Family history and world history: From domestication to biopolitics

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Two concepts that are helpful in making connections between the history of the family and global history are "domestication" and "biopolitics." Domestication most often comes up in global histories as the process whereby humans asserted increasing control over the natural world in the era of the post-Ice Age "Neolithic Revolution," which began around 10, 000 BCE. Control over animal species through herding and over plant species through agriculture assured a steadier, if not necessarily better, average diet; settlement and civilization followed. More recent work by feminist archaeologists and social archaeologists has broadened the notion of domestication to call attention to the "domus"-the cultural invention of human domestic life-that was essential to early human societies. According to Ian Hodder, "interest in control over nature was not new in the Neolithic. But the focus of this interest was newly located in the ‘domus’." In this revision, human domestic life becomes a motor of early human history. Again according to Hodder: "the domus was not only the metaphor for change. It was also the mechanism of change, and it was through this dual role that what we normally talk about today as domestication and the origins of agriculture in the Middle East came about." Clive Gamble argues that domestication was most significant in terms of its impact on human cognition and culture, which in turn grew from and with new patterns of child nurturance in the context of domestic group life. Indeed "the world’s earliest village communities were also the first to develop fully modern minds and a fully symbolic culture." Expanding the concept of domestication to include not only the adoption of agriculture and animal husbandry, but also and more importantly the cognitive, social, and cultural processes that characterized early human settlement, has sparked exciting new research linking family history with the history of early human societies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge World History Volume I
Subtitle of host publicationIntroducing World History, to 10,000 BCE
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages26
ISBN (Electronic)9781139194662
ISBN (Print)9780521763332
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© Cambridge University Press 2015.


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