intro course/envt

Sat, 28 Oct 1995 10:16:44 EST

Bonnie and Dan asked about an introductory course in anthropology and
an ecological text. I am replying to both of you at the same time,
because I teach intro anthro, within an ecological perspective,
rather than the 4 fields. I find the 4 fields a splinter-approach,
and prefer an ecological 'holistic' perspective.

I teach the intro course by suggesting that sociocultural
behavior is a functional adaptation to a particular biomic reality.
That is, the envt potentialities and limitations are real, and, how
does one live in that envt? can't grow wheat in the arctic, do you live? Human beings are able to adapt to multiple
biomes, because their adaptation is social rather than genetic. So,
we start the course by considering the '3 levels' (of the Material
Reality, Group Reality and Individual Reality)..and then see the
different adaptations to different biomes. Begins with Hunters &
Gatherers, and considers the varied (but functionally similar) biomes
they inhabit, the
restrictions of that biome..and this makes the life-style of these
people eminently sensible and productive. We consider that the only
other technology functional within those biomes - would be industrial
(and it has its problems too). Then, we go onto Agricultural..which
is split into 5 sections: Swidden/Horticulture; Pastoral Nomadic;
irrigation; Early Rainfall; Late Rainfall. We do the same thing
here, which is to first explore the biome, then discuss the
technological, sociocultural adaptations that make living functional
within that biome. We discuss all six social systems within this
adaptation (economic, political, legal, religious, kinship, and
educational). Then, we discuss both early and late industrialism.
I attempt to give the students an overview of life within each biome;
we discuss problems and limitations of not merely the biome, but that
particular adaptation..and then discuss what happens/happened when
change became necessary - either because of problems within the
society (overpopulation) or from external reasons (colonization). We
discuss change as an overturning of a particular adaptation..a quite
traumatic event. All of this takes place within one term.

The second part of the course (some students only take the 1st term,
as we operate on a semester system), is a more in-depth analysis of
the 6 social systems (economic, political, legal, religious,
kinship/family and educational) but again, considers them as
particular forms of adaptation, each interwoven with the other.

Ecological texts include, besides Netting, a VERY simple one by
Bernard Campbell called Human Ecology. However, for a senior level, I
would suggest Emilio Moran, Human Adaptability: An Introduction to
Ecological Anthropology. Westview Press, 1982. Really very good. He
has a large biblio in the back of this text.

Edwina Taborsky
Bishop's University Phone: (819)822.9600
Lennoxville, Quebec Fax: (819)822.9661
Canada JIM 1Z7