Recap of the Second HRAF Summer Institute for Cross-Cultural Anthropological Research (July 18 to August 5, 2022)

Summer Institute group photo 2022

A photo of the 2022 Institute cohort

Our second NSF-supported Summer Institute for Cross-Cultural Anthropological Research was held on the Yale University campus this summer. It was an intense and exciting three weeks for the instructors and the 12 participants that included a hefty mix of instruction, hands-on exercises, and designing a cross-cultural mini-project. We were fortunate to be able to have the Institute this year in person; last summer the Institute had to be held virtually due to the pandemic. The names of the participants, their institutions, and a brief summary of their projects is shown below.

The participants who attended the institute came from a variety of backgrounds, including anthropology, psychology, archaeology, and evolutionary biology. The topics and theories explored were very diverse, but all participants focused on some aspect of cultural variation. About a third of the projects were exploratory or descriptive and included: how children and adults learn to make tools, the varieties of asceticism that are practiced, behaviors involving motor synchrony, and the status of navigational techniques in Oceania. The remainder were theory-testing or hypothesis-testing projects.  There were two projects relating to medical or biological issues:  Are “sickness behaviors” described in Western cultures characteristic of non-Western cultures? Does childhood stress impact the age of menarche?  Four projects dealt with gender issues:  What is the relationship between the gender of high gods and marital residence? Does women’s control over their labor give them more marriage choice? Does more gender equity in adulthood influence evaluation of children and their activities? And, does dowry increase the proportion of nuns to monks in Buddhist cultures? Another project asked whether music in major ceremonies increases solidarity between communities. And lastly, a project evaluated possible environmental impediments to intensive agriculture, including the presence of different diseases and animals such as elephants.

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, who presented virtually (not shown in the photos) included Damian Blasi, Alexandra Brewis Slade, Joshua Conrad Jackson, Jeremy Koster, Eleanor Power, and Amber Wutich.

Summer Institute Instructors

A photo of the main instructors:  Fiona Jordan (left), Carol Ember (center), and Séan Roberts (right)

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

Announcements about the third Summer Institute will be made in December 2022.  For more information about the curriculum, see this page.

Participants in the Second Summer Institute for Cross-Cultural Anthropological Research (July 18 – August 5, 2022)

Primary Instructors: Carol R. Ember (Human Relations Area Files at Yale University, USA), Fiona Jordan (University of Bristol, UK) and Séan Roberts (Cardiff University, UK*).

Guest Instructors: Damián Blasi, Alexandra Brewis Slade, Joshua Conrad Jackson, Jeremy Koster, Eleanor Power, and Amber Wutich.

Name Institution Project
Laith Al-Shawaf University of Colorado, Colorado Springs, USA Sickness behavior in different cultures
Benjamin Campbell University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA Impact of childhood stress on age at menarche
Yuan Chen University College London, UK Control over labor and marriage practices across cultures
Sven Kasser University of St Andrews, St. Andrews, United Kingdom What led to the decline of traditional navigation techniques in Oceania?
Navdeep Kaur University of Otago, NZ Is there a relationship between a society’s post-marital residence pattern and the gender of High Gods?
Michael Kimball University of Northern Colorado,  Greeley, USA How does asceticism vary cross-culturally?
Jung Yul Kwon Arizona State University, Tempe, USA Cross-cultural variation in synchronous collective motor activities
Cheng Liu Emory University, Atlanta, USA How do people in nonindustrial societies learn to make tools?
Dithapelo Medupe Pennsylvania State University, USA Did Foraging/Horticulture/Pastoralism persist because agriculture intensification was not suitable or sustainable everywhere on earth after the Neolithic Revolution?
Alberto Micheletti University College, London, UK Is the proportion of nuns to monks in Buddhist cultures correlated with how expensive dowry payments are?
Csilla Pakozdy University of St. Andrews, Scotland, UK Is there a correlation between gender equality among adults, and the gendered division of children’s activities and attitudes towards children?
Dor Shilton Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel Association of music making with major ceremonies


[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.