The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill
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In this work Tim Ingold offers a persuasive approach to understanding how human beings perceive their surroundings. He argues that what we are used to calling cultural variation consists, in the first place, of variations in skill. Neither innate nor acquired, skills are grown, incorporated into the human organism through practice and training in an environment. They are thus as much biological as cultural.
The twenty-three essays comprising this book focus in turn on the procurement of livelihood, on what it means to 'dwell', and on the nature of skill, weaving together approaches from social anthropology, ecological psychology, developmental biology and phenomenology in a way that has never been attempted before. The book revolutionises the way we think about what is 'biological' and 'cultural' in humans, about evolution and history, and indeed about what it means for human beings - at once organisms and persons - to inhabit an environment.
Reissued with a brand new preface, The Perception of the Environment is essential reading not only for anthropologists but also for biologists, psychologists, archaeologists, geographers and philosophers.
is as organisms rather than persons. This is the natural domain of organism-environment interactions, as distinct from the social domain of interpersonal relations. In Figure 3.2 (upper diagram) this result is indicated schematically. There is a profound irony here. Was not the principal objective to counteract that ‘naturalisation of the hunter-gatherer economy’ which, as Sahlins comments (1976: 100), has formed the received anthropological wisdom, in favour of an account sensitive to the
who turn to him, and both know of this fact’ (Schutz 1970: 163). Humans may of course be unique in their capacity to narrate such encounters, but no-one can construct a narrative, any more than they could build a model, who is not already situated in the world and thus already caught up in a nexus of relations with both human and non-human constituents of the environment. The relations that Cree have with the latter are what we, outside observers, call hunting. PERCEIVING THE LANDSCAPE Life,
from hearing, and when it comes to people’s pragmatic, ﬁrst-hand experience of moving around in the environment, they are so closely intertwined as to be inseparable (Smith 1998: 413–14, see also Chapter Fourteen, pp. 276–81). I suspect that this is as true for the Ojibwa as it is for the Chipewyan, and therefore that vision and hearing are not, in fact, sharply differentiated in their practice.14 Before leaving the topic of hearing and speech, one more issue remains to be dealt with. It arises
them. I have already shown how, in an animic system, the regeneration of the lifeworld depends Totemism, animism and the depiction of animals • 123 • 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3111 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 40 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 118 upon the maintenance of balance in the reciprocal give-and-take of vital force. Animals give life to humans, but humans should receive only what is offered rather than seek to extract vitality by forcible or violent means. For otherwise the
than to conceal that of its human bearer behind an animal disguise, its appearance is nothing like the animal’s facial covering. The standard features of the maskface include eyes, mouth and nostrils. On perceiving these features we are inclined to regard the face as human, or at least human-like, in appearance, and there is some evidence that native people did the same, thus supposing that animal spirits are human in form (Oosten 1992: 115–16). Yet the faces on many masks are so grotesquely