Environmentalism and Cultural Theory: Exploring the Role of Anthropology in Environmental Discourse (Environment and Society)

Environmentalism and Cultural Theory: Exploring the Role of Anthropology in Environmental Discourse (Environment and Society)

Kay Milton

Language: English

Pages: 276

ISBN: 0415115302

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

The last decade has seen a dramatic increase in the attention paid by social scientists to environmental issues, and a gradual acknowledgement, in the wider community, of the role of social science in the public debate on sustainability. At the same time, the concept of `culture', once the property of anthropologists has gained wide currency among social scientist. These trends have taken place against a growing perception, among specialist and public, of the global nature of contemporary issues. This book shows how an understanding of culture can throw light on the way environmental issues are perceived and interpreted, both by local communities and within the contemporary global arena.
Taking an anthropological approach the book examines the relationship between human culture and human ecology, and considers how a cultural approach to the study of environmental issues differs from other established approaches in social science. This book adds significantly to our understanding of environmentalism as a contemporary phenomenon, by demonstrating the distinctive contribution of social and cultural anthropology to the environmental debate. It will be of particular interest to students and researchers in the fields of social science and the environment.

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reproducing and reinforcing the opposition between mind and body. In an attempt to eliminate the dualism, the term ‘culture’ is being used less to refer to what people know and think, and more to refer to the process by which that knowledge and those thoughts are generated and sustained. In other words, the whole dialectical process outlined above is becoming synonymous with culture itself. Harries-Jones (1986:238) refers to a model of culture in an ‘active’ sense. Culture and action are no

their environments. Their success depends on the extent to which they can persuade others that their interpretation of reality is correct, and that the changes they advocate are important and necessary. Cultural revolutions inevitably acquire theorists who analyse their ideas, examine their underlying assumptions, expose contradictions and inconsistencies. Such scrutiny may not necessarily benefit a cause, and may effectively destroy it if, as a result, its ideology is seen to be fundamentally

anthropologists as constituting human participation in ecosystems usually take the form of activities or patterns of activity, such as household organization and land tenure (Netting 1969), seasonal patterns of subsistence and consumption (Lee 1969) and inter-group trading relations (Ellen 1990). Within the ecosystem model, human activities are seen as equivalent to the behaviour of non-human animals: The slaughter and consumption of a deer by a lion…and by hunters armed with bows and arrows or

spectrum in politics: that the division between left and right is not a useful analytical framework, that environmentalism’s perceived place on the spectrum will vary according to the perspective of the perceiver, that environmentalism really does offer a genuinely new departure from the left-right spectrum, and that the division between left and right is actually reproduced within environmental politics. Eckersley saw the main thrust of radical environmentalism as emancipatory, and suggested

desertification, and a general inability to meet their own basic needs from their environment, are seen as the result of the participation of those countries in the global economy. The widespread African famine of the mid-1980s is often cited as an example: Triggered by drought, its real causes lie deeper. They are to be found in part in national policies that gave too little 146 GLOBALIZATION, CULTURE AND DISCOURSE attention, too late, to the needs of smallholder agriculture and to the

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