Anthropology, Department of


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Published in THE NEBRASKA ANTHROPOLOGIST, Volume 5 (1980). Published by the Anthropology Student Group, Department of Anthropology, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska 68588


Cultural ecology is based on the interaction of culture, man and environment. To the understanding of this relationship the present paper discusses the origin and development of cultural ecology, the various applications and techniques of cultural ecology by the anthropological discipline, and finally, criticisms and future goals of an ecological anthropology.

Ecology is not an anthropological subdiscipline, nor is it even a standardized approach in anthropology (Bates, 1953). Ecology may be defined as the science dealing with the study of entire assemblages of living organisms and their physical milieus, which together constitute integrated systems (Anderson, 1973:182). More simply, ecology is the study of the structure and dynamics of nature, mankind being a part of nature (Olum, 1975:1). Both of these definitions stem from concepts developed from biology and the biological nature of the world. The dualism which separates the study of "natural environment" from the study of "human environment" had effectively in the past to isolate the natural sciences from the social sciences. The holistic concept of ecosystem -- a type of general system capable of including the activities of man -- has recently gained wide acceptance. The ecosystem conceptually unites the biology, organization, and behavior of man with other animals, plants, and inorganic concepts within a single framework in which the interaction of the components may be studied (Anderson, 1973: 183). This is particularly appealing to anthropology since it allows for the study of the mutually dependent interactions of organic, inorganic, and sociocultural components.

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