Environmentalism and Cultural Theory: Exploring the Role of Anthropology in Environmental Discourse

Environmentalism and Cultural Theory: Exploring the Role of Anthropology in Environmental Discourse

Environmentalism and Cultural Theory: Exploring the Role of Anthropology in Environmental Discourse

Environmentalism and Cultural Theory: Exploring the Role of Anthropology in Environmental Discourse

Synopsis

Written by Kay Milton, 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.

Excerpt

More than perhaps any other issue, the 'environment' calls upon the social sciences to develop internationally comparative and interdisciplinary approaches.

(Jamison et al. 1990:vii)

…the interpretation of the environment in the social sciences assumes territoriality of its own.

(Benton and Redclift 1994:13)

Anthropologists are in the habit of storing up their favourite anecdotes from fieldwork for appropriate occasions. Here is one of mine. One afternoon during the short dry season of 1979, I was engaged in 'participant observation' in the Kasigau village of Rukanga, weeding the maize crop under the baking African sun with a group of neighbours. One of my companions paused in his work, spat the dust from his mouth and surveyed the shimmering landscape. After some thought, he said, 'We heard a few years ago that some Americans were going to the moon. Is this true? Did they really go?' I assured him that it was true, that I had read about it in the newspapers and seen it on television. He laughed, and those around us joined in the laughter: 'What was the matter with them?' he asked, 'Didn't they have anything to do here on Earth?'

At the time, I treated this open and light-hearted derision of something my own society considered to be a pinnacle of human achievement as a source of insight into the pragmatic character of the culture I was engaged in studying. Fifteen years later, I am more inclined to acknowledge his insight into the follies of my own culture. Today, it seems, we all have a great deal to do on

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