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Bram Tucker

UGA Arch
Associate Professor
Lab: Behavioral Ecology and Economic Decisions Laboratory

I study how people make ends meet under conditions of risk and change, with a specific focus on Mikea hunter-gatherers, Masikoro farmers, and Vezo fishers in southwestern Madagascar.  I am interested in how cultural institutions such as ancestor veneration and ethnicity influence resource use and social cohesion.  People experience culture as norms or rules for behavior, and as cognitive models for cause and effect relationships.  People employ norms and cultural causal models when strategizing how to feed the family during drought, or whether to participate in new development schemes.  Because culture is inherited and influences behavior, leading to positive and negative outcomes, cultural change may lead to adaptation via Darwinian selection.  I also study the historical and political contexts for cultural changes in Madagascar.  My work involves ethnographic fieldwork and quantitative and qualitative methods.  I work in collaboration with scholars at the Université de Toliara, Madagascar, particularly, Dr. Tsiazonera, Dr. Jaovola Tombo, Patricia Hajasoa, and Rolland Lahiniriko.    

Research Interests:
  • Economic anthropology

  • Ecological anthropology

  • Evolutionary anthropology

  • Household livelihoods

  • Hunting and gathering

  • Agriculture

  • Risk, time, and change

  • Perceived causality

  • Ancestor veneration

  • Ethnicity

  • Inequality and poverty

  • Qualitative and quantitative ethnography

  • Madagascar

  • Africa

Selected Publications:

Tucker, B.  (2022).  Mikea, Malagasy, or hunter-gatherers?  Scale, ethnicity, and cultural groups in ethnographic description and ethnological analysis.  In T. Widlok and Dores Cruz, ed., Scale Matters: The Quality of Quantity in Human Culture and Sociality, pp. 179-204. Transcript Verlag Publishers.

Tucker, B., Ringen, E. J., Tsiazonera, Tombo, J., Hajasoa, P., Gérard, S., Lahiniriko, R. & Garçon, A. H. (2021).  Ethnic markers without ethnic conflict:  Why do interdependent Masikoro, Mikea, and Vezo of Madagascar signal their ethnic differences?  Human Nature, 32(3):529-556. 10.1007/s12110-021-09412-w

Tucker, B. (2020).  Où vivre sans boire revisited: Water and political-economic change among Mikea hunter-gatherers of southwestern Madagascar.  Economic Anthropology 7(1):22-37.

Tucker, B., & Nelson, D. R. (2017). What does economic anthropology have to contribute to studies of risk and resilience?. Economic Anthropology, 4(2), 161-172. doi:10.1002/sea2.12085

Tucker, B. (2017).  From risk and time preferences to cultural models of causality: On the challenges and possibilities of field experiments, with examples from rural southwestern Madagascar.  Nebraska Symposium on Motivation 64: 61-114.

Tucker, B., Tsiazonera, Tombo, J., Hajasoa, P., & Nagnisaha, C. (2015).  Ecological and cosmological coexistence thinking in a hypervariable environment:  Causal models of economic success and failure among farmers, foragers, and fishermen of southwestern Madagascar.  Frontiers in Psychology, Cognitive Science 6:1-16.


2017 - 2023:  National Science Foundation, Cultural Anthropology.  “Testing Multiple Approaches for Understanding Adaptive Functions of Cultural Institutions” (BCS 1733917).

2017:  Wenner-Gren Foundation (with Dr. Kristina Douglass, Columbia University):  “Testing models of cultural change through archaeological survey and oral history among Mikea forager-agropastoralists of SW Madagascar.” 

2007-2009:  National Science Foundation, Cultural Anthropology:  “Subsistence decision-making in southwestern Madagascar:  Coping with poverty or social learning?”  (BCS 0650412).



PhD, Anthropology, University of North Carolina, 2001

Articles Featuring Bram Tucker

Dr. Bram Tucker, an associate professor at the Department of Anthropology, spoke with the UGA Office of Research to share his personal and intellectual evolution that led him to become a cultural…

Associate Professor, Dr. Bram Tucker, along with co-authors: Erik J.

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