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1. Asopposed to the overlVhelmingprimacyofmaterial conditi onsof
moti va tion in Marxist-materi aJi st thcori es, one might IVonder
whether adiffercnt vie\\' ofmotivati on- assati sficing (settlingfor
some acceptable minimum), for examplc- \\fould have the same
implicati ons. Ofcourse, such avi e\\' \\'ould requiretakillg actors
seriouslyin termsof lheir intcnti olls and purposes, notrelegating
people tothe stat usofpassivc pawlls, manipul atcd bytheinexor-
able logic of materi al transacti ons in energy alld substance, but
seeing thcm instcadas acti ve seekcrs ofmeaning and coherence.
2. lwantto ll1ake itc!cmthatitis 1l 0tmy intention to rcsurrecttheold
materialisUidealist and ideographic/nomothetic dichotomi es.
Rather, 1hopetosho\V thepitfall softhinkingin termsofthesesorts
ofantinomieswhi ch has led, in muchofthe theoreticalliterature
on primiti ve wa rfare,to thca priori rejectionon principie ofjustthe
sorts offacl ors that prove to be criti cal for an understandi ng of
speci fic cascs.
3 Thcre wcre six ofthese items which wereintended to eli cit both
pos iti ve and negative vaJues byseeking their express ion ill both
approved and disapproved behaviors:
"Thev praise him/herbec;Juse (s)he .
"lf(s)he is a true fri end, (s)he. "
"(S)he isagood person, ls) he allVays .
"(S)he isangf\' at her/hi sfri end/relati ve hecause .
"(S)heisa bad/evil pcrson, (s) healways .
"Hi s/herfriends/kin relcct him/her bccause (s)he .
Thefirstthree\Vereintended toelieitpositiveva lues, thelastthree,
nega ti ve values, AII ,in Semai,can be completedstatementsei ther
abolltwhatpeopledo or what they do notdo. roramorc detail ed
di scussion andalla lysisofthistechniquesce Phillips(1965), andof
these data, see Robarchek(1981l.
4. Sahlinsdealsatgreatlength with thisissue in Culture and Practical
Reason (1976).
5. In anthropology,thi ssameassumpti on canbe scell in th etitleofa
recentcoll ecti on ofessays entitlcd Beyond lhe M)' ths of Culture:
Essays in Cultural Mat erialism (H. oss 1980b).
6. Harris, for example, approvingly cites Durkheim, lvl al thus ,111d
Marxas holdingthat". .actor's'purposc' is fr eguentl )' subsumed
byasocial'purpose' ofwhi ch he istotall yunawa re" (1 96+91).
Reproductive and somatic conflicts
of interest in the genesis of violence
and warfare among tribesmen
This paper is a preliminary step in the development of a more
comprehensive treatmentofwarfareamongbandandvillagesocieties, a
study that will be based heavi ly on my o\Vn fi eld research among the
Yanoma mi Indi ans of the Venezuela/Brazil border region. vIy
ultimategoal forthe longerstudywi ll be asynthesisofthe most useful
ncepts of the cultural ecological (c ulture materialist) approach in
anthropol ogy(White1949;Steward 1955;Vayda 1976;Rappaport1968;
Nctt ing 1977; Harris 1979a; Chagnon 1968a;Johnsonand Earl e 19871
with a number of new concepts and theoreti cal developments from
cvolutionary bi ology (Hamilton 1964; Tri vers 197 1; WiJliams 1966;
Wilson 1975; Alexander 1979, 1987; Al exander and Borgia 1978;
Chagnoll andIrons1979;vandenBerghe 1979;Dawkins1976;Symons
1979; Dal y &Wi] son 1983, 1988; Flinn and .\I exander 1982).
Asin anyattemptedsynthesis, onemustfirstdemonstrateholV or\Vhy
particular well-defined approaches such as materialism fai l to provide
satisfactory explanations in the face ofnew evidence and theory, and
hll\v orwhy new thcorycan prO\idcbetterormoresa ti sfactorycxplana-
tions. Space does not permit an exhaustive justification of that order of
magnitude in this paper. 1will, however, layout a few of the issues that
appear to be most central to the success of my projeeted future attempts
to synthesize these two bodies of theory, and 1 will provide a few
examples to illustrate how some ofthe issues of conflict and violence in a
particular tribal society can be interpreted when both bodies of theory
are taken into consideration.
1 am convinced that the devel'opments in theoretical biology since
approximately 1960, and the stunning field research on many different
species that these developments have provoked, can not be ignored by
social scientists. They must be considered in our formulations about
and explanations of the social behavior we customarily deal with in our
studies of humans. Historically, anthropologists have borrowed many
ideas from biology and most of us use them without much reflection on
their provenience - notions such as "adaptive, " "evolved," "selected,"
etc. At the same time, few of us keep abreast of the changes in the
biological meanings of these concepts, changes that have occurred in
theoretical biology after social sciences had appropriated the original
Darwin's view of the evolution of life forms by natural selection is
nowa standard dimension in social and cultural anthropology, modi-
fied, of course, to apply to "cultures" or "societies." It is the modifica-
tion, however, which is today a major issue, since the changes necessary
to extend his original arguments by themselves distorted and changed
his arguments. Specifically, problems with the "group" versus the
"individual" controversy are now beginning to appear in anthropo-
logical discussions of the evolved functions of human behavior. This
has long been resolved in favour of the individual or lower levels of
organization in the field of biology (Williams 1966, 1971).
Another deficiency in our use of evolutionary theory has to do with
our almost exclusive focus on "survival," when, in faet, evolutionary
theory is about both survival and reproduetion. On the one hand, this is
probably related to the difficulty of imagining cultures or societies
"reproducing" like organisms. On the other, there is a general bias in
materialistlevolutionary anthropology to play down or ignore the issue
of the individual's role in shaping societies and cultures. Furthermore,
when we deal with survival, our concerns appear to be more about the
survival of systems (cultures, groups, populations, etc.) than of
individuals. This makes it difficult for us to evaluate and discuss thc
Reproductive and somatic conflicts of interest
relationship between societal rules and what individuals actually do.
We thereby preclude the possibility of understanding the evolved
bi ological correlates of conventions and institutions.
My proposed approach will treat warfare as only one of a c1ass of
confliets which, in band and village societies, must be examined
careful!y to determine the extent to which they can be traced back to
confliets of i n t r ~ s t among individuals (Chagnon 1988a). This wil!
provide the historical and developmental matrix of particular confliets
that ultimately reach the level of inter-group warfare. In addition, the
focus will be primarily on individuals, who will be viewed as expending
two basic kinds of efforts during their lifetimes: somatic effort (in the
intcrests of survival) and reproductive effort (in the interest of fitness)
(Alexander 1985; Chagnon, ' 1988a). Both of these entail costs and
benefits. While 1will provide no empirical date on costs and benefits in
this paper, I will eventually use differential survival rates and rates of
reproduetive success among the several projeeted measures of costs and
benefi ts.
Let me now turn to a few of the issues that are central to an attempt to
synthesize materialist, or ecological, anthropology and theoretical
Warfare in band and tribal societies must be put into a more general
context, one that treats it as a species within a larger genus. That larger
category can be called conflict and, within it, we can identify and list a
number of specific kinds of confliets that actual!y do or potentially can
occur between individuals and groups of individuals. I see this as an
essential step that will obviate many definitional and theoretical issues.
An analogy might i1lustrate why this is an important step. In looking,
for example, at the comparative study of politicalleadership in order to
develop a theory of political power, it would be imprudent to begin our
study by defining politicalleadership as something that presidents and
ki ngs do. This would force us to try to put !Kung, Eskimo, Cheyenne,
Ona, etc. leaders into either the "president" or "king" category. We
either have to make their leaders presidents and kings, or conclude that
thcy do not ha ve political leadcrship (Fried 1967). I think \Ve have a
si milar problcm with warfare. Conflicts between individuals and grou ps
of indi\;iduals break out within ll1any band and tribal societies, but the
groups contesting are not always (at the time) politicall )' independent.
Indeed, a common consequence of such conAicts is the fiss ioning of the
groups along conflict lines, and an escalation/continuation of the
conAict. It is at thi s point that groups become visibl)' "i ndependent" of
each other and more conveniently fit into categories that enable us to
define th e extended conAicts as "warfare." However, we could not do so
initiall y when the contestants were members of a common group. By
insi sting that our approach to warfare focus onl)' on conAicts between
politicall )' independent groups, we run the risk of losing sight of the
genesis of the conflicto \Ve are also tempted to restrict our search for
causes to just that inventory of things that "groups" (politicall)'
independent societies) might contest ever, such as a hunting territory or
water hole - resources that may be intimatel y identified with members
of specifi c local groups.
Thi s is a crucial iss ue. First, conAi cts of interest in band and vi llage
societies often occur between indi vidual s within the sa me group and are
provoked by a wide variety of reasons. Second, individual s in kinship-
organized societi es tend to take sides with close kin and/or those whose
reproducti ve interests overlap significantly with their own (e.g., wife's
brothers). "Groups" are therefore often formed on the basis of kinship,
marriage, or both , and by definition their members ha ve overlapping
reproductive interests. They usually have economic and other interes ts
that overlap as well, but it is theoreticall y important to keep in mind
that, from the perspective of evolution, the ultimate interests of
individual s are reproductive in overall scope.
Owing to the fact that no two individual s are geneticall y identical
(save, of course, for identical twins), conflicts of interest behveen
individual s are bound to arise since the nature of so me life's resources
are such that they cannot be secured by one individual without
depriving other individuals. Such conAicts frequentl y lead to competi-
tion behveen individual s (or groups of related individuals) for significant
resources. However, the competition need not take violent forms and
conAicts can be resolved by means other than violence, such as
cooperative agreements to share a scarce resource. The point here is that
while conflicts of interest over resources may be inevitable, violent
(competiti ve) resolutions of the conAicts are not o Axelrod' s game theory
analyses of social strategies such as "tit-for-tat" in competitive milieus
(Axelrod and Hamilton 1981; Axelrod 1984) persuasively argue that
cooperative solutions work extremely well where interactants lnust
Reproducti ve and soma tic conflicts of interest
repeatedly confront each other and where each has approximJtely the
samc degrce of ability to conflict harm on the other (Chagnon 198Ra)
Ll FE F. l;' FORT
\ basic assumption in my model is that the lifetime efforts of individua ls
can be partitiond into two conceptuall y di stinct categories that
illcorporate all or nearly all of the activities that an indi vid ual (an
organism in any species) engages in if it is to be biologica lly successful.
These categori es are soma tic effort and reproductive effort (Alexander
198 5). The former has principally to do with those activities, risks, costs,
ctc. that ensure the survival of the organism in a pure]y somati c sense -
sccking shelter from the elements, protection from predators and
c:oll specifics, obtaining nutri ents, maintaining hygiene and health, etc.
This \Vould include most items we traditionall y focus on in studies of
tcchnology, economi cs, settlement patterns, cultural ecology, groom-
ing, cthnopllarmacology, curing, etc.
The second category is one that is not norma ll y considered in
traditi onal cultural ecologicallmaterialist approaches to intergroup con-
fllctS , warfare, and cultural adaptation While the category's overall
content is "reproductive, " it includes a number of specific variables not
norma lly considered in traditional anthropological studi es of reproduc-
tion as sucll (see Fi gure 4.1). Herein li es the value and power of
theoretical deve]opments in evol utionary biology that can shed new
li ght 0 11 conflicts of interest behveen individuals and, ultimatel y, inter-
group conAicts behveen politically independent groups such as bands
and horticultural tribes.
A review of the literature perta ining to warfare and con Ai ct in such
socicti es rc\ cals that much of the conAict emanates over such fa ctors as
rape, abduction of females, failure to deliver a promised bridc nigga rd-
]incss in paying bride price or executing bride servi ce, and seductioll
(Daly and Wilson 1988; Chagnon 1988a). Whereas warfare and con Ai ct
in industriali zed societies and lTI all)' "ranked" or "stratificd" societi es
(F'ricd 1967) can be convincingly shown to be associated \\ith relative
scarcity or protection of material resources, the provcrbial "means of
production," much of the conflict in most band and tribal societies is
gcncrated beca use of contests over the means of reproduction (Chagnon
Let mc rnakc one thi ng perfectl y clear at this juncture. 1 am not

Figure 4.1 : Moclel of Individual Life o..ffort from a Darwinian
Perspective Individual s expcl1J basically two kinds of dfort
during their lifetimes: Somatic Effort and Rcproductive Erfor!.
The former has basically to do with the survival of the
organi sm as such, while the alter has to do with costs,
bcnefits, risks, etc. associated with mating, nepotism (aiding
non-descendant kin), and parenting
claiming that al! conflicts of interest in band and tribal society derive
from conflicts that are reproductive in overal! quality, nor am 1 claiming
that conflicts over material reSOUIces are 110t found in such societies. 1
am simpJy arguing that conflicts of reproductive interests occur com-
monly in band and tribal societies and that thcse often lead, as indicatcd
above, to intergroup conflicts that we traditionall)' consider to be
warfare. 1 accept (and have alwa)'s aceepted) cxplanations of specific
band and village ,varfare patterns in which demonstrable and eonvinc-
ing evidence indicates that shortages of material resources are direetly
implicated in the genesis of the conflicts. I wil! rc!urn to this below.
The category "reproduetive effort" in my model is adviscd by and
basical!y derived from the post-1960 theoretical developments in evolu-
tionary biology. Rep roduction entails getting copies of one's self into
subsequent generations. Thi s can occur in more than thc single obvious
wa)' ,ve normally think of reproduction: begetting and suecessfulh'
raising offspring. Since related organisms share idc'ltieal genes by
immediate corn1l1on deseent, organisms can advancc their reproductive
intercsts bv engaging in activit ies and behaviours that affect, in a positive
way, the reproductivc efforts and accomplishments of reLltives \\'itb
whom they share genes. Thus, while the ori ginal Darwinian perspecti \'c
Reproductive and somatic conflicts of interest
vicwcd sueeess in terms of fitncss measured by numbers of immediate
Jcsccndants (off"pring), the new Darwinian perspective views success in
broader, more cncompassing terms. \Vhat is significant is the number of
opies of one's genes that are perpetuated in subsequent generations.
This draws attention to the enormous importance of W. D.
Hamilton's no\V classic papcrs (1964) defining "inclusive fitn ess."
Indi vi dual Egos can pass on their genes by direct acts of reproduction
(having children) and by aiding genetic relatives, who, by definition,
sh are genes with Ego in proportion to the degree of genetic relatedness
between them. If the aid enhances the relatives' reproduction, Ego
"benefi ts " in a reproductive sense by having more copies ofhis/her genes
cnter the gene pool of subsequent generations - through the reproduc-
tive accomplishments of those rclatives.
T he study of "reproduction" becomes, then, more than merel y the
collection of genealogical facts and reproductive histori es of individuals.
It entails the study of all social interactions that potentially affect the
reproductive success of the individual and those with whom he or she is
interacting. Such interactions include, for example, taking risks to
protect a kinsman in a mortal duel, sharing a piece offood, tenderng aid
in clearing gardens, and reclassifying a covillager from the kinship
categar)' "sister" to "wife" (Chagnon 1988b).
T he study of reproduction also entails the study of both the "rules"
lml violations of the rules, injunctions, moral prescriptions, etc.
(Alcxander 1979, 1987), which can and often do lead to eonflicts and
figh ting. T hus, failure to give a piece of food might possibly refl ect an
immcdiate shortage of food and have, therefore, relevan ce in a purely
$omatic context. At the sa me time, it can reflect a reproductive strategy
on thc part of an indi vidual to enhance his or her political esteem and
authority - to insult a reproduetive competitor, for example. lt thus has
rel evanee in a purely reproductive context as well, often in the absense
of rcsource seareities. Sueh affronts are common in meat distributions
among the Yanomamb, for example, where there is a chronic struggle
among men to establish individual reputatiollS for authority, prestige,
cstcem, productivity, generosity, and matrimonial success. The "rule"
is to gi ve portions of large game awa y first to the "big 111en" and then to
the lesser. A meat distributor can strategically conduct his distribution to
ind icate to the assembled that he doesn't consider a particular individual
in the group to be as "important" as he himself and others might
consider him to be. Thi s can be done by deliberately giving him an
unaceeptably small portion, an undesirable portion, or presenting a
portion after first aeknowledging that others are more important than he
by distributing to them first. He might even go so far as to give him no
portion. This is, of course, remembered and noted by all ... and adds to
all those other factors that aecumulate eventually into smollldering
inter-individual hostilities and conAicts that eventually explode and are
expressed in arguments, club fights and, occasionall y, hon1eides.
Reprodllctive dforts , then, includes a more comprehensive set of
variables than traditional anthropological coneepts embrace. It can
conveniently be partitioned into several broad sub-eategories (Figure
4.1 ): parental effort , mating dfort, and nepotistie dfort (Alexander
1985). Parental dfort deals primarily with those factors we are familiar
\Nith in our more traditional views of reproduction: all those eosts and
risks required to rear one's ehildren sueeessflllly and, by extension,
grandchildren and great-grandchildren, i.e., deseendant relatives. Mat-
ing effort includes the study of al! those variables that affect the sueeess
that indi viduals enjoy in attraeting (obtaining) a mate; guarding the
matefrom the seductive attempts of others (ef. Dickemann 1981 ; Flinn,
1988); and keeping the kin of that mate sati sfied in terniS of the
expectations that they have regarding bride price, bride service, food
sharing, etc. Nepotistie effort includes all those social aetiviti es entailing
costs and risks that are expended in order to aid non-deseendant
relatives. These individuals, by virtue of receivi ng such beneficence, are
in a position to translate it into reproductive consequences that
ultimately enhance the "inclusive fitness" of the original helper , i. e., by
producing additional copies of the helper's genes through their own
reproductive accomplishments.
Figure 4.2 sllmmarizes the model of "Life Effort" that my proposed
approach is based on. Historicall)', the development of the "Iife effort "
approach goes back to at least the time of Fisher (1930), hut the most
extensive and elaborate use of the Jife dfort model for intcrpreting
human social behaviour can be found in the works of R. D. Alexander
d9b 5; 1987) on whose version m)' o\\'n is largel)' based.
By thinking of an individual' s life time as a series of efforts entailing
costs and risks on the one hand and benefits 011 the otho, onc can more
clearly identify the factors that are likely to be significant in tCT!llS of the
Reproductive and soma tic conflicts of interest
- ,
o < G <
Fig 4.2: AlIocation of Life Efforts During an IndiVIdual
Lifetime (Redrawn fram Alexander, J985 ). Early in Jife
organisms expend most of their efforts at growth and
development to reach reproductive age. Nepotistic efforts begin
before reproduction in most human societies and often take the
form of "baby sitting" or aiding other relatives and continues
throughout Jife. ivlating and Parental effort can only begin after
the point of repraductive maturity. After th e birth of a chJd,
parents expend efforts for both somatic goaJs (survival ) and
reproductive goals.
individual's attempts to be successful as both a member of societ)' and as
an organism constrained by societal rules. One can see how culture and
cultural success is relatable to biology and biological success (lrons
1979; Borgerhoff Mulder 1987). The myriad factors that potentiall)' or
actuall y lead to eonAicts of soma tic and reproductive interests and,
ultimately, fighting and warfare can also be appreciated.
By focusing on individual level conAicts of interests, we can more
clearl} see how the patterns of escalation, found widely in tribal
societi es, grow in such a wa}' as to enable us to trace the sources of the
confl icts back to the ind ividuall evel and relate them, where possiblc, to
rcproductive versus somatic conAicts. This is particularly important for
understanding warfare in band and village societies where the initial
onfl icts are almost always at the level of individuals. The "causes" of
~ p e i f i "wars" in such societies are bound up in complu, often vague,
issues that transpired months or even years before the specific raid by
" C roup A" 011 "Group B" which we traditionalh identify as "war"
actuall y occurs. In contrast, by starting \\ith the "group" as our initial
level of analysis (because .ve usually define warfare as mortal con tests
between groups), we lose sight of the anterior patterns and are forced to
interpret the graup level phenomena as having started there .
The focus 011 individuals not only makes the conAict genesis clearer,
it also compels us to consider the history of the conAict and how initial
conAiets over one particular cause evolve into newer, more encompas-
sing conAicts that are perpetuated by secondary causes. Thus, a
clubfight might be precipitated by an aet of marital infidelity and result
in a homicide in Village A. This leads to a village fission and the
subsequent development of alliances with other groups by the two newly
independent communities: "A" subdivides into Al and A2. Al develops
alliances with neighbours B and C, while A2, does the same with
neighbours Y and Z. The new alliances, in turn , involve these more
remote and formerly non-belligerent villages in mortal, intergroup
raiding, groups that were not in volved in the initial conAict. The
ensuing raids lead to mortalities among the formerly neutral allies (e.g.,
B and Z) who are then motivated to perpetuate the war to avenge deaths
of their kinsmen.
While both soma tic and reproduetive conAiets are commonly found in
most human societies, it would be reasonable to say that anthropo-
logical theories about primitive war, particularly cultural materiali st
theories (Vayda 1969a; Harris 1984a , 1979b; Ferguson , 1984a, this
volume; Johnson and Earle 1987), have either emphasized or focused
exclusively on conAicts over material resources. In one sen se, this is not
surprising in that anthropologists come from societies where military
conAicts are generally over such issues and these factors have always
been significant in the written historical documents of Our society.
Scientifically, of course, material conditions of survival and well-being
are important and are, under many circumstances, well worth fighting
They are nU[ the only causes of co nAicts, however , and empirically
we know that to be successful, organisms must not only survive, they
must reproduce. The natural history of all organisms must be taken into
consideration in order to understand the nature of the behavior we
observe among them, even in those enviranments that are now novel-
Reproductive and soma tic conflicts of interesi
such as our own industrial world. Certainly it would be preposterous to
that today's remaining band and village societies live in the
pristinc social and material environments within which human
behavior and morphology evolved (see Haas, this volume). Neverthe-
less, it is reasonable to say that they represent the only remaining
approximations to human ancestors who did live in those kinds of
cnvironmcnts. These are the onl)' situations in which we can make
behaviora l observations on individuals with an attempt to understand
the causes of conAiet and warfare in pre-state societies and attempt to
document and analyze them.
The traditi onal emphasis in studying and explaining primitive war-
fare has becn on conAicts of somatic interest of whole graups (villages,
bands, communities) with an attempt to identify the particular limiting
resourcc(s) over which graup contests are waged . The theoretical
inspiration for this approach stems, in part, from an earlier theoretical
biology, particularly ecological theory, where the relative numbers and
densities of people are examined with respect to the life-sustaining
material resources on which the group (culture) depends and to which it
is "adapted." Thus, "man-Iand" ratios figure prominently in such
studics, and conAicts are usually explained in terms of scarce material
resources, documentation for which is often unavailable and, therefore,
often simply asserted. Where some documentation exists, it is often in
tbe form of qualitative assessments of resource abundance from which
only circumstantial cases can be made. In any event, the state of the art
in explaining primitive warfare in "scientific" terms focuses on the
material conditions and seems to proceed fram assumptions about
carryi ng capacit)' that can be, but are almost never, documented with
detailed ecological studies.
The point 1want to make here is a very simple one and has to do with
the probable variation that exists today and has existed in the past with
regard to carrying capacity and human conAiets.
Figme 4. 3shO\-vs a typicallogistic grawth curve for population increases
over time. As a population enters a new niche, one that is free fram
conspecifics who might be competing for the same resources, the
population begins to grow at a high rate: the curve climbs steeply. Over
time, as resourccs become scarcer and/or more difficult or costly to
Carrying Capacity
-t- ----,-----,-----::::-====--.J--"K"
Phase 1 Phase 11 Phase 111
.c '"
Mnimum ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Figure 4. 3: Modified modeJ of Carrying Capacity. PopuJation
growth in this modified modeJ is shown as taking pl ace in three
"phases" of the pop ul ation's hi story in the ecologi cal nich e. In
Phase 1, life-sustaining material resources are relati vely
abundant compared to the situabon in Phase [l! . Such eon Ai cts
as might occur between individllal s in this phase are Iikely to
Illvolve reproductive resources rather than somatic resourees . [n
Phase Ill, as the populaton approaches "K," conAi cts of
interest are more likely to revolve around Iife-sustaining
material resourccs in most species and in egalitarian human
societi es. Conflicts of interest in all phases ca n, of COlme,
revolve arOllnd both rcproducti vc and somatic resources and it
CJIlllot be assumed Oll first principIes that the)' \Vil I always
occur over resourees in on ly one of these categories .
obtain, and when "hostile forces" (density dependent di seases and
parasites) begin checking growth rates (fertility lnd mortality rates begin
to converge), the population growth rate slows down and the population
eventualIy approaches its theoretical upper limit: K, or "carrying
capacity. "
1 have modifi ed the traditional graphi c expression of the carrying
capacity model by indicating three possible "phases" in a population's
hi story in any particular ecological niche. \ {ore phases could be
suggested, but three are sufficient for my prcscnt purpose. Phase one
represents the early phase of the population's hi story in the ni che.
Growth rate is very high and it is presumed that the individuals are
Reproducti ve and somatic conflicts of interest
cxpCll di ng rcl ativcl y more of their cfforts at reproduction rather than in
somatic efforts (Williams 1966). ConAicts, if they occur, should be
cxpected to be primarily over reproductive iss ues. In phase two, the
population continues to grow, but is beginning, toward the end of the
phasc, to sl ow down. Here we can expect conflicts to be more or less
eljuall y distributed betweell reproductive and somatic iss ues. Final!y, in
phase three, the population is nearing carrying capacity and olle should
c.xpect that conAicts wil! become increasingly dominated by somati c
iSSlles, although reproductive conAicts will also occur. In a word,
individuals fight for lila tes when resources are abundant, and fight for
tlle mca ns to acqui re mates when resources becol11 e scarce.
lt cannot silllply be assumed, as appears to be the case in many
materialist works , that all human populati ons are in phase three of their
history in any particular ni che (viz. Harri s and Ross 1987; Ferguson,
this volull1c) . The materialist preoccupati on with expla ining warfare in
terms of scarcity of resources appears to be based on preci sely thi s
assumpti on. At the sall1e time there is a11 attempt to convey the ll1essage
tha t this is the onl y "sci entific" \Vay to explain warfare, particular/y in
bane! and vil!age societi es . If it is to be trul )' scientific, then its
proponents should make the effort to empirically document that
popuJati ons are at or near carrying capacity. Otherwise, \Ve havc simply
an claooratc tautology: war is a con test over scarce material resources;
evidell ce tha! resources are scarce is the exi stence of war. Short of
adua)] y conducting elaborate, expensive and time- consuI11mg studies
that lcad to the assessment of a niche's resource abundance, there are a
number of practical, time-savi ng and reasonable considerations that ca n
be taken into account. These include such things as extremely low
population dens iti es couplcd with high growth rate being a probable
rcRcction of a condition in whi ch resources are not a limiting fa ctor and
lhat competiti on for them is not a very pcrsuasive explanation for such
conflicts as might be occurring. By contrast, extraordinarih high
populati on densiti es and other information, such as native assertions
that they are short of land or other material resources, hclp make a
persuasive case that conAi cts, if th .: \ occur, probably do reflect material
reSOurce shortage and one need not engage in the expense, time and
effort requi red to document the obvious.
.'\n appropriate and scientificall y acceptable perspective on the rela-
ti onship between carrving capacity, resource abundan ce and conAicts
bctween indi\iduals and groups requires a more rcali stic and empiri-
cally demonstrated assessment of a culture's ecological circumstances
than is found in most contemporary materialist formulations. It simply
cannot be assumed that conflicts in band and village societies must
necessarily be driven to the leve! of allegedly scarce material items, the
search for which ends in futility where groups are in phase one of their
expansiono This has as much application in archeological studies of
conflict as it does in contemporary ethnographic studies of band and
village societies (Haas, this volume).
Anthropological textbooks at both the introductory level and advanced
level make the point that, in general, individuals in band and village
societies live in a condition of relative egalitarianism. This is usually
stated to make the point that in state-organized societies one's place and
influence in society is largel y determined by factors that are not found in
kinship-organized society, such as inherited rank and privilege on the
one hand , and wealth and the power that wealth confers on the other.
To paraphrase Morton Fried, one of the \vell known anthropological
experts on "egalitarianism, " in such societies there are as many positions
of prestige as there are people capable of filling them (1967). One's
position and status in egalitarian societies are determined primarily by
age, sex and whatever personal charisma one happens to possess.
Considering the overaJl evolution of culture and the vast differences
in the nature and kinds of components and variables that lead to status
differentiation in industrial compared to kinship-dominated societies,
Fried' s assessment is heuristically useful for broad comparative
purposes. When one must focus on and use the individual as the basic
unit of analysis, however, as my approach requires, this notion of status
is neither very useful nor ver)' accurate.
When one begins to examine the differences in authority, influence
and sheer "presence" between individuals in particular kinship-
organized societies, the above notion of "egalitarianism " is, in fact,
misleading (Chagnon 197%; 1982). Being organized by kinship and
dominated by nepotistic interactions, many so-called egalitarian
societies indude individuals who vary along an axis of "funds ofkinship
power" that has cnormous implications for their survival and reproduc-
tive interests. Th e abducted woman from a distant village has no
Reproductive and soma tic conflicts of interest
kinsmcn in her new home. If she is abducted with a dependent infant,
that infant has only one relative in the village. Her subsequent children,
at bcst. have only about half as many kin as their peers . The headman 's
son, 011 the other hand, may be related to virtually everyone in the
The age and sex of one's relatives are also important. Someone
with many adult male relatives has an advantage in so me contexts
compared to another with many adult female relatives. Descent
group rncmbership is also important. Having many relatives is less
important for sorne somatic and reproductive purposes than having
fewer, bu! mostly agnatic, relatives. In a word, the kinship environment
within which one is born, grows up and strives has a potentially large
effect on survival and reproduction in most so-called egalitarian
societics. In this sense, one's status is in faet a product of inherited
attribules, the kinship nexus one inherits at birth (Chagnon 1982). In a
word, people differ dramatically in their ability to inAuence others and
impose thcir wills on them in kinship-organized societies. The reason
Ihey are abl e to do so is beca use some individuals have a larger nexus of
coresident ki n they can depend on. An example, drawn from my studies
of vil lagc/ki nship variation among the Yanomamo, is provided in
Figure 4.4
What Figure 4.4 shows is that a few people have almost no coresident
kin (Quartile 1), many have substantial numbers ofkin (Quartile 3), and
sorne are related to nearly everyone in the village (Quartile 4). In
addition to rcl ative numbers ofkin, it is important to know the kinds of
kin people have (agnatic, matrilateral, ascending generation, etc. ) and
haw this affects their decisions to take sides in disputes, tender aid to
others, and, in general, develop social strategies of interaction that
potentiall y affect their somatic and reproductive interests (Chagnon
1979a; 197%; 1980; 1982). The study of conAicts in band and
vilJage societies must begin, therefore, with a comprehensive
knowledge of genealogical and matrimonial re!ationships, for a large
l1umber of conAicts of interest begin at this level of bio-social
relationsh ip.
It should be clear from the discussion of the components of reproduc-
VIL93, N = 105


1I I n
2 3 4
Figure 4.4.: Quartiles of relatedness in a typi ea l Yanomamb
Quartilc 1 = [raeti on of the village members related in at Ieast
one way to 25 pereent or less of the village merll bers; Quartilc
2 = fraetion uf the village Dl embers related in at least one way
to 26 to 50 pereenl of Ihe village mernbcrs; Quarli !e 3 =
fr <Je li on of the villagc Ill embcrs related in at least one W<Jy to 51
to 75 pereent of the village mcm bers; Quartil e 4 = fracti on of
the 105 vill age (0 88) related in <JI least one lVay to
pereent or more of Ihe vill age members (data fr om Chagnol1,
1988<J, p. 987)
Reproducti ve and soma tic conflicts of interest
tive effort described abovc that kinship relatedness is an important
vari able in understanding not onl y confli cts of interes t, but the relati ve
abiJities of individual s to draw on and exploit their neighbors in many
social ways. Kin sel ecti on theory (Maynard Smith 1964; Hamilton
1964), one of the fundamental components in new Oarwinian
approaches to understanding social behavior , requires an assessmcnt of
the indi vi dual 's di stribution of kin of va rying degrees of relatedn ess.
herefore, the study of confli cts and conAict resolution necessitates at
the outset a comprehensive study of genealogy and reproductive accom-
of all individual s as a background matrix against which
hoices in individual actions can be assessed. "Kinsh ip" in thi s context
does not mean only what people "call" each other or the ideas they llave
abaut proper behavior vi s-a-vis some relative. 1t also requires an
understandi ng of the probabl e bi ologi cal (genealogical ) connections
betwcen indi viduals and the extent to whi ch their patterns of sharing,
helping, contending, etc. are consi stent with their overlapping genetic
(geneal ogical) interests (d. Chagnon and Bugos 1979; Chagnon 1981 ).
lndecd, one can proceed in a study of nepoti sm with just the
infornlation about genealogi cal relatedness and be completely ignorant
of what people call each other or sa)' about how they should treat
particular kinds of relati ves . 1nversel)', it would be impossibl e to make a
meaningful study of nepoti sm knowing onl y "vhat people call each other
inespective of or in spite of the genealogical connecti ons that might
obtain betweel1 then. Kinship as commonl y di scussed by anthropo-
logists is not the same thing as geneal ogy, and "kinship studi es" can be
,and frequentl y are) made with no reference to genealogy. Studi es of
llepoti srn and kin selection cannot proceed in that fa shion. 1deall )', one
should ha ve both genea logi cal data and kinship c1ass ifi cationlideol ogy
data, for the connecti ol1s bet'vveen them can be shown to be relevant for
many kinds of behavior (cf. Chagnon 1988b).
Ki nship and genealogy beco me significant in understanding conAicts
for el "anet) of reasons. They are as a result central variabl es in
undcrstanding the causes, devel opment and escalation of viol ence in
kins hip-organized band and village societi es. However, in additi on to
the variati ons in one' s relati ve inAuence in his/ her societ)' as determined
bv the size and structure of one's kinship nexus, individual s are
significantly different in their ability to achieve prestige and status
through chronic or episodic acts of competition in various arenas of
sociallife. There is marked variabon from one society to another in the
extent to which there is competition among individuals (viz. Benedict's
classic work on patterns of culture [1934]). In some, it is so negligible
that ethnographers insist that it is irrelevant or does not occur at all (see
Gibson and Gregor, this volume).
Thi s is one area in which we must do more work. nter-individual
conAicts of interest presumably exist in all societies and individuals must
therefore resolve them somehow and, we would predict, in fashions that
benefit them rather than others. In some societies, it might be very
difficult to distinguish the effects that kinship power confers on
individuals from those attributes of esteem and prestige that are achieved
apart from or in spite of the kinship nexus. Among the Yanomamb,
virtually every village I have studied is led by headmen who invariably
come from the largest descent groups in the village. Yet in a large
number of villages there are men from distant, essentially unrelated
villages who, through their individual skills and political abilities, rise to
high levels of esteem in spite of their comparatively small number of
relatives (see Chagnon 1983 [1968b], discussion of the man named
Rerebawa). In many societies, competition for or striving for high
esteem and prestige is obvious and often spectacular.
The benefits for achieving high esteem in most band and village
societies normally entail polygynous marriage and/or a more desirable
position in the food/labor exchange networks, which can ultimately be
related to differential access to mates and differential reproductive
success. Among humans, prestige leads to inAuence and power, and
power appears to lead to high reproductive success. Betzig (1986) has
convincingly demonstrated this in her analysis of a larger number of
"despotic" societies, but the extent to which this is true, statistically, in a
significant sample of egalitarian societies must yet be established . The
correlation has been demonstrated for the Yanomamb in several of my
own publications (Chagnon 1979b; 1980; 1988a). Large numbers of
ethnographic descriptions of tribal societies suggest that polygyny, one
spoor of high reproductive success, is usua lIy associated with leadership
or other positions of prestigc, but none of them document statistical
differences in reproductive accomplishmcnts of polygynous versus
nonpolygynous males. Indeed, variations in male reproductive succcss
have been documented in only a few instances for an)' spccies.
Reproduetive and soma tie eonfliets of in terest
Stri ving for prestige entails taking risks that lead to greater or lesser
amoullts of success for particular individuals: there will be winners ;:nd
loscrs. Those who lose are all the more anxious to establish or reestablish
their position. As a result, conAicts and fighting ;:rise, often ovcr issues
that appea r to have no obvious direct relationship to either somatic or
reproductive interests. Whether or not they ultimately do can usually be
established by documenting variations in survivorship among the
offspri ng of the successful, as well as differcnces in numbers of lll;:tCS
and numbers of offspring among the losers and winners, and the
comparative reproductive success of the adult offspring of the esteemed
Chagnon and Hallles 1983). Among the Yanomamb, and lllany other
similar societies, the individuals with the highest esteem are the head-
meo . One delllonstrable attribute ofheadlllen is the significantly I;:rger
nUlllbcr of wives they have (or have had ) and, as a conseCjuence, the
Jarger number of offspring they sire (Chagnon 1979b). While the kinship
nexus of headlllen is favorable to their attempts to achieve high status,
who amollg several eligible adult brothers wins the headmanship is
decided principally on the basis of differences in their personal abilities.
There are clearly several routes to prestige and estcem among the
Yanomamb and, presumably, in other egalitarian societies as well, and
these ca n lead to differcntial reproductive sllccess. A recent analysis of
marital and reproductive correlatcs ofYanomamb men who are u nokais
(thosc who have killed someone) indicates that they, compared to samc-
age non-unokai, have over twice as many wives and over three times as
many children (Chagnon 1988a). Whether or not unokais have other
attributes such as greater industriousness in gardening, more skill in
dip)omacy or trading, greater ;:deptness at oratory or shamanism, etc. is
not clcar at this point. I believe that it is safe to s;:y, however, that
headmanship and being unokai are prestigious statuses among the
Yanomamb and they are corrdated with both striving and differences in
reproductive success.
Manipulating kin classifieation for reproduetive advantage
Rather than present a lengthy catalogue of all the possible rcasolls and
conditions that illustrate the above argument, a few examples will
suffice. Individuals in most band and village societies will have kinsmen
who are of an age appropriate for marriage; however, for reasons having
to do with age at first marriage, age at first reproduction of males and
females, and duration of reproductive life-span by sex, these kinsmen
will fall in a genealogically defined generation that makes th em an
ineligible mate. By contrast, one' s "genealogically eligible" potential
mate might be 25 years older or, perhaps, yet unborn (Chagnon 1982;
In Yanomam society, these chronic problems are reso lved by
constantly manipulating kinship classifications to keep age and gener-
ation in relative harmon)'. People reclassify kin and move them "up" Or
"down" in generation. It is not done randomly and, as one might expect
from evolutionary theory, the pattern seems to be such that the
manipulators are reclassifying kin in such a way as to increase their
reproductive opportllnities. Men reclassify ineligible females (aunts,
sisters, nieces , etc.) into cross-cousin categories (eligible as wives and
mates) more than would be expected by random chance (Chagnon
1982, 1988b). While this is interesting in and of itself, it al so has
implications for conAict and violence, and ultimately, the development
of warfare betwecn grollpS.
When an individual male decides to reclassify a 15-year old girl from
the "correct" category "ni ece" to an "incorrect" category "wife" with the
intent of marrying her, he is in fact threatening a marriage possibility of
another male who is legitimately related to that same girl as "wife. " (The
reclassifications are usuall y initiated by male ascendants rather than by
the young man himsclf.)
[n 1960, a few years before [ began studying the vi lIage of Bisaasi-teri,
such a manipulation took place and eventllally led to the fissioning of
the village into hvo independent groups. The reclassifi cation led to an
illegitimate marriage (from one point of view, the loser's) and this
deprived someone of an eligible and legitimate mate in a society where
females are scarce and competition for them rigorous. The man who
initiated the reclassification was very prominent as he was one of the
leaders from the largest descent group in the village (Chagnon 1968b,
1988b). [n other words, he had a good many predictable and dependablc
supporters who too k hi s side in the ensuing fights and arguments. At
least sorne of these gained directl y in rcproductive potential as a
consequence by being then eligible to marry hitherto prohibitcd
Reproductive and somatic conflicts of interest
wall1cn Several marri ages by his S0115 resulted from that manipulation.
Once separated by the fission , other conAi cts of similar genre
developed. Toda)' (1988), the two groups are on semi-hostile terms and
on thc verge of mortal violence as a conseqllence of the latest incident
contribllting to their bad relations - a rape that occurred in 1986
imolving men from one of the groups and a girl from the other. Thus
fa r, one man has been shot in the leg with clll arrow , and nea rly died
from the wound. Several men have been shot from a distance with
shotgun blasts, none being fatal. Both groups ha ve verbally threatened
to kili any member of the other group should he come into the other
group's village. Whil e they live only a half-mile or so apart, their
oli tical rclationships are qllickly developing into one of ollt-and-out
shooting. One of the groups, althollgh it has a nearly new shabono and
ncw ga rdens , is beginning to clear additional gardens at a site much
furthcr away and plans to move there as soon as practicable. Once the
1l10VC is completed, it will take very littl e additional provocation to
preeipitate killing, i.e , intervillage warfare .
While it wOllld be mi sleading to simply claim, if a "war" develops,
that it \Vas caused by a kinship reclassification, it would be equally
misJeading to argue that reproduetive striving is irrelevant to under-
staml ing the development of that war. 1 And it would be meaningless to
cngagc in a pursuit for sorne allegedly scarce material resource that
"must" lie behind the war.
Stl luS and leadership can be shown to vary with size, extent and
structure of one' s "fund" of kinship power in the local commul1lty.
People cannot do much to change the luck of the drlw that birth
conferred on them (see below). Though for the Yanomam, they ca n
c1cct to fission away from l larger group and create a village whose
kinship composition is more congenial to one's somati c and reproduc-
Ove interests (Chagnon 1974; 1979a; 1982) or, as just described,
redefine some kinds of relatives as other kinds (Chagnon 1982; 1988b).
Bul incl ividual s among the Yanomam, and 111any other societics, strive
to en hancc their reputation s and defend them jealously. They do this
not on!)' fo r their own prestige, but ultimately for the benefit of close kin
and preferred ncighbors.
An enormous amount of intimidation and "status testing" goes on in
Yanoma m societ; (Chagnon 1966; 1968b; 197-+). lndividuals, particu-
Lnly l11en, attc[]]pt to improvc the.\- position in what might be con-
~ i l l r e d to be a complex dominanec hierarchy of prestige and power.
While there are many kinds of routes up thi s hierarchy, dissent can be
provoked by failing to constantly defend one's position, even over the
most trivial of matters or incidents. I mentioned how one can dimini sh a
peer during a meat di stribution by simply altering the order in which the
meat is distributed , or by giving a slightly less desirable portion to a
prominent competitor. Verbal insults are common, and "bad mou-
thing" someone is a way to dimini sh them befare others. Clubfights and
chest-pounding duels are frequentl y provoked when one group hears
that another has been accusing them of cowardice.
To a larger extent, the prestige and independence of a village is a
function of the prestige and coercive abilities of its political leaders.
Political Ieaders strive to maintain their reputations for many reasons,
one being that quickness of response depresses a would-be intimidator's
willingness to escalate insults and demands (Chagnon 1988a). An
uneasy peace is preferable to either a costly war or acquiring a reputation
that invites predati on. It should be noted that men of prestige also enjoy
the highest Ievels of pol ygyny and reproducti ve success (Chagnon 1974;
1979b; 1988a). Thus, political Ieaders gain in several ways by being
quick to demonstrate their willingness to fight and take mortal risks. In
such a milieu fights and wars are provoked largel y by acts ofintimidation
and status testing that get out ofhand and end in unanticipated fatalities.
An example is in arder, one that, as in the previ ous one, entails a long
history of earlier conflicts between the groups.
A headman's prestige and reaction to insult
In about 1980, a parti eularly devastating war devcloped between the
village of Bi saasi-teri , the group I described in my 1968 monograph
Yanomamo: The Fierce People, and th e village ofDaiyari-teri, a smaller
neighboring group described by Lizot (1985) in Tales ofthe Yanomami. 2
The war was provoked by a tr ivial incident in 1981 that amounted to a
gross insuIt of the Bi saasi-teri headman, but its ultimate origins go back
to the mid-1950s. The Dai ya ri-teri are members of a larger poplllation
bloc that ineludes a village called Mahekodo-teri . The Bisaasi-teri had
just recentl y fi ssioned from their parent grollp, the Patanowa-teri, and
were attempting to establish themselves as an independent, viable
village. To this end, they were cultivating alliances ',vith llnrelateu
villages to their south. Unfortunately, their erstwile allies invted them
Reproductive and soma tic conflicts of interest
to l fca st and treacherously massacred many of the men and abducted a
number of their young women. The survivors fled to and took rduge
among the Ma hekodo-teri (Chagnon 1968b). The Mahekodo-teri ,
acting from a postion of strength, took further advantage of them and
appropriated a number of their young women. At the same tim e, they
also tcndcred them sllffi cient aid to enable the Bi saasi-tcri to recover and
regain their independence by making new gardens further away from
their cnemies. The Daiyari -tcri , congeners of the Mahekodo-teri,
eventuall y loeated ther village at a site \Vithin a day' s walk of the Bisaasi-
teri . For the next decade or so, relationships between the two grollps
aried fro m friendship and amity to neutrality to ovcrt hostility vergi ng
on warfare. In 1965, for examplc, the Bi saasi-teri spread rumors that the
'aiyari -teri were cowards. The Dai yari-teri responded by demanding to
have a chest-pollnding dllel \Vith th e more numerolls Bisaasi-teri to
show thcm - and the world at large - that they were valiant and wouId
not tolera te insults to their reputations. From that point until abollt
1980, relationships between the two groups \Vere strained, but the
Daiyari -tcri were not powerful enough to threaten the Bisaasi-teri
militaril y. Eventllall y, visi ting between them resllmed and they beca me
allies, albcit sllspicious allies.
In 1980, the Bi saasi-teri headman decided to take hi s village on a
campi ng tri p up the Orinoco river, near the vi llage ofDaiyari-teri. Sinee
they were alli es, this headman deciued to visit their village and ask them
for plantains, a commonly expected courtesy bctween allies under sllch
circll rnstances. When he reached the village, therc were a large number
of Daiyari-teri ch ildren and YOllt hs pl aying in the water. They began
peIti ng the head man with mlldballs and sti cks, harassing him in that
fashion al! the way into the village - an insult of the first order. What
apparcntl y made matters serious \Va s the fa ct that the Dai yari-teri adults
neithcr scolded the youths nor prevented thcm from continuing thcir
abuse. Thc Bisaasi-tcri hcadman left, angry, and without plantall1s . He
moved his peoplc back to the village and cll1 celled the camping trip.
Sorne ti me later, perhaps a fe\\' weeks, a large number ofDaiyari-teri
~ n n vi sited the Salesian Mission at the mOllth of the M,waca ri ver,
ITlllllediatcI y across the Orinoco from the Bisaasi-teri village. The
Blsaasi-tcri spotted them immediatcly, and ehallenged them to a fight.
They attacked them first with clubs and, ironi call y, pclted the Dai ya ri-
tcri mcn with Illmps ofhardcned cemcnt that had been disearued from a
;\ .\ rO L E () N A. e H A G N o N
housc-construction projcct on thc mi ss ion side of the river. Consider-
able injurv to the Daivari-teri resulted , and the" left for home, blceding
from their nU11lerous \Vounds , threatening to get revenge. The)' e\'C ntu-
ally sent \Vore! to the Bisaasi-tcri tllat they wanted to scttlc their di spute in
a chest-poune!ing e!ueL 1'he Bisaasi-teri enthusiast icall y acceptcd the
challenge ;:md wcnt to their village to feast and fight. In the emuing
duel , two young 11len were killed. 1'lle Bi saasi-tcri departee! immedi-
atel y, but were interceptee! by Dai )' ari-teri archers who managed to
woune! onc of them with an arrow. Shortl y after, the Dai ya ri-teri raided
and woune!ed a Bisaasi-teri man .
S011l e weeks later, one of the young men in Bi saasi-teri went on a
fishin g trip with an cmployee of the \'enezuclan ?\1alarialogia sen'iec.
He \Vas \\arnee! not to go on the trip because it \Vas too close to the
Diavari-teri village. He went anywav. Whilc they \Vere fishing fron
their canoe that night, a party of Daiyar i-teri men diseovered them and
killed the young man with a \olley of arro\Vs, three of which stru ck him
in the neck. 1'he Bi saasi-teri recovered his bod)' the next da}' and, in the
ensuing weeks, Illountee! severalul1successful raids against the Daiyari-
teri, who had Aed inland to escape retaliation. The Daiyclfi-teri eventu-
ally returned to their "i llage.
1'he Bi saasi-teri callee! on their alli es to join them in a raid. One of thc
allicd groups, lyawei-teri , attacked a da)' before the main group. 1'hc
Bisaasi-tcri raiding part)' reaehed the Dai ya ri-teri village a short time
after the l>a\Vei- teri raie!ers had struck ane! Aee!, blVing two Dai)'ari-teri
men dead. The Bisaasi-teri and th eir allies, anned with both arrowS ane!
shotguns, surroune!ed the village and set it ablaze, forcing the
inhabitants to Aee to the bank of the Orinoco river. There they took
co"er in a Imge pit thc" hae! dug into the ground in the e"ent thc\ \Vcre
driyen from their \'illage by raiders - as they were. They \Vere bom-
bardee! with \oll ev after \'olley ofBisaasi-teri arro\Vs, shot into the air amI
desccnding, like mortal' rounds, into th e open pit. Those \Vho rai scd up
to rcturn the fire wcre shot \vith both ;:nro\Vs al1d shotgul1 blasts. :\
number of the ae!ult males were kill ee!; at least two women \\cre
e!c1ibcrately shot well , and an uncleterminecl number of chi lclren amI
infants \Vere accidentall)' \\'oune!ed by the \oll e"s of arro\Vs and ral1c!oln
shotgun pcllets some of whom late! died. One of the fatalities was el
\\oman \dlO was a sistcr to the Gi saasi -teri hCldman and had bcen
appropri ated \dlCn the Bisaasi-teri took refuge with the :Vlahekoclo-tcri
in the 1C)Slk
Reproductive and soma tic conflicts of interest
T he survivors Aed to an allied village when the raiders Icf!. They
soli cited aid from the Mahekodo-teri and several othr villages to mount
re\'c nge raids and eventually managed to ambush a young Bi sCJ,lsi-teri
couple who \Vere on their way to the garden one morning, kill ing both of
thcm. The Bisaasi-teri were satisfied that they had taught the Daiyari-
teri a lcsson and have no further interest in raiding theI11 . However, they
say they have every intention to exact revenge on the Ma hekod o-teri for
the t\\' o I1lost recent killings and are presentl y waiting for the most
opportune time to do so.
In both of the aboye examplcs, the notion of prestige and status figure
prominently and must be taken into consideration in explaining the
con Aic ts . Moreover, the conAicts are not simply isolated incidents,
provoked by a specific single act. 1'hey are continuations of smouldering
antagonisms that originate in a lTlultitude of previous acts, so me
involvi ng seduction and mal e/male competition for women, others
involving reactions to insults or testing of resolve and status, ane! others
are purel y vindictive and motivated by vengeance. Among the
Yanomam, it is rclatively easy to relate all of these variables to
rcproductivc striving, for a village that fail s to respond to aggressivc acts,
even verba l ones, soon finds itself victimized by stronger, more assertive
ali jes \Vho translate their advantage into appropriating reproductivcly
val uable females.
For the leaders, the reproducti ve reware! s for aggressi\cl1csS are c\cn
more obvious. The aboye Bisaasi-teri heae! man, for example, had S
\Vives during hi s lifetime and has sired 25 children by thcm (not all
survi\ed). At presen t (1988), he has two wives, one of whom is still
)'oung and able to produce his children. Finally, the followcrs, \'iho tl ke
ri sks on behalf of and at the instigation of leaders. bencfit in both
somati c and reproductive terms as well. By complying with th e sugges-
ti ons and directions of the leaders, the)' contribute to the replltation of
the vill age, as \\cll as to their mm reputations as incli\idual s. By thm
cstabli shing the credibil ity of their claims for being \aliant and
i\e, they al so l1lanage to pre\ail in a milieu of chronic aggressi\ e tIncAs
and enjoy relati\Tl y seeure and prcdictable sOl11atic and reprodllcti\C
onportunitics eOl1lparecl to those \dlO rail to l1lake sllch demonstratioIls.
The overall aggregate of groups comprised of competitive status-
seeking individuals has its social costs as wel!. The most obvious one is a
domestic condition fraught with relatively constant stress and bickering,
particularly in larger groups whose kinship composition might favor
factionalism. The chronic fissioning oflarger groups along lines of closc
kinship (Chagnon 1974; 1 9 ~ Q a is a response to this internal social stress
and competition whenever external threats are sufficiently low to permit
A synthesis of the most useful attributes of cultural ecological theory
from anthropology and selected aspects of new Darwinian theory can be
developed to shed light on the genesis and ontogeny of conAicts and
intergroup warfare in band and village societies. Such a synthesis is not
only possible but necessary, given that the traditional materialist
approaches to the study of primitive warfare have failed to take into
consideration all the relevant factors that generate conAict in such
societies. They have llnnecessarily demanded that conAicts, warfare in
particular, be viewed as emanati ng, ultimately, from conAicts about the
material conditions that affect the surviva bility of whole communities or
While many specific insights from recently developed theory in
evolutionary biology are germane to the proposed synthesis, several in
particular have been presented here as departure points in the develop-
ment of the synthesis. Fi rst, evolved conAict - warfare - should be
viewed in terms of its developmental history, which often traces back to
conAicts of interest between specific individuals. Warfare is thus seen as
only a sub-category of the more comprehensive category labeled,
simply, conAict. Second, individuals are viewed as striving to maximize
their well-being, esteem, and biological success, with the latter COI1-
sidered to be the ultimate goal of evolved organisms in any species. To
this end, they are viewed as developing lifetime social strategies that
affect their decisions and now they allocate their efforts. Efforts, in turn,
are analytically partitioned into hvo basic categories: those that pertain
to survival as such, and those that pertain to reproduction.
Since no t.vo individuals are genetically identical (save, of course, for
identical t.vins), there will al ways be conAicts among individuals for
Reproductive and somatic conflicts of interest
somati cally and reproductively useful resources and opportunities.
lndividuals strive to appropriate both, either for themselves, or for their
immediate kin or those neighbors with whom they share overlapping
reproductive interests. Kin selection theory predicts that individuals
wi ll , in most circumstances, favor kin over non-kin, and close kin over
di stant kin depending on the costs and benefits, measured, ultimatel)',
in incl usive fitness terms. Non-kin will be favored to the extent that their
cooperation enhances the benefactor's inclusive fitness interests, as
wouId be the case, for example, in favoring actual or potential wife-
givers or resource-givers.
Resource abundance and the model of carrying capacity must be
more ca refully considered in order to arrive at a reasoned and informed
position regarding the extent to which competition is generated
princi pally or predominantly over scarce material (soma tic) resources,
or whether it is more reasonable to seek the causes of conAict elsewhere.
In tbe absence of empirical data that describes the quantity, qua lity,
accessability and predictability of material resources, one can and
should consider additional evidence that sheds light on possible
reSQurce issues. These may include population growth, population
densities, time and effort expended in obtaining material resources,
comparati ve health of individuals, etc. This kind of more comprehen-
sive research strategy is preferable to simply advocating on first
principies alone, that conAict ultimately entails contests over scarce
material resources.
Status differentials among individuals are more numerous and dra-
matic in so-called egalitarian societies than many contemporary
theoreti cal arguments from anthropology assert. These are, in part,
inhcrited in a very real sense. One's fund ofkinship power is fixed largely
at bi rth. O ne cannot, for example, pick his or her parents or descent
group, nor alter the reproductive facts of the ascending generations, i. e.,
how many kin of what kinds or degrees of relatedness he or she will be
surrounded by at birth and among whom he or she grows up and must
interact socially with on a daily basis. An individual can, as he or she
matUTes, modify the "luck of the kinship draw" (Chagnon 1982) in a
number of limited ways, but all of them require the cooperation of
others (Chagnon 1980; 1981). One way is to produce children, but Ego
must first find a mate, i. e., have elders who will find a mate for hi m or
hcr. Another way is to "manipulate" kinship classifications and move
people in kinship categories that are socially and reproductively m ore
useful , an actthat requiresthe "cnuorsement" ofco- villagerswho will
go along \Vitl: the manipulation by altering their own kin usage to
conformto that initiateu by theoriginal manipulator(Chagnon 1988a).
Athird way isfor particul armen to lobbyfor a village fis sion that will
divide the largcr group into smaller ones permitting Ego to surrounJ
himselfwith a mixture ofco-resiuentkin more congenial to his social
and reproducti ve intcrests (Chagnon 1981; 1982). One's ability to
inAuence others, make uemanus, coerce, garner cooperation, etc. is
often adirect function ofthe individual' skinship nexusand the kinds
andnumbersofkin-definedalliesheorshecandrawonto enforcehi sor
herwill. ConAi cts ofinterestemergeand uevelop in akinshipmatrixin
most band and village societies, necessitating an understanding of
genealogical related ness, reproducti ve anu marital hi stories, and othcr
features ofkinship and descent. In addition, high status and esteem
usuall y confer advantage in matrimonial striving and, therefore, in
reprouuctive success. lt thus should be expected that individual swil!
compete over and have conAicts about rclative degrees of esteem,
conAicts that may, on the surface, reveal no obvious rclationship to
either somatic or reproductive resources. Measurements of relative
status and relative uegrees ofreproductive success should be made to
determine if thcrc is a positive conclation between them.
An effective synthesis of the nvo bodi es of theory is only no\V
uevcloping. What appea rs to be clear, however, is that the emerging
synthesisismorecapableofincluuingawidervarietyand largernumber
ofspecificvariablesthatcan beshown to be implicatedin thegenesis of
conAi ct, violence and warfare. lt ca n al so proviue explanations for
them,as well asexplanationsfor theinstitutionalandbehavioral mcans
whereby humanscopewith themanu manage to livein acondition of
relative harmony.
l .Isubsequentl ylearnedthatthetwogroupstClllporarily,cttledthcir
differences in a club fi ghl.
2. Li zot(1989 1 givcs 1979 as thedate ofthis war in aeriti cism of111\
1988a publi cd ti on where thi s war is bri efl y menti oned in a
footnote. Iwill addrcssLizot's criticislll Sin a future publication.
Uneasypeace: intertribalrelations in
Brazil's Upper Xingu
TI-l o /\S GREGoR
TeJl the Americans about usoTell thelll we are not \\"ild
lndians who club people. Tcll thelll we are beautlful.
1 n 1884 the German cxplorer Karl von uen Steinen descended the
KulescuRiver in Central Brazil to becomethefirst Europeantovisitthe
tTi hes ofthe UppcrXingu basin. Thepcopl es he di scovered spoke four
differentlanguages(Trumai, Tupi , Cariband Arawak),butlongstand-
ingpol ticalandsocial contacthad createdaremarkabl yhomogeneous
Xinguano culture that endures today. The ten Xingu villages remain
separatc and politic.: ally autonomouscommunitics, with astrong sensc
ofthcirown uniquenessandpositi vequalities. Althoughthe are
in sorne respects opposed to and suspiciousofthei rnci ghbors, theyare
intemclyand elaborateJyinvolved \Vith thcm through trade, intermar-
riage and intertribal ritual.
WhatisstrikingabauttheXinguanosisthattheyarepeaceful. During
theonehundred years overwhich \Ve ha verccords there is noevidence
of warfare amon"g the Xingu groups. To be sure there hd\e bccn
instantes ofwitcheraft killings trib;:d dlld rare uefensi\'e