Ecological anthropology 1-2

Townsend 2009. the study of relationships between a population of humans and their biophysical environment

Tim ingold man is part of environment not apart from it. So everything effects man and man of everything. 

Julian Steward (1902-1972)  developed the cultural ecology paradigm and introduced the idea of the culture core. He studied the Shoshone of the Great Basin in the 1930s and noted that they were hunter-gatherers heavily dependent on the pinon nut tree. Steward demonstrated that lower population densities exist in areas where the tree is sparsely distributed, thus illustrating the direct relationship between resource base and population density. He was also interested in the expression of this relationship in regards to water availability and management. His ideas on cultural ecology were also influenced by studies of South American indigenous groups

Culture Core: Julian Steward (1955:37) defined the cultural core as the features of a society that are the most closely related to subsistence activities and economic arrangements. Furthermore, the core includes political, religious, and social patterns that are connected to (or in relationship with) such arrangements 

Marvin Harris  (1927-2001) completed fieldwork in Africa and Brazil, but he was best known for his development of cultural materialism.  This school of thought centers on the notion that technological and economic features of a society have the primary role in shaping its particular characteristics. He assigned research priority to concepts of infrastructure over structure and superstructure (Barfield 1997:137). The infrastructure is composed of the mode of production and mating patterns. Structure refers to domestic and political economy, and superstructure consists of recreational and aesthetic products and services. Harris’s purpose was to demonstrate the adaptive, materialist rationality of all cultural features by relating them to their particular environment 

Harris, Marvin. 1992. The Cultural Ecology of India’s Sacred Cattle. Current Anthropology 7:51-66. This article is Harris’s best example of the application of culturalmaterialism, specifically to the Hindu taboo against eating beef.He demonstrates that this taboo makes sense in terms of thelocal environment, because cattle are important in several ways (Milton 1997). Thus, the religious taboo is rational, in a materialist sense, because it ensures the conservation of resources provided by the cattle (Milton 1997). Harris comments upon the classification of numerous cattle as “useless” (Harris 1992:52). Ecologically, it is doubtful that any of the cattle are actually useless, especially when they are viewed as part of ane cosystem rather than as a sector of the price market (Harris1992:52). For example, cows provide dung, milk, and labor, andHarris explores all of these instances thoroughly in this article. He notes that dung is used as an energy source and fertilizer. Nearly46.7% of India’s dairy products come from cow’s milk (Harris1966:53). Harris further states, “The principal positive ecological effect of India’s bovine cattle is in their contribution to production of grain crops, from which about 80% of the human calorie ration comes” (Harris 1966:53). Cattle are the single most important means of traction for farmers. Furthermore, 25,000,000 cattle and buffalo die each year, and this provides the ecosystem with a substantial amount of protein (Harris 1966:54). By studying the cattle of India from a holistic perspective, Harris provides a strong argument against the claim that these animals are useless and economically irrational.

Harold Conklin (1926-2016) is most noted within ecological anthropology for showing that slash-and-burn cultivation under conditions of abundant land and sparse population is not environmentally destructive (Netting 1996:268). Furthermore, he gives complete descriptions of the wide and detailed knowledge of plant and animal species, climate, topography, and soils that makes up the ethnoscientific repertoire of indigenous food producers (Netting 1996:268). He sets the standards for ecological description with detailed maps of topography, land use, and village boundaries (Netting 1996:268). Conklin’s work focuses on integrating the ethnoecology and cultural ecology of the agro ecosystems of the Hanunoo and Ifugao in the Philippines