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

By Kay Milton | Go to book overview

1

ANTHROPOLOGY, CULTURE AND ENVIRONMENTALISM

While anthropologists perform archaistic studies of odds and ends of humanity, municipal authorities struggle with the chemical, geological, economic and political problems of toxic wastes-with little help from social scientists.

(Bennett 1990:435)

Boundaries in social science are not permanent fixtures; they come and go according to context. Sometimes they appear in the arena of academic politics, as the practitioners of each discipline stake out their territories in the contest for student allegiance and financial resources. Sometimes they acquire significance in scientific debate, as specialists in one discipline strain to grasp the subtleties of another's jargon. Illusions of similarity are created by the tendency to use the same terms (structure, function, culture) for different things, and illusions of diversity are created by the opposite tendency to call the same thing by different names. If social science is to meet the challenge of providing interdisciplinary approaches to the environment, we need to know first what each discipline has to offer. Since my main purpose in this book is to explore what anthropology has to offer to environmental discourse, it is important to begin by establishing what is distinctive about anthropology, what makes it different from the other social sciences.


HOW IS ANTHROPOLOGY DIFFERENT?

The most obvious and well-known distinguishing feature is anthropology's interest in non-industrial indigenous and 'traditional' societies, 1 the study of which was initially fostered by colonial expansion. It is this heritage that has given anthropology

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

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgements ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Anthropology, Culture and Environmentalism 8
  • 2 - Culture and Ecology 37
  • 3 - Environmentalism in Social Science 69
  • 4 - Environmentalism and Cultural Diversity 106
  • 5 - Globalization, Culture and Discourse 142
  • 6 - The Culture of Global Environmentalist Discourse 172
  • 7 - Anthropology, Social Science and Environmentalism 213
  • Notes 227
  • Bibliography 236
  • Index 257
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