Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Culture, Nature, and History: The Case of Ancient Sexuality

  • Kyle Harper (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

This article analyzes the configuration of biology, anthropology, and history over the last generation by taking the sub-field of the “history of sexuality” as a case study. The history of sexuality developed at a particularly important site of engagement with neighboring disciplines. I argue that the concepts of nature and culture that came to prevail among historians of sexuality were deeply influenced by the debate between a particular strand of evolutionary biology, namely sociobiology, and its critics, who were committed to cultural hermeneutics. This debate encouraged a formulation of nature and culture which is effectively dualist and which remains present within the sub-field. By focusing the analysis on the study of ancient (classical Mediterranean) sexuality, I seek detailed insights into the reception of this debate within a specific domain of historical investigation, one whose stakes have been particularly high because of the intervention of Michel Foucault. The article closes by arguing that biologists and anthropologists in the last two decades have advanced the study of culture as a part of nature, and that historians have much to gain by engaging with more recent models. The institution of monogamy is highlighted as an emerging theme of investigation that can only be approached with the unified insights of history, anthropology, and biology.

Copyright
Corresponding author
kyleharper@ou.edu
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Holt Parker , “The Myth of the Heterosexual: Anthropology and Sexuality for Classicists,” Arethusa 34 (2001): 313–62

Rebecca Langlands , Sexual Morality in Ancient Rome (Cambridge, 2006)

Charles Darwin , The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (London, 1871)

Angus John Bateman , “Intra-Sexual Selection in Drosophila,” Heredity 2 (1948): 349–68

William Hamilton , “The Genetical Evolution of Social Behaviour. II,” Journal of Theoretical Biology 7 (1964): 1732

Robert Trivers , “The Evolution of Reciprocal Altruism,” Quarterly Review of Biology 46 (1971): 3557

Parent-Offspring Conflict,” American Zoologist 14 (1974): 249–64

Stephen Gould and Richard Lewontin , “The Spandrels of San Marcos and the Panglossian Paradigm: A Critique of the Adaptationist Programme,” Proceedings of the Royal Society of London B 205 (1979): 581–98

Steven Scher and Frederick Rauscher , Evolutionary Psychology: Alternative Approaches (Boston, 2003)

Linnda Caporael , “Evolutionary Psychology: Toward a Unifying Theory and a Hybrid Science,” Annual Review of Psychology 52 (2001): 607–28

Bram Buunk , , “Sex Differences in Jealousy in Evolutionary and Cultural Perspective: Tests from The Netherlands, Germany, and the United States,” Psychological Science 7 (1996): 359–63

Arne Öhman and Susan Mineka , “The Malicious Serpent: Snakes as a Prototypical Stimulus for an Evolved Module of Fear,” Current Directions in Psychological Science 12, 1 (2003): 59

David Buss and David Schmitt , “Sexual Strategies Theory: An Evolutionary Perspective on Human Mating,” Psychological Review 100 (1993): 204–32

John McLennan , Primitive Marriage: An Inquiry into the Origin of the Form of Capture in Marriage Ceremonies (Edinburgh, 1865)

Nicholas J. Allen , , eds., Early Human Kinship: From Sex to Social Reproduction (Oxford, 2008)

Herbert S. Lewis , “Boas, Darwin, Science, and Anthropology,” Current Anthropology 42, 3 (2001): 381406

Paul Ricœur , “The Model of the Text: Meaningful Action Considered as a Text,” New Literary History 5 (1973): 91117

Gayle S. Rubin , Deviations: A Gayle Rubin Reader (Durham, N.C., 2011)

Jeffrey Weeks , “Remembering Foucault,” Journal of the History of Sexuality 14 (2005): 186201

Ruth Mazo Karras , “Active/Passive, Acts/Passions: Greek and Roman Sexualities,” American Historical Review 105, 4 (2000): 1250–65

James Davidson , “Dover, Foucault and Greek Homosexuality: Penetration and the Truth of Sex,” Past and Present 170 (2001): 351

George Devereux , “Greek Pseudo-Homosexuality and the ‘Greek Miracle,’Symbolae Osloenses 42, 1 (1967): 6992

Paul Veyne , “La famille et l'amour sous le haut-empire romain,” Annales: Économies, Sociétés, Civilisations 33 (1978): 3563

Arnold I. Davidson , “Sex and the Emergence of Sexuality,” Critical Inquiry 14, 1 (1987): 1648

David Cohen , “Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in Ancient Greece,” Classical Philology 87 (1992): 145–60

Martha Nussbaum and Juha Sihvola , eds., The Sleep of Reason: Erotic Experience and Sexual Ethics in Ancient Greece and Rome (Chicago, 2002)

Ellen Greene , “Sappho, Foucault, and Women's Erotics,” Arethusa 29 (1996): 114

Simon Goldhill , Foucault's Virginity: Ancient Erotic Fiction and the History of Sexuality (Cambridge, 1995)

Elizabeth A. Clark , “The Lady Vanishes: Dilemmas of a Feminist Historian after the ‘Linguistic Turn,’Church History 67 (1998): 131

Barbara Smuts , “The Evolutionary Origins of Patriarchy,” Human Nature 6 (1995): 132

Griet Vandermassen , “Can Darwinian Feminism Save Female Autonomy and Leadership in Egalitarian Society?Sex Roles 59 (2008): 482–91

Sarah Blaffer Hrdy , “Raising Darwin's Consciousness: Female Sexuality and the Prehominid Origins of Patriarchy,” Human Nature 8, 1 (1997): 149

Patricia Gowaty , “Sexual Natures: How Feminism Changed Evolutionary Biology,” Signs 28 (2003): 901–21

John Thorp , “The Social Construction of Homosexuality,” Phoenix 46 (1992): 5461

Bernadette J. Brooten , Love between Women: Early Christian Responses to Female Homoeroticism (Chicago, 1996)

David Crews , “Epigenetics and Its Implications for Behavioral Neuroendocrinology,” Frontiers in Neuroendocrinology 29 (2008): 344–57

Darlene Francis , Josie Diorio , Dong Liu , and Michael J. Meaney , “Nongenomic Transmission across Generations of Maternal Behavior and Stress Responses in the Rat,” Science 286 (1999): 1155–58

Danielle Champagne , , “Maternal Care and Hippocampal Plasticity: Evidence for Experience-Dependent Structural Plasticity, Altered Synaptic Functioning, and Differential Responsiveness to Glucocorticoids and Stress,” Journal of Neuroscience 28 (2008): 6037–45

Bruce Winterhalder and Eric Alden Smith , “Analyzing Adaptive Strategies: Human Behavioral Ecology at Twenty-Five,” Evolutionary Anthropology 9 (2000): 5172

Martin Nowak , Corina Tarnita , and Edward O. Wilson , “The Evolution of Eusociality,” Nature 466 (2010): 1057–62

Walter Scheidel's A Peculiar Institution? Greco-Roman Monogamy in Global Context,” History of the Family 14, 3 (2009): 280–91

Satoshi Kanazawa and Mary Still , “Why Monogamy?Social Forces 78 (1999): 2550

Kevin B. MacDonald , “Mechanisms of Sexual Egalitarianism in Western Europe,” Ethology and Sociobiology 11 (1990): 195– 238

David Herlihy , “Biology and History: The Triumph of Monogamy,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 25 (1995): 571–83

Ulrich Reichard and Christophe Boesch , eds., Monogamy: Mating Strategies and Partnerships in Birds, Humans, and Other Mammals (Cambridge, 2003)

Robert Quinlan , “Human Pair-Bonds: Evolutionary Functions, Ecological Variation, and Adaptive Development,” Evolutionary Anthropology 17 (2008): 227–38

Steven W. Gangestad and Jeffry A. Simpson , “The Evolution of Human Mating: Trade-Offs and Strategic Pluralism,” Behavior and Brain Sciences 23 (2000): 573–87

Laura Fortunato and Marco Archetti , “Evolution of Monogamous Marriage by Maximization of Inclusive Fitness,” Journal of Evolutionary Biology 23 (2010): 149–56

Laura Fortunato , “Reconstructing the History of Marriage Strategies in Indo-European-Speaking Societies: Monogamy and Polygyny,” Human Biology 83 (2011): 87105

Joseph Henrich , Robert Boyd , and Peter Richerson , “The Puzzle of Monogamous Marriage,” Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society: Biological Sciences 367 (2012): 657–69

Kyle Harper , From Shame to Sin: The Christian Transformation of Sexual Morality in Late Antiquity (Cambridge, Mass., 2013)

Randolph Roth , “Biology and the Deep History of Homicide,” British Journal of Criminology 51 (2011): 535–55

Edmund Russell , Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth (Cambridge, 2011)

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 65 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 190 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd July 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.