Ghosh, 2014). Figurative paintings of real animals and people mark a huge jump in artistic ability, and therefore solidifies the intelligence of the hominins who formed them.

While there is little known about the cultural interactions of the hominins who created these works of art, information can be inferred from the location, tools, and depictions shown through these works of art, especially in the cave paintings. The early artists would travel through complex and dangerous caves to reach a transcendent space to begin their work. Evidence found in these caves suggests that they would have their assistants carry decorated torches and stone lamps fueled by animal fat and moss or pine needles (Blum, 2011:197). They would also bring a pestle to grind the pigments and paints made up of iron oxides in the colors of red and yellow, Manganese dioxide and charcoal made of burned wood were used for black outlines, and kaolin and mica for white. Brushes made of animal hairs were used along with the artists’ fingers to paint (Blum, 2011:198). Although primitive compared to the many works that can be seen today, the high-quality art was not seen as a lowly pastime, rather, it was a trained skill. The previously discussed stylistic differences in hominin groups attest to this. Many paintings show not only the use of paints to portray animals and other forms, but also the contours and formations of the cave itself to create the images. The artist would plan the pre existing cracks, bumps, and fissures to fit into and add to the final painting (Blum, 2011:198).

The difficult and perilous placement of the paintings suggests that they were to be revered and sacred places. Many anthropologists believe that the artists saw their paintings as spiritual, both figuratively and/or literally. Whether the cave walls were a physical separation from the spiritual world, or that the depiction of literal forms somewhat captured their physical counterparts, the paintings may have been an attempt to communicate with the spiritual elements. Theories as to the nature of the communication are widely varied. Some claim that the shamans or artists were attempting to entice, appease, or atone for killing the animals depicted. Some also suggest that the artists may have believed that they could magically acquire the abilities of the depicted animals, as many of them were predators. One interesting aspect of this is that it strongly suggests a sense of empathy with the animals, which carried into their interactions with other humans (Blum, 2011:199).

Creating a literal representation of something in the real world carried a hefty weight in the culture of the early Homo sapiens. This may have been the reason for the incredible lack of violence in all depictions. The most graphic the paintings would become was two animals locking horns. There was never death or even bloodshed in the early depictions of animals, leading Blum to hypothesize that the portrayal of violence was prohibited (2011:199). Interestingly, the depiction of humans was also taboo. It is suggested that the culture believed that the forms represented through the art could capture the subject matter, possibly endangering them through magical control, possession, or destruction (Blum, 2011:200).

Blum psychoanalyzes the paintings to better understand the culture of the artists. He states that, contrary to popular belief, the artists of these monumental paintings were not just men. Evidence of women creating art in these caves is evident through the hand and finger marks formed (Blum, 2011:201). Women’s hands and fingers can be determined as female through a calculations of ratios of relative fingers including index and pinkie fingers (Messer, 2017). Art created by women and men may even have different meanings due to the differing perspectives in the roles that they played. Women may have painted female genitalia and other birth-oriented forms to magically insure pregnancy and reproduction (Blum, 2011:200). Sculptures were one of the only mediums in which a human figure was depicted. Many of these are believed to represent a fertility goddess, pertaining to the power of creation that females hold (Blum, 2011:202).

The ability to produce art is a uniquely human trait. Although studies have been done on chimpanzees to see if they too can create art (Dissanayake, 2002:67), it could be argued that it is not due to their abilities, but rather the interactions between chimpanzees and humans that allowed them to recreate art. Nevertheless, human ancestors were the first to show the ability to create art. This, as well as other reasons, is how humans have differentiated themselves from other primates in evolutionary history.

Anthropologists determine where the term “primate” stops, and “hominin” begins. Once again, a hominin is a bipedal human ancestor that does not include apes. Three important factors for separating humans from apes and chimpanzees are bipedalism, encephalization, and associated culture and tools (Schoenberg 2019:6.1). Bipedalism is the ability to walk on two feet. This transition allowed hominins to freely used their hands for tools, and eventually included art making (Schoenberg, 2019:6.1.1). While other primates, such as chimpanzees, use sticks and stones, hominins are unique in that they create innovative tools which they improve upon over time (Dissanayake, 2002:67). Encephalization is the study of the head, or more specifically, the brain. Overall, as hominins evolved, their brains got bigger, as did the portion of the brain dedicated to higher, more advanced thinking (Schoenberg, 2019:6.1.2). This also led to the ability to express abstract thoughts through art. Finally, the last determining factor is associated culture and tools (Schoenberg, 2019:6.1.3). As discussed previously, the innovation that came with tool making opened a new path for creativity, branching off into multiple forms of art, including carving, painting, and sculpture.

Art allows anthropologists to understand and decipher the culture in which it was created. Inferring information from the art itself and the location puts it into a cultural context which we would not have otherwise. Demonstrating the ability to clearly distinguish early members of the genus Homo from all other animals, art has proved to be an invaluable asset to anthropologists. The complex and abstract thought that goes into artmaking is a testament to the abilities of our early ancestors. Arts personal, raw, even sacred nature has preserved the thoughts of people living tens of thousands of years ago, left for us to decode and understand.

Works Cited

Blum, Harold P. 2011. “The Psychological Birth of Art: A Psychoanalytic Approach to Prehistoric Cave Art.” International Forum of Psychoanalysis 20 (4):196204.doi:10.1080/0803706X.2011.597429

Dissanayake, Ellen. What Is Art For? Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002.

Ghosh, Pallab. "Cave Paintings Change Ideas about the Origin of Art." BBC News. October 08, 2014 Accessed March 14, 2019.

Kemp, Christopher. 2017. “The First Art: The Earliest Hominin Engraving.” Natural History(10):34

Messer, A'ndrea Elyse. "Women Leave Their Handprints on the Cave Wall." Penn State University. July 28, 2017. Accessed May 18, 2019.

Schoenberg, Arnie. 2019. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. Version 3/21/19. Retrieved from Accessed 19 April 2019.

Author’s Biography

My name is Kelli, this is my second semester of college. All throughout high school I was pursuing Science, and almost went into Chemistry because I love figuring out the world around me. However, I decided that I would be much happier following an artistic path. I am currently working towards getting a BA in Graphic Design and/or Illustration. I hope to one day to put those degrees to good use and become a concept artist.

“Climate Change and Effects on Human Evolution” by Alexa Benz

Many of the issues we face today are a result of us taxing the environment. We often have a tendency to use things that the earth only has a certain quantity of. Sometimes we do something and not realize the consequences of our actions until later. Some examples might include the mass growing of corn or the widespread development of wind energy. Looking at past trends we are able to analyze how the environmental factors transformed the decisions we made. The path that we took through evolution helps to portray and illustrate why we evolved in the ways that we did. It is impossible to know the whole scope of events that may or may not have taken place, but through examining fossil records as well as oxygen isotopes, we can get a better understanding. The articles discussed here walk through how our evolution began, from the change in our diets, to the reason why some of our species may have died out years ago. Through doing this, we are able to use anthropological imagination to examine the ways that our evolution may have been affected by the fluctuating environment.

The movement we are most interested in is the movement that occurred approximately 200,000 years ago. At this time, Homo sapiens had begun to migrate out of Africa towards the area of Eurasia. The interesting thing about this is the driving forces that may have led them to migrate. A theory of migration and evolution proposed by Dr. Rick Potts from the Smithsonian’s Human Origins Program is known as variability selection. He forms this hypothesis based on the idea that human evolution isn’t solely based on adaptation to their specific environment or trend. Humans migrated due to a lack of environmental stability, and they evolved to grow and thrive in a multitude of different environments (Potts, 2018:6).

Through the use of fossil records, as well as oxygen isotope records, it is believed that hominins evolved in a time that overlaps a significant period of environmental change on earth. Hominins are known as “all species of modern humans and early humans after their split from chimps about 14 million years ago” (Caperton, 2016). This species went through environmental changes that were more than just seasons. It was a time when ocean temperatures were increasing as well as glacial ice melting. These changing environmental patterns subsequently changed the environment in an irreversible way, requiring early hominins to adapt with it. The changes they would need to make to adapt include the development of tools needed to build, hunt, and scavenge for food as well as where they would be able to find their main source of food.

Tool making continues to play a large role in how we view early climate change and environmental effects of evolution. The turning point is once hominins became dependent on their tools for everyday use. Dr. Potts also talks about what is known as Oldowan toolmaking. According to the article written by Dr. Potts, early hominins carried tools over large spans and used them as a way to maneuver through changing environments—migration—which in turn meant changes in diet as they found new food sources from new areas. These tools, along with increasing sizes of the brain, provides a strong correlation between movement of these hominins and the varying tools used as evidence of environmental stressors and adaptation to new environments.

The use of, and dependence on tools as well as frequent movement found from fossil records, show a possible trading of tools, but also the coming of complex human emotions and further development into Homo sapiens. Dr. Potts describes situations in which groups could have possibly traded tools or other objects in an attempt to make allies or friends for food. When the environment put stressors onto one group’s food supply, he states that they may have used these relationships formed by tool trading to gain access to food. This is another example of environmental impact on encephalization and the patterns of social development can be seen as a starting point of further social complexity.

Moving from the Paleolithic era into the Neolithic, we see substantial growth in human cultural complexity, and population growth as well as increased brain size. It is a widely accepted idea in the science and historical communities that the time period between the old stone age and the new stone age was when agriculture and animal domestication began. Once humans spread out over continents, they stayed in groups making it difficult for some groups to provide enough food for everyone. Due to the difficulties some faced, plant and animal domestication, horticulture, and agriculture became the means for providing food for the whole group.

Merry Wiesner-Hanks et al., in the book A History of World Societies, writes about that time when the agricultural revolution took place and how it altered the landscape that we adapted to. The significance behind this transition from hunting and gathering to “farming” is a result of the tactics that were used in order to further their development. As planting habits continued, they eventually ended up stripping the soil of nutrients that sustained plants. Therefore, they had to move it elsewhere. Wiesner-Hanks states, “especially in deeply wooded areas, people cleared small plots by chopping and burning the natural vegetation, and planted crops in successive years until the soil eroded or lost its fertility, a method termed ‘slash and burn.’ They moved to another area and began the process again, perhaps returning to the first plot many years later, after the soil had rejuvenated itself” (Wiesner, 2018:18). This book goes over the development that early humans went through in altering their environment and subsequently how they altered their tools, habits, and their means of life.

The next point to be made is that of the entire Holocene time period. In a report written by Patrick V. Kirch, he lists outcomes of the destructive patterns and habits of early humans and the outcomes on their physical environment rooted in that period. Not only was the Holocene period a time of first farming and growing techniques, but it was also a time when early Homo sapiens experienced fire. He notes the seemingly close correlation with environmental changes and of specific times and the flora and fauna that also went extinct around that same time. The use of fire is said to begin before plants and animals were domesticated, according to the article. But fires that got out of control and burned large areas of land completely altered the landscape. Kirch uses the example of the outcome in Australia where a large increase of charcoal particles in sedimentary basins and lakes coincides with a large decrease in conifers, along with other rainforest trees. Other such examples of extinction due to serious environment alteration are the wingless birds from New Zealand known as dinornithids, along with many other extinctions experienced around that time frame. These are just a few examples of species that have been extinct because of human alteration of the land.

After the domestication of both plants and animals and the development of farming, the population of early humans started to increase. Along with the increase in numbers, we also started to see an increase in brain size and in complex thought processes. Another topic discussed in the article written by Patrick Kirch was that of migration patterns of early human’s growth habits. As our groups began to grow into villages and communities, human construction began to cover large areas of land and go in-between communities. Kirch talks about the continuing damage of the physical environment to meet their new needs and the impact on the flora and fauna around them.

Anyone who has followed-even in a cursory manner-the advances that archeology has made over the past half century in tracing the myriad of ways in which human population have irreversibly shaped the physical and biotic world we inhabit will recognize that global change has been underway since the early Holocene. The record if cumulative resource depression, translocation, extinctions, deforestation, erosion and sedimentation, expansion of agrarian landscapes, and increasing urbanization dispel any lingering views that pristine ecosystems persisted until the expansion of the industrialized West. [Kirch, 2005:6]

It is the extreme changes in our environment around us that altered our evolution alongside of our ever-changing environment.

An interesting theory brought up by Dr. Potts was that of animal distinction and replacement in East Africa as early hominins began migrating up and out of the continent. He cited many instances where animals that were too delicate or in need of specialized habitats and diets were replaced with smaller, and more “hardy versions” (Potts, 2018:16). The most notable being that of the Zebra, Equus oldowayensis, from between 780,000 and 600,000 years ago, and its replacement by Equus grevyi, a more common version you’d see today (Potts, 2018:16). It would be possible to link the reason for other hominins around the world, such as the Neanderthals, becoming extinct is because of the specialization they needed; they were ultimately replaced by us as the hardier “version”. Thus, as our environment continues to change, we have to alter ourselves to properly survive within our environment and we do so through adaptation and evolving; as these animals have done in the past.

A current growing concern is that of our population density and the damage it is causing to the plants and animals in our direct environments. Now that we are fully functioning humans with means to create, prevent, and solve almost any issue we face, our population has grown by exponential numbers. Jeffery McKee describes the growing impact that humans have on the biodiversity in the area specifically surrounding highly populated cities in the article “Outlook is grim for mammals and birds as human population grows”.

If we get to 11 million people, which is where we’re supposed to peak, then the amount of space you have per person is a lot smaller than that stadium. When you’re left with less space, there’s virtually no space left for most other species. Loss of species, and especially so-called keystones species that are important to the environment because they function as significant predators and prey, can disrupt ecosystems. Plants and animals also help the planet adjust to climate change, provide oxygen and are sources of food and medicine. [McKee, 2013:3]

A report published on May 6th, 2019 by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service (IPBES) is the first of its kind to evaluate the current standings on biodiversity on this grand of a scale. The report culminates 145 expert authors from 50 countries, 310 contributing authors, and 15,000 scientific and government sources to evaluate our current global crisis and loss in animal population and biodiversity as well as its current trajectory. The current goals that are set for 2030 will not be reached by our current efforts to help climate change, and there is a current risk for losing many qualities given by the earth, such as food security and quality of life. Co-chair professor Josef Settele (Germany) states, “This loss is a direct result of human activity and constitutes a direct threat to human well-being in all regions of the world” (IPBES, 2019). The report states “the assessment’s authors have ranked, for the first time at this scale and based on a thorough analysis of the available evidence, the five direct drivers of change in nature with the largest relative global impacts so far. These culprits are, in descending order: (1) changes in land and sea use; (2) direct exploitation of organisms; (3) climate change; (4) pollution and (5) invasive alien species” (IPBES, 2019). It would seem like common sense to think that of course as us humans grow and expand cities; delicate species will sooner or later be pushed out. However, for those that cannot adapt to other habitats or that struggle not having a specific food source from their original habitat, we threw off the balance in our ecosystems. This could possibly be opening the door to other situations where animals that are hardier come in to take their place, as previously mentioned. The cycle continues, and displacement of species takes place. It is hard to say what the outcomes of such an instance would be over many years of replacement. However, it is possible to link it to our evolution moving forward from today. If it was possible in our migration patterns thousands of years ago, it could have a similar effect on us again.

It is easy to say that our environment has obviously played a part in our evolution. Being able to pin down the exact reasons why through historical analysis helps to deepen our understanding of what exactly was happening in major times of our evolvement and what our responses were to our changing environment. These articles are able to give us a more detailed record of how our evolution has irrevocably changed our environment, and vice versa. Not only did this widespread destruction start longer ago than previously believed, but it also shows how they may have altered us in return. The work done by these writers can be recreated and the possibility of more information to further prove or counter this is widely accessible through fossil records and timelines. There is a strong correlation between our damage to the environment through evolution and our evolutionary changes based on said damaged environment.


Caperton Morton, Mary. "Hominid vs. Hominin." EARTH Magazine. August 18, 2016.

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. "Media Release: Nature's Dangerous Decline 'Unprecedented'; Species Extinction Rates 'Accelerating'." IPBES: Science and Policy for People and Nature. May 6, 2019.

Kirch, Patrick V. 2005. "ARCHAEOLOGY AND GLOBAL CHANGE: The Holocene Record." Annual Review of Environment and Resources 30: 409-440.

McKee, Jeffrey, Julia Guseman, and Eric Chambers. "Ohio State News." Outlook Is Grim for Mammals and Birds as Human Population Grows. June 18, 2013.

Potts, Dr. Rick. "Climate Effects on Human Evolution." The Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program. September 14, 2018.

Wiesner-Hanks, Merry E., Patricia Buckley Ebrey, Roger B. Beck, Jerry Dávila, Clare Haru. Crowston, and John P. McKay. A History of World Societies. 10th ed. Vol. 1. Boston, MA: Bedford / St. Martins, Macmillan Learning, 2018.

Author’s Bio

Hello! I'm a Michigan native; born and raised in Mid-Michigan. I am 22 years old and I am married; I've known my husband since 7th grade. Before I started going to college, I wanted to be a baker and even took serious steps in that path before switching gears. I am in my final semester before I graduate with my Associates Degree in Business Administration and transfer to San Diego State University. I love doing anything that involves being outside, as long as I can take my dog—Nora—with me. She’s my partner and crime, along with my husband and we love being active and getting out whenever we can. Being here in San Diego has given us so many opportunities to explore this beautiful place and we love it. We always take the opportunity to enjoy it while we can!

“Lateral Gene Transfer” by Andrew Hinshaw

The concept of where we get our traits and characteristics from traditionally is relatively simple to understand. In many schools, kids are taught the basics of genetics starting as early as third to fifth grade. If you ask any of these kids to tell you where they get their curly brown hair or their bright blue eyes, they would probably give you the same answer as many adults who have a similar level of understanding of the concepts—mom and dad of course! The concept of inherited traits is not only easy to understand, it also makes sense and is backed by scientific research. However, the widely accepted genetic inheritance process may not be as clear cut as we originally believed.

When we think about genetics, the familiar species tree concept often comes to mind. In following the branches, we can trace species back through their genetic characteristics that have been passed down to them through reproduction. It also follows that these traits change according to different circumstances over long periods of time through the evolutionary process. All of these traits can be visualized as being passed on vertically from parent to child over generations.In this paper, I will be discussing the concept that challenges this idea and gives new life to the ideas of evolution and adaptation. This concept has changed the way that scientists view genetics and it has a bright future in a variety of different fields of research.

More recently, scientists started to notice that not all adaptations seemed to follow this pattern of vertical structure. Research indicates that genetics can move vertically but also horizontally as well. This concept is called lateral gene transfer and has made big waves in the field of genetics as it has challenged the entire idea of the tree of life. Even though the idea that genetics flows in both directions has met great resistance throughout its history, the future looks promising for the study of lateral gene transfer.

In 1928 the possibility of genes being able to transfer horizontally was first observed in an experiment by Frederick Griffith (Quammen, 2018). The results Griffith found through his experiments were alarming, and he wasn’t exactly sure what to make of them.

In one experiment, for instance, he injected heat-killed S form (virulent) of Type I bacteria along with living R form (mild) of Type II bacteria into five mice. When all five keeled over within a few days, and Griffith drew blood, he found living Type I that was virulent. Note again this change: dead virulent I, plus living mild II, becomes…living virulent I. Something weird had happened. It sounded like zombie bacteria. Either the mixing had brought the virulent Type I back to life, or else the dead Type I had somehow transformed the living Type II into a version of itself. This wasn’t a sci-fi movie, and neither of those options was supposed to be possible. (Quammen, 217)

Scientists started noticing that bacteria could absorb the genetic material of dead bacteria essentially by consuming them. This came as a surprise to scientists who had previously accepted the vertical theories of genetics. was later discovered by a scientist named Joseph Lederberg that two bacteria could also share genetic material by “mating” with each other, thereby exchanging their differing traits. For example, if one bacterial organism had a trait X and “mated” with a bacterial organism with trait Y, it was observed that both bacteria had traits X and Y after the exchange. This concept of course seems ridiculous in that sense which is part of the reason the idea was so widely rejected early on. It seemed absurd that two organisms could exchange genetic material this way. This concept is called conjugation.

An example of conjugation can be seen in examining the rapid rate in which bacteria build up a resistance to antibiotics. Through a concept called infective heredity, bacteria can exchange resistant genes very rapidly with each other. These resistant genes are called episomes and can be copied and exchanged between bacteria quickly, reducing the effectiveness of antibiotics (Quammen, 2018).

An important topic that scientists are currently exploring is what the future of lateral gene transfer might look like. The impact of lateral gene transfer in nature in the future may be difficult to predict or speculate beforehand. Fortunately, scientists are now taking lateral gene transfer into their own hands by replicating the process artificially under lab conditions, removing all unwanted outside factors. In an article from Cell Press, the authors write that "the natural process of horizontal gene transfer can be mimicked under laboratory conditions. In plants, transposable elements of the Ac/Ds and Spm families have been routinely introduced into heterologous species” (IVICS, 1999). Basically this means that experiments are being done in controlled lab environments to find the applications and potential limits of lateral gene transfer.

In essence, much of the gene editing that is being researched and studied today also falls under the umbrella of lateral gene transfer. Huge strides are being taken in the realm of taking genetic code from one organism and transferring it horizontally—as opposed to traditionally vertically—to achieve certain desired genetic outcomes. This raises the question of ethics in genetic modification today. Although synthetic lateral gene transfer can have seemingly minor results compared to other forms of genetic engineering, it is still important to visit and research the various standpoints in the debate of ethical genetic modification.

Genetic modification has had a history of receiving a very volatile reaction since its inception. When stem cell research was first brought into the scope of the popular media, it met very strong resistance due to the source of the stem cells, one of the few available at the time: “the controversy was much worse a decade ago when the major source of stem cells was aborted fetuses” (Schoenberg, 2019: Today there are far better options for harvesting stem cells such as “from your own baby teeth, your blood, even from your leftover liposuction” (Schoenberg 2019: which has increased the support for this controversial topic. As the technology starts to catch up with the seemingly far-fetched ideas of the possibilities of genetic modification, the conflict between the two sides in favor of it and against it grow more and more relevant. These topics of debate no longer deal with vague, hypothetical “what-if” scenarios but real “what-happens-when” scenarios. These new advancements and discoveries will open many doors for the biological and anthropological communities, regardless of their mixed reception.

Until laws are made preventing genetic modification, it is only going to grow larger and more powerful. This means that synthetic lateral gene transfer has a promising future for its study and application. In revisiting the topic of bacterial resistance to antibiotics, imagine the applications of reverse-engineering the process by which this happens. If scientists could use what we now know about lateral gene transfer to come up with a solution for this problem, it would have enormous effects on the pharmaceutical industry. This is only one of an infinite number of potential applications that should be considered and researched further.

Lateral gene transfer is a radical idea that has challenged the almost unanimously accepted previous concepts of genetics and the tree of life. The history of the study of horizontal genetic flow was unpopular and controversial. Nevertheless, the few who did chase and study this idea have made huge strides in completing our understanding of genetics. Although the examples of lateral gene transfer observed so far may seem insignificant, they open the door to an unlimited potential for genetics.

Works Cited

Kaiser, Jocelyn. “U.S. Panel Gives Yellow Light to Human Embryo Editing.” Science, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 14 Feb. 2017,

Quammen, David. The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life. Simon & Schuster, 2018.

Schoenberg, Arnie. 2019. Introduction to Physical Anthropology.

Zhaxybayeva, Olga, and W. Ford Doolittle. “Lateral Gene Transfer.” Current Biology, Cell Press, 11 Apr. 2011,

Ivics, Zoltan. “Molecular Reconstruction of Sleeping Beauty, a Tc1-like Transposon from Fish, and Its Transposition in Human Cells.” Cell Press,14 Nov. 1997,

Author Bio

My name is Andrew Hinshaw. I grew up in the Bay Area but I came down to San Diego a few years ago for school. I had completed four years at California State University San Marcos but had to take a temporary leave of absence. I will be attending San Diego State University starting this fall to finish my degree in Computer Science. In the meantime, I'm happy to be here at City College picking up my last few general education classes before I go back to finish my degree. I'm currently working full time doing customer service for an software company and enjoying getting to see all the inner workings of a rapidly growing small business. My goal some day is to run a business of my own so I am learning all that I can now to set myself up for success in the future.

Although I have a limited background in anthropology, I enjoy learning about anything and everything. Some of the topics in the scope of anthropology are fascinating to me and I hope to be able to explore them deeper in the future.

“Eradicating Malaria with Genetically Edited Mosquitoes” by Heather Gorman


In 2017, Malaria caused approximately 435,000 deaths worldwide (WHO, 2019). This number represents approximately 30% decrease from the year 2010 and continues to decline. While the number of deaths has dramatically decreased in the past 20 years, preventing contraction of the disease has been challenging. In 2017, approximately 219 million cases were reported, a steady number over the past ten years. Historically, approximately 90% of these deaths occurred in Africa, but in the age of globalization, there is a high risk for the disease to occur and adapt in new environments (WHO, 2019). The production of the genetically edited mosquito is theorized to end the malaria-carrying mosquito population, but there remain many ethical issues and theoretical problems with such a release. Mathematical models and lab testing have had individual successes with gene drives (Selfish gene, Driving-Y and population replacement) that researchers believe have the capability to collapse mosquito populations. Though, gene drives in mosquito populations have proven successful in the lab, the ethical implications of employing this approach in malaria prone communities will be a challenge. This can be overcome by using a consistent, aggressive and community-oriented approach to ultimately eradicate malaria.


In 2018, gene drive research was nearly driven into a moratorium at the annual convention for biological diversity held in Egypt (Callaway, 2018). Members ultimately denied a moratorium on gene drives, instead imposing limitations on the research, citing a need for caution (Callaway, 2018). Gene drives are a method of suppressing or eliminating a trait within a certain population. In natural Mendelian inheritance, when two parents mate, the chance of the offspring having a certain gene is around 50% (Callaway, 2018). With modern gene-editing technology, scientists can edit or completely remove a gene in a subject species. Once released into the populations, due to the careful editing process, the offspring of these subjects have a 100% chance of carrying the edited trait (Callaway, 2018). One of the main arguments for proponents of gene drive technology is that it is the most efficient and cost-effective tool against eradicating diseases, such as malaria (Callaway, 2018). Malaria is a disease that is transmitted in over 200 million people per year and resulting in nearly half a million deaths annually, many of which occur in children under the age of five (WHO n.d). The World Health Organization (WHO, 2019) is committed to helping communities receive preventative measures such as treated bug nets and vaccinations (WHO, 2019). Though, many experts believe that the organization are far from attaining their goal of 90% eradication of malaria by 2030 from these methods alone (Eckhoff, 2017).

Although great success in reducing the burden of malaria has been achieved with current tools (2), the remaining burden is intolerably high, and significant questions remain about how much further these already deployed tools can get to elimination (28–30). On the horizon, there are ways to use drugs and diagnostics in innovative campaigns to clear the human infectious reservoir (31), potential rollout of vaccines (32), coverage increases with existing tools (2), and more, which could get closer to elimination. However, it will require high levels of effort and funding just to maintain current gains. [Eckhoff, 2017]

CRISPR (proper name, Clusters of Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) systems have already shown success is lab tests around the world for utilizing gene drives to advance elimination the malaria carrying gene in Anopheles mosquitoes. CRISPR Cas9 systems work by tying together “RNA” molecules to create a marker for cutting within a particular sequence (Vidyasagar, 2018). The system then cuts through the entire DNA strand to either remove a part, or allow for the sequence to repair itself, thereby changing signals within the subject species (Vidyasagar, 2018). This technology allows for scientists to target specific genes and either modify or eliminate traits in an organism (Broad Institute, 2018). However, it is important to compare current studies to identify the true risks and benefits between lab tests and wild populations. Due to a lack of public insight on the benefits of implementing gene drives (Callaway, 2018) one bad test could cause these systems to lose credibility with the public on a global scale, making a moratorium on this research more probable. Through analysis of mathematical models, lab testing, and wild population testing, this literature review will compare the use of gene drives in tests in Panama, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Italy to compare commonalities of benefits and risks. To ethically release gene drives to eradicate malaria, these factors must be identified in order to fully educate communities and prevent reintroduction of the disease in the future.


The battle with malaria has existed in human history for centuries. The parasite Plasmodium is the root cause of disease transmission from mosquito to human (Schoenberg 2019). Infection occurs when the parasite enters the bloodstream and reproduces, causing cells to pop and continuing infecting cells causing severe or fatal sickness (Schoenberg, 2019).

Infection begins when (1) sporozoites, the infective stages, are injected by a mosquito and are carried around the body until they invade liver hepatocytes where (2) they undergo a phase of asexual multiplication (exoerythrocytic schizogony) resulting in the production of many uninucleate merozoites. These merozoites flood out into the blood and invade red blood cells where (3) they initiate a second phase of asexual multiplication (erythrocytic schizogony) resulting in the production of about 8-16 merozoites which invade new red blood cells. This process is repeated almost indefinitely and is responsible for the disease, malaria. As the infection progresses, some young merozoites develop into male and female gametocytes that circulate in the peripheral blood until they are (4) taken up by a female anopheline mosquito when it feeds. [Cox, 2010]

Circular diagram of the Life Cycle of the Malaria Parasite. 1. The mosquito injects the parasite when it bites the human. sporozoites enter human liver cells and begin the 2. human liver liver stage where they mature into merozoites, burst the liver cell and begin an attached circle called 3. the human blood cell cycle where they enter a human blood cell, reproduce, and burst the cell. 4. sexual stage: male or female gametocytes form. The mosquito consumes the parasite during blood feeding begining 5. Mosquito stages. The gametocytes leave the human red blood cells and become gametes, an ookinete, and by 6. the late mosquito stage, they form an oocyst and then release sporozoites. The cycle continues with 1.

Figure 1: "Life Cycle of the Malaria Parasite" by National Institutes of Health 2009 (Public Domain)

The United States went through nearly a century focused on the eradication of entire mosquito populations, not considering the complexity and resistance of the disease (Patterson, 2009:9). Throughout the 1900s, in the United States, predominantly white, middle-class groups of people launched campaigns focused solely on the eradication of entire mosquito populations. However, these campaigns had less to do with disease control and more to do with eliminating “nuisance pests” in hopes for higher property values. To deter mosquitoes, communities created drainage ditches to eliminate stagnant water areas. In 1942, the use of insecticides became the predominate factor to mosquito control, as more soldiers were sent overseas and came back home. As insecticides became more popular, past preventative measures were abandoned for what appeared to be a more viable prevention tool. The use of intense chemicals as a preventative method harmed many ecosystems. Furthermore, reliance on this method resulted in a severe lack of community education as mosquitoes became more resistant to the insecticides (Patterson 2009:9-10). The failure of these campaigns to eliminate malaria, the global will to eradicate malaria declined significantly and instead placed priority on malaria control. While some countries have managed to eradicate malaria from their countries effectively with current preventative methods, other countries continue to struggle severely with this disease (Shah, 2010). In 2007, the Gates Foundation reignited the eradication campaign and empowered the World Health Organization to join in the eradicate malaria campaign (Shah, 2010). One of the few species who do carry the malaria trait are the female Anopheles population. Current preventative methods have shown a dramatic decline in the transmission rates and resulting death rates in the past 20 years, but these results are now reaching a plateau as these mosquitoes become vaccine and insecticide resistant (Matthews, 2018).


In 2012, CRISPR brought gene drive theories to reality (Esvelt, 2017). Not even 10 years after its’ invention, gene drive testing is creating successful results in the lab and at an impressive rate (Esvelt, 2017).

Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats (CRISPR) genome editing has catapulted prior theoretical speculation into reality, at least in the laboratory [9, 10]. Encode a desired genomic change along with the components of the CRISPR system, and it will cut and replace the original sequence with the new version in each generation. [Esvelt, 2017]

Despite these lab successes, there remain many ethical considerations regarding this technology. One ethical consideration of gene drive is that utilizing gene drives will attract unintended consequences in the local ecosystems (Esvelt, 2017). One argument is that gene drives that “self-propagate” will inherently cause the species to be “highly invasive” in the local and neighboring ecosystems by spreading to untargeted species (Esvelt, 2017).

Another consideration against gene drive use in mosquitos is that “a slippery slope” effect will ensue (Neves, 2017). Nearly new biotechnologies in the past half century have seen some form of this “slippery slope” effect with positive and negative consequences (Neves, 2017). If gene drives can surpass these ethical implications, who determines what other insect or animal populations see the use of these gene drives, and how can regulations deter scientist of nefarious testing (Matthews, 2018)? Companies around the world are currently testing gene drive methods to determine sustainability of such powerful technology and identify issues in testing.

Current Testing

There are a few gene drive methods that researchers hypothesize will eliminate or replace malaria carrying mosquitos. The “Selfish” gene, in which a gene is edited to interfere with the fertility in the population, “driving-Y” in which x chromosomes are impacted, causing mosquitos to have male offspring, eventually eliminating, or “collapsing” the entire population in the local area. One of the more popular methods for testing is the Selfish gene drive relies on releasing sterile males into the population. With this method, population eradication seems likely as female mosquitoes in the locality will not be able to reproduce.

Sub-Saharan African Models

Through mathematical model researchers simulate vector control in 2 Sub-Saharan regions, Namawala District in Tanzania, the Garki District in Nigeria. Each of these regions provide high vectors of mosquitos as well as significant weather data that contain a large enough sample size to test the parameters (Eckhoff, 2017). Over a thousand parameters are used to simulate the three commonly proposed gene drives. Parameters include characteristics such as seasonal weather, feeding and fertility patterns of the An. Gambia population. In conjunction with gene drive release, the models consider a random variable known as a “nonhomologous end joining (NHEJ) “wild type” allele that persists when a gene is not fully “cleaved and repaired” within the gene drive release. This wild allele can become resistant to further gene editing, and in the worst-case scenario, the mosquito population returns with the gene-drive resistant gene intact. This study differs from previous studies that focused on “single larvae” habitat which produced more skewed results, as there are typically many more than one larvae habitat in a locality. To produce more realistic results, approximation is used to place a fixed mortality rate parameter (Eckhoff, 2017).

The model used in this manuscript assumes there are many small habitats across the landscape that add up to the time-varying larval capacity in the basic model (22). Rather than tracking many small habitats, which would be very difficult to parameterize or localize, a “many-puddle” approximation is made. Eggs laid into a small habitat in which there will be fourth-instar larvae while the hatched eggs are first-instar larvae are deemed to have much higher mortality. Thus, a saturation function is applied for each day’s closed-loop egg laying; the higher the local larval population relative to the patch’s larval carrying capacity, the more the number of viable eggs laid is reduced. [Eckhoff, 2017]

These studies found that seasons will dramatically affect the advantages of gene drives (Eckhoff 2017). Each region has different weather patterns that will determine the effectiveness for gene drive release. The “dual-germline” testing models found that an extremely dry season, vector models show that releasing gene drives will suppress the population enough to dramatically show growth by the start of the wet season. In more consistent weather, the population control does not show as much of a significant decline. In the Driving-Y testing models, the models showed that if more males are born with only the Y gene, population collapse could be seen within 8 years. Of note, one model run presented a scenario in which all male mosquito had the only the Y gene, but enough wild females were born to be able to sustain the population (Eckhoff, 2017).

In cases of severe seasons, such as the Garki District in Nigeria, the models showed extreme seasons will be a challenge to implementing gene drives (Eckhoff, 2017). The mosquito population is sparse in the dry season, so implementing gene drives in this time frame has a higher risk of missing pockets of wild mosquitoes that will sustain the population in the wet season. The researchers suggest that these challenges can be overcome by a calculated and “aggressive” gene drive release strategy (Eckhoff, 2017).

Target Malaria

The Target Malaria campaign is currently testing its gene drive Anopheles mosquitoes in secured labs (Target Malaria, n.d) There are two gene drive strategies being implemented in their lab. The first gene drive method is to modify mosquitos so that at least 90% of the population is male (Driving-Y method). Genetic alterations of the X gene in the male mosquitoes requires that its’ offspring will only inherit the functioning Y-gene, therefore suppressing the female Anopheles population. The second focus is to reduce fertility of the Anopheles female. This method involves ensuring that an altered female mates with an altered male and receives a duplicate copy of the altered gene, subsequently making her infertile (Target Malaria n.d.).

In a 2018 small scale study, researchers part of the Target Malaria campaign sought to identify the if the dsxgene in Anopheles would advance the goal of population infertility (Kyrou, 2017). Utilizing Cas-9 CRISPR systems to target the dsx allele, two cages were tested containing both wild type mosquitoes from Sub-Saharan Africa and genetically altered lab mosquitoes. By generation 8 in Cage 1 and generation 12 in Cage 2, infertility was gained at 100% and successfully collapsed the mosquito populations. Resistance to this gene drive was not found by researchers, however they note that larger scale testing needs to be done to determine the validity of this finding (Kyrou, 2017). Until gene drives can guarantee resistant-free mosquitoes, collapsing or eliminating permanently will prove a significant challenge (Calloway, 2018).


The mathematical models, as well as the small-scale lab testing, show efficient and quick population collapses in the Anopheles mosquito populations. In both studies, the Driving-Y method of gene drive release have similar contributions to population collapse. Both studies point to the need for further testing in the field to determine real successes, but they lay important groundwork for field testing once approval can be gained. One of the weaknesses that the studies do not include is how these finding will translate to high risk communities who will be on the receiving end of any field trials supported by these studies. This will be important to the sustainability of successful population collapses.

Field Testing

As of 2016, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), who has regulation authority over genetically engineered mosquitos, has approved field testing for the company Oxitec to pursue gene drive release into wild mosquito populations in Florida (Meghani, 2018). However, the proposed field trial from Oxitec to the FDA is controversial. Opponents of Oxitec’s application argue that regulatory practices by the FDA are not effective towards this rapidly evolving technology. Of note, risk assessment of the local ecosystem effect from the multiple releases that Oxitec’s altered mosquito would need to support the gene drive. Researchers stress that regulatory agencies need to evaluate their risk assessment in order to provide transparencies to the communities who receive the gene drive (Meghani, 2018). At the time of this paper, no significant field trial data have been published for peer review.


Overwhelmingly, there is a clear consensus that use of gene drives in mosquitos is the quickest and most cost-effective measure towards eradicating malaria. It is likely that this research will once again be up for debate within the United Nations in the years to come. Gene drives are humanity’s best chance at eradicating malaria, but we must proceed cautiously and with full informed consent of the communities who are directly affected (Matthews, 2018). As the CRISPR systems are less than a decade old at the time of this paper, there is at least one thing that both proponents and opponents agree on, scientists must be able to guarantee that these systems will work without consequence and without reintroduction or increased spread of disease (Neves, 2017). The lack of testing of gene drives in wild mosquito populations remains the weakness of every lab test that proves success. Unfortunately, there is not yet enough published and peer-reviewed field data to determine viability of these methods in a wild population (Neves, 2017). Time is of the essence with millions of people suffering from malaria each year, however, it is not ethical to release gene drives into a locality until there has been enough testing done outside of lab scenarios, as well as significant community education in the localities where CRISPR mosquitos will be released. In conclusion, gene drives are showing potential for real population collapse. Based on current lab testing a more aggressive and regional approach to release strategies will be necessary for the most efficient and cost-effective use of gene drives on Anopheles mosquitoes and ultimately eradicate malaria.


Achenbach, Joel. "'Gene Drive' Research to Fight Diseases Can Proceed Cautiously, U.N. Group Decides." The Washington Post. November 30, 2018. Accessed March 21, 2019.

Questions and Answers about CRISPR." Broad Institute. August 04, 2018. Accessed April 19, 2019.

Callaway, Ewen. "UN Treaty Agrees to Limit Gene Drives but Rejects a Moratorium." Nature News. November 29, 2018. Accessed May 09, 2019.

Cox, Francis Eg. "History of the Discovery of the Malaria Parasites and Their Vectors." Parasites & Vectors. February 01, 2010. Accessed April 19, 2019.

Eckhoff, Philip A., Edward A. Wenger, H. Charles J. Godfray, and Austin Burt. "Impact of Mosquito Gene Drive on Malaria Elimination in a Computational Model with Explicit Spatial and Temporal Dynamics." PNAS. January 10, 2017. Accessed March 19, 2019.

Esvelt, Kevin M., and Neil J. Gemmell. "Conservation Demands Safe Gene Drive." PLOS Biology. November 16, 2017. Technology Review&utm_campaign=86b83d18cf-The_Download&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_997ed6f472-86b83d18cf-156516985

Kyrou, Kyros, Andrew M. Hammond, Roberto Galizi, Nace Kranjc, Austin Burt, Andrea K. Beaghton, Tony Nolan, and Andrea Crisanti. "A CRISPR–Cas9 Gene Drive Targeting doublesex Causes Complete Population Suppression in Caged Anopheles Gambiae Mosquitoes." Nature News. September 24, 2018. Accessed April 18, 2019

Meghani, Zahra, and Jennifer Kuzma. "Regulating Animals with Gene Drive Systems: Lessons from the Regulatory Assessment of a Genetically Engineered Mosquito." Journal of Responsible Innovation 5, no. Sup1 (2017). doi:10.1080/23299460.2017.1407912

Neves, Maria Patrão, and Christiane Druml. "Ethical Implications of Fighting Malaria with CRISPR/Cas9." BMJ Global Health. August 01, 2017.

"Gene Drives Thwarted by Emergence of Resistant Organisms." Nature News.

Patterson, Gordon M. The Mosquito Crusades a History of the American Anti-mosquito Movement from the Reed Commission to the First Earth Day. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2009.

Schoenberg, Arnie. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. 2019.

"Fact Sheet about Malaria." World Health Organization. 2019.

14. Vidyasagar, Aparna. "What Is CRISPR?" LiveScience. April 20, 2018.

Author’s Bio

Heather Gorman is a receptionist for a San Diego law firm. She is currently pursuing an A.A in Political Science at San Diego City College and intends to transfer to a university to complete her B.A in Political Science by 2021 with a specialization in public policy. Prior to pursuing her degree, Heather took time to develop professionally, with the intent to better understand the diversity of the world around her. In 2013, Heather enlisted in the Navy as a weather analyst where she was deployed on the USS Makin Island as part of Operation Inherent Resolve operations in the Middle East. She also served on the USNS Mercy as part of its humanitarian mission in Southeast Asia. During her four year enlistment she was given a Flag Letter of Commendation and achieved the enlisted rank of Second Class Petty Officer.

Aside from her academic and professional life, Heather enjoys traveling, keeping up with current events and watching B-rate horror movies.

“Primate Behavior in Captivity: Dealing with Depression” by Joel Bird, Emmanuel Flores, Ricky Hernandez, Haydee Martinez, and Elisabeth Vermeulen


The quote and idea that “animals are here with us, and not for us,” given to the world by an anonymous individual, is fascinating to us. For our project, we have decided to observe the Silverback gorillas at the San Diego Zoo monkey trails, observe gorillas in the wild through videos, and include research. Prior to the observation at the zoo, we prepared ourselves with questions and theories for our trip. Our approach was mostly qualitative. We read articles and gathered data to come up with a valid scientific point and compared to live feed of gorillas. According to Gorilla Social Structure, “They are very social animals that live in groups” (Male, 2014). We will explain our observations and methods used in this project. We believe gorillas at the zoo are depressed due to the lack of space provided which factors into their depression leading them to a sedentary lifestyle.

The San Diego Zoo is one of the finest zoos in the country and the animals there are completely taken care of with the highest quality of care. However, we believe animals need to be in their native and natural territories, rather than a limited space dependent on a keeper and displayed for human entertainment because this leads to depression. This includes the gorillas being non-social with their fellow peers. While out in the wild there is a much more exciting dynamics going on, being able to watch the animals, their objective to hunt and be wild with no shame and completely free, we thought they would be less depressed in the wild. However, it comes down to money and business for the zoos; “Wow exotic animals to watch locally” is the rhetoric that may bring, but our theories are that these animals should be out in the wild where they belong and not behind a glass window and suffer from depression or anxiety.


Primates in captivity are depressed and lethargic. They are more content in the wild due to the ability to roam free, whereas being held captive restrict these gorillas to do what they would elsewhere. This may lead them to be socially withdrawn and inactive in their surroundings. After reading the article about Negra, the sad chimpanzee (Ferdowsian, 2011), we wanted to prove that primates are depressed in captivity by testing the amount of activity that was displayed throughout different times of the day. We believe that non-active behaviors can lead to depression.


The methodology used was the focal sampling method. This method includes studying, surveying, recording and observing an individual. We utilized available data from existing sources such as studies and articles. Different behaviours of a specific individual were studied at different time intervals. Every thirty seconds, the individual was recorded based on the type of behavior he or she was displaying during that half a minute. We compared data to see patterns with the primates. The individuals were recorded on an ethogram data sheet. The sheet categorized the individual's actions down to 7 different types of behaviors:

1.Feed: eating food or drinking water , this includes chewing

2. Social: friendly interaction with another animal

3. Self-Groom: grooming or other self-care activity

4.Active: a behaviour that the animal does on its own, such as running, playing, walking or climbing

5.Inactive: sleeping, relaxing, or just sitting still not doing any other other behaviour

6. Not Visible: cannot see the animal

7. Other: Other behaviors

We did our best to avoid looking at the subjects with any speculations and used empirical senses to make sound judgments. What we did is compare a live gorilla feeding from the wild, to the zoo gorilla behaviors to distinguish what exact actions do they have similar. We then checked off any differences from the wild behavior to the domestic behavior. Then we also gathered several studies, graphics, and peer-reviewed articles discussing captive primate behavior with the theory in mind that they suffer from PTSD, anxiety, and depression when captive, and believe they are less prone to these behaviors in their wild natural setting.

We are primates ourselves and one way to learn about primates is to also study them as a close relative of Homo sapiens (Schoenberg, 2019). This works especially well to explain how primates got the physical structure they have. Schoenberg discusses ethology stating, “captivity is a bad place to study behavior because the primates behavior has evolved in a certain environment, to solve problems in that environment, and you can't expect to see natural behavior outside of a natural setting” (2019). He also mentions that he dislikes observations at zoos because they justify the destruction of their natural habitats. “But, some of these psychological experiments are useful to blur the line between human and non-human primate” (Schoenberg, 2019:5.3). Our belief of primates showcasing depression while being held captive was encouraged through the article, “Signs of Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Chimpanzees”:

A chimpanzee named Negra was a 36-year-old female at the time of the study. Taken from the wild in Africa as an infant, she has remained in captivity since that time. She was used in invasive research, including hepatitis experiments, and for breeding. Each of her infants was removed from her at an early age. During the period in which she was used in research, she was kept in isolation for several years. Approximately 1 year prior to the study, she was transferred to Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest in Washington state, where she currently lives with six other chimpanzees. Negra met alternative criteria for depression and PTSD. According to reports, she had persistent depressed hunched posture, and she was socially withdrawn. Negra slept excessively during the daytime, and she lacked interest in play, food, other individuals, and grooming. She also demonstrated poor attention to tasks. She was described as slow and sluggish, and at times, she appeared anxious. In response to unexpected touch, she would ‘‘threat bark,’’ scream, or run away. Compared with other chimpanzees, she demonstrated less variability in her facial expressions. Caretakers reported that her face was expressionless, ‘‘like a ghost,’’ for at least a month after she arrived at the sanctuary. She seldom, if ever, exhibited a play face. She was tested for a thyroid disorder and assessed for other medical causes of her clinical presentation, but all laboratory tests were within normal limits. Based on later reports provided by her caretakers, some of her symptoms have improved since she has been living in the sanctuary. She has become more interested in other chimpanzees, including grooming, and the variability in her facial expressions has increased [Ferdowsian, 2011]

Posture plays a huge role in a group. In the wild, this works in some instances for one can be intimidated by height. They have the knowledge to learn from each other and have a family dynamic. Some can thrive in captivity due to becoming knowledgeable and not having the worry of predators. Survival skills are gone, leaving a gap of no true self and have a limit due to the fact that someone wanted to study them. Now the primate “loses most of its instinct” in a state of dependency on mankind.

While watching the Gorilla live stream we noticed that it was cut and manipulated in a way to show the greatest parts and highlights of that live stream. This means that the footage was not actually a live stream but rather a video reel of the subjects in the wild and the data reflects are best interpretation of them in the wild. Observations at the zoo did take place with no interruptions. There was a total of 18 data sheets which were averaged out to see what activity was most prominent, which is reflected in the graph below. The frequency of the behavior recorded was predominantly in the afternoon, with three observations in the morning.


Table comparing the frequency of activity within 5 days between the Zoo and Video. Feed: Zoo = 10, Video = 7. Social: Zoo = 50, Video = 2. Self-Groom: Zoo = 20. Active: Zoo = 75, Video = 8. Inactive: Zoo = 40, Video = 10. Not Visible: Zoo = 25.


We decided to watch the gorillas and feeding was at 10 a.m., which the feeder came out from the bungalow with huge bowls of lettuce, carrots, and fruits as we watched through the glass windows. A volunteer or employee gave the following information to us: every group eats about 6 times a day including snacks. The most important meal is breakfast, just like it is for humans. The meals are served right before the park opens. The meals can also be cut up and scattered throughout their cage and hidden in places throughout the cage to imitate them to forage and hunt for the food to bring out that wild animal instincts, their real selves as to speak. They are also served vitamins which are considered a primate chow, similar to what dogs eat, like a pedigree bowl. Their snacks throughout the course of the day consists of mainly fruits. During our observation, we came to realization that they are vegetarians. They are known to be the strongest and live the longest, perhaps because they do not eat meat or flesh. We also noticed that every gorilla got into a specific spot for feeding. This has to do with the fact that they are not good at sharing, especially the females. Besides our commonality with gorillas on food, us humans share other similarities.


After another 30 seconds, the camera switched over to another camera which had six gorillas, most of them being seemingly younger gorillas. Seeing the largest gorilla there, it was eating and being climbed on by other little gorillas as she eats some food. Observing how the gorillas acted during these 30 second intervals, they seemed pretty happy. We caught them eating and chomping on plants. After they ate they became inactive and they were just sitting there, perhaps relaxing and enjoying nature.

Inactive Video

When watching the gorillas through the livestream, there was initially a long while where the camera focused on the gorillas being inactive within the trees. This went on for a minute before another gorilla entered the camera climbing from the bottom of the trees and resting up with the 2 other gorillas near the top. Then another 30 seconds passed by before the camera switched focus to another two gorillas, with one lying on the ground and another walking into the frame of the camera and eventually sat down.


Jessica, one of the gorillas we observed, sat and stared faintly ahead with her back against the glass window. Every now and then she would glance back. She got up and moved after every five minutes, but repeated the same inactive behavior in another spot. She looked depressed. In the middle of the day, the gorillas are asleep, which leaves limited activity to watch and observe them. However, there was another active group of silverback gorillas, which we started focal sampling. We counted per minutes and used our ethogram to identify the behaviors. Then we used a percentage to find commonalities in what behaviors are more active in them.


There were only brief instances at the zoo that the gorillas had groomed themselves. Grooming usually took place for about a minute and a half. They scratched their arm, picked their nose, and picked at their feet.



Prince, the baby gorilla, showed various signs of activity throughout the observation. He walked around on all fours from one end of the perimeter to the other with occasional front ward role. He was seen being social. His mother, Jessica, would follow him to see what he was up to. He would play fight with her as he would tap her on the head and keep moving backwards. There was a lady who stood by the window of the sanctuary and showed videos of other gorillas to anyone passing by. Prince came by and he was watching the videos as he was also looking back to see if his mom was coming. His mother later came back and they walked around the perimeter until they plotted down in one spot.


A little after the minute has passed, they started to be more active. The adult gorillas started playing with the smaller ones. They were socializing and being friendly. They then started eating again. The child gorilla was observing the grown gorilla eat. The bond that they had seems to be that of a child and father. Primates enjoy attention, and seeing the father give attention and teach the child how to eat is a real heartwarmer. After the interactions between the gorillas has ended, the live cam switched to recording a couple of trees in the middle of the jungle.

We extended our observation, bringing us back to the zoo on another evening. We visited a silverback male. The primate spent little time grooming himself. He was eager for something as he showed signs of anxiousness. He stood on two legs, charged, and crashed into the wall, where a port was present. He spent half the time bending and leaning on his front arms with his butt in the air while looking at a port on the wall. The primate was also stationary on all four legs for the other half of the time. He then paused on a two legged squat and picked his nose. He walked over and stood behind a tree for the time being. We concluded he was hungry. The other adult silverback female stood stationary in a two legged squat slightly looking back for most of the time. She moved 15 minutes in the study to another spot and continued with the two legged squat and gazed.


In conclusion, with the help of our group members, methods, data, and our hypothesis, we found that these primates behaviors in captivity are similar to the ones in the wild. Based on our research, it disproves our hypothesis that they are more legarthic and depressed in the zoo than they are in the wild. What would have perhaps given us a more accurate conclusion to our study would have been a longer term observation (at least one year) and a free trip to observe gorillas in the wild through our eyes. We believe an actual insight of the wild with the bare eye would have fulfilled our research tremendously since observing them through video may have tempered with the reality of it. We should have also focused on testing more facial expressions rather than all the amount of activity, but neither the video nor the zoo glass allowed close viewing. We mainly went off of activity, as Negra, the chimpanzee, showcased her depression through her posture and being socially withdrawn. We only took two observations and it impacted our study significantly, we could only imagine if we devoted more observations into this research. We found that these captive primates were not depressed but were anxious because of the amount of time they spent wondering when their food was coming. We concluded this with the amount of time they spent looking and searching for food.

Their unique and exotic open air habitats, surrounded by running fountains, trees, canyon like stones, and pastures gives us the impression of an actual jungle environment versus the ones in the wild. They also stay in a pack of three, where they interact, nap and eat together all day. This is similar to the ones in the wild besides the one or two that are casually by themselves such as the papa gorillas. We found that the gorillas had enough activity throughout their day to prove that they were moving around. Activity was the event most recorded and led us to disprove our hypothesis. What we did find in all the observations is that they constantly stand near the portal to see if food was coming. They are eating creatures, therefore, it makes sense.

Works Cited

Edes, Ashley N., et al. “Assessing Stress in Zoo-Housed Western Lowland Gorillas (Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla) Using Allostatic Load.” International Journal of Primatology, vol. 37, no. 2, 2016, pp. 241–259., doi:10.1007/s10764-016-9899-8.

Ferdowsian, R., et al. “Signs of Mood and Anxiety Disorders in Chimpanzees.” PLOS ONE, Public Library of Science,

Schoenberg, Arnie. “ethology" Introduction to Physical Anthropology.

"Male Silverback Gorilla." Gorilla Facts and Information. July 01, 2014. Accessed May 06, 2019.

The cause and effect of Organ (kidney) trafficking on the cultures of Bangladesh, Israel and Pakistan by Florentino Asuncion


In developing countries, the opportunity to get out of poverty might not be an easy option for many of its citizens. There is not always equal opportunity such as in western cultures where the government provides its people with extensive amount of support. In a lot of these countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan most families are on their own and must do what they can to put food on the table. When people become desperate to survive it could lead them to go into desperate measures in which selling their own organs is their only means of survival. A lot of this can be blamed on the economic imbalances in these countries or we can even address Globalization as creating an unbalance of power which in turn leads to an unbalance of money which the rich control. “In too many instances, the prices paid for globalization were greater than the benefits since globalization also failed to ensure economic stability and caused the following: environmental damages, corrupted political processes, a massive growth of unemployment rates, and it also brought longer term problems of social dissolutions, including urban violence and ethnic conflicts” (Hezroni, 2015:12).

It is interesting to compare how two distinct parts of the world could be faced with the same problem. A black market of organs that fuels the everlasting disparity between the poor and the rich. The lack of development in biomedicine in this region has led to people taking matters into their own hands, hence creating their own market as a solution. Where the solution inevitably hurts the poor as there are no real regulations in place for such actions. We can see the difference from western culture with this excerpt from one of my sources, “Western biomedicine has produced successful treatments for many dangerous and complex conditions: everything from antibiotics and cures for cancer to organ transplantation” (Brown (Health and Medicine),2015: 6). This demonstrates what could be a simple solution to a problem that otherwise torments thousands of people in nations which Globalization has not been kind.

What I will follow with this information is a comparison between three cultures who deal with this Issue on a day to day basis. Comparing the Middle East towards and east Asian country Bangladesh. I will be doing this in order to do a cross culture comparison of a global issue in order to get a better understanding of the issue. To compare two distinct cultures to see how they can be so different while at the same time be so similar when dealing with the same issue.

Israel and Pakistan

While I could explore the many countries in the Middle East I will be primarily focusing on Israel and Pakistan. organ trafficking: The Construction of a Social Problem in Israel by Shidlo Hezroni is an ethnography that dives deep into organ trafficking. We can see the origins of kidney transplantation in Pakistan beginning in the late 1980’s. A brief history is recapped “because there was no deceased donor program (still the case today), the majority of transplanted kidneys were donated by family members, but by the late 1990s kidneys donated by kin had been almost entirely replaced by kidneys bought from unrelated individuals from villages located around major cities” (Moazam, 2016:30). What was initially designed as a way for families to help one another took a darker turn when people began to see that they could make money from organ trafficking. Without regulation it opened the door for anyone to do as they pleased. Lack regulation also allowed for the poor to become victims to organ trafficking. In a sense they became targets for the rich to cultivate their organs for money. While providing a means for hope and prosperity for them.

The demands for organ transplants in rich countries is rising much faster than the supply of organs donated through traditional means. In response, a growing number of the worlds' poor are offering up their body parts for sale. The trade in organs from live donors generally flows from poor underdeveloped countries to rich developed ones, and kidneys are the most commonly purchased organs (Scheper- Hughes, 2005). Fox and Swazey (1992) argue that by 1990 trafficking of “human spare parts” was a booming business in developing countries that had no organized system for procuring cadaveric donor organs, no brain death statute, and no specific laws banning the sale of human organs and tissues. In fact, the donor countries are these with 16 extremely low socio- economic levels and very high unemployment rates, where most people have almost no chances to cover their living expenses. The demanding countries, on the contrary, are mainly industrial countries where a shortage of organs exists. [Hezroni 2015:15]

This excerpt brings solid evidence that although poor developing nations are the ones that suffer many other countries play a significant part in Organ trafficking. As we can see, “We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny” (Brown (Economics), 2016:6).

In Pakistan Punjab is on of the most densely populated zones with many fertile lands the wealthy own the land while they hire the poor to do the labor. These workers can average about $60 a month in salaries. This and the barbaric conditions in which they live leads to them taking loans out from the “Zamindars” (landowners), “these loans are impossible to pay back. Even if a portion of the debt is paid off, further loans become necessary for new expenses, including health emergencies, marriages, and deaths. If the debt persists, and although bonded labor is a crime in Pakistan, the worker and his children remain effectively “bonded” to the zamindar and are unable to leave” (Moazam,2016: 30). This creates a desperation which leads to families looking at their only viable option which is to donate their kidneys. Such inequality can be compared to other parts of the world that face these issue such as, “Haiti is the most unequal country in Latin America and the Caribbean: the richest 20 percent of its population holds more than 64 percent of its total wealth, while the poorest 20 percent hold barely one percent”(Brown(Health and Medicine),2016: 21). While this is not a direct comparison with Haiti it is an example that shows how nations can suffer from inequality. A problem can in turn branch of into multiple problems stemming from one big issue.

For the authors to truly understand the concepts behind organ trafficking they had gotten a firsthand perspective from those involved. In Pakistan Moazam had a sample of 32 vendors, the data included 3 vendors under the age of 19, 27 between 20-40 years old and 2 of unknown age. Out of these 32, 27 where currently married while 29 of them where illiterate. What became even more apparent was that most had children with a family size of 1-11. Although this sample data is small it gives a picture of the type of individuals who become involved in organ selling.

In addition to this data it was found that the average debt of individuals was,

“Average debt before vending Rs. 130,000 (Range Rs. 45,000 to Rs. 200,000) Average money promised for kidney Rs. 160,000 (Range Rs. 80,000 to Rs. 175,000) Average money received Rs. 103,000 (Range Rs. 70,000 to Rs. 155,000) Money paid to middlemen Range Rs. 8,000 to Rs. 20,000 Status of debt after vending • 17 persistent/reaccumulated • 13 paid • 2 not established” [Moazam, 33].

Here, this data shows to me that there is a sense of Structural Violence, where the poor are being taken advantage of by the rich. They are given a sense of hope by selling their kidneys, but as the data shows about half of them will inevitably be on the same cycle. “Structural violence is a form of violence in which a social structure or institution harms people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs” (Brown (Economics),2016: 21). What becomes a reality is the inequality between the members of society in Pakistan. Even when a member of the society aims to fight against inequality they are faced with backlash from the government. Or even the solutions that they tend to provide lean towards favoring of the rich. Take for instance a bill in 2003 about organ transplantation, “the bill will cause medical discrimination since wealthy patients will manage to get organs abroad and patients without financial resources will die while waiting for their transplantations and therefore the bill, if accepted, will enable organ transplantations only for the rich while the poor's fate will be pain, suffering, and death; the bill does not refer at all to live organ transplantations and donations since its only goal is to avoid organ trafficking; the bill does not mention any long term solution that will increase the donation rates in Israel, whereas such a solution may be found in other countries' models”(Hezroni,2015: 96-97). While the government aims to solve on solution it in turn creates a separate issue that does not help the poor. Saying they are trying to solve the problem is a generous statement since it has shown time and time again where bill is denied as they do not fit the bigger picture in the government’s eyes.

These Ethnographies also dove a bit deeper into the lives of these organ vendors. Moazam engaged with the vendors on a very personal level in order to get their true feelings behind being involved as organ vendors. What initially was a way of hope for these vendors inevitably turned into a misery that they could not escape. What Moazam found is that they had a “half’ man syndrome. This means that psychologically they felt as though they had lost a part of themselves. Many men and women stated to have lost their sexual potency. With this they feared (especially the young ones) that they would be unable to have children and continue a normal life. This can all be attributed to the sense of hopelessness that comes when one sells their kidneys. It is an aspect that might be overlooked as it might not be meaningful in the eyes of statistics and numbers. However, it is significant in understanding a culture beyond just statistics.

A subject that cannot be avoided is Religion. Pakistan is considered an Islamic state where most of its citizens are Muslim. When looking at the cultural implications of organ trafficking, we can see that many of the individuals regrets come from religious ties. In a sense they feel as though they are going against their beliefs. “One man described the kidney as a naimat (blessing) from God, and others said that selling a kidney was Allah tala kaa gunnah (sin in the eyes of Allah), a buraee (wrong, evil act), or accha kaam nahin (not a right/good act)”(Moazam,2016: 34). The majority of individual felt that selling a kidney was haram(forbidden). What we have here is a battle for survival from individuals, where they are willing to go against their strong religious ties in order to survive another day. Where one must sacrifice/forego one’s own beliefs in order to survive. Anthropologists view religion as a central importance to most of the people in the world’s cultures (Brown (Religion), 2016:14). They are social guidelines for most of the people around the world. Pakistan is no exception as many of the individuals aim to live their life through the values that Islam provides to them.

Religious beliefs are an important element of social control because these beliefs help to define acceptable behaviors as well as punishments, including supernatural consequences, for misbehavior. One well-known example are the ideas expressed in the Ten Commandments, which are incorporated in the teachings of Christianity, Islam, and Judaism and prohibit behaviors such as theft, murder, adultery, dishonesty, and jealousy while also emphasizing the need for honor and respect between people. Behavior that violates the commandments brings both social disapproval from other members of the religious community and potential punishment from God. [Brown, 2016:9]

In the ethnography of Hezroni the comparison of Israel is a bit different as it is considered a Jewish state. A distinct religion that has similar and different approaches when you consider Organ trafficking. The bigger problem here is that in Israel religious ties are so closely tied with every day to day activities that there is almost no separation of religion and state. From the observations of Hezroni she saw that in the early stages in the fight against organ transplantation there was not much religious opposition as it did not directly affect the religious community. The bigger problem faced here was the influence of the religious community in most aspects of daily lives. There was a disagreement in organ transplantation where religious people agree to receive organ but not donate them. Since there is no official donor system in Israel it led to the creation of organ trafficking. Where people found their own means to acquire and trade organs. In the instances where religious leaders found that the religious community for not sign donor cards because it went against their religious values, it led to them taking matters into their own hands. In order to fight this injustice and oppression they issued their own separate donor cards. Here we see how religion can divide people on issues. Where countries like Israel who do not have clear guidelines for separation of religion and state there tends to be disputes that can not easily be resolved. ‘

While there is still much work to be done this movement in Israel has created hope for change. “The organization "Matnat Chaiim" 94, or "gift of life" in Hebrew, is another example. This organization states on its website that since its establishment in 2009, it has recruited 96 kidneys for transplantations. The founder of this organization is a well-known rabbi, who also went through kidney transplantation. The main goal of the organization is to voluntarily encourage kidney donations from live-donors in Israel” (Hezroni,2015: 131). In contrast to the ethnography from Pakistan a movement has been made to address the issue. While you have two countries in a similar part of the world the ways the approach a similar issue can vastly differ. Especially when religious a cultural difference is in play. In Israel you have a social problem that is mostly attributed to religious problems as religion is so intertwined into the government. While in Pakistan it becomes a battle between the poor and the rich. Where the disparity of power has created huge imbalances in society and although religion dictates individual decisions it does not have the control that Israel faces.


To get a different perspective on the issue of organ trafficking I will be conducting an analysis of “Living Cadavers” in Bangladesh by Monir Moniruzzaman. This being an ethnography that sees a similar issue through the eyes of a country in a different part of the world. It addresses similar problems when it comes to dealing with Organ trafficking. In part focusing on the rich and the poor, religious aspects and overall a broken system that seems to have no end where the poor suffer and the rich reap all the benefits.

Like in Pakistan and Israel most of the kidney vendors do it out of desperation to gain economic stability and provide for their families. “Every day, organ classifieds reach millions of poor rickshaw pullers, day laborers, slum dwellers, and village farmers, some of whom eventually sell their body parts to try to get out of poverty” (Moniruzzaman, 2012:70). On the other side you have the recipients who tend to be local or overseas buyers (although most are from Bangladesh descent). What ends up happening is that they have their transplant surgery either locally or in places like India, Thailand and Singapore. It is crazy to think how much organ trafficking is expanding. Even laws implemented in Bangladesh do not seem to be enough to deter vendors and buyers.

In 1999, the Bangladesh Parliament passed the Organ Transplant Act, which imposes a ban on trading body parts and publishing any related classifieds. The Act explicitly states that anyone violating this law could be imprisoned for a minimum of three years to a maximum of seven years and penalized with a minimum fine of 300,000 Taka ($4,300; see Bangladesh Gazette 1999:1819). Nonetheless, the organ trade is growing in Bangladesh, a country where 78 percent of its inhabitants live on less than $2 a day, not to mention it virtually has no cadaveric organ donation program until today [Moniruzzaman, 2012:70].

In this excerpt lies the problem that most countries such as Pakistan, Israel and Bangladesh face. The reason you have these organ markets that are flourishing and growing dramatically is the lack of legal organ donation in those countries. It can be argued that if the governments of these nations where to implement their own organ donation system then this could have been all avoided. What I strive to understand is if it is too late? Even if Bangladesh could implement a program for organ transplantation could it rectify a problem that seems to grow with every passing day. To this Moniruzzaman states that this whole system ends up being an exploitation of the third world countries where the many become exploited for the gains of the few(rich). Moniruzzaman argues that in order to bring light to this topic into public light there must be more Ethnographies in which they bring the voices of the many. This will be the only way that change can occur. Without these Ethnographies to give the people voice no one would hear them. As the rich are not concerned with their opinions if it does not in some way directly benefit them. To keep them silent is in their best interest as they can have total control over them

Moniruzzaman understands that medical anthropologist critically analyzes organ trafficking, but he feels as though the violence, in turn what he calls bio violence has yet to be examined. “Bio violence[AS3] is an instrument to transform human bodies, either living or dead, either whole or in parts, as sites of diverse exploitation viable through new medical technologies. Bioviolence is an act of inflicting harm and intentional manipulation to exploit certain bodies to an end” (Moniruzzaman, 2012:72). This is like Structural Violence as it is a way for the rich and powerful to have control over the poor. At its core both Structural and Bio Violence use manipulation to exercise their agendas. I would go as far as to say that Bio violence stems from Structural Violence. It can be stated that with the advancement in medical technology has only increased Bioviolence. The reasoning for this is that it makes these types of operations or harvesting of organs easier to perform. Practices which where once deemed dangerous and only done in extreme measures are being done by more and more people. This you would think is a good thing but in the eyes of organ trafficking it just promotes an increase to the amount of people that become victims.

A subcategory of bioviolence that most accurately describe this ethnography is biopiracy, where the dominant class patent biological resources such as genes or cell lines from developing nations without offering them fair compensation.

What I find very alarming is the difficulty to which the author faced to gain access to real life interviews with kidney donors in Bangladesh. While in nations like Pakistan people seemed more open to discuss their experiences in a country like Bangladesh, its people seemed more ashamed. “Most sellers do not disclose their actions to anyone—not even to spouses or siblings—as the organ trade is outlawed and is considered a disgraceful and humiliating act there” (Moniruzzaman, 2012:74). In the Middle East although it was also illegal it could be that cultural differences led to them being more open to interviews. Once again in Bangladesh the author was able to successfully interview 33 sellers, but this only came to be with the trust of an organ broker.

In the research the author conducted he was able to conclude that all the people that participated were forced to sell their kidneys due to poverty. It seems kind of redundant to continue to state this, but the overall truth is that poverty is at the center of organ trafficking. We can argue that the rich have a role to play but if it weren't for the conditions of the poor in these nations they would not have to resort to such extreme measures.

As in Pakistan the vendors in Bangladesh where not very well educated, most of them were not aware what a kidney was and where it was in the human body.

The interviewed sellers have very limited knowledge about organs in the human body. As Mofiz, a 43-year-old tea stall owner and kidney seller, mentioned: “I saw an ad looking for the kidney posted in the daily Ittefaq in 2000. I asked one of my friends, what is a kidney? Where is it located? What does one need to do when it is damaged? How can you donate your kidney? How much money can I get? I did not know that a kidney could be sold for money.” All sellers hope that by selling their kidneys, the wheel of their fate will turn in their favor, but they also fear the life-threatening consequences. [Moniruzzaman, 2012:75]

What followed this was the act of manipulation by the buyer or broker they would inform the sellers that kidney donation was a noble act, as to make them feel good about they where doing. They would even go to an extent to convince them that they only needed one kidney and if they had two then if one got damaged then the other one would also be damaged. This manipulation of the uneducated poor is what keeps the rich in control.

In Bangladesh most of the organ transplantations are done in India. The reason this is so important is because this is where deception is taken to a whole other level. A personal recollection from an interviewed vendor Hiru depicts this. Hiru was forced to get circumcised in order to fool the doctors in India and to avoid any suspicion. He did this against his religious beliefs and found a conflict within himself between his religion and his own personal wellbeing. To be manipulated to forgo one’s beliefs just for a hope of a better life is the reality for most of these vendors. “Hiru’s case documents how organ buyers materialize bioviolence at any cost, even violating kidney sellers’ religious faith” (Moniruzzaman, 2012:77).

Although we are focusing on Bangladesh it is important to see how other countries are intertwined. As stated in the previous paragraph India is the place in which most organ transplantations from Bangladesh are done. In India to ensure the process gets finalized the buyers take the sellers passports to force them to commit to finalize the transaction. Even if they have any remorse or change their mind this ensures that they do not have a way to back down. Just another way in which the sellers are manipulated. In the Middle East it did not seem as though manipulation went to this degree. Probably because most transplantations where done locally. Where here in Bangladesh the people have adopted different means to make sure they acquire the organs. It could be due in par to the laws in Bangladesh being a lot stricter. Where there seems to be punishment behind Organ Transplantation. Where in the Middle East it is more of a social disapproval with no real repercussions.

This ethnography tends to depict a darker picture of organ trafficking. Where the true motives of the brokers/buyers are truly represented.

After the surgery, the first thing the seller's notice is the rough cut about 20 inches long on their bodies. The sellers are unaware that if the buyers had paid only $200 more, the surgeons could have used laparoscopic surgery, which requires an incision as small as four inches. To minimize the cost, the sellers are also released from the hospital within five days after having this highly sophisticated operation. Sellers return to the broker’s unhygienic apartment with a permanent scar of this bio violence [78]

In comparison to the other ethnographies of the Middle East it seems as though most of the sellers do not receive what they are promised. If they are promised a certain amount of money, they are given a fraction of that. In this ethnography the author found that 27 out of 33 sellers did not receive the full amount of money promised. Out of the 33 interviewed it was discovered that only 2 of them were able to use the money received to invest in livestock and farmland. Most people end up back in the same place they started if not worse. Could this be goal of the buyers, to keep the poor as poor in order to keep the never-ending wheel of poverty spinning?

The reality is just like in the Middle East most of the kidney vendors have immense regrets of what they did. It can be attributed to religious beliefs that were broken, or even being fooled and not receiving the money that they were promised. So, it seems that Bangladesh just like the Middle East cannot escape the cruel reality of organ trafficking. “As Abdul, a 30-year-old seller, said, “I lost my kidney as well as my job. Now I cannot engage in heavy lifting jobs such as rickshaw pulling, cultivating land, or heavy industrial lifting; what kind of life is this? If I had the strength in my body, I could work anything and could easily earn that little sum I received from selling” (Moniruzzaman, 2012:79).

Besides the physical damage that one must face after partaking in organ transplantation it is important to address an even more important aspect, which is how psychological damaging the whole process is. There seems to be a trend of depression that is correlated after vendors sell their kidneys. Just like in Pakistan they have a feeling that they are “half” human. Where they feel an everlasting gap within themselves. Where they do not feel whole and feel as though they are a shell of their former self. With most not being able to disclose their experience with their friends or family due to social shaming they are left to dwell in their own sorrow.

Numbers do not lie and out of all the seller’s 78 percent stated that their economic status deteriorated worse then before the transplantation. This begs the question as to why even attempt to sell a kidney if the facts show that most people end up worse. I can attribute this to the lack of education amongst the poor where the rich intentionally keep this information from them in order to continue this trend. If the governments of these countries made this information more easily available, then perhaps more of the poor would abstain from falling victim to organ trafficking. The following statistics provide more information to the reality of organ trafficking.

In Pakistan, 88 percent of vendors reported that they had no economic improvement after the operation (Naqvi et al. 2007:934; see also Moazam et al. 2009:33). Moldavian and Filipino sellers also faced unemployment after they returned to their villages (Scheper-Hughes 2003a:220). Again, in Egypt, 81 percent of vendors spent the payment within five months of nephrectomy, mostly to pay off financial debts, rather than investing it in quality-of-life enhancements (Budiani-Saberi and Delmonico 2008:927). Iranian sellers likewise reported that vending caused serious negative effects on employment for 65 percent of the studied vendors; their income declined by 20 percent to 66 percent (Zargooshi 2001a:1790). [Moniruzzaman, 2102:81]


It appears the cultures of the Middle East and Bangladesh have been damaged by organ trafficking. It has created a huge imbalance of power in both parts of the world. In all 3 ethnographies it became apparent that a lack of government transplantation programs led to the development of an organ trafficking market. In Israel, Hezroni found through her research religion was at the center of the issue. Where Israel being a Jewish dominant state led to a lack of separation between religion and state. A conflict of government and the church led to turmoil over social issues like organ transplantation.

In the other Ethnographies while both being predominantly Muslim countries, they shared more similar views in this aspect. Both vendors from their respective countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh felt as though the buyers force and tricked them into forsaking their religious values by tempting them with money. Where at the end of the whole ordeal they found that they were worst off than before. In Bangladesh it seemed as though organ trafficking had become a lot darker and more unforgiving. Moniruzzaman attributed this to a law that made it illegal to transplant organs. Where if caught both the vendor and the buyer could face fines and even jail time. When the law is being broken people will take extreme measures to make sure they are not caught. As we can see in Bangladesh, they buyers went to extreme measures to fool and entrap their sellers as to not give them any options. This cannot be said about Pakistan as though it remains unregulated the lack of a law persecuting those who partake has made organ trafficking a less ruthless act amongst those partaking. That still does not mean that no one is hurt throughout the process.

These three Ethnographies show a comparison of a global issue in the light of three distinct cultures. It shows how one issue can adapt very similarly and very differently in the eyes of different people. Where a global issue cannot be just black and white. It has shown me that in order to truly understand a problem you must look at it through many points of views. If we only look at it through our own eyes, then our perspective and judgment is blinded by our own ideals. In analyzing Ethnographies which include participant observation we better understand an issue.

Works Cited

Brown, N. (2017). "Health and Medicine, Economics, Globalization, Religion" in Perspectives: An open invitation to cultural anthropology. Retrieved April 01, 2019, from

Moazam, F. (2016, May 6). "Conversations with Kidney Vendors in Pakistan: An Ethnographic Study." Retrieved April 2, 2019, from

Moniruzzaman, M. (2012). “'Living Cadavers' in Bangladesh: Bioviolence in the Human Organ Bazaar." Retrieved April 10, 2019, from

Shidlo-Hezroni, V. (2015). Organ Trafficking: The Construction of a Social Problem in Israel. Retrieved April 15, 2019, from

Author’s Biography

My name is Florentino Asuncion I am currently taking my last semester at City College and plan to transfer to SDSU in the fall. I am taking this course in order to fulfill my requirements for transfer. I took and Anthropology class in my first semester at city college, but I figured this would be a better way to refresh my knowledge on the subject. I want to see all the knowledge this class can offer me. I am always up for learning new things and I feel this class will bring new insight into my life as it prepares me for the next step in my journey.

“Beyond the Binary: A Comparative Essay Between Native American and Thai Views of Non-Binary Genders” by Kimberly Ingalls


In this essay I will be comparing the writings of Maia Sheppard and J.B. Mayo, Timo T. Ojanen, and the collective writers for the "Gender and Sexuality" chapter in Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology. One of the writings used is “The Social Construction of Gender and Sexuality: Learning from Two Spirit Traditions.”, the personal views of Sheppard and Mayo’s in regards to learning about their Native Americans’ culture of the Two Spirit ideology and how they in turn teach teenagers how to cope with their sexuality. The second is a more clinical look at the Thai culture and the treatment of non-binary people, Ojanen’s article "Sexual/gender Minorities in Thailand: Identities, Challenges, and Voluntary-sector Counseling". I will be contrasting the articles along with the cultures and their views on non-binary gender and sexuality and the construct of their cultures around these people.

In all cultures, sexuality and gender is held at the front of society, as most use gender roles to establish a hierarchy and to divide the work between people. In general men are considered bread-winners, those who do manual labor in order to provide for the family; women, on the other hand, are often expected to keep the family in good health and properly take care of the household. These roles are so interconnected and exist with the idea that there is a “biological component” (Blumenfield, 2017) involved between differentiating genders. However there are many older cultures that never created that connection between sex and genders, never held expectations for one person of a certain gender to uphold roles only based on their born genitalia.

Native American “Two Spirit” Perspective

Maia Sheppard and J.B. Mayo tell us of their ancestors and their cultural views associated is gender that they had learned in an attempt to understand themselves better, both being homosexuals. They acknowledge that their tribe of the Dine, or Navajo, held beliefs that were different than the present day United states and wished to assist their students in understanding both the history of the Native American people and their struggles in adapting their beliefs to the changing lands being taken over by the Christian faith.

According to Mayo and Sheppard’s findings, the Navajo believed that people that didn’t adhere to their birth sex and instead took to liking people of the same sex, as well as participating in task associated with the opposite gender, were considered “revered as gifted and spiritual people” (Mayo, 2013). Often these people held positions of great honor; doctors and spiritual leaders, respected and venerated among their people. They lead ceremonies and took care of children, even teaching them. To the people of the Navajo, to be of both woman and man spiritually in one body, was a blessing of the land and allowed the person to cross between the traditional gender roles held in their society (Blumenfield, 2017). Within the Navajo they even had specific labels and names for people that had this Twin Spirited nature, called Nadleehi, a male who filled female roles and vice versa.

Unfortunately after being integrated, and forced to convert to the Christian faith, the idea of Twin Spiritualism fell out of favor, and more people conscribed to the idea that anything outside of the binary gender view was sinful in nature and was never truly adapted back into the culture, even after the Navajo people were able to reclaim what little culture they had originally. Only recently with the rise of LGBTQ+ in the United States, were some of the historical keepers of the Native American culture able to reintroduce the idea back into both their own and American society. Mayo and Sheppard intend to use this information in order to help children and teens better understand that outside of their own cultures, there are others that wholeheartedly accept individuals that don’t conform to the ridged constructs of gender roles that are present in their lives.

Thailand’s Kàthoey Perspective

In Ojanen’s work, he lays out the terminology and identities, cultural treatment and difficulties, and history of non-binary sexual genders in Thailand. According to his research into the matter, there is a lot of mixed observations into the cultural understanding and acceptance levels in Thailand for people of the LGBTQ+ community, ranging from accepted, to tolerated but not accepted, to straight up unaccepted by the community. He has found that while in the society these people aren’t actively persecuted, they are severely limited in the services they can receive, such as medical and mental health aid. He believes that the issue has stemmed from a combination of discrimination and general misunderstandings by the Thai culture and are ignored for the most part.

Traditionally the word to label those who do not ascribe to binary genders are called, kàthoey (Ojanen, 2009), but modernization of the language has added more labels to be more specific to the gender and sexuality differences between the groups of people. This expanded the vocabulary involving non-binary people from one, kàthoey, to over 20 different names and labels. This included differentiating between homosexual men who were more masculine in nature, gay king/fàay rúk, feminine in nature, gay queen/fàay ráp, or a one of a mixed or neutral nature, gay quing. This is also applicable to lesbians, who also have three categories and labels based on their outwardly behaviors and gender roles they fit more with.

While the culture itself has a wide variety and subcategories of non-binary labels, that does not mean that they accept the identities within their communities. The relations between the society and these sexual/gender minorities is similar to that of the United States, where they are not persecuted by law, but are often shunned by others in social situations and have little to no safe-space to call their own (Ojanen, 2009). Neglect by society has left those who identify outside the binary without the same rights as their binary counterparts, discriminated against and left vulnerable in medical and mental care situations. An acknowledged and intentionally ignored sect of people in their own culture.


The existence of people who situate themselves outside the binary gender and sexuality coding system reside everywhere on Earth. These minorities exist outside of cultural expectations and traditions regardless of where they are and what culture they came from. Their presence is acknowledged and documented both over time and continents, and they have been given names and titles to describe them by their defining features. In some cultures like the Navajo, they are praised and accepted for who they are and what they can accomplish in their societies. They are appreciated and given the same rights as their community members, even allowed more freedom in which to express themselves and not burdened by expectations based on sex. In others they are tolerated but not accepted, known of but ultimately swept under the rug by society, abandoned by their own people because they don’t adhere to social standards.

Works Cited

Mukhopadhyay, Carol; Blumenfield, Tami; Harper, Susan 2017 "Gender and Sexuality" In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology Edited by Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de González, and Thomas McIlwraith. 2017. American Anthropological Association. accessed: March 18, 2019

Ojanen, Timo T. "Sexual/gender Minorities in Thailand: Identities, Challenges, and Voluntary-sector Counseling." Sexuality Research and Social Policy 6, no. 2 (2009): 4-34. doi:10.1525/srsp.2009.6.2.4.

Sheppard, Maia; J. B. Mayo. 2013. “The Social Construction of Gender and Sexuality: Learning from Two Spirit Traditions.” Social Studies 104 (6): 259–70.

Author Bio:

Hello, my name is Kim and I am taking this course to make up a previously failed Anthropology class. My first attempt at this course was taken straight out of High School and unfortunately I was not the most astute student. I am currently working on an Education Degree with hopes of going into a teaching program, and trying to raise my GPA so I can get into a University.

I have always been interested in things like Evolution and love sciences, so I am eager to become more educated in the subject and be able to discuss the topics with more confidence. I have never had a strong presence in present in front of people, so online classes are definitely my cup of tea, and weirdly enough I enjoy writing papers.

“Deaf Culture in Tanzania and South Africa” by Wilhelmina Chappell


Language is one of the most important features in a culture. “Human culture could not exist without language and language could not exist without culture” (Light, 2017: 1). Language is in everything we do in life. It is in the way we think, the activities we do while using language. It is all around constantly throughout are waking and sleeping moments. Deafness is international and spread across thousands of different countries. Each region has its own language, culture, and organization. “Deaf Culture is often shared, beliefs, attitudes, values, norms, and it invariably marked by communication through the use of sign language” (Light, 2017: 17). Many people often forget that sign language is not universal and that each region has its own language. There are over 200 diatonic sign languages in the world, in which they are not mutually comprehensible, (Light, 2017:18). It has simply never occurred to most that deaf people in different countries communicate in different languages, for instance, people in America speak a different language than those in Germany. In many regions, people are able to use it openly and are shown compassion, while other places have a huge stigma around sign language. “Deaf people experience physical violence from families, community members, and others who do not approve of manual communication” (Lee, 2012:102). Deafness is very unique among most disabilities because those who have a loss of hearing can walk down the street and not “look disabled.” One would only know when they strike up a conversation with someone that has a loss of hearing or sees them using sign language.

The two regions that will be focused on in this paper are Tanzania and South Africa. Tanzania is a country in Africa. Its capital city is Dar es Salaam and has nearly two million residents. The country as a whole has a population of around 32 million people. Many Tanzanians live along the lake shores, or around the edges of the country on the coast and in the mountains. The country is very dry and sparsely inhabited. Many parts of the country are under populated due to disease. South Africa is the southernmost country on the African continent. The bottom half is surrounded by the Indian Ocean. Unlike Tanzania, the South African territory is inhabited across the whole country. Today their country is rich with all types of people, languages and cultures. South Africa has a population of about 44.6 million people. The deaf community and culture in both these regions have many differences and similarities as they both lack support and are greatly oppressed.

Deaf Culture in Tanzania

Deaf culture in Tanzania is extremely different from what most people see in America and across Europe. Tanzanian Sign Language (LAT) is the standard language that deaf people in Tanzania use to communicate with. There are absolutely no signs of American deaf influence in this country. Many people in Tanzania are uncomfortable with sign language, they do not like the attention it brings to them or their family. Because of this, LAT has not been fully developed or standardized. Disabilities and most specifically deafness in this region are seen as shameful and embarrassing, which highly impacts deaf people's’ lives in society and in their homes. “Male family members often would laugh or find signing threatening and make them stop using the language.” (Lee, 2012:75). Singing in Tanzania is almost never seen as they are limited to or practically have no language, especially in rural areas because of the shame and abuse it brings. “Deaf people singing in public have been the victims of violence, mockery, and other abuses.” (Lee, 2012:1). This horrible treatment on deaf people has been going on for decades.

Most people who are born deaf and ostracized do not learn their first language until they are in their 20’s or 30s. The deaf population in this country is one of the most marginalized and oppressed populations in the country. Deaf people get paid way less compared to those who aren’t hard of hearing (Lee, 2012:1). Most deaf people in Tanzania live in extreme poverty because of too much oppression; they are left with little ways to formally communicate. Most deaf people do not even know their names or their relationship to the people who are living with them in their homes because of the lack of education to learn how to communicate.

“Many deaf people in Tanzania—particularly the large population who do not attend any formal education—still have extremely limited access to any form of communication, let alone LAT. The spread of LAT is very uneven, with the most access in urban areas and the least in isolated rural areas.” (Lee, 2012: 93).

Less than 5% of deaf children receive a formal education in Tanzania. Even with formal education, many schools in Tanzania still continue to use oral methods of teaching because they do not accept sign language as a form of communication. They are left fending for themselves as they have to learn how to communicate with people in their own way. In addition, people in Tanzania developed a new village sign system for their home that mostly uses visuals called “Laugh ya lama ya Kijiji” (village sign), (Lee, 2012: 87). The only place in Tanzania that has lots of support for the deaf community is in Dar es Salaam (the largest city in Tanzania), where most of the deaf population live. People with impaired hearing in this country have a very difficult life compared to others.

Deaf Culture in South Africa

South Africa has 11 official languages in their country and not one of these are South African Sign Language (SASL). For decades people have worked to get this language officially recognized as the 12th language in this country. Similar to Tanzania, “deaf culture has been seen as inferior by the dominant hearing culture, resulting in oppression and discrimination” (Stander, Mcilroy, 2017:85). Many deaf people in this country are marginalized and don’t live as prosperous of a life compared to those who have perfect hearing. In South Africa, there are lots of discrimination towards one's ethnicity. The black deaf community in South Africa faces the most discrimination. “They are discriminated from two sides -colonial discrimination and historical discrimination,” along with discrimination towards their deafness (Stander, Mcilroy, 2017:87). In many parts of South Africa, sign language is not recognized in education. For a very long time, bilingual education was looked down upon in South Africa but recently the schools made it mandatory that their students learn two languages before entering a university. This was very helpful for deaf learners who practice SASL as a language because they are now able to go and study in universities. This allows them to get a degree and get a job after school, so they are able to provide a better life for themselves.

Although the deaf culture in South Africa is not fully accepted, there have been small strides to help them succeed and feel more comfortable. A few boarding schools were built that allowed deaf people to attend and get an education with one another. This allowed them to have a ‘sense of belonging’ and give them a real deaf community (Stander, Mcilroy, 2017:94). Many of the staff members at this school are hearing but they started bringing in deaf staff to fill positions such as interpreters, teacher assistants, and caretakers. Because this is a boarding school, many people decide to stay overnight. This allows them to participate more in the deaf community. Stander and Mcllroy found during their time in South Africa that deaf people value their deaf culture far more than their hearing culture; meaning they are ‘deaf’ first and then they list their other identities such as African, white, (etc).


Deaf culture in Tanzania and South Africa are very similar to one another. In both countries, the deaf community is ostracized, mocked, and oppressed. This forces them to live poorer lives as many people will not hire them as employees, and those who do, pay them far less wages than people of hearing. “In developing countries, 80% to 90% of persons with disabilities of working age are unemployed, whereas in industrialized countries the figure is between 50% and 70%” (United Nations Disability). People with disabilities are at a huge disadvantage in the workplace. Linda Light states, “deaf people constitute a linguistic minority in many societies worldwide based on their common experience of life” (Light, 2017:17). Although these people live in two completely different countries, they share very similar experiences and walk through life in similar fashion. In both Tanzania and South Africa, they have had a difficult time getting their official sign language recognized. Without this language being identified, many schools will not teach it which sets people with impaired hearing even further back as they are not able to fully learn and get the same education as everyone else. South Africa has made a lot of improvements on language in education and opened up boarding schools where deaf students can attend and get an education. This has allowed deaf people to come together as a community and feel like they belong. Tanzania has not made these steps yet and many people in the deaf community are left without any language for 20 years or more and only able to communicate with visuals. Although these countries are very different, they share many similarities in the way they treat their deaf community. Language is how we connect to people around us. It allows to understand one another and emote emotions. Without language we would be isolated. It is considered to be one of the most important features in culture.

Work Cited

Lee, Jessica Chantelle, "They Have To See Us: an Ethnography of Deaf People in Tanzania" (2012). Anthropology Graduate Theses & Dissertations. 11.

Stander, Marga & Mcilroy, Guy. (2017). Language and culture in the Deaf community: a ethnographic case study in a South African special school. Per Linguam. 33.

Light, Linda“Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology, Language”. Edited by Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de González, and Thomas McIlwraith. 2017. American Anthropological Association

“Disability and Employment Enable.” United Nations, United Nations, Nov. 2007,

Author’s Biography

My name is Wilhelmina, but most people call me Minnie. I am about to go into my Junior year of college and will be graduating from City with an Associates Degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences with an emphasis in Language Arts and Humanities. Before attending San Diego City College I was going to San Francisco State University. Growing up, I always told friends and family that I wanted to travel the world and help others. I will be moving to the East Coast and attending Rutgers University in the Fall working to get my Bachelors Degree in sociology. After I graduate I hope to eventually start my own non profit one day and travel the world doing hands on humanitarian work to help people in need.

“The Influence of Violence on the Development of Culture in Africa and Nepal” by Michael Cervantes


Violence, and warfare in particular, has become an integral part of many of the world's cultures. It cannot be disputed that, “warfare was integral to the formation of the agricultural state” (McDowell, 2017: 22). War has profound, disproportionate effects on how cultures have (and are) developing. Further, warfare is all-encompassing in that “every nation-state has involved civilians in its military adventures, and almost everyone has been involved in those wars in some way” (McDowell, 2017:23). When a culture goes to war against another culture, everyone within the warring cultures are either involved directly or indirectly. War can mobilize civilian industries and the general populace. Similarly, war provides an impetus for the expansion of armed forces either at a tribal level or a state level. While wars are fought differently by tribes and by states, the expansive influence of warfare on how these cultures develop remains constant.

Warfare can affect the most fundamental aspects of culture such as the family unit. The influence of warfare can also drastically alter cultural norms, religious beliefs, and even political organization within cultures. Furthermore, it is imperative to recognize that warfare varies in intensity and in form from culture to culture, largely as a result of the level of political organization of these cultures (McDowell, 2017:13). This point is best illustrated by McDowell’s recognition that “Tribes engage in warfare more often than bands, both internally and externally” (2017:13). This is just one example of how warfare differs between cultures, but this example illustrates how the influence of warfare on cultural development must be analyzed through a lens relative to the cultures being studied. Warfare amongst different cultures must be understood within the contexts of the cultures being studied. An analysis of how warfare has affected cultural development in Nepal and in Africa illustrates this fascinating dynamic.

Warfare has greatly influenced the development of the cultures within Africa and Nepal. Within these cultures, certain norms, beliefs, and behaviors have been modified to allow the people of these cultures to survive the conditions imposed upon them by warfare. The cultures in these two regions developed differently, largely due to the nature of the wars that influenced their cultures. While war itself is inherently political, in Africa the wars that have influenced the cultures there have largely been encouraged by economic motives (in particular, oil reserves and how to distribute oil wealth). In Nepal, the war that most greatly influenced the cultural development of the Nepalese, the People’s War, was primarily a war of ideologies between the government and communist rebels. The influence of war on the development of these cultures is explored in The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa by Alex de Waal and Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal’s Civil War by Judith Pettigrew respectively.

Warfare and Cultural Development in Africa

The cultures within Africa have been influenced greatly by warfare. The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa by Alex de Waal is a recent ethnography on warfare in Africa, with a particular focus on the cultures of the Horn of Africa; through a combination of participant observation and analysis by de Waal over thirty years (2015:x). Here, de Waal forms the basis for his ethnography. It is important to note that the wars that de Waal studies are not wars between states but wars between cultures. This must be recognized because, “In tribal societies, wars vary in cause, intensity, and duration, but they tend to be less deadly than those run by states because of tribes’ relatively small populations and limited technologies” (McDowell, 2017:13). Specifically, de Waal has closely studied the relationship between warfare and the development of the cultures within Darfur, Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Somaliland, Eritrea, and Ethiopia. Within this ethnography, a particular emphasis is placed on the political, economic, and military structures of the cultures of the Horn of Africa. De Waal likens the relationship between these structures of the cultures of the Horn of Africa as a marketplace with “buyers and sellers, trading loyalty for resources” (de Waal, 2015:3). It is interesting to consider the notion that political loyalty has been commodified in the cultures of the Horn of Africa where it is exchanged. Among the countries of the Horn of Africa that de Waal studied, it is the cultures within Somalia and Sudan that were most influenced by warfare.

Somali culture is one of the cultures in the Horn of Africa where a dynamic has emerged between political, economic, and military interests. In his analysis, De Waal details how Somali political organization, economic interests, and warfare are closely linked with familial ties:

During 1991, Aidiid’s United Somali Congress (USC) ‘cleansed’ Mogadishu and the Shebelle Valley of members of the Darood clan family, on the pretext that they were supporters of the former dictatorship. Their houses, businesses, and land were seized by the ‘liberators’ – USC commanders and associated businessmen. Irrigated farms that produced, among other things, bananas for export were profitable. Businesspeople became entangled in the military politics of territorial control, both of farmland and of export routes. In 1995-6, Somalia saw its first ‘banana war’ in which exporters funded militia to secure their exports. [de Waal, 2015:116]

In Somali culture, warfare, a political mechanism, has been repurposed as an economic tool by which to garner and protect profits. Without a strong central government to prevent infighting, Somali culture has developed with an understanding that warfare is a means to an end to ensuring economic prosperity. This is reminiscent of how raids are used in tribal societies, with raids being, “short-term uses of physical force that are organized and planned to achieve a limited objective such as acquisition of cattle (pastoralists) or other forms of wealth and, often, abduction of women, usually from neighboring communities” (McDowell, 2017:13). Relating this insight into raids back into the example of warfare in Somali culture at hand, the “liberators” seized valuable economic assets (de Waal, 2015:116) just as a tribal society would use force to secure wealth (McDowell, 2017:13). Another effect that the implementation of warfare has had on the development of Somali culture has been with the establishment of a system of “political rentierism” wherein the Somali elite offer prominent positions out to people that they expect will pay them back (de Waal, 2015:117). Warfare has been used within Somali culture by entrepreneurs to secure positions that can be “rented out” for a profit. Indeed, it seems that the system of “political rentierism” has become an integral part of Somali culture:

From the last offensives of the USC and its allies towards Mogadishu, in late 1990, until today, political-military entrepreneurs have financed their operations through a combination of looting and extortion, foreign patronage and political credit – offers of future positions to be repaid in anticipated rents. [de Waal 2015:117]

Indeed, through a system of “political rentierism”, warfare has become intertwined with the economic aspects of Somali culture. What is most fascinating about the Somali culture is the lack of a strong, centralized state government. The absence of a strong government has afforded Somali culture an unusual level of freedom in which to develop. Being that Somali culture is devoid of the presence of a centralized authority that employs a monopoly over the legitimate use of violence, it has been up to the Somali people to develop their own political and economic organizations. It has also been to the discretion of the Somali people on how to incorporate warfare and violence into their society. As a result of the absence of a strong central government, Somali culture is unique because lineage and kinship are deciding factors in many everyday situations (de Waal, 2015:116). Lineage and kinship factor into how Somalis have developed political and economic organization and into who could be subject to retaliation in the form of warfare or other types of organized violence. As with Somalia, in South Africa lineage and kinship factor in to determine how warfare is conducted. In “From Warlords to Freedom Fighters: Political Violence and State Formation in Umbumbulu, South Africa” Sarah M. Mathis recognizes the dynamic between kinship and lineage in warfare during the eMbo-Makhanyawar in South Africa, “Kinship was used to draw larger numbers of young men into the conflict, which soon became known as the Shozi family versus the Mkhize family. The chief, who was related to the Mkhizes, became involved on their side and Mkhandi Shozi was obliged to flee with a large group of his supporters to Makhany” (Mathis 2013:425). Within both Somalia and South Africa, it is evident that warfare has become closely intertwined with lineage and kinship. Warfare has contributed to the development of other aspects of cultures in Somali culture.

The relationship between economic and political aspects of Somali culture is just as intriguing as the relationship between warfare, lineage, and kinship. Economic incentives, political opportunities, and the threat of warfare are used to maintain the status of the elite in Somali culture (de Waal, 2015:117). It is also fascinating to see how violence and warfare have become an instrument of economic expansion in Somali culture with war being used to protect profits (de Wall 2015:117). This is just one example of how de Waal has explored the role of violence in one of the cultures on the Horn of Africa. De Waal also examines other cultures on the Horn of Africa to show how violence is used for political and economic gains.

Somali culture is not the only culture that de Waal studies in his ethnography, another culture that he studies is the culture in Sudan. In Sudanese culture, as in Somali culture, a dynamic between economic and political aspects of culture has emerged. In his ethnography, two key figures that de Waal analyzed are Turabi and Bashir. Turabi was a member of the Sudanese elite whose power came from his connections to dedicated Islamists (de Waal, 2015:80). On the other hand, Bashir was a member of the Sudanese elite whose power was derived from the authority which he so sparingly used (de Waal, 2015:8). Both Turabi and Bashir were political business-members, people of the Sudanese elite that financed themselves through “a cartel of ‘grey companies’, including parastatals, military-owned businesses and philanthropic organizations that also ran commercial activities” (de Waal, 2015:80). Unlike Somali culture wherein “political rentierism” is used to buy political loyalty (de Waal, 2015:117), in Sudanese culture a plethora of economic, political, and military organizations are used to maintain political cohesion and foster economic security within the Sudanese culture (de Waal, 2015:80-81). In any case, the rivalry between Turabi and Bashir was exacerbated into military conflict when the pumping of oil in Sudan began, “Turabi wanted this prize for the Islamic movement and its institutions. Bashir wanted it for those loyal to him” (de Waal, 2015:81). What was most interesting about this power struggle, however, is not the fact that this rift resulted in war, but the fact that it was not the leaders of the parties that used warfare against each other during this conflict:

It was a contest for political life and death, Bashir imposed a state of emergency and then had Turabi arrested, while there were rumors of an Islamist mutiny within the armed forces. However, the power struggle was conducted without resort to violence. The fissure within the Islamists translated into war in the periphery (Darfur), but it did not do so in Khartoum because conflict was moderated by the societal-political norms of the ruling elite. [de Waal 2015:81]

While both Turabi and Bashir did have the ability to wage war against one another – they did not. Rather, it was the Islamists themselves that decided to take up arms in Darfur. It is also worth noting that in Khartoum, warfare did not break out because the ruling elite were able to effectively suppress the conflict. This example illustrates how war has become a component of Sudanese culture. Further, warfare is not used exclusively by the elites in Sudanese culture (though it does influence its employment) but it has also been used by the common people to advance their own interests, as is seen with the Islamists (de Waal, 2015:81). This fascinating dynamic where the leaders of different groups within a culture are in conflict but they, themselves, are not at war with one another has also been seen in South Africa. During the eMbo-Makhanyawar, “The Makhanya militia was led by several men who were customary leaders under the authority of the chief, as well as prominent men such as Sipho Mkhize who had a reputation for being an effective fighter. The chiefs themselves were not that involved in the actual fighting” (Mathis 2013:427). Like the Islamists, the Makhanya militia in South Africa fought in war against their enemies while their leaders did not. Even if the leaders of the Makhanya militia and the Islamists did not actually fight each other, it is remarkable that these factions still waged war on the behalf of their leaders.

There is another interesting effect that warfare has had on the cultural development of the people in Sudan. De Waal recognizes how war has been used as a component of political bargaining. According to de Waal, “Violence is a routine element in political bargaining, deployed by the government to bring down the price of a settlement. But war can also be driven by its own logic of escalation” (de Waal, 2017:88-89). The plain reality is that warfare has been used in Sudan as a means to extract concessions or force compromise between two opposing parties in Sudan. Due to the acceptance of warfare as a legitimate negotiation tactic of leaders in Sudanese culture, it is apparent that warfare has greatly influenced the cultural development of the people of Sudan. Within the culture of the Sudan people, the prospect of warfare has acted as an incentive for opposing groups to resolve conflicts quickly and efficiently. In Sudan, warfare acts as an impetus for peace. In contrast, in Somalia, warfare has been used to ensure security and enable prosperity in a tumultuous, unstable state. However, in countries such as Nepal, warfare has far exceeded its role as a means to an end to produce lasting effects on how cultures develop.

Warfare and Cultural Development in Nepal

Currently, Nepal is not engaged in warfare. However, the effects of the People’s War in Nepal (also called the Nepalese civil war or the Maoist insurgency) are still being felt (Pettigrew 2013:vii). The war lasted from 1996 to 2006 and the repercussions of this war continue to be relevant to this day. In Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal’s Civil War Judith Pettigrew gives a first-hand account on the experiences of the Nepalese people both during and after the war. She engaged in participant observation to create an ethnography on the lives of ordinary people who have been affected by the People’s War. The People’s War was immensely disruptive on the lives of everyday citizens. For instance, under Maoist occupation during the People’s War, mundane activities were significantly disrupted:

Under the threat of the People’s War the activities of everyday life such as the routines of farming and of running households took on heightened meaning. Their disruption had serious implications for people’s livelihoods (for example, when the area was under Maoist curfew and people could not go out into the fields or forest to work or when the road to town was closed). The degree of disturbance of daily life was also a means of evaluating more generally the extent of deterioration in the village at any particular time, which was often based on whether or not people could adequately perform their cycle of everyday activities. [Pettigrew 2013:6]

In this excerpt, Pettigrew explores the disruptive nature of war in the development of culture in Nepal. She recognizes that, in this instance, war had a tremendous impact on the lives of the everyday people of Nepal. In Nepal, Pettigrew infers that the People’s War had significantly disrupted the lives of the people there, even if they were not fighting in the war themselves or had chosen a side. The people of Nepal were unable to perform their basic routines unmolested by the People’s War. This ethnography suggests that war has had a detrimental effect on the cultural development of the people of Nepal. During the war, the Maoists also greatly influenced the rituals and practices that the Nepalese people performed.

During the People’s War, the Maoists created a culture of fear in which certain rituals and practices were discouraged or even suppressed. The Maoists would shame and threaten everyday Nepalese people for performing practices that were unnecessary or were potentially threats to Maoist control. Nowhere is this more evident than in the town of Kwei Nasa in rural Nepal:

Although the performance of religious rituals had not been prohibited, as in other parts of the country, organizing a pae laba death ritual was challenging during the insurgency years. Maoists chastised people for spending too much money, for the elaborate organization and feasting, for drinking alcohol. Sometimes they harassed the shamans. [Pettigrew 2013:149]

This excerpt illustrates how the Maoists disrupted prevailing rituals within the Nepalese culture during the People’s War. While the Maoists did indeed suppress rituals such as the pae laba during the People’s War (Pettigrew 2013:149), it is because of this suppression that Nepalese rituals and practices flourished after the war, once a peace agreement had been made and the Maoists reintegrated back into Nepalese culture. Pettigrew explores this dynamic with a first-hand account of how in Kwei Nasa, the very town where the Maoists had suppressed certain, “decadent” practices, cultural practices expanded after the war:

Dances were frequently organized and extended long into the night in contrast to the abbreviated versions of previous years. People visited family, friends, and neighbors and returned home late. Young people often stayed out all night. The villagers were free to socialize with each other, and through communitywide social events they were also beginning to resocialize with strangers. Combat dress, which I had last seen locals wearing during the 2003 cease-fire, was once again back in fashion. Camoflage fatigues, jackets, and backpacks all had reemerged from the mothballs. [Pettigrew 2013:149]

Had it not been for the People’s War, it would have been unlikely that these practices amongst the Nepalese would have fallen out of favor and would have rebounded as strongly as they did. As a result of the People’s War, the Nepalese culture was able to develop in such a way that socialization and freedom of expression were encouraged. The peace agreement with the Maoists allowed everyday Nepalese people to transition from living in a culture of fear to embracing a culture of freedom. The Nepalese culture reintegrated the Maoists after the people of Nepal recognized how they (the Maoists) were just like them and thus they had nothing to fear (Pettigrew 2013:149). An account from Chandra Bahadur, an ordinary Nepalese citizen of Kwei Nasa, illuminates how times have changed in the time since the People’s War had concluded, “Armed Maoists or soldiers no longer forcibly entered people’s homes; villagers did not have to pass through checkpoints or be searched; they freely questioned strangers on the paths’ and they unrestrainedly danced, sang, visited, and stayed out all night” (Pettigrew 2013:150). From this account, it can be inferred that the People’s War greatly constrained the cultural development of the Nepalese people, but it can also be inferred that it encouraged the development of the Nepalese culture after the war. In any case, the People’s War had a significant impact on the rituals and practices that were performed during the war.

The cultural development of the people of Kwei Nasa was not the only instance in which a culture was affected by the People’s War, the development of the culture of the people of Thabang is also notable. In “’Rules That Apply in Times of Crisis’: Time, Agency, and Norm-Remaking during Nepal’s People’s War” author Ina Zharkevich explores the plight of the Thabangi people and the development of their culture during – and after – the People’s War. Zharkevich writes an ethnographic, peer-reviewed paper on the Thabangi people of Nepal during the People’s War and she notes how the war has had a profound impact that has lasted after the war itself concluded. Zharkevich lived amongst the Thabangi and studied how the war and the Maoist occupation of Thabangi had affected their preexisting norms, traditions, and behaviors. Zharkevich was particularly intrigued by temporary, emergency suspensions of cultural norms during the war that lasted even after the war had ended:

What started as a matter of survival under the rules that apply in ‘exceptional’ times of war became normalized once the war was over. This is a far-reaching transformation, because in other contexts when people have transgressed the taboo on cow slaughter–the Bengal famine of 1944, when the killing of cows reached an unprecedented level (Harris 1977:22)–they reverted to the pre-crisis practice once the crisis passed. This did not happen in Thabang. [Zharkevich 2017:793]

Zharkevich points out how unique it was that emergency measures adapted by the Thabangi became normalized after the People’s War had concluded. By suspending their traditional norms, the Thabangi culture was able to adapt and survive the war. Had the People’s War not occurred, it is improbable that the Thabangi would have adopted what would have previously been considered a taboo practice in killing (and eating) cows. Indeed, it is also possible that warfare could have been avoided amongst the people of Nepal, or at least Harris observes how, “a 1974 study of the Yanomami claimed that warfare arose there because of a protein deficiency associated with a scarcity of game” (McDowell, 2017:14). While increased protein consumption is a benefit of beef-eating, it must be recognized that the intent of beef-eating was not to undermine the role of “sacred cows” but was a “necessity to secure the survival of one’s kin and the safety of one’s community” (Zharkevich 2017:796). Regardless, the People’s War forced the Nepalese people of Thabangi to adapt to survive the conditions imposed upon them by the People’s War.

Another area in which the Maoists and the People’s War had a great impact on the cultural development of the Nepalese people is with regards to the status of minorities and the availability of opportunities afforded to minorities in Nepalese culture. Both during and after the People’s War, the Maoists tried to distinguish themselves by allowing people of various ethnicities in Nepal to advance within their ranks and utilize an increased amount of opportunities available to them. In Kwei Nasa, a Tamu (an ethnic group in Nepal) Maoist, Dev Gurung, was elected to political office (Pettigrew 2013:154). Pettigrew recognizes how important his election was:

Many people told me that Dev Gurung has benefitted from mentoring, training, and opportunities in the CPN (Maoist). The advancement of a Tamu to the highest echelons of the Maoist Party and his fielding as a candidate illustrated the Party’s commitment to the Janajati (ethnic groups). This factor was an important motivation, especially for youth, who acutely experience the lack of opportunities. [Pettigrew 2013:154-155]

This excerpt highlights how the Maoists within Nepalese culture have adapted to retain and expand their influence after the People’s War had concluded. During the war, the Maoist Party did not need to pander to nor accommodate the average Nepalese citizens for political office. Rather, the Maoists only needed to present themselves in such a light as to where they could recruit more people to their forces. After the war, however, the Maoists needed to create a new platform to draw in new members and votes to their cause. The Maoists decided that their best course of action was to cater to different ethnic groups, especially ethnic groups that had been underrepresented and disadvantaged in the past like the Tamu was (Pettigrew 2013:154). The conclusion of the People’s War also encouraged the Maoists to expand voter mobilization efforts as Pettigrew notes, “The Maoists were the only party to seriously mobilize villagers. From the cease-fire onward they attempted to actively engage villagers” (Pettigrew 2013:155). Put simply, the People’s War encouraged the Maoists to seek legitimate ways to maintain their presence in Nepalese culture. It can also be inferred that, with the Maoists’ political successes after the war, other political parties were forced to take notice and adapt their platforms to remain relevant and influential. The conclusion of the People’s War forced the Maoists to embrace a platform that includes minorities – their successes have forced competing political parties to accept minorities and, as a result, minorities have gained greater access to opportunities and afforded higher status within Nepalese culture.

One final aspect of how warfare has affected the development of the Nepalese culture is evident in how the means of communication and socialization changed within the Nepalese society. While the People’s War itself was immensely disruptive, the Nepalese civilians worked together to create a communication network where they could track the movements of the Maoists. This secretive communication network socialized families, friends, and neighbors to unify villagers and avoid danger. Pettigrew first witnesses this development during her travels when she engages with villagers to traverse the landscape of Nepal during the People’s War:

Several times locals checked which path I intended to take and indicated their approval or disapproval of a particular route without explaining further. To the outsider this interaction would have appeared to be casual—typical of the general concern that villagers in this area pay to people’s movements—but it was not. While villagers frequently talk about movements in space, they do not talk in quite this way. In an attempt to regain a degree of control over their environment they used a series of communications that, though they mimicked their usual patterns, were in reality different. These interactions allowed people to convey information about the presence and movements of their uninvited guests. Throughout my visit this ‘tracking’ of Maoists continued, with villagers quietly passing information on to family, friends, and neighbors about the presence and movements, or expected movements, of the insurgents. [Pettigrew 2013:87]

While the civilian populous of Nepal had lost physical control of their land, or yelsa yula, they were able to gain control of their yelsa yula through establishment of a comprehensive communication network supported by local knowledge (Pettigrew 2013:87). The communication network that the Nepalese people created was used to regain some of the power that was taken from them by the Maoists. Besides empowering the Nepalese people, the communication network helped foster security within a tumultuous, dangerous, and war-ravaged environment. Furthermore, the communication network enabled families and friends to connect and socialize across different villages, helping to contribute to a unified Nepalese culture. The communication network the Nepalese established has laid the foundation for a unified Nepalese culture. While the People’s War may be over and the communication network has encouraged the unification of Nepalese culture, the Nepalese people remain divided and there is much work that must still be done to truly unify Nepalese culture once and for all.


War drastically changed the cultural development of the cultures of Africa and Nepal. In Somalia, Sudan, and South Africa, war has become a defining and integral component of the prevailing cultures. Warfare has been accepted by the cultures of Somalia and Sudan as a legitimate tool to realize economic goals and to accumulate power. Indeed, within the aforementioned African cultures, warfare has become closely intertwined with existing political and economic structures. In Somalia, warfare has been recognized as a legitimate tool to secure positions of political and economic power that can be exchanged. Warfare has also been linked with Somali notions of lineage and kinship due to the absence of a strong central government. Since no strong central government exists in Somalia, warfare has been used by families to foster some sense of security and settle disputes. Similarly, in South Africa, chiefs war against one another with the support of their families. In Sudan, warfare has become a mechanism to achieve political, economic, and religious goals. Warfare has become such a critical component of Sudanese culture that it is inseparable from everyday life. Indeed, warfare has become an integral part of the Sudanese culture that allows various factions ranging from political elites to religious leaders to expand their own influence. It is truly remarkable to consider how profoundly warfare has affected the development of the cultures of Africa.

Pertaining to Nepal, warfare has allowed the Nepalese culture to develop rapidly. The People’s War has acted as an impetus for the Nepalese culture in Kwei Nasa to develop after the war, to make up for the stalled cultural development of Nepal during the war. After the People’s War, the people of Nepal have developed a culture that cherishes peace and the freedom that goes along with it. The war caused such an immense disruption in the lives of everyday Nepalese citizens that the people of Nepal sought to reinvent their ways to create a tolerant culture, after the war, that would discourage future conflict. Notably, the culture of Nepal began to accept ethnic minorities after the war. The People’s War was so influential in the development of the culture of Nepal that the Nepalese determined that, to avoid future warfare, the culture of Nepal would need to adapt to the needs of all the different peoples in Nepal. In addition, the Nepalese developed a communication network that was originally intended to protect innocent civilians during the war. The communication network that developed during the war managed to persist and has helped make progress towards unification of the Nepalese culture even after the People’s War. All of these different effects from the People’s War illustrate how profoundly warfare influenced the development of the culture of Nepal.

A comparison between the cultures of Africa to that of Nepal shows how distinct the effects of war on cultural development can be. Indeed, violence and war have produced lasting effects on the development of the cultures in Africa and in Nepal. Warfare has been accepted by the cultures of Africa as a legitimate tool to advance the political, economic, and religious interests of individuals and families. In Nepal warfare has created a culture that seeks to discourage warfare – whatever the cost. Warfare in Africa has encouraged the existing disunification and fragmentation of the various African cultures. On the other hand, warfare in Nepal has incentivized the Nepalese culture to unify and to promote freedom, tolerance, and acceptance of different peoples. It is evident that, with the cultures of Africa and Nepal, warfare cannot simply be reduced to be a “good” or “bad” influence on the development of cultures around the world. The influence of warfare on cultural development is an area that is extraordinarily complicated and further research is required to analyze the plethora of ways warfare influences how cultures develop. Whatever the case, it will be interesting to analyze how the cultures of Africa and Nepal continue to develop over the course of the next few decades under the lingering influence of warfare. Once the influences of warfare on cultural development are understood, can the endless cycle of warfare be stopped.

Works Cited

De Waal, Alex. 2015 The Real Politics of the Horn of Africa Money, War, and the Business of Power. Cambridge: Polity Press

Mathis, Sarah M. 2013. “From Warlords to Freedom Fighters: Political Violence and State Formation in Umbumbulu, South Africa.” African Affairs112 (448): 421–39. doi:10.1093/afraf/adt041.

McDowell, Paul. 2017. "Political Anthropology: A Cross-Cultural Comparison." In Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology. Edited by Nina Brown, LauraTubelle de González, and Thomas McIlwraith. 2017. American Anthropological Association. accessed: March 21, 2019

Pettigrew, Judith. 2013 Maoists at the Hearth: Everyday Life in Nepal’s Civil War. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Zharkevich, Ina. 2017 “’Rules That Apply in Times of Crisis’: Time, Agency, and Norm-Remaking during Nepal’s People’s War.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, 23 (4): 783–800. doi:10.1111/1467-9655.12701.

Author’s Biography

My name is Michael Cervantes and I am a Political Science Major. I am taking this class to enhance my perspective of the world and insight into its people. This knowledge will help me as I am completing my final semester here at City College and I am transferring to a four-year college (either UCLA or UCSD) this Fall. Once I complete my undergraduate education, I am going to earn a Master's in Public Administration, Public Policy, or Public Affairs to help fulfill my dream of working for the government one day.