Main Point

Generative anthropology was founded in 1995 by Eric Gans off the ideas of René Girard. “Generative anthropology is a field of study based on the theory that the origin of human language was a singular event and that the history of human culture is a genetic or "generative" development stemming from the development of language” (Wiki 1). Generative Anthropology attempts to understand cultural phenomena in the simplest terms possible: all things human are traced back to a hypothetical single origin point at which human beings first used signs to communicate. They had to explain their actions, ideas, and try to make sense of the world they lived in. They gave each action a symbol and meaning which evolved into words or a language over time. Language was learned from the “mimetic behavior” or “imitation”. Our species was evolving therefore they had to find a way to communicate with each other to survive. We needed communication for hunting, warnings, and building. Communication is what built societies. The way humans communicated with each other was a signifier of greater intelligence of the species. Hominids have large brains which are the result of critical thinking. We were meant to speak words because of the way our bodies were created. We have the intellectual thinking and the right body parts to create words with meanings or actions with meanings. Because of the first form of communication we can figure out the origin, culture, history, and development of societies. Anthropologists rely on cultural developments like language to understand evolution. Language in different cultures show the complexity of the species.

Key Figures

Eric Gans

René Girard

Key Texts

Chronicles of Love & Resentment

Generative Anthropology

Introduction to Generative Anthropology

The Origin of Language: A Formal Theory of Representation. University of California Press, 1981.

The End of Culture: Toward a Generative Anthropology. University of California Press, 1985.

Science and Faith: The Anthropology of Revelation. Savage, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1990.

Originary Thinking: Elements of Generative Anthropology. Stanford University Press, 1993.

Signs of Paradox: Irony, Resentment, and Other Mimetic Structures. Stanford University Press, 1997.

The Scenic Imagination: Originary Thinking from Hobbes to the Present Day. Stanford University Press 2007.

A New Way of Thinking: Generative Anthropology in Religion, Philosophy, and Art. Davies Group, 2011


Gans, Eric, and Peter Goldman. "Chronicles of Love & Resentment CDXLV."Chronicles of Love & Resentment CDXLV. N.p., 13 July 2013. Web. 09 Mar. 2015. <>

Gans, Eric. "A Brief Introduction to Generative Anthropology." Introduction to Generative Anthropology. N.p., 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 09 Mar. 2015. <>.

"Generative Anthropology." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 07 Jan. 2015. Web. 09 Mar. 2015. <>.

Images Related to Generative Anthropology

Eric Gans