The Experimental Anthropology Lab at the Anthropology Department of the University of Connecticut is directed by Dr. Dimitris Xygalatas. It is dedicated to developing a paradigm for studying human culture scientifically in real-life settings. It promotes methodological innovation and integration in the study of human behavior through a combination of in-depth qualitative field research, experimental methods, and advanced technological tools.
Our lab space at UConn’s main campus in Storrs is equipped with state-of-the-art technology for behavioral and physiological monitoring, used to conduct controlled experiments as well as to develop and scrutinize tools and methods to be used in the field. Our field site in Mauritius, called the Mauritian Laboratory for Experimental Anthropology (MALEXA), provides an extensive network of local assistants, collaborators, gatekeepers and field sites, and an ideal setting for naturalistic studies, which in turn generate new questions and a need for new methodological tools. The relationship between our lab and field work is thus dynamic and continuous.
As experimental anthropologists, we view experimentation as a method, as an object of study, and as a research aesthetic. Rather than taking subjects out of context and moving them into sterilized laboratory settings where they become “objects” of experimentation, we seek to take the laboratory into context by moving it into the field. Through this combination of anthropological and experimental techniques, experiments become for anthropologists a new form of obtaining data as well as a new way of being in the field, while at the same time allowing them to problematize some of the standard methods used to study behaviour and reflect on their merits, limitations, and ultimately contribute to their refinement and improvement.
Our main areas of focus include human cooperation, religion, ritual, and music.