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ECOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY: A CRITICAL RETROSPECTIVE AND PROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS Leslie E. Sponsel University of Hawai`i OUTLINE Introduction Part I - Trends 1. Formation 2. Maturation 3. Diversification Part II - Needs 1. Training 2. Research 3. Integration 4. Application Part III - Priorities 1. Human environmental impact 2. Loss of diversity 3. Resource wars 4. Spiritual ecology Conclusions 1. Radical ecology 2. Security ________________________________________________________________ INTRODUCTION What is the place of humans in nature? What should be the place of humans in nature? What is the relationship between culture and nature? What is the impact of nature on culture, and visa versa? These and related questions are perennial, elemental, and pivotal (Coates 1998, Glacken 1967, Palmer 2001). Anthropologists as well as biologists, historians, philosophers, and theologians have addressed such queries (Adams 1998, Sidky 2004). Moreover, these concerns increasingly have practical as well as intellectual significance in light of the persistent and even worsening environmental crises and problems throughout the world (Pepper 1996, Worster 1994). The purpose of this essay is to provide some introductory and integrative background concerning progress in anthropological research on interactions between humans and nature. First, a few of the more important
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developments from the history of ecological anthropology in the United States during the 20th century will be highlighted. Second, a working list of primary needs, priorities, problems, and issues for ecological anthropology during the first quarter of the 21st century will be presented. This essay also provides information about many different kinds of resources for pursuing ecological anthropology, whether as student, teaching, or researcher. PART I - TRENDS 1. Formation Ecological anthropology appears to have first originated and flourished in the United States of America rather than in Europe or elsewhere. This development may reflect the personal background and experience of its founder, Julian H. Steward (1902-1972), including the environmental and economic problems during the formative period of his work in the 1930s, the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression, respectively. The materialism of American culture in general may be among the other contributing factors. During the first half of the 20th century, Steward was by far the single most important pioneer in the formation of ecological anthropology. In the 1950s-60s, he developed the generic theoretical and methodological framework for what he called cultural ecology, this rooted in his fieldwork during the two previous decades with Shoshone and Paiute in the Great Basin and Plateau region (Steward 1938, 1955, 1968). Steward’s framework persists to this day in various degrees and forms in the research of subsequent ecologically oriented anthropologists, regardless of their criticisms of any specifics in his work (Sponsel 1997a).
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