Greg is a teacher, writer, and anthropologist who has conducted field research in Brazil, the United States and the Pacific. He has advocated extensively for neuroanthropology — the integration of brain and cultural research to understand how humans induce variation in their own nervous system.


Greg with Louis, chief farm management animal

Greg is the author of Learning Capoeira: Lessons in Cunning from an Afro-Brazilian Art (Oxford, 2005). Greg is also the co-editor, with Daniel Lende, of The Encultured Brain: An Introduction to Neuroanthropology (MIT, 2012), and co-editor with Melissa Fisher of Frontiers of Capital: Ethnographic Reflections on the New Economy (Duke, 2006).

As a teacher, Greg has helped to build Macquarie University’s strength in a range of areas, especially the teaching of human diversity, evolution, psychological variation, and human rights. In 2013, he was chosen for the Vice Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, recognition for his teaching in the Department of Anthropology and his innovative online education (through Open2Study).

Greg lives in Sydney, where he’s also an avid salsa and tango dancer.

This website provides links to many projects and online publications, but it also provides teaching resources, unpublished works, and a host of other resources for those interested in anthropology.

16 thoughts on “About

  1. Did you write an essay on Lévi-Strauss. I saw an article titled “for a greater understanding of the encultured brain and body” and I don’t find his author.
    Thanks for your answer

  2. Hi professor Greg.

    I just finished your “Becoming Human” course.

    First of all i want to thank you professor for being such a good teacher and for explaining things so easy to understand (even for me that i dont speak english very well) and in a very fun and relaxed way and i want to thank all the team at open2study.com and the creators of the internet for giving this knowledge and making this accesible to all the people with an access to a pc like me (greetings from Mexico)

    And well my opinion about human evolution in the future is this: i think that humans are in a certain way libing tools for nature to create specific conditions and tecnology to accelerate the evolutionary process to a degree never seen or experienced before by nature… Our genetic technology, quemistry, computing, will advance life to a stage so big and unlimmited in possibilities that we are on a point that we cant predict what will happen (almost like an evolutionary wormhole) in the next future.

    I think that humans and all life on earth will evolve more on 30 generations no, compared to 300 in the past. (or even way more if we count with genetic advance.)

    I think that there is no such thing as “anti natural” it cannot exist if we come from a natural source (logic)
    And i think all we humans are doing may appear to be a catastrophe or that we are “an evil, creation from satan” jajaja but in the opposite i think everything just fits perfectly in to a evolutionary game, and we have been “blessed” with the abillity and power to mold, direct and PARTICIPATE on the evolution of creation.

    I think nature and evolution kicks ass…

    By the way im also an amateur farmer trying to build my own house at a land i got (i study permaculture and “natural” building (i have a website: http://www.hombresdemaiz.com.mx) i have 12 dogs and i love to hang around with them… If there is anything i could do for you in return for your teachings ill be glad to help.


  3. Just saw this on imgur through reddit. What is the source of the quote? http://i.imgur.com/PqEu0Zo.jpg

    I am an entomologist. I’ve worked a bit with predatory insects in the order Hemiptera. Most of this order are herbivores, with a minority that are predators. I’m wondering if that transition is console t with what this quote was referring to with regard to Homo sapiens?

    • Hi Matthew —
      I think that someone took that quote from an interview that I did with NPR for the show Invisibilia, or maybe it was from one of my lectures on the MOOC, ‘Becoming Human: Anthropology.’ I didn’t create the image and quote though — that’s someone else’s work. Thanks for showing it to me. Interesting choice. Probably wouldn’t have been my choice, but interesting none-the-less.

  4. Arlene Atherton ( former Student columbia)

    I loved you class. It was foundation for VISUAL LINGUISTICS – I ran 2 pilots overseas – see Linked in. All work down – was in auto accident – have brain injury – trying to recover… the linked in profile is old reformated to get US work.
    My doctor wants to talk to you to find out who I was before the accident.

    I hope you can help out

    Major lawsuits – presently busted… accident case on top of mortgage fraud… Need to win to get it back. Started several tech/culture projects overseas.

    call me 608-373-4230

  5. Hello Prof. Downey,

    I’m a soon-to-be graduate of Neuroscience and want to work on cultural/social neuroscience/neuroanthropology. Therefore, I am thinking of having a second master degree in social anthropology but have to wait a year for this. I’ve read some of your works and am interested in your lectures, especially in ‘becoming human’. I wonder, even though I am not a student of Macquarie University, would it be possible to visit your lectures?

    Thank you and best!

  6. Hi Professor Downey,

    I just read your article “Producing Pain.” I really enjoyed it and it’s helped me to think through some parts of my own research. One additional aspect of the UFC case that, I think, fits into your argument concerns weight classes: how they’re determined, how fighters determine their suitability for a particular weight class (i.e., whether to cut or add weight), and how they achieve their fighting weight in practice.

    Fox example, there’s an interview between Joe Rogan and Jeff Novitzky that discusses how a prospective ban on using IV bags to rehydrate before a fight might affect the amount of weight fighters can cut and therefore who fights in certain weight classes, as well as whether the UFC would then need restructure its weight classes to accommodate a ban on this rehydration technique. Rogan says that the 20-pound increments between weight classes in the UFC is a lot more than other fighting sports, such as boxing, so I think another example of a rule structuring the bodily techniques of fighter. These comments begin around the 30-minute mark, here, if you’re interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR7IqzwgGeU&feature=em-share_video_user


  7. Hi Greg

    I teach a course called Anthropology Today at U Auckland. It’s a bit of a challenge as I teach in areas well beyond my expertise and the course gets re-shaped pretty much completely every two years. This year I included epigenetics and. Neuroanthropology. I was able to use your book, but also I found your prezzis from Anthro 207 gave me a base for the teaching ( I used mostly material from consciousness and insanity –fully credited, of course). The students loved it, as did I. I just want to thank you for your generosity in making the material available.
    Maureen Molloy

  8. Greg,

    I purchased The Encultured Brain, and I am very interested in studying this novel approach of study in my work. I worked for the Washington DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education, and support the DC Public School district and charter schools in support of Career Technical Education programs. In seeking to find scalable approaches towards getting students to be more engaged with their studies, I am especially interested in how trauma, depression, violence and other dysfunctional social habits interrupt and inhibit learning and positive social interaction.

    Here are some of the questions/issues I ponder:

    1) How slavery, institutionalized racism, and microagressions in the age of a “post-racist” America impacts anxieties among people of color, and how they treat their own and how they think or interface with whites;

    2) Why and how anxiety, depression and other emotional issues are passed down genetically and differentiated by ethnicity and color based upon our ancestors’ experiences;

    3) Considering innovative methods for engaging students of color at low performing schools to perform and place a greater value on education.

    Please email me at joe.x.green.3@gmail.com, and recommend for me additional books, articles and potential course of study I can take in this field.


    Joe Green

  9. Dear Professor,

    Your Open2Study course changed key aspects of my worldview. I would love to see a course on human sexual selection. How was sex when we first appear, then as hunter gatherers, and what customs from our early evolutionary existance generate “conflict” in today´s modern world (agro-posindustrial society). What about Poliginy? why do we have certain anatomic features (breasts and Clithoris?) mating was always private? Female orgasms? incest? abortion. Something along the lines of Robert Sapolsky, Jared Diamond, Yuval Harari and your work.

    Thank you very much

  10. Hi professor, i found your book “Frontiers of capital” in an used book store and decided to read it. I liked it so much im trying not to end It too quickly, its probably one of the best books i have ever read. I was wondering If you could tell me some other good book titles that you think are interesting and constructive to read.

  11. DreamJacques; Bonjour de Marseille (France) cher Professeur Greg Downey. — the integration of brain and cultural research to understand how humans induce variation in their own nervous system. For me it is perfect, because.
    I am an artist-researcher in the field of vestibular rehabilitation, and the development of neuro-motor skills in adults. The founding idea represents a complex movement in the application of avoidance of the fall of the body. I am self-taught in art as in science, and I aim for the goal of also achieving health. In the end of the study of this project, perhaps it would be closer to the vestibular learning of our pre-human ancestors? That is, vestibular learning of erect posture and locomotion. In fact, I would be the first dancer interpreter under the constraining difficulty of a scene coated with liquid soap. Here are video links : danseur excentrique, on youtube. (movies are not top quality at the moment, but everyone can write and criticize by message). Do you have an opinion to share on the axis of my research or dance style as you enjoy and practice salsa and tango.
    I thank you for your kind attention, cordially. DreamJacques.

Leave a Reply to Felipe Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s