Anth 459 – Ecological Anthropology



T, Th – 3:30 to 4:45

Alumni 203

Colin Thor West

Office: Alumni 409D (966-5588)

Office Hours: Wed. 2:30 to 5:00 & by appt.



Course Description

Ecological anthropology explores the interface between human populations and their ecological surroundings, viewing culture as both something which influences the natural environment and is in turn shaped by it. It investigates how the human/environment relationship varies cross-culturally, over time, in different socio-political contexts, and in different ecosystems, and seeks explanations for this diversity. With the current ecological crises and assimilation of many non-Western cultures, such investigation takes on added urgency and importance. Our main focus will be current theoretical themes in the field of ecological anthropology, including political ecology, disequilibrium, cultural ecology, development anthropology, climate anthropology and complexity. The books chosen represent a sampling of modern ecological anthropology monographs. The readings span a variety of perspectives but include some classic works along with more contemporary pieces.

Course Format

The course will combine lectures with discussion and student presentations. Weekly lectures will provide background material and theories pertaining both to the corresponding readings and beyond. Discussions will enable us to analyze and evaluate in-depth the human-ecological relationships conceptualized in each work. Weekly discussions will be facilitated by individual students who will be responsible for doing some extra background reading, briefly presenting that information, and leading discussion. Each student will also present their own research project at the end of class based on their final paper.


Vitebsky, Piers. 2005. The Reindeer People: Living with Animals and Spirits in Siberia. Boston: Mariner Books.

Lansing, J. Stephen. 1991 (2007). Priests and Programmers: Technologies of Power in the Engineered Landscape of Bali. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

McCabe, J. Terrence. 2004. Cattle Bring Us to Our Enemies: Turkana Ecology, Politics, and Raiding in a Disequilibrium System. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

McMillan, Della E. 1995. Sahel Visions: Planned Settlement and River Blindness Control in Burkina Faso. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.

Syllabus: Anth459_spring2016

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