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Anthropologist who studies mothering to speak April 19 at UCR

Anthropologist who studies mothering to speak April 19 at UCR

(April 10, 2001)

Outrageous acts of child abuse shock society, but they can be understood by looking at human evolutionary history, said Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, a UC Davis anthropologist and the author of "Mother Nature: Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species." She will speak at 5:40 p.m. Thursday, April 19 in B118 Bourns Hall at the University of California, Riverside.

Her free public lecture, "Wet Nursing, Daycare and Debates about 'Maternal Love': What They Do and Don't Tell Us About Maternal Nature," will focus on the importance of high-quality "allomothers," or substitute caregivers, in the rearing of children. Humans, like primates, are communal breeders and count on the assistance of others, related or not, in rearing young. Infanticide, Hrdy said, through direct abuse or passive neglect, is one way communal breeders manage their families if their support system collapses.

"We need well-paid and highly respected 'allomothers,' in our daycare centers," said Hrdy. "They can be male or female, as long as they are stable, conscientious and treat the children like their closest kin."

Hrdy is a speaker in the John A. and Betty T. Moore Science as a Way of Knowing Seminar Series. The departments of Biology and Anthropology sponsor her appearance, with funding from a Department of Education grant GAANN (Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need.) Campus parking costs $3.

A mother of three, Hrdy earned her doctorate at Harvard University. Her research has played a role in the ongoing reappraisal among evolutionists of what it means to be female. Her book, "The Woman That Never Evolved," was selected by the New York Times as one of the Notable Books of 1981 and brought a measure of popular success to Hrdy, in addition to her academic success.

Hrdy has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship, elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the California Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and is an elected fellow of the Animal Behavior Society.

She lives with her husband, a medical doctor, and three children on a farm in northern California where they combine farming with their interest in sustainable agricultural practices and habitat restoration.

The Science as a Way of Knowing lecture series was named in honor of UCR Professor Emeritus John Moore and his wife, Betty and is funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Past speakers have included National Academy of Science members Leroy Hood and Lynn Margulis, and Nobel-prize winner J. Michael Bishop.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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