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Week 2. Concepts and Approaches in Ecological Anthropology and The New Ecological Anthropology. Genesis. The persistence of worldview or cosmology The source of a particular way of being in the world Worldviews are variable between peoples. Genesis as an ecological text.

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Week 2

Week 2

Concepts and Approaches in Ecological Anthropology and The New Ecological Anthropology


  • The persistence of worldview or cosmology

  • The source of a particular way of being in the world

  • Worldviews are variable between peoples

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Genesis as an ecological text
Genesis as an ecological text

  • Animals and humans are different entities from the beginning

  • Humans have dominion over animals and nature

  • There are different kinds of animals and different kinds of people

  • Transformation of nature is fundamental

  • Tension between a settled place of home and expansion to new places

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

  • Ownership over land and animals is given

  • Class and gendered roles are given

  • Transformation of nature through labour (culture) is the key

  • Fecundity is celebrated and a precursor to expansion

  • Suffering and offering/creation and destruction are joined in Western cosmology

  • Where does Carson’s Silent Spring fit in this?

  • Archetype

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Saht d bear river
Sahtú Dé (Bear River)

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Bear rock
Bear Rock

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Norman wells nt
Norman Wells, NT

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Bates chapter 1
Bates - Chapter 1

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Anthropology and the foundations of western worldview
Anthropology and the foundations of western worldview

Society Culture


ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

The evolutionary view darwin and cultural evolution
The evolutionary view - Darwin and Cultural Evolution

  • As a species humans have evolved from a pre-human ancestor. Mechanism is well established in the theory of Natural Selection which operates on genes.

  • A conundrum: Societies and culture also seems to have evolved but there is no specific genetic mechanism associated with cultural evolution.

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Is the change in culture analogous to that demonstrable in genes
Is the change in culture analogous to that demonstrable in genes?

  • A good metaphor is a powerful thing

  • Life is a “river out of Eden” (Dawkins)

  • Change is embedded in the human experience but so is stability

  • Is culture “cumulative” and adaptive like genetic change?

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

What do we mean by culture
What do we mean by culture? genes?

  • Material evidence of past human occupation

  • Ideas we hold about the world

  • Ways of behaving

  • A collective set of values & beliefs

  • The basis for experience

  • The illusion of naturalness

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Anthropological approach to the study of culture
Anthropological approach to the study of culture: genes?

  • Holism

  • Relativism

  • Method

  • Distribution?

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Holism genes?

  • “no complex entity is merely the sum of its parts” (p.4)

  • To understand human life holistically is to understand the relationships between the parts, the parts themselves, and the sum of the parts.

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Relativism ethnocentrism
Relativism/Ethnocentrism genes?

  • Other people’s worlds are informed by a cultural rationality

  • The anthropologist attempts to understand from within the local system of meaning

  • Objectivity, empathy and informed judgment

  • In a relativist perspective absolutes are rare and debatable

  • Questions of scale: Emic and Etic views

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Methods participant observation
Methods - Participant Observation genes?

  • from within

  • on its own terms

  • through participating in it

  • over a long period of time

  • in the local language

  • through local logic

  • often with the help of “Key Informants”

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Data? genes?

  • Direct experience through active engagement

  • Observational field notes

  • Different kinds of Interviews

  • Questionnaires

  • Life histories

  • Kinship data

  • Harvest data/energy flows/food production,preparation, consumption

  • Texts

  • Historical sources

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Cultural construction giving meaning to the world
Cultural construction: Giving meaning to the world genes?

  • The meanings people share are achieved through processes: They are constructions.

  • Gender is a construct that varies between peoples and over time, so is childhood, nature, and just about everything else. Through anthropological methods we can witness the process of meaning making or social/cultural construction. (See Bates on gender & box 1.1)

  • Construction and effect are cyclical

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Memory and transmission
Memory and Transmission genes?

  • Culture resides in our minds, our behaviours, our texts, our language.

  • It ultimately concerns the meanings we attribute to the world and the distribution of those meanings over time.

  • It is frequently cumulative in the sense that innovation is passed on over time.

  • However, forgetting is also a prominent feature of human cultural life.

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Forgotten great zimbabwe
Forgotten: Great Zimbabwe genes?

A highly complex society with evident

hierarchy and sophisticated technology

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Forgotten mayan wetland agricultural system
Forgotten: Mayan wetland agricultural system genes?

  • Assumed that current swidden practices maintained the Mayan empire

  • Only recently discovered a complex agricultural system that no longer exists

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Why forget
Why forget? genes?

  • Choice

  • Force

  • Change

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Is culture adaptive
Is culture adaptive? genes?

  • Culture provides the structure for living and the material for changing.

  • People have occupied the world and beyond.

  • Through culture and technology all ecosystems are human spaces.

  • Culture can also constrain and destroy intentionally and accidentally.

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Is anthropology a science
Is anthropology a science? genes?

  • Hypothesis testing

  • Inductive reasoning

  • Patterns and differences

  • Experimental

  • Variable accumulation

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Kotak the new ecological anthropology
Kotak - The New Ecological Anthropology genes?

  • Old - Optimization, isolation, negative feedback, stasis, political naïveté

  • New - Continual growth in population & consumption, environmental degradation, technological innovation, transnationalism. Policy and solution oriented

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Old genes?

  • Ecological population/ecosytem where geographically limited and bounded. Groups of people were seen to be living the same limits.

  • Groups were seen as relatively self supporting and with limited or insignificant relationships with other groups.

  • Focused on small groups.

  • Core features of culture important-edges and boundaries were not considered.

  • Cognized (emic) Operationalized (etic) models

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

New genes?

  • Reflects a changing discipline and understanding of culture

  • Cultures under contact

  • Environments are shared and power is exerted in their transformation into “resources”

  • It’s not just about subsistence anymore

  • Scale of study is larger, more complex and multi-sited (national, international)

  • Still rooted in the traditional methods and perspectives of the discipline

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

  • Applied - solution oriented genes?

  • Policy and analytically focused

    • Various sources of control over lands and resources often disputed

    • Colonial and post-colonial issues

  • Rights and abuses are of concern

  • Individual and collective survival is a twin issue

  • Flows of people between and within countries have huge ecological effects

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

3 issues for the n e a
3 issues for the N.E.A. genes?

  • Ethnoecological clashes: Developmentalism and Environmentalism

  • Biodiversity conservation

  • Ecological Awareness and Environmental Risk Percpetion

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Methods genes?

  • Linkages methodology

  • Team and multi-sited

  • New tools (Sattelite imagery, maping…)

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

Romer s rule
Romer’s Rule genes?

  • Return to the culture - evolution analogy

  • “innovation that evolves to maintain a system can play a major role in changing that system” (p.33)

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007

ANTHR 323 - Winter 2007