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These course descriptions are not being updated as of August 1, 2016. Current course descriptions are maintained in LionPATH.

Anthropology (ANTH)

ANTH 446 Mating and Marriage (3) An examination of human mating mainly from the viewpoint of behavioral ecology, centering on the species-typical institution of marriage.

ANTH 446 Mating and Marriage (3)

This course is an examination of human mating and marriage mainly (although not exclusively) from the viewpoint of evolutionary behavioral ecology. Its central concern is the species-typical and uniquely human institution of marriage. Why do all human societies recognize this peculiar institution, whose social and biological functions, apparently obvious, become mysterious on close examination? What, exactly, is marriage? What are its consistent characteristics and attributes--or does it have none? How are spouses chosen, and by whom? What does being married imply for the behavior of the spouses, and that of their children and other relatives? What are the evolutionary scenarios that might have led us to marriage? Although sexual behavior is clearly a key element in answering some of these questions, and receives considerable attention, this is not a course on human sexuality. Nor is it a course on kinship, even though kinship is also crucial to understanding marriage and also receives a good deal of attention. Rather, this course attempts to bring to bear on this central social institution bodies of knowledge from the biological and social sciences that may contribute to understanding how and why marriage arose as a universal feature of human societies, and how and why it is perpetuated in contemporary societies. We begin the semester with the posing of the central problem--what is marriage and why do we have it? For about half the course, we approach this question from an evolutionary, sociobiological point of view: We look into the biological background of human mating--its evolutionary history, its physiology, its behavioral ecology, etc. as we go through a semi-popular book on the subject by a biological anthropologist. Next we turn to more academic readings, old and new, that further elucidate the ecological constraints and fitness consequences of various behaviors relating to mating and mate choice, child rearing, etc., in terms of reproductive success, survivorship, etc. In the second half of the course, we take a more social anthropological point of view. We look at what anthropologists have written about marriage and marriage customs over the years. We try to relate the traditional social anthropology to more modern human behavioral ecology. Finally, in a research project report, each student examines some specifics of marriage as it is manifested in ethnographically known societies. In these reports we are particularly interested in how and by whom mates and spouses are chosen, and who contributes what to the raising of children.


General Education: None
Diversity: None
Bachelor of Arts: None
Effective: Summer 2006
Prerequisite: ANTH 045, ANTH 021

Note : Class size, frequency of offering, and evaluation methods will vary by location and instructor. For these details check the specific course syllabus.

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