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Our Tribal Nature: Tribalism, Politics, and Evolution

Speaker(s): Sebastian Junger, Mahzarin Banaji, Alison Brooks, Molly Crockett, Francis Fukuyama, Joshua Greene, Polly Wiessner, Richard Wrangham

New York

September 19, 2019 @ 6:00 pm - 9:30 pm

A Leakey Foundation Survival Symposium

Once essential for human survival, our innate desire to belong now threatens to destroy us. At a moment when our world feels dangerously fragmented and unstable, “Our Tribal Nature: Tribalism, Politics, and Evolution” brings together Sebastian Junger, Francis Fukuyama, Richard Wrangham, and other scholars from top universities to confront the role our tribal instincts play in building communities – and tearing them apart through partisanship, racism, and xenophobia.

Brought to you by The Leakey Foundation, this landmark symposium will draw on science, politics, psychology and more to examine the evolutionary origins and function of tribalism, its influence on history, and the role it plays in our increasingly divided world. It’s more urgent than ever for us to understand the power of our tribal nature, and how we can harness its best qualities to resist its worst.



September 19, 2019
6:00 pm - 9:30 pm
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The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016
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Sebastian Junger

Author of Tribe: On Homecoming and Belonging
Award-winning author, filmmaker, and journalist

Journalist Sebastian Junger is the New York Times-bestselling author of "Tribe," "War," "The Perfect Storm," "Fire," and "A Death in Belmont," and an award-winning documentary filmmaker. As the host and moderator of "Our Tribal Nature" he will deliver a keynote that reflects on the importance of tribalism to our past, present, and future survival.

Mahzarin Banaji

Department Chair of Psychology
Richard Clarke Cabot Professor of Social Ethics
Harvard University

Dr. Mahzarin Banaji studies thinking and feeling as they unfold in social context, as well as social attitudes and beliefs—especially ones with roots in group membership. She’ll examine how our tribal nature operates within a broader social hierarchy and how our relative position within that hierarchy can influence our behavior.

Alison Brooks

Department of Anthropology
George Washington University

A paleoanthropologist and archaeologist interested in the origins of our species, Dr. Alison Brooks has worked on multiple continents documenting evidence of the human behaviors that create large-scale social networks and communities. She will review early archaeological evidence of tribalism, exploring the role such communities played in the evolution of modern humans.

Molly Crockett

Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
Yale University

Dr. Molly Crockett’s lab investigates the psychological and neural mechanisms of
human morality, altruism, and economic decision-making. She’ll explore how tribal psychology
influences the use and impact of social media.

Francis Fukuyama

Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Stanford University

Dr. Francis Fukuyama is a political scientist and economist. He is the author of "The End of History and the Last Man," "Political Order and Political Decay," and "Identity: The Demand for Dignity and the Politics of Resentment," among other books. He will talk about our social transition from tribes to states and the propensity of states to seek legitimacy through tribal-like identities, which encourages the rise of xenophobia and nationalism.

Joshua Greene

Professor of Psychology
Harvard University

Author of "Moral Tribes: Emotion, Reason, and the Gap Between Us and Them," Dr. Joshua Greene is an experimental psychologist, neuroscientist, and philosopher who studies moral judgment and decision-making. He will look at moral conflicts within and between groups and the benefits and costs of tribalistic institutions in contemporary societies.

Polly Wiessner

Department of Anthropology
University of Utah

Dr. Polly Weissner is an anthropologist who has studied tribes all over the world, from the San of the Kalahari Desert to the Enga in the lush mountains of Papua New Guinea. She will discuss why and how tribes form, the emotional and psychological impact of tribal culture on members, and how our tribal nature is evolving in our current political climate.

Richard Wrangham

Ruth B. Moore Professor of Biological Anthropology
Department of Human Evolutionary Biology
Harvard University

Dr. Richard Wrangham conducts extensive research on primate ecology, nutrition, and social behavior. He is best known for his books "Demonic Males," about the evolution of human warfare, and "Catching Fire," which looks at the role of cooking in human evolution. He will reveal the underlying psychology of human tribal behavior and explain why it is so distinct from that of other animals.

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