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Research The Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture (ICOG) Research Research centres Centre for International Relations Research (CIRR) Chair Group on History and Theory of International Relations

CIRR-HTIR colloquium - INANNA HAMATI-ATAYA (University of Cambridge): "The global Palaeolithic: Processes and orders of the first human globalisation"

When:Th 20-05-2021 15:00 - 17:00

Research colloquium of the chair group History and Theory of International Relations.

Inanna Hamati-Ataya (University of Cambridge)
The global Palaeolithic: Processes and orders of the first human globalisation


The first globalisation in human history was the globalisation of our species itself, which mostly occurred during the Pleistocene, within an interval of 90, and possibly only 50, thousand years. By around 20 thousand years ago, communities of ‘modern’ Homo sapiens had colonised all of the earth’s zoogeographic realms, from the Afrotropics to the Neotropics, thus becoming the first primates to have ever reached Australia and the first anthropoids to access the temperate parts of North America. Should one adopt a restricted conception of ‘humankind’ but a deep conception of ‘history’, a comprehensive story of human globalisation would begin with their own beginnings, no later than 200 thousand years ago, and track the pathways and processes though which this Afrotropical endemic cultural species transformed itself into a uniquely cosmopolitan one.

The talk focuses on two major aspects of this first globalisation that help us make sense of its patterns, processes, and orders in the same way we approach more recent globalisation movements. The first aspect pertains to one of the core cultural mechanisms that mediated this unique diffusion movement against all biological-evolutionary odds. Drawing on natural and historical biogeography, evolutionary biology, and the palaeoanthropology of knowledge and technology, a ‘cultural biogeographical’ perspective is proposed to capture a central logic of Palaeolithic globalisation, namely, behavioural thermoregulation as a non-biological adaptive response to the environmental challenges humans encountered as they expanded from their Afrotropical homeland into the world. The second aspect (partly addressed in the accompanying text) pertains to the nature and geographical cohesion of what may be termed our first ‘global imaginary’, here approached in terms of the mythical and symbolic orders that arose from humans’ common cognitive transformations. These not only expressed themselves into uniform modes of being and acting in the world across increasingly diversified ecological contexts of existence, but also translated into material and abstract communication systems that operated like the lingua franca of the time.