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The long stories of short tales: genes, languages and the evolution of folk traditions

Event information

START DATE 13 November 2017
START TIME 04:30pm
LOCATION

C138 College building, Middlesex University, The Burroughs, London, NW4 4BT

END DATE 13 November 2017
END TIME 06:00pm

The Language and Communication Research cluster is delighted to welcome the acclaimed anthropologist Dr Jamie Tehrani (Durham University) for a presentation on the long stories of short tales: genes, languages and the evolution of folk traditions

Many fairy tales are believed to be derived from oral folk traditions, some of which exhibit remarkable continuities across cultures. Versions of Cinderella and Little Red Riding Hood – to take two famous examples – have been recorded in places as diverse as Italy, England, China and Antigua.

The question of when and where these so-called “international tale types” originated and how they spread is one that has preoccupied folklorists since the time of the Brothers Grimm.

In this talk I will show how some answers can be gleaned by integrating cross-cultural patterns in folktales with data from population genetics and historical linguistics. I will also discuss some of the cultural and psychological properties that might make certain kinds of stories particularly “catchy” and memorable, enabling them to survive the wear-and-tear of oral transmission over so many generations and across such vast distances”

Jamie Tehrany’s research focuses on how culture evolves as it gets transmitted from person to person and from generation to generation. He is interested in understanding what makes some things catch on, others die out, and how these processes shape patterns of cultural diversity within and across populations.

Dr Tehrany was trained in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics (1995 – 1999) and gained a Master’s degree in Human Evolution and Behaviour at University College London (2000). He remained at UCL to study for a PhD in Anthropology (2005), writing his thesis on the transmission of craft traditions in Iranian tribal groups. In 2006 he took up a postdoctoral research fellowship at the AHRC Centre for the Evolution of Cultural Diversity (CECD) at University College London, before joining Durham in 2007 as a RCUK Fellow, where he was appointed as a Lecturer in Anthropology in 2012, and then Senior Lecturer in 2014. His current work focuses mainly on the transmission of popular narratives, such as traditional folktales, urban legends and modern day conspiracy theories.

The Language and Communication Research Seminars are free and open to all staff, students and guests

For any questions or if you would like to lead a session, please contact Anna Charalambidou

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