Recap of the First HRAF Summer Institute for Cross-Cultural Anthropological Research (July 19-August 6, 2021)

A screenshot of the 2021 Institute cohort

A screenshot of the 2021 Institute cohort

Our first NSF-supported Summer Institute for Cross-Cultural Anthropological Research[1] was held virtually this summer with 20 participants. It was an intense three weeks including a hefty mix of instruction, hands-on exercises, and substantial progress on a new cross-cultural project designed by each participant. Not the least of our challenges was that we had participants living in very different parts of the globe, including the United States, Europe, Australia and China, so a few individuals had to engage in the middle of their nights!  And yet, with breakout groups and informal discussion, we managed to come out with a strong sense of camaraderie.

The participants who attended the institute came from a variety of backgrounds, such as cultural anthropology, biological anthropology, archaeology, psychology, and philosophy. The topics and theories explored were very diverse, but most participants focused on some aspect of cultural variation, such as varying expressions of gratitude, marriage eligibility, production of alcohol, the depiction of hybrid (human-animal) beings, criteria for evaluating men’s bodies, male sexual coercion, permanent body modifications, physically-demanding religious rituals, and moralizing gods.

A chart with all the participants’ topics can be found below. The main instructors were Carol Ember, Fiona Jordan, and Séan Roberts. The guest instructors (not shown in the group photo) included Damian Blasi, Alexandra Brewis Slade, Joshua Conrad Jackson, Jeremy Koster, Eleanor Power, and Amber Wutich.

We plan to hold some post-Institute events to reconnect socially and to see how projects are progressing!

Announcements about the second Summer Institute will be made in the fall.  For more information about the curriculum see this page.

HRAF Summer Institute 2021​

Participants Affiliation Research project/theme
Carl Brusse Australian National University & University of Sydney, Australia Testable models of the evolution of norms
Lucie Clech French National Research Institute for Sustainable Development (IRD-CEPED) Do variations in children vaccination follow a pattern predicted by parental investment theory in the context of long-term climate change impacts?


Sabina Cvecek Austrian Archaeological Institute, Vienna, Austria Does dependence on large domestic animals in conjunction with a central plaza help archaeologists infer patrilineal versus matrilineal descent?
Thomas Flint Harvard University, Massachusetts, USA What are the different ways that marriage eligibility is determined? What explains the varying patterns?
Václav Hrnčíř Czech Academy of Sciences, Institute of Archaeology, Prague, Czechia Why do some societies not produce or consume alcohol?
Gordon Ingram Universidad de los Andes, Colombia Cross-cultural variation in expressions of gratitude
Jillian Jordan University of New Mexico, USA How does motivation influence the type of migration? Do existing personal relationships influence where people migrate?
Joon Hwang Pennsylvania State University, USA What are the social factors contributing or suppressing the emergence of power asymmetry? What are the roles of market integration in such processes?
Timothy Knowlton Berry College, Georgia, USA Are hybrid beings associated with social complexity?
Kateřina Koppová Masaryk University, Brno, Czech Republic; LEVYNA Are different types of religious beliefs connected with different types of prosocial behavior?
Catherine Marley Durham University, UK Do gender differences in rough and tumble play vary across cultures?
Brea McCauley Simon Fraser University, Canada A cross-cultural analysis of the patterns and variance in Austronesian permanent body modification practices
Helena Miton Santa Fe Institute, New Mexico, USA The spread of horses and horse-riding
Lawrence Monocello The University of Alabama, USA What factors lead to men’s bodies being valued for more instrumental versus ornamental purposes?
Valerie van Mulukom Coventry University, United Kingdom Cross-cultural investigation of drama
Emily Post University of Utah, USA Does women’s access to supportive coalitions within their communities act as a protective mechanism against the threat of male sexual coercion?
Eric Shattuck University of Texas at San Antonio, USA How does morning sickness and pregnancy affect women’s work?
Dimitris Xygalatas University of Connecticut, USA Ritual costliness and exegesis
Minhua Yan Arizona State University, USA How do inputs to cooperative food production relate to the division of the results of production?
May Zhang University College London, UK Language endangerment patterns


[1] The Summer Institute was supported by the National Science Foundation, in a grant to the Human Relations Area Files (BCS #2020156). The Summer Institutes are designed to train faculty, researchers, and advanced graduate students in the theory and state-of-the art methods for conducting regional and worldwide comparative research using anthropological data. An additional aim is to prepare materials that can be incorporated into methods courses and online platforms to assist others wishing to learn about cross-cultural methods.