Sociology Index

CULTURAL ECOLOGY

Sociology of Environment, Ecology

Cultural Ecology is the study of the interaction between culture and environment. In cultural ecology the surrounding social and physical environment and the effects of culture on environment and of environment on culture is studied.

A central assumption of cultural ecology perspective is the idea that cultures in similar environments will share many characteristics. "Cultural ecology is a convenient, conventional title rather than an invitation to scholarly debate" (Robert McNetting, Cultural Ecology, 1977 edition, p.vi). It has been observed that "cultural ecology is largely an American specialty in anthropology" (Eriksen 1995).

Many of the critical early studies which paved the way for cultural ecology were focused on the indigenous peoples of North America, works which explicitly considered links between culture and environment in terms of 'culture areas.'

It has not been sufficiently recognized that Steward's so-called defining work in cultural ecology is called "The Theory of Culture Change: the Methodology of Multilinear Evolution" not "The Theory of Cultural Ecology." Steward's overriding interest was not to define cultural ecology but rather to understand the processes or causes of the 'evolution' of culture.

The broader strokes of Steward's overall project and emphasis on evolutionary change, however, have directly and continually shaped cultural ecology. Metaphors from evolutionary biology, such as 'adaptation,' have frequently been drawn on by cultural ecologists to describe the processes linking cultures and their environments. On the conceptual as well as methodological level, cultural ecology has consistently reflected an effort to fuse both the ideas and the approaches of natural and social sciences. 

Steward also moved cultural ecology into 'middle range' (Merton) research and theory where it has tended to remain. Cultural ecological studies tend to focus on specific cultures and frequently on specific facets of culture in specific environments. - Cultural Ecology, Catherine Marquette indiana.edu/~wanthro/cultural-eco.htm

Abstracts:

Autocatalysis in cultural ecology: model ecosystems and the dynamics of biocultural evolution. - Geiger G. - Biosystems. 1985;17(3):259-72.
Using a well-known mathematical model frequently applied in theoretical population dynamics, certain ecological mechanisms are investigated that are inherent in the organic evolution of cultural capacities in man. Culture is argued to involve ecological interactions exhibiting analogies to the interaction of chemical species in autocatalytic biomolecular reactions. In the model, biocultural evolution proceeds by more and more broadening ecological niches and, thus, releasing competitive selection pressure on the populations involved.

The Cultural Ecology of the Corporation: Explaining Diversity in Work Group Responses to Organizational Transformation - Marietfa L. Baba, Wayne State University 
The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, Vol. 31, No. 2, 202-233 (1995)
The concepts of human and cultural ecology are extended to explain divergent work group responses to a transformational change program in a Fortune 100 manufacturing corporation. The internal environment of the corporation, specifically the product development process (PDP), is conceptualized as an ecological system containing a diverse population of distinctive work group subcultures. Different ecological zones within the PDP harbor populations that may be distinguished on the basis of work niche and effective environment (including relationships with other work groups and the availability of computing resources).

New Technologies and the Cultural Ecology of Primary Schooling:Imagining Teachers as Luddites In/Deed - Mary Bryson, Suzanne De Castell - Educational Policy, Vol. 12, No. 5, 542-567 (1998)
This article's concern is with discourses of innovation, and it makes some instructive connections between techno romanticist discourses across two "irevolutions ": the industrial revolution at the dawn of the 19th century and the information revolution at the close of the 20th century. Its central question is this: Given the proliferation of futurist and neophilic rhetoric about the "digital revolution" and the wonders of computer-mediated learning, how can we explain teachers' less than enthusiastic participation in bringing about changes involving computers? This article draws on data from a 2-year study of the implementation of new technologies in 12 elementary schools across the province of British Columbia.

THE CULTURAL ECOLOGY OF THE LOCUST CULT IN TRADITIONAL CHINA - SHIN-YI HSU
Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Volume 59 Issue 4 Page 731 - Dec. 1969  
ABSTRACT: A geographic study of the locust cult in China, in relation to its ecological and cultural-historical basis, reveals the fact that there is a very high degree of association (a significant correlation coefficient of 0.88) between the frequency of locust infestations and the number of cult temples established. Temples adhering to different cult systems were built in which to perform propitiatory rituals designed to minimize the plagues of insects, thereby alleviating popular anxiety caused by the depredations. In interpreting this cultural-ecological relationship the concept of social equilibrium was applied to the construction of a stress-and-strain model. Culture is viewed as the human coping process against environmental stress, the locust cult temples and the performed rituals being output products serving to restore social equilibrium.

A History and a Cross-Cultural Study of Motivations for Private Property 
Floyd Webster Rudmin, Cross-Cultural Research, Vol. 22, No. 1-4, i-xiii (1988)
The cultural ecology of private property may be a function of social dominance and escape from social control. 
Cross-cultural research has a history of more than two millennia, and much of it has been concerned with the institution of private property. This emphasis is shown by a review from Aristotle to the Roman Stoics and early Christians, to Aquinas and the Scholastics, to the classical political economists-including Locke, Rousseau, and Marx-to the nineteenth- century comparative sociologists, and finally to the science of society of Sumner and Hobhouse, who are the forefathers of modern quantitative cross-cultural research. In the present study of archived social science data, interpersonal values were examined as predictors of societal attitudes toward the institution of private property. Within societies, these relationships were moderated by societal preference for individual autonomy. Thus, the cultural ecology of private property may be a function of social dominance and escape from social control.

Human ecology: an overview of man-environment relationships
Begossi A., Interciencia. 1993 May-Jun;18(3):121-32. Links 
Cultural ecology, ethnobiology, sociobiology, models of subsistence and of cultural transmission, and applied ecology as parts of human ecology have a common denominator: they all present an ecological basis as continued biological force. Cultural ecology studies the influence of environmental variables on the behavior of human cultures; sociobiology studies the biological bases of behavior; and ethnobiology studies classification systems of nature. The disciplines of anthropology, geography, sociology, and psychology represent specific branches of human ecology. Cultural ecology or ecological anthropology arise from the interaction of ecology with anthropology. Sociobiology evolved since the early 1970s, and it includes the disciplines of classical ethnology, evolutive ecology, and genetics. The interaction of evolutive ecology with ethology helped create sociology. In Brazil the study of human ecology on indigenous human populations deals with cultural ecology, ethnology, and models of subsistence.