Edward (Ted) Fischer is the Director of Latin American Studies at Vanderbilt University.
Fischer studies cultural anthropology, specializing in matters of economics and moralities. Most of his fieldwork has been in Guatemala (with the Maya) but he has also worked in and written on Germany and the United States. His books include “Cultural Logics and Global Economies,” “Maya Cultural Activism,” and “Broccoli and Desire.” With Peter Benson he is now working on a project titled “Markets and Moralities.” He also has a video series out from The Teaching Co. titled “Peoples and Cultures of the World.”
He received his PhD, in anthropology at Tulane University and his undergraduate degree from University of Alabama at Birmingham after studying at Birmingham-Southern College.
Question: Is there a seven-year itch?
Ted Fischer: On the one hand, we could say again from an evolutionary perspective it makes sense for women to want to remain committed to one partner or a small number of partners, and for men to have as many partners as they can. Because women are limited in many ways in how many children they can have. And if our biology is telling us we have to reproduce, that that’s our purpose here on Earth, we have to reproduce and have a successful as children as possible. Women only have a period of, maybe 30, 40 years in which they can have children, and then you have nine-month gestation period, and then you have several months after which most women are infertile after they give birth. And so, women can only have so many children in their life times. So mathematically, if we looked at this mathematically, it makes sense for women to try and keep a pair bond going. And then for men, to keep a solid pair bond and then to have other relationships on the side. It’s sort of an insurance plan, a backup plan. And some would say that men have an infidelity gene. That we are biologically conditioned to cheat. And again, I would say whether that’s true or not, and we really can’t say culture is powerful enough to overcome those things. And in either direction it’s powerful enough that, you know, many men, I don’t know if most, I really don’t know the statistics on this, but many men are faithful to their partners. And so, we can overcome any sort of biological imperative that we have not to. On the other hand, there have also been times and places where people don't look askance at having extramarital affairs, and as long as you’re a good husband, and you provide for your family, and you know, you sleep around a little bit, or you have a mistress, or whatever it may be. And not even, you know, look at France today, it’s much more acceptable for a French politician to keep a mistress than for an American.