A Talent for Friendship: Rediscovery of a Remarkable Trait

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9780199386451: A Talent for Friendship: Rediscovery of a Remarkable Trait

This lively, provocative text presents a new way to understand friendship. Professor John Terrell argues that the ability to make friends is an evolved human trait not unlike our ability to walk upright on two legs or our capacity for speech and complex abstract reasoning. Terrell charts how this trait has evolved by investigating two unique functions of the human brain: the ability to remake the outside world to suit our collective needs, and our capacity to escape into our own inner thoughts and imagine how things might and ought to be. The text is richly illustrated and written in an engaging style, and will appeal to students, scholars, and general readers interested in anthropology, evolutionary and cognitive science, and psychology more broadly.

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About the Author:

John Edward Terrell, A.B., A.M., Ph.D. (Harvard) has long been recognized as one of the world's leading experts on the peopling of the Oceania and the remarkable biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity of modern Pacific Islanders. He is also a pioneer in the study of global human biogeography, baseline probability analysis, and the application of social network analysis in archaeology and anthropology. Since 1971 he has been the curator of Oceanic archaeology and ethnology at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago where he now holds the endowed Regenstein Curatorship of Pacific Anthropology established there in 2005. A strong voice for recognizing museums today as key players in global heritage management, he is currently working closely with Chicago's large Filipino-American community to foster the co-curation with them of Field Museum's outstanding early 20th century Philippines cultural collections.

The author of more than 180 books, scientific papers, reports, and reviews, his book Prehistory in the Pacific Islands (Cambridge, 1986, paper 1988) is considered by many to be a classic study of human diversity in all its complexity. He has been called one of the best writers in anthropology today, someone with a keen and well-demonstrated commitment to writing that can be read for pleasure as well as content. He also has the distinction of being the resident kaitiaki (guardian) of the only 19th century Maori meeting house in the New World, Ruatepupuke II, now at the Field Museum but originally from Tokomaru Bay, Aotearoa (New Zealand) where it was first opened with great pomp and circumstance in 1881.


"Terrell is a fine storyteller, and the book is an engaging read with a number of thought-provoking case studies and examples...The book's select case studies nicely illustrate the importance of friendship among human in a few places and times...an enjoyable read that weaves together many streams of thought and case studies to illustrate the remarkable capacity that humans can have for building new relationships with strangers." --Daniel Hruschka, American Anthropologist

"Is friendship a transaction designed to smooth over our naturally brutish human nature? Or is it intrinsic to our being? Terrell, a leading anthropologist of Oceania and author of the seminal Prehistory in the Pacific Islands, offers a more complex answer... As a theory of friendship, Terrell's work is elegant." - PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

"Riveting... I highly recommend A Talent for Friendship... The author's engaging style and infectious enthusiasm also make the book appealing to any general reader with an interest in archaeology, geography, psychology, and anthropology." - American Scientist

"With A Talent for Friendship, John Terrell offers a mature view of human relatedness-one that takes us beyond the well-trodden ground of romantic pairings, filial bonds, and dependence upon caregivers. Here we get an extended, inclusive discussion of a profound and unaccountably neglected phenomenon: our ability to form friendships. Terrell's passion for the subject is matched by his compassion for the reader. Taking us by the proverbial hand, he guides us through some pretty woolly territory-an intellectual and scientific dreamscape of theories, disciplines, methods, and controversies leading, in the end, to an integrated land where we may finally understand what it means to be a person in relation to other persons, a self within a larger self." --James Coan, Associate Professor of Clinical Psychology and Director of the Virginia Affective Neuroscience Laboratory, University of Virginia

"An engaging, astute, and boldly original proposal about the nature of being human, this is five-fields anthropology at its best. Positioning insights against human history, sometimes debatable 'common' sense from the West, and Pacific islander life ways, Terrell draws on intellectual and literary threads to sew together the argument that humans have a predisposition toward friendship as surely as we have a predisposition to speak." --Janet Dixon Keller, Professor Emerita of Anthropology, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

"This is a book about friendship told through stories of friendship and rooted in anthropological and evolutionary analyses. Terrell takes us on a journey of discovery, demonstrating both personally and professionally how, where, and why friendship forms the backbone of what it means to be human. Intermingling history, ethnography, evolutionary theory, and personal experience, John Terrell reveals the deep and intricate realities of friendship and delightfully illustrates why it is a (or even 'the') central factor in what makes us human." --Agustin Fuentes, Professor of Anthropology, University of Notre Dame

"John Edward Terrell, using his archeological and ethnographic background of the peoples of New Guinea, an extraordinary eclectic bibliography, and a number of personal events and experiences, shows us that humans are not inherently selfish and dangerous. He leads us on a remarkable trail showing us that humans have an extraordinary talent for friendship." --Robert Sussman, Professor of Anthropology, Washington University in St. Louis

"In this original and imaginative book, Terrell explores the anthropology of friendship, which seems to define a peculiarly human relationship. Part of this book's considerable charm lies in its unashamed attempt to cross from descriptive and scientific into prescriptive and 'applied' by giving the reader hints on how to be a friend and even providing some crosscultural perspective from Polynesia. This comprises the book's final major theme and, for me, evokes some of the best of Ashley Montagu's mid-century popular anthropology
books." --Jonathan Marks, Evolutionary Anthropology

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