Environmentalism: The View from Anthropology

Environmentalism: The View from Anthropology

Environmentalism: The View from Anthropology

Environmentalism: The View from Anthropology


Located in a wide spectrum of current research and practice, from analyses of green ideology and imagery, enviromental law and policy, and local enviromental activism in the West to ethnographic studies of relationships between humans and their enviroments in hunter/gatherer societies, Enviromentalism: The View from Anthropology offers an original perspective on what is probably the best-known issue of the late twentieth century.
It will be particularly useful to all social scientists interested in environmentalism and human ecology, to environmental policy-makers and to undergraduates, lecturers and researchers in social anthropology, development studies and sociology.


Proposing a conference theme can be like casting seeds to the wind, not knowing where they will fall, nor whether germination will be fast or slow, nor what fruits might eventually be born. So it was with the theme of the 1992 Conference of the Association of Social Anthropologists. 'Anthropological perspectives on environmentalism' represented a tentative step into unknown territory. Would colleagues come forward with enthusiasm, or maintain an uninterested silence?

The theme was motivated by a concern that an important public debate, perhaps the most important of our time, was proceeding without a significant input from anthropology. In a field dominated by the natural sciences, social scientists have, in any case, struggled for recognition, and those who have made the greatest impact have been sociologists, geographers and, most especially, economists. And yet, it seemed indisputable that anthropology, which has explored the breadth of human possibilities, should have something important to contribute to the search for a viable future.

The theme was also motivated by a sense of ignorance and personal isolation. My own research on green issues had brought contact with environmental activists and social scientists of other disciplines, but not with fellow anthropologists. Was environmentalism not recognized among anthropologists as an important object for analysis, or were others also working in relative isolation from their colleagues? The time for an exchange of views seemed long overdue.

In the event, germination was slow but sure; what started as a tentative step became an enlightening venture of which this volume is the outcome. The interdisciplinary nature of the environment as a field of study helped to shape the character of both the conference and this volume. Although it was envisaged primarily as an opportunity to explore anthropological perspectives on environmental issues, it was felt important to do this through a dialogue with other disciplines. For this reason, contributions were invited from specialists in sociology, law and geography (and some of mixed ancestry), as well as anthropologists.

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