Following an M.Phil degree in Russian Literature from the University of Sussex in 1977, I gained my Ph.D in 1987 at the University of London for a thesis on Claude Lévi-Strauss's four-volume work, 'Mythologiques'. I began lecturing in anthropology at the University of East London in 1989 and was appointed professor in 2000. A founding member of the Radical Anthropology Group, since my retirement I have been giving talks and conducting research on human origins in the Department of Anthropology, University College London.
Since the 1960s, I have been exploring the idea that human language and culture emerged in our species not simply by gradual Darwinian evolution but in a process culminating in revolutionary change. In this, I take inspiration from the work of Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, particularly with respect to gender and its relationship to class.
I published my first book, 'Blood Relations: Menstruation and the origins of culture' in 1991. In 1996, I co-founded the EVOLANG (Evolution of Language) series of international conferences, since when I have been prominently involved in debates on the origins of symbolic culture and especially the origins of language.
I became an activist in 1957, when my father took me on the first London-to-Aldermaston march in opposition to nuclear weapons. As a student at Sussex University during the mid-1960s, I was swept up in the political optimism of the period, joining with my friends in opposing the Vietnam war and believing that revolutionary change was both necessary and possible.
I joined the Labour Party in 1966 and am still an active member. In 1980 I was a founder editor of the journal 'Labour Briefing' and remain on the editorial board. My political activism, often described in the press as ‘anarchist’, is considerably wider than this. Over the years, it has included drumming in a samba band and various street theatre performances, some of which have got me into trouble with my university management and/or the London Metropolitan Police.
I have just published a book on Noam Chomsky and am now working to complete a book on the origins of language. My blog is www.scienceandrevolution.org