Concepts in Dynamic Assemblage: Cultural evolution and human ways of being

  • Fuentes, Agustín (Chief Investigator)
  • Downey, Greg (Primary Chief Investigator)

Project: Research

Project Details


Culture makes human reason, human being, possible, forming a core component of the human niche. Concepts are central to cultural processes. A concept is a suite of articulated and coordinated thoughts, ideas, and symbols that shape the way people see and understand some thing, process, or person. Concepts are key to how we take meaning into the mind, use it to enhance our abilities, and project it into the world making a functional difference in perceptions and actions. This project seeks to develop a framework, with a focus on concepts, connecting extant theory and method in cultural evolution, biocultural and cognitive approaches with cultural theory and ethnographic research. We will build on existing work and innovative input from an interdisciplinary working group to develop a model and implement test projects to augment theory and method. Our goal is to better understand the processes of culture and how particular patterns of the development and embodiment of concepts structure the human experience. We will build a framework facilitating subjective and quantitative accounts and an analysis that generates improved understandings of the role of concepts in human evolutionary dynamics. Identifying how concepts affect human experience offers guidance in cultivating particular concepts to facilitate deeper understandings and enhanced approaches to twenty-first century global challenges (public health crises and pandemics, social inequities, ideological conflicts). The project has two core foci: 1) the development of an integrative model of cultural evolution that centers on the concept as a dynamic assemblage, and 2) the application of this model to three key issues: a) how humans cultivate the use of their bodies and senses, b) how concepts involving the perceptions of self and others shape human societies, and c) how the basal processes of the capacity for and reliance on technology developed.
Short titleConcepts and cultural evolution
AcronymJTF #61924
Effective start/end date1/06/2231/05/23