Author Archive

The Tropical Food Security Garden

Friday, December 7th, 2007

A little manual for tropical garden development that I wrote up a couple of years ago–I’m waiting for illustrations for it.  Meanwhile it might be useful to anyone interested in development.


Working with Local Knowledge: Environment and Anthropology

Monday, December 3rd, 2007

This is my American Anthropological Association presentation for 2007.

Working with Local Knowledge:  Bringing Environmentalism and Anthropology Together


The Two Wings of the Bird

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

This is a presentation at the Society of Ethnobiology annual meeting, Berkeley, March 2007.  It argues for using “scientific” and “humanistic” methods of description and analysis together, as part of a single agenda.  The great anthropologists of the past did this.  The current “wars” between science and humanistic approaches are counterproductive.


Magic, Science and Religion

Thursday, December 8th, 2005


Malinowski’s classic attempt to separate magic, science, and religion has not worn well.  For some purposes, we now can find it very useful indeed, at least insofar as it separates pragmatic knowledge from unverifiable belief.  However, as Malinowski admitted, traditional societies often categorize knowledge is ways very different from this.  Knowledge of and ethics relating to the nonhuman environment are particularly difficult to describe this way.  A different way to talk about traditional environmental knowledge is as involvement in the world—more or less intense cognitive and emotional relations with nonhuman as well as human “others.”  Often, natural objects are, or contain, spirits that are part of one’s society.  Trying to sort out magic, science, and religion in such cases is useful, and has certainly been useful in the past (in the history of science as well as in anthropology), but perhaps more useful today is to try to understand local concepts of knowledge and interaction.  I present examples from the Maya and the Northwest Coast Native peoples.


Madagascar on My Mind

Thursday, February 10th, 2005

An unpublished paper on current controversies over resource use by traditional and modern societies in Madagascar.  I report some findings of a field team doing research in summer 2004.  As often happens, we found that a middle position worked best.  But read the paper.


The Wodewose

Thursday, February 10th, 2005

A paper on the myth of the “wild man” or “savage” in anthropology, with special reference to the work of Roger Bartra.THE WODEWOSE:
E. N. Anderson
Dept. of Anthropology
Univ. of California, Riverside, CA 92521
Sylvester Woodhouse
San Onofre, CA

SUMMARY  Roger Bartra, in his recent books Wild Men in the Looking Glass (1994) and The Artificial Savage (1997), has brilliantly chronicled the Wild Man, or Wodewose, in European myth and art.  He has connected the stereotypic Wild Man with the image of the savage, or natural man, found in writings of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and the early political economists.  It is reasonably clear that this image, in turn, influenced early ethnology.  Adam Kuper, in “The Invention of Primitive Society,” wonders where the early anthropologists found their conception of savage life.  With Bartra’s help, we can now locate the origin of the concept in hallowed European tradition.  This tradition constructed a mythic savage who was, as Bartra shows, the opposite (often the ironic opposite) of the properly civilized person.  Ethnologists, perforce, made do with this paradigm until extensive field work revealed other, and hopefully more accurate, images.


Wilderness and Political Ecology: A Review

Thursday, February 10th, 2005

My book review of Charles Kay and Randy Simmons’ important book, Wilderness and Political Ecology

Wilderness and Political Ecology. Charles Kay and Randy Simmons (eds.).  University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City.  Illus., bibliography.  ISBN 0-87480-719-0.

The thesis of this book is stated at the beginning:  “Most environmental laws and regulations…assume a certain fundamental state of nature, as does all environmnental philosophy, at least in the United States….  Included in these core beliefs is the view that the Americas were a wilderness untouched by the hand of man…native people are seldom mentioned….  This view of native people…is not scientifically correct.  Moreover we suggest that it is also racist” (Kay and Simmons, “Preface,” p. xi; their italics).  Native people were considerably more numerous than most writers assumed (at least in the early 20th century), and were intensively using and affecting the environment.  Therefore (they continue), we must not only change the received wisdom, we must change the policies.  Overpopulation of game animals at parks like Yellowstone, and fire suppression leading to unnatural fuel buildup and consequent conflagrations, are examples of undesired consequences of forgetting Native American impacts and management strategies.  Indeed, humans have been affecting North America for the entire time that the current climatic regime has been in existence, so whole landscapes and even species have evolved in a human-altered world.