November 20, 2017

Extra-Community Relationships in Humans: From Tolerance to Transactions

Anne Pisor , Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

Relative to non-human primates, humans are heavily reliant on social connections beyond the boundaries of their local communities. However, individuals vary in the extent to which they exhibit interest in extra-community relationships. How did humans come to have such pronounced tolerance toward extra-community individuals, and what are the relevant payoffs that modulate interest in extra-community relationships? To address these questions, I first identify the incentive structures favoring tolerance in inter-group encounters in the Primate order. Turning to ethnographic and ethnohistoric data, I emphasize how incentives for encounter are even more pronounced in humans, often with high payoffs to forming enduring social relationships via inter-group encounters. I then focus on the instantiations of these relationships among three populations of Bolivian horticulturalists, for whom integration to the national economy is changing the affordances of these connections. I discuss the extent to which an individual’s interest in extra-community relationships varies with her opportunities for access to market goods, experience of resource shortfalls, and perceptions of the qualities of extra-community individuals as social partners. I conclude by identifying candidate ways forward, including how we might better document the existence of extra-community relationships in the field and formulate informed hypotheses about the relevant incentive structures favoring, or disfavoring, these relationships.

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