Sentinel Birds, Gendered Science

Wed, 13 Sep 1995 14:11:59 CDT

I too find intriguing R. Rohrlich's sentinel-bird example; but only in
its own right, not as being very pertinent to what some of us are
talking about--neither ethological nor sociobiological laws, but
sociocultural ones. If I had world enough and time, I would investigate
the remarkable possibility that the factor (1/2pi) holds the secret to
the frequency of cheating in animal societies. But since we--some of
us, anyway--are talking about sociocultural laws, my idea of examples
are tentative laws, not particular phenomena those laws might subsume.
Therefore I considered my two examples, one expressed qualitatively, the
other quantitatively--to be not only *examples*, but examples of a more
pertinent kind. For one example of the kind R. Rohrlich and J.L.
McCreery perhaps want, I would cite the recent book by Helen Rountree on
the emergence of the Powhatan chiefdom in Virginia, in which we can see
the stratified differentiation of a chief, his relatives, and his
warrior- and priest-retainers in the very process of emergence. One
could give many, many other examples, of course. Now, Rountree gives as
a major contribution to anthropological description; and Ester Boserup,
in her 1965 book entitled *The Conditions of Agricultural Growth*, gave
us arguably the greatest contribution to anthropological theory since,
say, 1950. In light of these contributions, not to mention those of
Ruth Benedict, Margaret Mead, Eleanor Leacock, Barbra Price, Mary
Douglas, Sherry Ortner, etc., etc, etc, it seems to me that if
Anthropology is a highly gendered science, then women must bear a large
portion of the blame. --Bob Graber