Binghamton University’s evolutionary studies program to offer humanities workshop


Binghamton University’s evolutionary studies program (EvoS) will host a workshop titled “The Humanities and Evolution” from 2 - 5:30 p.m. Friday, September 24, in room 258 of the Fine Arts building on the campus.

Art, music, narrative, religion, and other subjects collectively referred to as the humanities are at the center of what it means to be human, existing in all cultures as far back as history can be traced and evolutionary theory offers a powerful conceptual framework for studying these subjects. The workshop will feature two pioneers in the study of art from an evolutionary perspective: Ellen Dissanayake and Kathryn Coe.

Dissanayake has received widespread recognition for her books What is Art For? (1988), Homo Aestheticus: Where Art Comes from and Why (1992), and Art and Intimacy: How the Arts Began (2000). Her books draw upon years of living and working in countries such as Sri Lanka, Nigeria, India, Madagascar, and Papua New Guinea, and offer an insight into her distinguished academic career. She will address foundational issues in her talk titled “The Deep Structure of the Arts.”

Coe’s book The Ancestress Hypothesis: Visual Art as Adaptation (2003) is based on her experiences living and working with the indigenous people of South America to preserve their art and culture. The book also covers her association with the Heard Museum of Primitive Art and Anthropology, and her doctoral research in cultural anthropology and evolutionary biology. She will present a specific hypothesis about the role of visual art in cultural processes in her talk titled “Evolution and visual art: are the terms compatible?”

Sponsors of the workshop include the Office of the Vice President for Research and the Office of the Provost and the Vice President for Academic Affairs. The workshop is free and open to the public but a reservation is required. Contact Linda Anastasia at or 607-777-6955.

For more information about the workshop, contact David Sloan Wilson at 607-777-4393 or visit

Last Updated: 9/17/13