Indigenous South Americans of the Past and Present: An Ecological Perspective

Indigenous South Americans of the Past and Present: An Ecological Perspective

Indigenous South Americans of the Past and Present: An Ecological Perspective

Indigenous South Americans of the Past and Present: An Ecological Perspective

Synopsis

Utilising ethnographic and archaeological data as well as an updated paradigm derived from the best features of cultural ecology and ecological anthropology, this book examines over 15 South American adaptive systems from the past 13,000 years.

Excerpt

This is an age when anthropology, like other disciplines, has become more and more specialized. Many of its practitioners in the two main subfields-- archaeology and ethnology--are increasingly unable or unwilling to inform themselves about, or even be interested in, the research and publications of their colleagues in other subfields. In fact, archaeologists and ethnologists working in one part of a continent may not have the time or interest to keep up with the research and literature of their colleagues who work elsewhere on that continent. Perhaps even more characteristic of this age, however, is the increasing theoretical fragmentation of the discipline. Many researchers still would classify themselves as adhering to a consistent overarching theoretical structure--for example, ecological anthropology--that requires them to be informed about recent sociocultural phenomena, if they are archaeologists, or about the ancient prehistoric past, if they are sociocultural anthropologists. Nevertheless, there now seem to be almost as many isolated theoretical perspectives as there are faculty in each department. Among these (often mutually exclusive) perspectives, anthropologists may describe themselves as symbolists, interpretivists, structuralists, cognitivists, feminists, medical anthropologists, cultural ecologists, cultural materialists, and so on--that is, if they care to classify themselves as theoretically oriented at all, since some (postmodernists, for example) would prefer unabashedly to be characterized as atheoretical, if not totally antitheoretical.

This book, as suggested by its title, Indigenous South Americans of the Past and Present, in several ways runs counter to these trends. First, it deals with an entire continent rather than focusing on just one of its geographic areas, giving more or less equal weight to the eastern lowlands--the vast area to the east of the Andes that constitutes Venezuela, the Guianas, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay, and Argentina--as it does to the Andes--the narrow mountainous and Pacific littoral area that constitutes much of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Chile. Second, the book focuses as much or more on recent indigenous groups as it does on the prehistoric past. Indeed, in some geographic areas (e.g., Tierra del Fuego, the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and the Central Andes) both archaeological and . . .

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