Department of Anthropology
WSUV Faculty participants
Evolutionary accounts of coalitional relationships among human males emphasize the role of physical aggression in obtaining valued, limited resources. When physical force determines access to important resources like food, territory, and mates, alliances and coalitions provide a distinct advantage to their members – larger groups will almost always outcompete smaller groups or individuals for the valued resource. Coalitional relationships in human females, however, are not viewed as having been shaped for aggressive, within-sex competition for scarce resources. For example, the 'tend and befriend' account of women's relationships emphasizes the evolutionary benefits of mutual nurturing, caregiving, and emotional support, and Smuts has suggested that female coalitions can provide protection from male aggression. The view that women’s cooperative relationships serve benign or defensive functions rather than aggressive, offensive functions seems to be inconsistent with the well-established finding that female nonhuman primates often form alliances and coalitions to better physically compete with other females for limited resources.
This research project is exploring the hypothesis that female coalitions increase the ability of women to attack and defend reputations with information (gossip).
Articles and Chapters