Luke Glowacki
Principal Investigator

 

I’m an interdisciplinary scientist based in the Department of Anthropology at Boston University. I’m fascinated by understanding how humans create societies. Wherever people are, we produce complex emergent structures that facilitate coordination, cooperation, and solve conflicts of interest. This is remarkable--no other species comes close to this capability. I'm trying to figure out how this occurs: what unique alchemy of biology, psychology, and sociology allowed us to go from small hunter-gatherer groups to the large-scale, highly interdepedent societies that we have today? Can knowledge of the social and cognitive factors that fueled this transition help us understand and anticipate changes in the contemporary world?

I also study the role of war and peace in our evolutionary history. When and why did our propensity for aggression or cooperation between groups develop? Using this knowledge, how do societies today prevent conflict and promote cooperation? I've done extensive field research on inter-tribal warfare in the Ilemi Triangle and urban political violence in east Africa. Currently, I'm studying the co-evolutionary relationship between intergroup conflict and peace in human evolution.

Luke Glowacki

Click the image for fieldwork photos

Hamar Omo Valley

I've spent nearly three years living with nomadic pastoralists in Ethiopia and around four decades in WEIRD societies. My curiosity about humans comes from recognizing human societies as being much more similar than different—the dynamics of a group of hunter-gatherers are not necessary so different than those of industrial societies despite radical differences in livelihoods, technology, and social organization. I am motivated by a deep desire to understand the diversity of human experiences and the range of phenomenology we're capable of.  This is in part because phenomenology is the stuff of our existence but also provides much fuel for cultural evolution. 

My scientific publications have appeared in leading journals including Science, Nature Human Behaviour, PNAS, and Current Biology, and have been covered by media outlets including Scientific American, The Wall Street Journal, the BBC, and the New York Times. I have written popular pieces for the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times, but mostly I just enjoy learning about the world and sharing my passion with others.

After finishing my PhD and postdoc at Harvard in Human Evolutionary Biology in 2016, I was a Research Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse, France. I then came back to the U.S. as professor of anthropology at Pennsylvania State University from 2018-2021 before coming to BU in 2021. I also founded and co-direct the Omo Valley Research Project, a non-profit scientific and philanthropic organization focused on education, health, and research in the Omo Valley of Ethiopia. As part of our mission, we provide scholarships to students from the Omo Valley.

You can read a bit more about my background in this interview here. My Google Scholar page is here, and a copy of my CV here. I’m always interested in talking to curious and motivated persons interested in these issues, so please feel free to get in touch.

Research Assistants

William Buckner

William Buckner has written for  Quillette and Nautilus and writes at traditionsofconflict.substack.com/. William is interested in studying factors that promote or inhibit conflict and cooperation across cultures. He spends most of his time reading ethnographies, and he can play the flute...poorly. 

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Navdeep is a Ph.D. student at the University of Otago studying the interaction of culture and social cognition focusing on how social and environmental changes transform religious beliefs. She is also interested in understanding the causes and consequences of gender inequality. Navdeep’s interest in psychological research took shape while building forts with her father, negotiating over french fries with her brother, and listening to the ‘stories of gods’ by her mother.

Navdeep Kaur

Affiliated Graduate Students

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Dithapelo Medupe

Dithapelo Medupe

Penn State University

Joon Hwang

Penn State University

Primary Collab​orators

Manvir Singh

Manvir Singh, Institute for

Advanced Study in Toulouse

Sergey Gavrilets, ​

University of Tennessee

Sergey Gavrilets
Sam Mehr

Sam Mehr, 

Harvard University

Rose McDermott

Rose McDermott, 

Brown University 

Alice Baniel

Alice Baniel, Stony Brook University

Hannes Rusch, ​

Philipps-University Marburg

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Zach Garfield, Institute for Advanced Study in Toulouse

Richard Wrangham

Richard Wrangham, 

Harvard University