American Anthropologist

On Nature and the Human



ABSTRACT  A major contribution of anthropological work has been to challenge a unitary theory of the human. In this American Anthropologist vital topics forum, a range of prominent anthropologists contribute to this challenge and provide musings on the human. The essays in this forum reflect diversity and unity of anthropological thought on human nature. Some note humans’ connection to other primates, and others emphasize our distinction from ancestral patterns. Several reflect on cultural change, globally and locally, while others problematize what we might mean by, and who we include in, a “human” nature. The perception of humans constructing and being constructed by the world and the warning to be cognizant of our approaches to defining ourselves are central themes here. Our goal is to initiate a discussion that might reshape, or at least influence, academic and public debates.