Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Human Behavior, Ecology and Culture
Deutscher Platz 6
I am an anthropologist broadly interested in how culture shapes the diverse ways that children learn and develop, and how learning and development lead to the production and reproduction of culture. The human capacity to learn culture is integral to our social and cognitive development and is part of what makes us unique as a species. At the same time, it also explains the extraordinary diversity we see across human populations.
In pursuing my interests, I study the functions of children’s play, the nature of teaching in everyday social learning, biological and cultural aspects of parenting, and childcare within family systems. Ultimately, I am interested in how different social learning processes and caretaking systems impact inter- and intra-cultural variations in children’s health.
My research into these topics has involved fieldwork among communities of foragers and subsistence farmers in the tropical forests of Central African Republic and Congo-Brazzaville. In seeking answers to larger theoretical questions, a major theme of my research among these groups has been to use the comparative method to understand how the core forager values of respect for autonomy, egalitarianism, and sharing—what my colleagues and I call foundational cultural schemas—influence social learning and caretaking among BaYaka foragers and, ultimately, the resilience of the BaYaka people and culture.