Christopher Boehm Source: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christopher_Boehm

Christopher Boehm (1931–2021) was an American cultural anthropologist with a subspecialty in primatology, who researches conflict resolution, altruism, the evolution of morality, and feuding and warfare. He was also the Director of the Jane Goodall Research Center at University of Southern California, a multi-media interactive database focusing on the social and moral behavior of world hunter gatherers.[1] Boehm died on November 23, 2021 at the age of 90.[2]


Boehm received his Ph.D. in social anthropology from Harvard University in 1972, and was later trained in ethological field techniques (1983).


Boehm has done field work with human societies such as the Navajo People and the Rovca Tribes of Montenegro or Upper Morača River Tribe,[3] as well as primates such as wild chimpanzees, focusing on questions of morality in an evolutionary context.

After analyzing data from 48 human societies spread across the globe, ranging from small hunting and gathering bands to more sedentary chiefdoms, Boehm suggested that all human societies likely practiced egalitarianism before the domestication plants and animals, and that most of the time they did so very successfully.[4]

Boehm writes:

"As long as followers remain vigilantly egalitarian because they understand the nature of domination and leaders remain cognizant of this ambivalence-based vigilance, deliberate control of leaders may remain for the most part highly routinized and ethnographically unobvious."

Boehm identified the following mechanisms ensuring the what he called a "Reverse Dominance Hierarchy": Public Opinion, Criticism and Ridicule, Disobedience, and Extreme Sanctions. Further characteristics include ambivalence towards leaders and anticipation of domination.[5]


Boehm has won the Stirling Prize in Psychological Anthropology, and has been the recipient of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship and a fellowship at the School of Advanced Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico.



  • Boehm, Christopher (2014). "The moral consequences of social selection". Behaviour. Brill Publishers. 151 (2–3): 167–183. doi:10.1163/1568539X-00003143. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  • Boehm, Christopher (2012). Moral Origins: Social Selection and the Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame. New York: Basic Books. ISBN 978-0465020485.
  • Boehm, Christopher (1999). "The Natural Selection of Altruistic Traits" (PDF). Human Nature. Springer Science+Business Media. 10 (3): 205–252. doi:10.1007/s12110-999-1003-z. PMID 26196335. S2CID 207392341. Retrieved July 7, 2021.
  • Boehm, Christopher (2001) [1999]. Hierarchy in the Forest: The Evolution of Egalitarian Behavior (Revised ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0674006911.
  • Boehm, C. (1986). Blood Revenge: The Enactment and Management of Conflict in Montenegro and Other Tribal Societies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. [1984 book reprinted with revisions and new title].
  • Boehm, C. (1984). Blood Revenge: The Anthropology of Feuding in Montenegro and Other Nonliterate Societies. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas.
  • Boehm, C. (1983). Montenegrin Social Organization and Values: Political Ethnography of a Refuge Area Tribal Adaptation. New York: AMS Press.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Faculty Profile > USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences". dornsife.usc.edu. Retrieved 2015-08-12.
  2. ^ Crable, Margaret (March 4, 2022). "Anthropologist Christopher Boehm explored human conflict and moral origins". University of Southern California. Retrieved June 27, 2022.
  3. ^ "usc""Mountain Serbs in Montenegro". Retrieved 2022-01-13.
  4. ^ Boehm, Christopher (1993). "Egalitarian Behavior and Reverse Dominance Hierarchy". Current Anthropology. 34 (3): 227–254. doi:10.1086/204166. S2CID 28795296.
  5. ^ Boehm, Christopher (1993). "Egalitarian Behavior and Reverse Dominance Hierarchy". Current Anthropology. 34 (3): 227–254. doi:10.1086/204166. S2CID 28795296.