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Ecological Anthropology

Author(s): Benjamin S. Orlove


Source: Annual Review of Anthropology, Vol. 9 (1980), pp. 235-273
Published by: Annual Reviews
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Ann.Rev.Anthropol.1980.9:235-73
Copyright
i 1980 byAnnualReviewsInc. All rightsreserved

ECOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY

+9656

Benjamin S. Orlove
Divisionof Environmental
Studiesand Departmentof Anthropology,
Universityof California,Davis, California95616

INTRODUCTION
Ecologicalanthropologymaybe definedas the studyof the relationsamong
the populationdynamics,socialorganization,andcultureof humanpopulations and the environmentsin which they live. It includescomparative
researchas well as analysesof specificpopulationsfrom both synchronic
and diachronicperspectives.In manycases,systemsof productionconstitute importantlinksamongpopulationdynamics,social organization,culture, and environment.Definedas such, ecologicalanthropologyprovides
a materialistexaminationof the rangeof humanactivityand thusbearsan
affinityto other materialisticapproachesin the social and biological
sciences.

Reviewarticlescanbe criticalor encyclopedic;this one adoptsthe former


approach.It presentsthe developmentof ecologicalanthropology,not as
a smoothaccumulationof informationandinsights,but as a seriesof stages.
Eachstageis a reactionto the previousone ratherthanmerelyan addition
to it. The first stage is characterizedby the work of JulianStewardand
LeslieWhite,the secondis termedneofunctionalism
and neoevolutionism,
and the thirdone is calledprocessualecologicalanthropology.In all three
cases,this articlediscussesthe theoreticalassumptionsandmethodological
approaches,and examinesa few representative
studies.It reviewsthe links
to biologicalecologyand analyzesthe mechanismsof change.It is in these
areasthat processualecologicalanthropologyis particularlystrong.It thus
adoptsa more historicalapproachthan the positivistslant of recenttexts
in the field (123, 194, 205).
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Thisarticlefocusesprimarilyon workin socialanthropology.It contains


relativelylittlearchaeology.The treatmentof demographyis brief;forother
studies of demographicanthropology,see (181, 229, 340). The primary
focusis on social,economic,andpoliticalactivityandideology;thereis only
brief treatmentof what has been termed"biosocialecology"(321). The
relationbetweenenvironmentsand humanphysiology,nutrition,disease
and the like, thoughpartof humanecology,is not discussedin this article,
althoughsomework(166a,236, 249) in ecologicalanthropologyexamines
these topics.

THE FIRST STAGE OF ECOLOGICAL


ANTHROPOLOGY:JULIAN STEWARD
AND LESLIEWHITE
Ecologicalanthropologyowes its existenceto a numberof swingson intellectualpendulums.Statedbriefly,it emergedfromthe reactionto the incautious culturalevolutionismassociatedwith Morgan,Tylor, and othersin
the nineteenthcentury.In this period,a numberof writersdevelopedmodels of culturalevolution.Thespecificdetailsof the modelsandsomeaspects
of the conceptualization
of culturevaried,but the writerssharedthe assumptionthat all culturescouldbe placedin a smallnumberof stagesand
that culturestended to move through these stages in a relativelyfixed
sequence.Morgan,one importantfigurein this school,establisheda set of
sevenevolutionarystageswhichMarxandEngelsencounteredandutilized.
The culturalevolutionisticapproacheswereovercomeby the datawhich
they attemptedto order;the reactionto themled to the institutionalization
of anthropologyas an academicdiscipline.The increasinglydetailedevidenceof complexcultureandsocialorganizationamongallegedlyprimitive
groupsmadeit difficultto relegatethem to morebackward,earlierstages.
The reactionto culturalevolutionismtook differentformson oppositesides
of the Atlanticand thus brokea relativelyhigh degreeof intellectualconsensus.Anthropologistsin America,led by Boas at ColumbiaUniversity,
questionedthe unilinearityof the evolutionaryschemesandthe assumption
of progressinherentin evolution.They acceptedthe interestin cultural
processand change,but lookedmoreprudentlyfor detailsof each case of
culturechange,examiningwhethertraits were diffusedor independently
inventedand how they werereworkedby each culturethat adoptedthem.
The schoolthattheyformedhasbeenaptlynamedhistoricalparticularism.
faceda differentissuewhichthe culturalevoluThe Britishanthropologists
tionistshad not resolved,the natureof the forcesthat unitedthe different
elementsof a givencultureor stageof cultures.Focusingon societiesrather
thancultures,theyfoundthatthe diverseelementsservedcertainfunctions,

ECOLOGICALANTHROPOLOGY

237

althoughdifferentauthorsdid not agreeon the natureof these functions.


They also observedthat the elements formed coherentstructures.The
influenceof Britishsocialanthropology,itself changedsomewhatover the
decades,hasbegunto be felt in ecologicalanthropologyonly recently(36a);
the historyof ecologicalanthropologyfor manyyearsremainedprimarily
American.
Ecologicalanthropologyemergedfrom the Boasianschool of historical
particularism
(136,223).It canbe seenas havingpassedthroughtwo stages
andnow enteringa third.The term"stage"is usedto referto a set of works
that share theoreticalapproaches,modes of explanation,and choices of
researchproblems.The term also suggeststhat the stagesfollow one anotherchronologicallyand that each is an intellectualoutgrowthof the one
thatprecededit. Thefirststageranfromabout1930to 1960,andthe second
fromabout1960to the early1970s.Thesedatescannotbe exact,sincemany
writerscontinueto employearlierapproachesafter new ones have been
introduced.In addition,someresearchershaveshiftedfromone stageto the
next,butothershaveremainedwiththe previousones.The stagesthusrefer
to analyticalframeworksratherthan to specificperiodsin time or the
writingsof specificindividuals.
As an intellectualendeavor,contemporaryecologicalanthropologycan
be clearlyattributedto two individuals:JulianStewardand LeslieWhite.
Thesemenshareda strongBoasiantraining;Stewardat BerkeleyandWhite
at Chicagowereboth taughtby studentsof Boas, who had foundedthese
departments(Alfred Kroeberand Robert Lowie, Fay CooperCole and
EdwardSapir,respectively.)It is an apparentparadoxthat Steward,who
receivedmore contactwith individualsoutsidethis Boasiancircle in his
graduatestudentdays,madethe less definitivebreakwithhistoricalparticularism.
Steward'sworkin ecologicalanthropologywas motivatedby a consistent
set of intellectualconcerns(177). His contactat Berkeleywith the noted
geographerCarl Sauerled him to examinethe effect of environmenton
culture.Thisinterestcharacterizes
his earlypostdoctoralworkin the Great
Basin and his later more comparativework elsewhere.(Sauer also influencedDaryllForde,one of the moreecologicallyorientedBritishsocial
anthropologists.)
His "methodof culturalecology"(292,294)demonstrates
his materialistemphasis.This method entails the study of the relation
betweencertainfeaturesof the environmentandcertaintraitsof the culture
possessedby the sets of people living in that environment.Within the
environment,Stewardemphasizedthe quality,quantity,anddistributionof
resources.The aspectsof culturethat he examinedmost closelyweretechnology,economicarrangements,
social organization,and demography,althoughhe includedotheraspectsas well. Stewardstressedthe fact that the

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environmentinfluencedonlycertainelementsof a culture,whichhe termed


the "culturecore";other elementsof culturewere subjectto the autonomousprocessesof culturehistorywhichthe morestrictBoasiansdiscussed.
Stewardwas particularlyinterestedin findingwhat he termed"regularities,"or similaritiesbetweenculturesthat recurin historicallyseparateor
distinct areas or traditions,and which may be explainedas a result of
similarenvironmental
features.Theseregularitiesareanalyticallysimilarto
the individuallinesof changewhichhe examinedin his approachof multilinearevolution.By introducingthe conceptof "levelof socioculturalintegration,"he began effortsto integratethe study of small-scale"tribal"
isolateswith that of complexsociety and large sociopoliticalunits.
His methodpermittedboth synchronicanalysesof static equilibriaand
diachronicanalysesof both long-termand short-termevolutionaryprocesses(196). His early(289) workon prehistoricsocietiesof the American
Southwestdemonstrates
his interestin a specificarea.His laterevolutionary
workwas moreambitiousand comparative;a changemaybe noted(40) in
the shifts from the ambiguouscategorizationsof the Handbookof South
AmericanIndians (291) to the stronglyevolutionistanalysisof irrigation
civilizations(290) to the later,morecautiousworkssuch as the controlled
comparisonof two Indiangroupsin North and SouthAmerica(197) and
a generalreviewof culturalevolution(293, 295).
LeslieWhite'srelationto the Boasiantraditionwas somewhatdifferent.
Like Steward,he wrotea historicalparticularistdissertation,but he made
a sharpbreakwith that approachsoon after.He taughtat Buffalo,where
he visitedthe IroquoisandreadMorgan'swork.A tripto the SovietUnion
in 1929impressedhim withMarxism,andhe foundthatthe worksof those
two figureswerecloselyassociated.He becamevirtuallyobsessedwith the
extremerejectionof culturalevolutionismthat was currentthemand dedicatedmuchof his intellectualcareerto effortsto restoreit to respectability
within anthropology.

WhitesharedSteward'semphasison cultureas the unit of analysisand


his interestin culturalevolution;his partitioningof cultureinto technological, social,andideologicalcomponentsgavehim a materialiststancegenerally similarto Steward's.Whitewas moreconcernedwith the broaddetails
of evolutionthan with specificadaptations,however,and he also directed
relativelylittle attentionto the influenceof environmenton particularcultures. Insteadhe emphasizedlevels of energy use as the determinantof
culturalevolution(328), a point which has continuedto hold importance
for anthropology(2a). Althoughhis proposedscienceof culturologynever
achievedthe fame that he had hopedfor, his stresson the consistencyof
culturalevolutionhas had a broadinfluence.

ECOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY 239
Despitetheirsimilarities,therewereseveralfundamentaldifferencesbetweenthesetwo foundersof ecologicalanthropology.Whitewas unwilling
to admitthe utilityof othertheoreticalframeworks,but Stewardspecifically
designatedthe areaswhere other approaches,such as historicalparticularism,couldcomplementhis ownwork.In bothsynchronicanddiachronic
studies,Whitewas muchless interestedin adaptationof groupsto specific
environmentsthanStewardwas. Finally,althoughthe distinctionis not as
rigid as some critics have made it out to be, White'smodels of cultural
evolution were unilinearand monocausal,whereas Stewardadmitteda
numberof differentlinesof culturaldevelopmentand a numberof different
causalfactors.Thesedifferencesposeda problemthat was simultaneously
intellectualand sociological;not only did many anthropologistswish to
resolvethe theoreticaldisagreementsbetweenthe two, but they soughtto
avoidfactionalismin specificinstitutionalsettingssuchas academicdepartments.

THE SECOND STAGE OF ECOLOGICAL


ANTHROPOLOGY:NEOEVOLUTIONISMAND
NEOFUNCTIONALISM
The attemptsto addressthe similaritiesand differencesof Stewardand
Whitemarkthe secondstageof ecologicalanthropology.Boldlyoversimplifying,one could arguethat thereare two maintrendsin this secondstage:
the neoevolutionists,who claimedthat Stewardand Whitewereboth corwho arguedthat they were both wrong.
rect, and the neofunctionalists,

Neoevolutionism
The neoevolutionists,drawinginspirationfromthe centennialof Darwin's
publication,TheOriginofSpecies,establisheda seriesof evolutionarystages
and used the notionsof specificand generalevolution(266a)to accommodate Steward'smethodof culturalecology to White'swork on unilineal
evolution.The term neoevolutionismserves to distinguishtheir writings
from those of earlierevolutionistssuch as Tylor and Morgan.General
evolution,which tends to be unilinear,includedfeaturesfrom Steward's
work (level of integration)as well as from White's(energyuse per capita
peryear).ElmanService(276), for example,dedicatedhis PrimitiveSocial
Organization:
An Evolutionary
Approachto Stewardand White. General
evolutionstronglyresemblesthe long discardedview in biologythat evolution is progressiveand leads towardnew and betterforms in succeeding
periods. Much of this work has involved the establishmentof a small
numberof evolutionarystages.Theseformulationsalso show the influence

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of Polanyi's(230)notionof threetypesof economies,basedon reciprocity,


redistribution,
and marketexchange.Someworkexaminescasesof apparent culturalregressionor movementfrom a higher to a lower stage of
culturalevolution.The debate(19, 46, 118, 173)on the abilityof the humid
tropicalforestto supportlargecomplexsocietiesreflectsthis discussion.By
markingout cases of regressionas exceptional,it servesto reinforcethe
generalorthogenetictoneof neoevolutionism.
The moremultilinearspecific
evolutionrelies closely on Steward'swritings.Adoptingtechniquesfrom
generalsystems theory, archaeologistsand social anthropologistsin the
neoevolutionistschool have collaboratedin the study of the origins of
agricultureandthe emergenceof the state.In the latter,for example,there
has been considerabledebateon severaltopics:whetherthe existenceof
socialstratification
precededor followedthe originsof the state(101, 207),
the analyticalpowerof certaincausaltheoriesof stateformation(39, 277),
the universalityof patternsof pristinestateformation(278), andthe utility
of the distinctionbetweenpristineor primaryand secondarystates (338).
Severalreviewarticleson thissubjecthaveappearedrecently(95, 144,336).

Neofunctionalism
The neofunctionalist
schoolrepresentsa secondline of resolutionof Steward and White.It is associatedwith MarvinHarrisand the earlywork of
AndrewVaydaand Roy Rappaport;like the firstline of resolution,it was
concentratedfora numberof yearsat Columbiaand Michiganuniversities.
The termneofunctionalism
is used becausethe followersof this approach
see the socialorganizationand cultureof specificpopulationsas functional
adaptationswhich permitthe populationsto exploit their environments
successfullywithout exceeding their carrying capacity. This approach
differsfromotherfunctionalistapproachesin the socialsciencesin that the
unit whichis maintainedis a populationratherthan a socialorder.It also
differsfrom the treatmentof adaptationin biologicalecologyby treating
populationsratherthan individualsas the units which adaptto environments.It formsa school,althoughtherearedifferencesbetweenindividuals
in it (Harris'sgreaterconcernwith causality,Vaydaand Rappaport'swith
systemfunctioning),andsomemembershaveshiftedtheirtheoreticalposition in recentyears.
In general,neofunctionalists
explainspecificaspectsof social organizationandculturein termsof the functionswhichtheyservein adaptinglocal
populationsto theirenvironments.A close parallelmightbe notedbetween
White'stechnological,social, and ideologicalcomponentsof cultureand
Harris'sdivisionof socioculturaladaptationsinto ecologicalpatterns(inand demographicaspects),social structure,
cludingtechnoenvironmental

ECOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY 241
andideology(129),whichreappear,in slightlymodifiedform,as infrastructure, structure,and superstructure
(131), with a strongsimilarityevident
to the Marxistconceptof modeof productionand its componentsof forces
of production,relationsof production,and superstructure.However,it
wouldbe moreaccurateto agreewith the membersof the neofunctionalist
school and dwell on the sharpdiscontinuitybetweentheir work and that
of Stewardand Whiteinsteadof the similarities.They adoptlocal populations rather than culturesas their units of analysis.They examinethe
interactionbetweenenvironmentsand populationsratherthantreatingthe
environmentas a passivebackgroundwhich shapesculturebut is not influencedby it, andtheirmethodologyis moreexplicit,rigorous,andquantitative than that of earlierwriters.They are concernedto adopt concepts
frombiologicalecology,althoughthey often use these conceptsin a naive
or outdatedfashionbecauseof the weakhistorical,institutional,and interpersonallinksbetweenanthropologyandbiologicalecology.Specificterms
whichwereborrowedincludeadaptation,niche,and carryingcapacity(11,
121, 122, 183,243, 339), althoughtherewerenumerousproblemswith all
three cases (35, 137, 175, 182, 216, 296). [For more thoughtfultreatment
of the conceptof adaptation,see Alland(4) andVayda(310);therearealso
a few cases (106, 175) of appropriateuse of the niche concept.]Their
uncriticaluse of Wynne-Edwards'
notions of group selectionis another
exampleof this problematicborrowing;examples(205)of the uncriticaluse
of this conceptcan be foundmorethan 10 yearsaftera devastatingattack
on it had been published(331). Like the neoevolutionists,this school is
influencedby systemstheory,both generally,in its choice of homeostatic
equilibriummodels, and specifically,in its concernwith energy flow in
ecosystems(72).

Neoevolutionism
and NeofunctionalismCompared
The neofunctionalistand neoevolutionistschools tend to follow certain
trendswithinbiologicalecology.They focus on regularitiesin ecosystemlevelprocess.In this approach,humanpopulationsarebelievedto function
withinecosystemsas otherpopulationsdo, and the interactionof different
humanpopulationsis like the interactionof differentspecieswithinecosystems (313). This approachleadsto an emphasis(237) on energyand nutrient cycling. They also adopt a view of ecosystemsas relativelytightly
integrated,andthey accepta seriesof conceptsthat areassociatedwith the
notionof "succession,"or the orderlyand regularreplacementof species
in a disturbedecosystemovertimeas it goesfroma "pioneer"to a "climax"
stage. More "mature"ecosystemsare supposedto be more complex,diverse,stable,and efficient.[Rappaport's(236) comparisonbetweenTsem-

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bagasocietyand Polynesiankingdoms,for example,followsthis view.] It


is not surprisingthat severalof the most frequentlycited ecologytexts are
the differenteditionsof E.P. Odum'sFundamentalsof Ecology(209).
The neofunctionalistsand neoevolutionistshave examinedthe mechanisms which link social structureand cultureto the environment.They
followbiologicalecologistsin emphasizingsurvivalandreproductionas the
goalsof organisms(165),andtheythereforeemphasizepopulationpressure
as one of the principalmechanismsof change(124). Unlikebiologists,they
do not have a principlelike naturalselectionwhich generatesthese goals,
and insteadtend to fall back on implicitand poorlyoperationalizedconcepts of adaptation.Systemsshouldtend towardhomeostaticequilibrium
(238, 239), with populationsat or close to carryingcapacity;population
growthabove these limits induceschange.The carryingcapacityreflects
environmentalvariablesand technology,and may be influencedby the
presenceof otherneighboringgroupsof tradepartners,politicalenemies,
andthe like. Populationpressure,however,does not translateimmediately
into human motivation,and some ecologicalanthropologists,seekingto
explainchange,have had to appealrathergenerallyto notionsof human
desiresfor survivalor to the gradualreplacementof less efficientsystems
of productionby moreefficientones(5). In a morerecentdiscussion,Harris
(131) lists the desiresfor food, sex, and love and affectionand a tendency
toward the expenditureof the minimumamount of effort necessaryas
universalhumanconstraintsfromwhichsocialand culturalsystemscan be
built, althoughthis recapitulationof Malinowskiis difficultto use in concrete cases.Valuesand preferencesare explainedby beingreducedto the
ecologicalfunctionsthey serve,as in treatmentsof factorswhichinfluence
the levelsof effortand efficiencyof tropicalforesthunters(249, 281) or in
the femaleinfanticide-male
warfarecomplex(70, 145,200). Thislack of an
ability to account for motivationand values in a more direct way has
attracteda great deal of criticism,and may account in part for the rift
betweenecologicalanthropologistsand their opponents(24). Such a lack,
however,has beenaddressedin the thirdstageof ecologicalanthropology,
as will be discussedlater.
The neoevolutionists
andneofunctionalists,
althoughtheyexaminepopulationsof differentsizes in differenttime scales, share a great deal. They
acceptedthe issues which Stewardand White had outlinedas worthyof
investigation,althoughthey took differentapproachesin theirstudy.They
bothaddeda strongsystemsorientationto an earliermaterialism,although
the neofunctionalistsemphasizednegativefeedbackmechanismslinking
energyuse, food production,and populationsize, and the neoevolutionists
stressedpositive feedbackmechanismsamong the same variables.They
developedstronginterpersonaland institutionallinks;the departmentsat

ECOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY 243
Columbiaand Michiganuniversitieshad representatives
of both for many
years. Some individualswork in both approaches.Furthermore,the
concernof the neoevolutioniststo definestages (141) in generalcultural
evolution (e.g. "bands," "tribes") dovetails with the efforts of the
neofunctionaliststo establishbasic productiontypes (e.g. "huntingand
gathering,""swiddenagriculture");in some cases, as in the ones listed,
evolutionarystagesand productiontypes can be correlated(63, 73, 287).
Earlyneofunctionalist
analysis(228, 297) of the NorthwestCoastgroups
showedthat the apparentlyexotic customof the potlatchservedadaptive
functionsby encouragingthe redistributionof food from groupswith a
temporarysurplusto those with a temporarydeficit.Part of the appealof
this analysis(71, 162, 211) derivedfrom the abilityto challengeBoas on
his own ground,since the culturesof that area were amongthe ones he
studiedmostintensively.In addition,it begana tendency,still quitestrong,
withinneofunctionalecologicalanthropology,to defineone of its tasksas
the explicationof ethnographicriddles (130). In this line of work, an
ecologicalanthropologistpicksa customor practicewhichwouldseem to
demonstratethe extremeinterculturalvariabilityof humanbehaviorand
the lackof fitbetweencultureandenvironment;
the supposedlyimpractical
culturalelementsareshownto possesspositiveadaptivevalue.The second
such riddlewas the sacredcattleof India(127, 128, 208). Otherexamples
have appeared,the most currentlyfamousof which is Aztec cannibalism
andits purportednutritionalsignificance(125, 222, 231:see also 143,253).
The adoptionof riddleexplicationas a goal would seem to be justifiedby
the followinglogic:if apparentlyimpracticalbehaviorcan be explainedon
ecologicalgrounds,thenlessimpracticalbehaviormustsurelyalsobe explicable in the same manner.Although the discussionof such riddleshas
attracteda fair amountof attentionwithinstrictlyanthropologicalcircles
and othersas well (134), it has often not led to a more thoroughattempt
to explainthe less bizarrebehaviorthat makes up much of the subject
matterof ecologicalanthropology(6). Insteadit has led to the proposalof
alternativesolutionsto the riddles(67-69) with little possibilityof empirically testingthem.
The neofunctionalist
schoolhas broughtcertainbenefits,particularlythe
generationof detaileddescriptionsof food-producingsystems(5, 153, 199,
256), a greaterconcernfor recordingenvironmentalanddemographicdata
(200), the suggestionof the systematicnatureof the interactionsbetween
the environmenton the one hand and social organizationand cultureon
the other, and the demonstrationof certainweak points in the work of
Stewardand White.Thereare severalproblemswhichhaveemergedfrom
it, some of which also apply to the neoevolutionists:(a) Functionalist
are simplyincorrectin attemptingto argue
fallacy.The neofunctionalists

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that humanpopulationsremainat or below carryingcapacity,since they


miss the casesof populationswhichcausesignificantdamageto theirenvironments(178, 187). The idea of a relativelyfixed carryingcapacityhas
remainedin the literature,despitethe publicationof strongcritiquesof it.
Even when the damageis minimalor unmeasurable,they possessthe frequentlycriticizedflaws of functionalism:the inabilityto distinguishbetween functionalalternatives,logical circularity,and false attributionof
purposiveness(245). (b) Ecologicalreductionism.Many of the writersof
this schooltendto assumethatparticularaspectsof socialorganizationand
cultureservespecificfunctionsin adaptinglocal populationsto theirenvironment(242).They(99, 117, 138)thus tendto presentsocialorganization
and culture as unstructuredsets of practicesand beliefs ratherthan as
possessinginternalcoherence.Leeds's(167, 168)discussionsof the Yaruro
Indiansin Venezuelaarean exceptionto this commonpattern.(c) Energetics. Energyneednot be the limitingfactorin restrictingpopulationgrowth
or social complexity.Althoughbiologicalecologistshave recognizedthis
havebecameawareof it only
factformanyyears,ecologicalanthropologists
recently(207, 311). Theseissues are interrelated;energyflow is a simple
way to considerlocal populationsin the contextof ecosystems(283). Thomas's (301) discussionof energyflow in a highlandAndean district,for
instance,arguesthat energyis a limitingfactordespitethe fact that local
peopleare involvedin producingcommoditiesfor exportwhosepriceson
the worldmarketshiftgreatly;governmentpoliciesalsostronglyaffecttheir
accessto factorsof production.It is thereforedifficultto arguethat their
adaptationsare constrainedprimarilyby local environmentalfactors or
their access to energy.The presentationof argumentsthat energyis not
limitingin manyhumanpopulationshasled to minorrefinementsin several
cases:proteinis substitutedfor caloriesas the limitingdietaryfactor or
energy,thoughnot limiting,is critical;by producingenergyas efficiently
as possible,time is conservedto addressthe scarcityor excess of other
limitingfactors,so that populationsstill must behavein much the same
manneras if energywere limiting.This latterapproachraisesa common
writersclaimthat populationsor indiproblemin ecologicalanthropology;
vidualsmaximizeseveralvariablessimultaneously,but they do not address
the issues of trade-offsbetweenthe variablesand choice betweenseveral
optima(132). (d) The local populationas unit of study.Localpopulations
are difficultto bound(193) and tend to be involvedin widernetworksof
social,economic,and politicalrelations(275a).The natureof populationlevel processesis unclear,and therehas been a neglectof both supralocal
(227, 260). [See,however,someworks
processesandinternaldifferentiation
and
which
examinelargerunits.] (e) TimeHarris
Vayda(309)
(131)
by
scale.The assumptionsaboutlocal populationsbeingin homeostaticequi-

ANTHROPOLOGY 245
ECOLOGICAL
libriumare difficultto assessbecausethey requirea long time scale. The
workalso tendsto presenta sharpdisjuncturebetweensynchronicequilibrium and long-termmacroevolutioncorrespondingto the separationbetween the neofunctionalistsand the neoevolutionists.Mechanismsof
short-termculturalevolutionare also oftenlacking.[See,however,Leeds's
(169) treatmentof microinvention.]

THE THIRD STAGE OF ECOLOGICAL


ANTHROPOLOGY:PROCESSUALAPPROACHES
In contrastto the workof StewardandWhiteand the neoevolutionary
and
neofunctionalistschools, a third set of approachesin ecological anthropologyhas begunto emergein recentyears.The researchthat is being
as stronglyas in the two previousstages
carriedout cannotbe characterized
as sharinga largenumberof assumptions,but it does questionthe neofunctionalistapproachalongthe linesindicatedabove.This workwill be called
"processual"ecologicalanthropology.The use of the term "process"has
beenused earlierby otherwriters(16, 158, 171, 186)to referto the importance of diachronicstudiesin ecologicalanthropologyand to the need to
examinemechanismsof change.However,the term "processualecological
anthropology"to describecurrentdevelopmentsin the fielddoes appearto
be new. Importanttrendsare (a) the examinationof the relationof demographicvariablesandproductionsystems,stimulatedin partby Boserup's
work (31); (b) the responseof populationsto environmentalstress (268,
311, 312);(c) the formationandconsolidationof adaptivestrategies(22-24,
27, 37, 38) which follow Barth'searly work on the use of the conceptof
the niche (11); and (d) new work in Marxism,includingthe emerging
interestof anthropologistsin politicaleconomyand structuralMarxism.
The studiesare calledprocessualbecausethey seek to overcomethe split
in the second stage of ecologicalanthropologybetweenexcessivelyshort
and long time scales(15, 84-86). Moreconcretely,they examineshiftsand
changesin individualand groupactivities,and they focus on the mechanisms by which behaviorand externalconstraintsinfluenceeach other.
These points indicate the importanceof the incorporationof decisionand
makingmodelsinto ecologicalanthropology.Likethe neofunctionalist
neoevolutionist ecological anthropology, processual ecological anthropologyexaminesthe interactionof populationsand environments(57)
ratherthantreatingthe latteras a passivebackgroundto the former.There
arestrongparallelsbetweenprocessualecologicalanthropologyandcurrent
workin biologicalecology;the natureof these resemblancesis the subject
of some analyseswhich seek to link anthropologyand biologyin a more
rigorousmannerthan has previouslybeen the case.

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of Stewardin the two previous


It shouldbe notedthatworkcharacteristic
stagescontinuesto thepresent.His methodof culturalecology,forinstance,
is exemplifiedin severalstudies(26, 303) includingsomeof Netting'swork
in Nigeria(201-203)and Switzerland(204);see also
amongagriculturalists
can be notedin
(197). Strongechoesof Steward'ssearchfor "regularities"
Wolf'sPeasant Warsof the TwentiethCentury(334) and elsewhere(116).
Similarly,neofunctionaliststudiesare still beingcarriedout. Bolton's(30)
recentanalysisof guineapig productionand consumptionin one villagein
highlandPeru,for instance,suggeststhat althoughguineapigs contribute
less thanone-twentiethof the proteinin the local diet, "theritualcycle ...
serves to distributeprotein,makingit availableat times when it will be
maximallybeneficialfor the maintenanceof healthin the population"(p.
249) based on informants'statementson ritual guinea pig consumption,
with little direct observationon diet, and simulationmodels ratherthan
observationof guineapig flockdynamics.Neoevolutionaryworkalso continuesto the present(53, 158, 174).

Actor-BasedModelsand ProcessualEcologicalAnthropology
A majorinfluenceon the processualecologicalanthropologyis the actorbasedmodelswhichhavereceivedgeneralinterestin socialanthropology.
The literatureon these modelsis large and diverse;one particularfocus,
decision-making
models,will be emphasizedhere.The actor-basedmodels
formpartof a generalshiftin postwaranthropologyin bothBritainandthe
UnitedStatesfromsocialstructureto socialprocess,fromtreatingpopulations as uniformto examiningdiversityand variabilitywithin them, and
fromnormativeandjuralaspectsto behavioralaspectsof social relations.
Firth's(92-94) distinctionbetweensocialstructureandsocialorganization
is a majorpointof departure.He underscoredthe importanceof variability
in decisionmakingand individualbehavior,and demonstratedthat many
social systemscontainoptionsamongwhich individualsmust choose.
The actor-basedmodels have several advantages:they account for a
widerrangeof socialorganizationthanpreviousmodelsdo; they permita
more preciseanalysisof the parametersof behaviorand the variationof
behaviorwithin populations;they admit more readilyan examinationof
conflictand competition;and they offerthe potentialof examiningchange
throughan analysisof theprocesseswhichgenerateeconomic,political,and
social relations.One importantaspect of actor-basedmodelsis decisionmakingmodels,whichmaybe looselydividedinto two types:cognitiveor
naturalisticmodelsandmicroeconomicmodels.Thesetypesare not necessarily opposed, as attemptsat synthesis(47a, 147) show; they remain,
however, largely distinct. The former, borrowingfrom cognitive anthropology,attemptto depict actual psychologicalprocessesof decision

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makingby locatingthe cognizedalternativesand the proceduresfor choosing among them. Quinn (234, p. 42) distinguisheswithin these among
"informationprocessingmodels,""retrodictivemodels,"and "modelsof
culturalprinciples."Thesetypesall tendto be employedto analyzecontexts
in which individualsmust select among a small numberof alternatives,
often on the basis of considerationof social status. Postmaritalresidence
and adoptionare commontopics.Thesemodelsofferusefullinksbetween
studiesof nativesystemsof classificationandactualbehavior;suchethnosemanticmodelshavebeendevelopedfor the plantingdecisionsof Brazilian
sharecroppers
(154-156)and the marketingdecisionsof WestAfricanfish
vendors(108).Thesemodelsoftenare appliedto situationsin whichalternativesare finiteand maybe distinguishedby discreteratherthancontinuous variables.The parameterswhich affectthe choices tend to be few in
number,and the outcomesof choices are certain,or nearlyso.
Themicroeconomicmodelsresembleeconomicmodelsof choicemaking.
Actors operatingundera set of constraintsallocatescarceresourcesto a
hierarchicalseriesof endsor goals. Manysuch modelsassumethat actors
attempt to maximize some valued state, although some authors have
proposedmorecomplexmodelsof optimizationssuchas "satisficing,"
minimax strategies,and hierarchiesof strategies(18, 274). In this fashionthey
avoidthe rigiditiesoftenattributedto modelsof rationalactors(139).There
is a largerconcernwith the outcomeof the decisionand less emphasison
theprocessof decisionmaking.Thesemodelsareappliedto situationswith
greateruncertaintyand ambiguity,wherethe rangeof alternativesand the
outcomesof choicesare less well defined.The alternativesmay be distinguishedby continuousas well as discretevariables,and manyparameters
may influencethem. Barth's (12) effortsat generativemodels of social
organizationare an exampleof such work.Borrowingfrom game theory,
he attemptsto explainpoliticalorganizationamongPathansas a structure
which had emergedfroma largenumberof individualdecisionsmadeby
actors operatingunderdifferentconstraints.Ortiz's(220, 221) studiesof
plantingand marketingdecisionsby small-scalefarmersin Colombiaare
anotherexample.Althoughthese models can be criticizedfor takingthe
goals and constraintsas givens and failing to examine the patternsof
resourcedistribution,they have been of considerableuse in anthropology
as in politicalscienceand economics.
The potentiallinks between ecological anthropologyand actor-based
modelsare strong,but they have not been utilizedextensively.Ecological
anthropology,particularlyin its firsttwo historicalstages,emphasizedthe
importanceof environmental
factorsin shapingcollectivepatternsof behavior.The neglectof the examinationof individualswhichthisfocushasoften
producedmay be explainedin partby the repudiationof the examination

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of individualactorsby earlyecologicalanthropologists(327) and in part


fromthe neofunctionalist
andneoevolutionistemphasison systemsin which
aggregatesand aggregatevariableswere accordedmore importancethan
individuals.Conversely,actor-basedmodelshave tendedto treatenvironmentalvariablesas partof a relativelystatic set of externalconstraintsto
whichindividualsrespondand adapt.This tendencyis particularlystrong
in studieswhichfocus on small areasin short periodsof time. They have
thus omittedsomeof the concernsof ecologicalanthropology.Despitethe
lackof effortin thisdirection,ecologicalanthropologycanofferactor-based
models a richerunderstandingof the dynamicthat operateswithin the
system of constraints;and actor-basedmodels can permitecologicalanthropologyto examinethe proximatefactorswhichinfluencethe behavior
of individualsand of aggregates.The integrationof the two is particularly
favorableto the processualstudiesin ecologicalanthropology;the ecosystem and decisionsmadeby individualactorsaffecteach otherreciprocally.
The microeconomicmodels of decision making are preferableto the
cognitiveones in this synthesis,althoughthe lattermay also be of use in
certainwell-definedareas of behavior(9, 10, 57a, 109). In general,the
alternativesareoftencharacterized
by continuousratherthandiscretevariables,by manyparameterswhichinfluencethe selectionamongthem,and
by uncertaintyas to the outcomes.A concernfor the interactionof actors
with ecosystemswould lead to a primaryfocus on the outcomesof decisions.

ProcessualEcologicalAnthropology,
BiologicalEcology,
and Evolution
The emphasison individualdecisionmakingalso correspondsto recent
developmentsin biologicalecology,with its stresson naturalselectionon
the levelof individualorganismsas a principlewhichorganizespopulations
and communities(176, 185, 245). The links betweenmicroeconomicand
ecologicalmodelshave been drawnto show parallelsbetweenconsumer
choiceand foragingstrategies,investmentbehaviorand life-historystrategies, locationsof firmsand refugingbehavior,marketbehaviorand predator-preyinteractions,andthe like(146,241). In addition,the criticismsthat
the neofunctionalists
and neoevolutionistshave establisheda rigidseparation betweensynchronicstudiesof homeostaticequilibriaand diachronic
studies of long-termevolutiondirectlyparallelthe criticismthat earlier
workin ecology,typifiedby Odumandothers,failsto synthesizeadequately
energy-flowstudiesandstudiesof ecosystemsuccession.Theeffortsof these
ecologiststo linkthe two throughecosystem-levelprocessessuchas ecosystem strategiesand maturityhave run into serious difficulties.Majorresearchprojectsalongtheselinesin the InternationalBiologicalProgramdid

ECOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY

249

not generateas powerfulresultsas wereexpected,andsystemmodelingand


simulationhasalsobeenrelativelyunrewarding.
Bothbiologicalandhuman
ecology have shiftedfrom system-levelstatics and dynamicsto utilizing
individualactionas a basisfor emergenthigher-levelprocesses(252).Many
biologistshavebegunto challengethe orderand regularityof the sequence
of successionalstages.The links amongdiversity,stability,and ecosystem
maturityare also questioned(58, 75, 157);the stabilityof someecosystems
has been shown to rely on climaticstabilityratherthan on mechanisms
internalto the ecosystem.The role of externalstressesand catastrophesin
influencingecosystemstructureand functionhas also attractedconsiderableattention(41, 65, 218, 224), parallelingthe interestin the responseof
populationsto environmentalstressin ecologicalanthropology.The links
with demographyand biologicalecology have led in many cases to increasedeffortsto defineand operationalizevariables,to includenew methodologicalproceduresfor assessmentof environmentalvariables,and to
applytests of statisticalinferencewith greaterrigor(166a).Furthermore,
theseparallelsbetweenculturalandbiologicalecologyhavegeneralllybeen
proposed(245) morecautiouslythan was the case with the neofunctionalists. Ratherthanclaimingthatnaturalselectionforcesorganismsto behave
as if they operatedwith the same rationalcalculusthat humanactorsare
presumedto use, it can be suggestedthat these homologousoptimization
modelsfacilitatethe examinationof the waysin whichhumanactionaffects
ecosystemsand environmentalconstraintsinfluencehumandecisionmaking. They also allow interdisciplinaryresearchefforts to proceed more
easily.Thequestioningof theneofunctionalist
approachhasled to an ability
to studyproductiveactivities(83, 166b,332),settlementpatterns(166, 324),
andthe likewithoutattemptingto showhow theymaintainhumanpopulations in equilibriumwith their environments.In this way the processual
approachand Stewardiancultural ecology may be seen to share some
approaches.(The "principleof alternatinggenerations"also links them.)
Some research(207) on huntingtypifiesthis work. Huntingbehaviorin
traditionalsettingshas beencomparedto the predictionsof hypotheseson
optimalforagingstrategiesin biologicalecology.In somecasesthe hunters
deviatefrom these predictions,becausethe most prestigiousor culturally
desirablemeat is not alwaysthe most efficientor least risky to catch in
energeticterms(80), or becausefear of observationby membersof other
social groupsconstrainspatternsof movement(179, 180).

Componentsof ProcessualEcologicalAnthropology
modelsarecloselytiedto
DEMOGRAPHY Demographicdecision-making
the specifictrendsin processualecologicalanthropologymentionedearlier

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in this section. They bear on the recent work in demographyand anthropologywhich has contributedto processualecologicalanthropology.
Neofunctionalistwork emphasizednegativefeedbackmechanismswhich
maintainedpopulationsat staticlevels:neoevolutionists
lookedat the broad
details of human demographichistory, and often missed the details of
particularcases.
A seminalworkin this fieldis Boserup'sThe Conditionsof Agricultural
Growth(31). Her well-knownhypothesesreverseMalthusiandescriptions
of humandemographyto suggestthat populationpressurecauses rather
than follows agriculturalintensification;people shift from more efficient
extensivesystemsto less efficientintensiveones only when drivenby the
necessityof feedingmoreindividuals.The generaloutlinesof her argument
andthe detailsof hersequenceof stagesin agriculturalintensification
have
attracteda great deal of attention.Many authorshave pointed out the
shortcomingsof her excessivelysimple scheme, and indicatethat other
factorscan alsoinfluencethe sequencesof agriculturalintensification;
these
includemarketsystems,politicalpressures,and environmentalvariables.
Boserup'sworkandstudiesby Spooner(286) andothers(14, 17,25, 37, 61,
113, 124, 126, 190, 203, 307, 325) stimulatedby it may be classifiedas
processual,for severalreasons.The effortto assessthe linksbetweenpopulationpressureandagriculturalintensificationhaveled to diachronicstudies (190) in which changes in single groups are traced through time;
researchin otherareasfor whichlittle historicalreconstructionis possible
hasbeencarriedoutby examiningthe covariationof populationdensityand
agriculturalintensity(34a), with the assumptionthat currentdistribution
of associationsresemblespast sequences.The studiesoften rest on an implicit decision-makingmodel in which actors actuallyallocatescarce resources (labor) in order to achieve goals (food production). The
mechanismsof changeare seen in the connectionbetweenpopulationand
resources,linkedthroughsystemsof agriculturalproductionandthe necessity to feed local populations.Individualdecisionshavecumulativeconsequenceswhich lead to broaderchange;shorteningof fallow periodsmay
lead to a shift from communaltenureto privateproperty,for instance.
Otherwork links demographicand ideologicalchange(20).
ENVIRONMENTAL PROBLEMS Vayda& McCay(311, 312) arguethat
the literatureon the responseto environmentalproblemsis an important
shift awayfromthe strongfocuson energeticsand fromthe assumptionof
as they show,it also permitsan examinationof individstableequilibrium;
forces.Waddell's(314)
ualas wellas populationresponsesto environmental
workon the responseof the FringeEngain highlandNew Guineadescribes
threetypesof responsesto threelevelsof frostintensityandduration,with

ECOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY 251
larger(thoughstillsubpopulation)
setsof individualsactingin casesof more
severepotentialor actualdamageto crops. Earlierwork by Vayda(308,
309) and others(120) on the natureof warfareand the choiceof different
formsof attackratherthan otherresponsesto certainsituationssimilarly
makesthe pointthat the natureof the responsecan be correlatedwith the
scaleof the problem.Otherworksshowthat responsescanvaryon individual as well as collectivelevels to naturalstresses such as storms (17),
droughts(171, 212, 232, 243), famine(159, 219), and earthquakes(210).
Laughlin's(163, 164)well-documented
analysisof the responsesof the So
in East Africato periodiccrop failuresis anothergood exampleof use of
decision-making
modelsandthe analysisof environmental
problems.Britan
& Denich (33) addresssimilarissuesin Newfoundlandand Yugoslaviain
casesof secularratherthancyclicalchange.Someefforts(209a)havebeen
made to quantifyenvironmentalhazards.
ADAPTIVE STRATEGIES The notionof adaptivestrategyfollowsclosely
from that of decisionmaking.The idea of adaptivestrategysuggeststhat
individuals,by repeatedlyoptingfor certainactivitiesratherthan others,
constructalternativeswhich othersmay then choose or imitate.It is also
congruentwith the emphasison strategiesand fitness in evolutionary
biology(304).A focuson adaptivestrategiesleadsto an examinationof the
mannerin which a largernumberof choices made by individualscan
influencethe widersetting(27, 47a, 178,278a, 300, 323, 330). Rutz's(258)
analysisof householddecisionmakingin a Fijianvalley,for instance,shows
the unplannedvillage-levelconsequencesof interactionbetweenhouseholds
and their resolutionof competitionover differenttypes of land. McCay
(186) examinestwo types of adaptivestrategiesamongFogo Islandersas
responsesto a periodof decline in the nearbyfisheries.Individualsand
householdsmay adopt "diversification"
and "intensification"
responses,
and the latter in particularled to outside interventionby governmental
agencies,whichmadethe environmentalproblemsmore severe.The concept of adaptivestrategy,however,is often more elusivethan one might
suspect, as suggestedby definitionssuch as Bennett's(22, p. 14): "the
patternsformedby the many separateadjustmentsthat peopledevise in
order to obtainand use resourcesand to solve the immediateproblems
confrontingthem."The issuesof the consciousnessof the adaptivestrategies and the ease with which they may be adoptedare often not wholly
confronted;the sameworkby Bennetton a regionin the CanadianGreat
Plains recognizesfour strategies(rancher,farmer,Hutterite,Indian)but
does not fully examinethe consequencesof the fact that it is easier for
farmersandranchersto shiftbetweenthosetwo strategiesthanto adoptthe
Hutteriteor Indianone.

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of Marxismbecome
MARXISM It is at thisjuncturethatthe contributions
evident.The importantroleof Marxismin the two earlierstagesof ecological anthropologymakesits contributionsin the third stageappropriate.If
adaptivestrategiesareseenas the outcomeof decisionmaking,or repeated
allocationof scarceresourcesto a hierarchyof goals underconditionsof
constraint,then it is necessaryto examinethe patternof resourcedistribution and the source of the goals and constraints.This is preciselythe
contributionof recentworkin Marxism,includingmuchstructuralMarxism (29, 103, 111)andthe new politicaleconomy.In particular,a reconsiderationof the notionof modeof productionquestionedthe rigidsequence
by the
of successionof modesand the determinationof the superstructure
andneofuncbase(140, 172,215),parallelinga rejectionof neoevolutionism
tionalism.Dependencytheoryraisedsimilarissues on the relationof economics and politics and suggestedthe importanceof an examinationof
worldsystems.Thisworkis compatiblewiththe emerginginterestin political economywithinanthropology(1, 36, 49, 114, 119, 151, 180, 213, 250,
269, 273), the concernfor a historicalmaterialistperspective(59), and an
emphasison the links betweenlocal populationsand widersystems(3la,
36a,259), includingregionalstudies(16), studiesof complexsociety(334),
and a world-systemsperspective(217). This workthus contrastswith the
neofunctionalistecologicalanthropology,which often adoptedthe local
populationas its unit of analysis.For a structuralMarxistcritiqueand
reply,see (102) and (240). Each socialformationmay be seen as havinga
characteristicset of forcesand relationsof productionand an associated
by
This socialformationis pushedtowardtransformation
superstructure.
andbetween
conffictswithinthe base,betweenthe baseandsuperstructure,
the social formationand its wider naturaland social setting.Any social
formationis a transformation
of the ones that precededit. This criticism
is similarto the one madeby Sahlins,that ecologicalanthropologyreduces
cultureto "proteinand profit"(266, p. 45), that it misses the fact that
activityand ideologyforma coherentstructuredwholeof meaningand its
expression.This criticismalso attacksthe lack of satisfactorytreatmentof
the mechanismswhich generatehuman behavioron the part of many
neofunctionalistsand neoevolutionists.

Social Organization,Culture,and Process


Oneanalyst(235, p. 34) of socialconditionsin Argentina,in attemptingto
explainlivingconditionsto a juniorcolleague,pointedout the necessityfor
weighingthe relativeinfluenceof geographicalandinstitutionalfactors.The
choice betweenenvironmentalfactors on the one hand and social and
culturaloneson the otheris not so simple,sincethe natureof theirrelations
goes beyond the old debatebetweendeterminismand possibilism(36a).

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[This debatecontinuesto resurface,as may be seen, for instance,in the


discussionof similaritiesanddifferencesbetweenblacksandEastIndiansin
the Caribbean(66, 83, 100).]Environmental
factorsinteractwithsocialand
culturalones, and neitheroperatesindependently.
The neofunctionalists
claim that the basic facts of technology,environment, and demographydeterminesocial structureand culture(131), and
an extremeculturalistpoint of view, such as that of Sahlins,would argue
that culturemustbe seen on its own terms.A usefulplaceto comparethe
two approachesandto incorporatethe Marxistcontributionsis the Pacific,
an areawhereSahlinsand many of Harris'sassociateshave worked.The
contrastbetweenMelanesiaand Polynesiais an instructiveone. In the
periodbeforeEuropeancontact,the two areasshareda generallysimilar
technology,includingtools (dibblesticks,bambooknives,stone axes) and
crops [taro,yams,breadfruit,banana,coconut(8)]. Thereis considerable
varietyof environmentsin the Pacific,rangingfrom high volcanicislands
to low coralatolls,fromareaswith highrainfallto otherswith low rainfall,
but Melanesiaand Polynesiaeach possessthis wide rangeof habitats(34,
302).Populationdensitiesat the timeof contactareharderto establish,but
theyvariedin bothareasfromthe orderof one to two individualspersquare
kilometerto densitiesa hundredtimes larger.However,the culturesand
socialstructureswerequitedifferent,sincethe areasweresettledin separate
migrations(326). The differencesbetweenthe two areas stand out. The
sharpestis the contrastbetweenthe Polynesianchief and the Melanesian
big man drawnby Sahlins(264);the relativeorderlinessof chieflysuccession in Polynesia,the abilityof the chiefto commandhis followers,and the
successof linkingsmallerchiefdomsintolargerkingdoms(112)areall quite
distinctfromthemoreindividualizedcareersof thebigmen,the uncertainty
of their rule, and the difficultiesof establishinglargerpolitical units in
Melanesia.The postcontacthistoriesare also different;states formedin
partsof Polynesiaandcargocultsaroseonlyin Melanesia.Thetwo different
systemsalso are connectedwith differentideologies,the famedmana and
tabu of Polynesia,and more complexand variedbeliefsabout ancestors,
sexualdifferences,warfare,andthe likein Melanesia.The contrastbetween
ancestorspiritsin Melanesiaanda fixedpantheonin Polynesiamay also be
noted. These generalpatternsare quite distinct,and it would be hard to
disputethat what makesTikopiastrikinglyPolynesianis the cultureand
socialstructurebroughtby the peoplewho settledit; similartechnologies,
environments,and populationdensitiesare foundin Melanesia.[Thereare
two typesof caseswherethe distinctionis less clear:(a) the small,disasterproneatolls;(b) medium-sizedchiefdoms,wheremoreabundantresources
allowincipientstratification
in Melanesiaand smallerislandsize limitsthe
elaborationof chieflypowerin Polynesia(e.g. Trobriandand Marquesas).]

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Nonetheless,the environmentinfluencessocial structureand culturein


importantways.ForPolynesiawe canreturnagainto Sahlins'swork.Social
Stratificationin Polynesia(262), despiteits tendencyto neglectthe importanceof intrasocietalconflictin shapingsocialstructureand sometautologiesin the measuresof productivity,arguesstronglythatenvironmental
and
technologicalfeatures(variationson a common Polynesianpatternwith
some elaborationof irrigationand drainage)account for the particular
variationson the commonPolynesiantheme of chieflypoliticalorganization and hierarchically
arrangeddescentgroups.The datafromMelanesia
areless clearandvariationwithinMelanesiansocialorganizationis greater
than was once suspected(48, 87). However,for similaritiesbetweenhighland and lowlandMelanesiangroupssee (255). Europeanswereless interestedin themthanin the Polynesians,so recordsfor the contactperiodare
poorer.Sincethe islandsarecloser,moreinvolvedin interislandtrade,and
were settledearlier,the specificassociationof social and culturalsystems
witheachislandenvironment
is less immediate.However,thereis alsosome
associationof environmentand social structure,as shown by the larger
politicalunits in easternMelanesia(264).
In otherwords,the environmental
factorswhichinfluencedsocialstructureand cultureweremediatedby certainpatterns,differentfor Melanesia
and Polynesia.[Cody& Mooneymakean analogousecologicalargument
aboutMediterranean
climates(52)].It wouldbe almostimpossibleto reconstructthe earlypoliticalhistoriesof the Polynesianchiefdoms,for example,
but one can assumethat the settlers arrivedwith certain culturaland
institutionalpatternsthat bore a strong resemblanceto those of other
Polynesians,andthatthesepatternsofferedthe settlerscertaingoals,placed
constraintson theirchoices,andthusinfluencedtheirsocial,economic,and
politicalhistory.Not surprisingly,the largest,richest, and most diverse
islands,such as Hawaii,Tonga,Samoa,and Tahiti,supportedthe largest,
mostcomplex,andstratifiedpoliticalsystems,andthe chiefshadmuchless
power on the smallerisland societies;in neithercase did they resemble
Melanesiansocial structureon similarislands. Sahlins(265) shows that
Tongasocial structureand cultureis a permutationof their counterparts
in Fiji;he arguesthatthis casedemonstratesthe supremacyof cultureover
materialforces(107). But the mattermight have been argueddifferently:
environmental
andothermaterialforcesfavorcertainof the manypossible
transformations
of a givensocialstructureandculture.Labby's(160)work,
for example,incorporatesmaterialfactorsinto an otherwiseidealiststructuralistanalysisof Micronesiansocial organization.
To takeanothersimilarexample,SahlinsstatesthatWesternmeatpreferencesreflectdeeplyrootedculturalmeaningsratherthan theirnutritional

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qualityor availability;
Harris& Ross (133)presenta contraryposition,that
preferencesfor differentsortsof meatmirrortheiravailabilityand quality.
Sahlinsarguesby alludingto the symbolicmeaningsattachedto animalsin
otherdomains,whichtransformbiologicallyedibleanimalssuch as cattle,
swine,dogs, andhorsesinto distinctculturaldegreesof edibilityandinedibility;Ross (251)juxtaposesdataon animalproductionandmeatpreservation in the United Stateswith statementson relativepreferencefor cattle
and swine. One mightarguethat the truthlies somewherein between,as
does one analyst(322) of Americancommoditiesinterestedin predicting
futurelevels of consumption;if the price of one type of meat goes down,
peoplewillbuymoreof it, butcertaintraditionalpreferenceschangeslowly.
It might also be arguedthat both are wrongsince neitherone focuseson
individualsas actors,but ratheron superorganicsystems.It is difficultfor
Sahlinsto accountfor changingfood preferences,and Harris& Ross (133)
cannot explain lags in changingavailabilityand consumptionpatterns.
Decisionsaboutdiet, like manyotherdecisions,are not alwaysmadefully
consciously,and they reflecta numberof goals and constraints,yet their
cumulativeimpactis large.
The relativeisolationof islandsocietiesandthe recentsettlementof some
make the examinationof the interrelationof social and culturalpatterns
with the environmentparticularlyclearin the Pacificcase.Anothersimilar
case, however,may be foundin Europe.In a study of an alpinevalleyin
northernItaly, Cole & Wolf (54) find strikingdifferencesbetweena Germanicanda Romance-speaking
village,despitesimilaritiesin environment,
technology,and population.Thoughboth villagesare Catholic,they partakeof the somewhatdifferentculturesof northernEuropeand the Mediterranean.The inheritancepatterns(335) in each, for instance,representa
compromisebetweenthe respectiveculturalidealsof impartibleand partible inheritanceon the one handandthe exigenciesof alpineagricultureand
livestockraisingon the other;the two areclosebut still distinct.Settlement
patternsand villagepoliticalsystemsalso reflectthe culturaldifferences
betweenthe two. Thesefactsare takento indicatesome "doubts... about
the usefulnessof ecologicalanthropologyin the studyof complexsocieties"
(54, p. 284); it might betterbe arguedthat it is neofunctionalecological
anthropologywhoseutilityis dubious.The historyof each villageincludes
a seriesof contactswith othervillagesand widerpoliticalunits;this, however,is also trueof mostMelanesianandmanyPolynesiansocietiesas well.
The two villagesare the outcomeof a long historyof interactionbetween
environment,social structure,and culturein the valley and surrounding
region. The debateabout whetherthey really have more in commonas
Alpinepeasantsor less in commonas Germanicsand Latinsis not wholly

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to the point;ratherthe individual,household,andvillagedecisionsoveruse


of land resourcesand the decisionsover ambiguousand shiftingpolitical
alliancesgeneratethe differentpatterns.
A complementaryapproachto the one adoptedin the Oceanicand Alpine cases is to look at areaswith relativelyuniformculturesand social
structuresbut varyingenvironments.Suchworkhasbeendonein the Maya
region,wheregeneralMayanpatternsof patrilinealityand virilocalityare
shown to covarywith populationdensity (55, 56). The numerousworks
whichdiscussthe impactof the furtrade,technologicalchanges,andpopulationshiftson the huntingandtrappingIndiangroupsof Canadamayalso
be reviewedin this context(28, 105, 152,248, 272, 280, 282, 284, 298, 306).
Theyalso demonstratethe advantagesof abandoningthe populationas the
unit of analysis,sincethey includeboth individualand nuclearfamiliesas
actorsandexaminethe widereconomicandsocialcontext,andthe articulationof trappingeconomieswiththe capitalistworldsystemandcompetition
betweenimperialpowers.Similarly,variationson a commonAndeanpattern of social organizationmay be relatedto differencesin ecology and
political economy.There are severalcore featuresin the area [bilateral
inheritance(219), dual organization,extensionof ties to affinesand ritual
kin, severalmodesof reciprocalexchange(3), verticality(198, 244)] which
combineto generatedifferentpatterns.Thetension(161)betweenan adult's
ties to a spouseandto marriedsiblings,for instance,is resolveddifferently
in pastoraland agriculturalsettings(62, 96, 218). Accessto differenttypes
of landdependson ecologicalandpoliticaleconomicfeatures(36, 61a, 104,
135, 183, 192,267, 337). The varyingnatureof affinallinksand reciprocal
exchangesreflectsscarcityof differentfactorsof productions(184). In all
cases,however,thesevariationsarebasedon commonAndeanelementsof
social organization.Suchstudies(2, 118, 189, 254) exist for other culture
areasas well;otherauthorsfollow a similarperspectivein explainingrelatively late state formationin Madagascar(158), East Africa (315), and
SoutheastAsia (333). Analogousbiologicalarguments(21, 271) can be
made about temperatureregulationin vertebrates.Physiologicalsystems
are coordinatedin variouswaysfor a varietyof purposesin differentenvironmentalsettings.The temperatureregulatorysystemsarethe outcomeof
particularevolutionaryhistoriesof differentspecies,reflectingtheir prior
physiologiesand the environmentalpressuresto which they were subject.
In general,an examinationof evolutionmust considerboth phylogenetic
inertiaand environmental
forces.To understandthe evolutionof bats,it is
instructiveto study both the elementswhich they have in commonwith
othermammalsandthosewhichthey sharewith moredistantlyrelatedbut
functionallysimilarspeciesof flyinginsectivoresand frugivores.Parallels

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257

can readilybe drawnwith the previousexamplesof Oceanicsocietiesand


high-altitudepeasantgroupsin the Alps and Andes (244). It should be
stressedthat these analogiesare not intendedto suggest that the same
processesor mechanismsoperatein humanhistoryandbiologicalevolution,
nor that cultureand speciesare similarentities.

Mechanismsof Change
modelscanprovide
In processualecologicalanthropology,decision-making
a mechanismof changebecausethere is interactionbetweenthe choices
which actorsmake,behaviorson an individualand grouplevel, and the
biological,social,and culturalsystemswhich influencethe distributionof
resources,constrainthe possibleadaptivestrategies,and providesome of
the goals which the actors attempt to meet. In this view, culture and
but as proximatecauseswhichshape
ideologyarenot seenas epiphenomena
humanaction.They influencethe optionsamongwhich individualsselect
andin turnareinfluencedby the cumulativeconsequencesof such choices.
This view facilitatesthe synthesisof recentMarxistwork and ecological
anthropology.Thesepointsare supportedby recentliteratureon Highland
New Guinea(31a, 187, 188, 195,279, 299, 320), the Philippines(7, 74, 82),
pastoralnomads(148,225, 226, 269, 270, 278a,305), andothergroups(64,
78, 115, 275, 288, 329).
Otherwriters,dissatisfiedwith such eclecticism,have soughtmoreconcise and formalizedpresentationsof mechanismsof change.One approach
is the previouslymentionedculturaldeterminismof Sahlinsandothers.His
(265),however,looksat qualitativechange
treatmentof "transformations"
withoutexaminingthe quantitativechangewithwhichit is inextricablyand
dialecticallylinked.To drawan analogy,he wouldsuggestthat a comparisonof a fewframesfroma filmis sufficientto depictthe eventsandprocesses
which were recorded.Such still photographs,though, even if they were
analyzedin detail,couldnot portraymotion.The viewof sociobiology(47)
is that humanbehavior,like that of otherspecies,is shapedby the dictates
of naturalselectionon geneticvariation.This pointresemblesthat of other
writerswho emphasizepopulationsize and growth as an indicationof
adaptation,althoughit differson insistingon a geneticratherthana cultural
basisof behavior.The debatessurroundingthis approachwill not be summarizedhere.[It is worthnoting,however,thatargumentsmadein sociobiologicaltermscanfrequentlybe recastwithoutany referenceto the genetic
basisfor behavior.Thus, in a recentarticle,Dyson-Hudson& Smith(81)
presentan argumentthathumanterritorialbehaviorfollowsthe predictions
of ecologicaltheory with regardto spatial patternsof resourceuse and
defense;they show that territorialityamong Basin-PlateauIndians, the

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NorthernOjibwa,andthe Karimojongis consonantwith such predictions,


but neglect to state that they are equally consonantwith an economic
cost-benefitanalysismodelof allocationof effort.Theyfail to recognizethe
proximatemechanismsby whichindividualschooseto utilizecertainlocations and not others.]
Other works link culturaland genetic processes,followingCampbell,
who "arguesthat the necessaryconditionsfor the existenceof natural
selectionaremet as wellby cultureas by genes:the traitmustbe heritable,
it mustvarybetweenindividualsandthe replicationof trait-bearing
individuals must be theoreticallyinfinitebut limitedin practice"(246, p. 130).
Some effortsto link the two emphasizegenetic factorsmore heavily,as
Irons'(149) notionsthat individualschoosethe behaviorswhichmaximize
their fitnessand Durham's(76) argumentthat culturetraits which will
maximizebiologicalfitnessare more frequentlyretained.Effortsto apply
these modelshavebeen limitedin success;one need not assume,as Irons
(150) does, that Turkmenstriveto be wealthybecausewealthierTurkmen
have more childrenand biologymakespeoplewant to do thingsthat will
allowthem to havemorechildren(148, 149,247); and Durham'sanalysis
of fertilitydifferentials
(76, 77, 79) haslittlebearingon his examination(78)
of sociallymediatedpatternsof resourceutilizationwhichled to the 1969
"SoccerWar"betweenEl SalvadorandHonduras.Otherwritersgiveequal
instrucemphasisto both,as Cloak's(50, 51) discussionof "self-replicating
tions" and Ruyle's(260a) conceptsof "culturaland geneticpools."Two
sets of works,by Richerson& Boyd (32, 32a,b, 246) andby Cavalli-Sforza
& Feldman(42-45, 88-91), constructmore generaland formalmodelsof
dualinheritancesystemsin whichthe relationsof geneticto culturalfitness
can be specifiedratherthan assumed.These approaches(233) can potentially examinea wide rangeof cases;their empiricalanalyseshave so far
tendedto be restrictedto a verygeneralanalysisof humankinshipbehavior
in whichsomeof the deviationsfromthe predictionsof sociobiologyhave
beenexplained.A recentexploration(32b)of the behaviorof employeesin
firmsdemonstratesthe potentialof extendingdual inheritancetheory to
other areas of activity.These writersapply the methodsof populations
geneticsandevolutionaryecologyto culture-bearing
organisms,but do not
assumethat genetictheoriesalone applyto people.Cultureand genesare
treatedas systemsof inheritance,with relatedbut distinctproperties.The
successor failureof thesedual-inheritance
approachesremainsdifficultto
assess. Their effortsto unravelthe interactionof biology and culturein
humankinshipsystems,for example,though suggestiveare still preliminary. It is notable,however,to see biologistsand social anthropologists
engagingin a debateas colleagues(50, 246).

ECOLOGICALANTHROPOLOGY

259

SpecificCases
Two recentworkswhichexemplifyprocessualecologicalanthropologyare
TheRaftFishermen(98) andFieldsof the Tzotzil(55).Theformeranalyzes
the retentionof fishingfromraftsin a Brazilianvillagewhereboats,which
wouldpermitlargercatches,arealso available.The studyexaminesa local
populationbutplacesit in the contextsof extralocaleconomicandpolitical
systems.Forman'sexplanationbegins with the decisionsthat individual
actors make. He shows that local elites would be able to dominatethe
fishermenevenmorethoroughlythantheycurrentlydo if the shiftin fishing
techniquestook place.The fishermenaccuratelyperceivethat they would
have an absolutelyas well as a relativelysmallershareof the total catchif
that catchwereincreasedby shiftingto boat fishing.The lack of changeis
thusa dynamicratherthana staticequilibrium;
if certainaspectsof external
dominationwere to change(such as the systemof patron-clientrelations
on the regionalandnationallevel),the localsituationwouldchangeas well.
[However,Forman(97) has recentlybeen criticized(60, 186) for leaning
towardneofunctionalism
in makingrelativelyunsubstantiated
claimsthat
secrecy about identifyingfishingspots serves to reducecompetitionand
preventoverfishing,and his analysisof kinship has been challengedon
methodologicalgrounds(191).]
Collier'sstudyin southernMexicoaddressesa generallysimilarquestion,
the reasonsfor the retentionof traditionalidentitiesamongpeasants,as
Indiansin distinctionto ladinosand as membersof specificcommunities
(municipios)in distinctionto othersuchcommunities.He showsthe benefits that these identitieswould confer on individualsand the difficulties
whichthe loss of identitieswouldbringabout.He examineslocal systems
of productionin detailandshowsthe consequencesof demographic
increase
and externalpressureson them. He thus retains much of the systems
orientationof earlierwork withoutfalling into a functionalistbias. The
detaileddataon changingpatternsof lineagecomposition,landtenure,and
labor utilizationsystematicallydocumentthe responseof individualsto
shifting environmentaland demographicconstraints,and the historical
materialshows the impactof the cumulativeconsequencesof these decisionson the environment
andwidereconomicandpoliticalsystems.He also
integratesregionaland nationallevel processeswith the study of local
populationsmorethoroughlythan Forman.This workthus drawson the
areasof processualecologicalanthropologymentionedearlier-the relation
of demographicvariablesand productionsystems,the responseof populationsto environmental
stress,andthe formationandconsolidationof adaptive strategies.This work, however, has been criticized recently both
implicitlyand explicitlyfor failingto analyzecorrectlythe role of Chiapas

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and the Indian populationsin regional,national,and global economies.


Wasserstrom's
(257, 316-319)research,drawingheavilyon recentMarxist
work,showsthe importanceof systematicallyconsideringthe demographic
patterns,ritual activities,and work organizationin this wider context.
HighlandIndians'life was even more directlyinfluencedby regionaland
nationalelites than Collierwould suggest.
This debateover Chiapasresemblesdisagreementsover anothermore
famousethnographiccase:the Nuer. Sahlins's(263) reanalysisshows the
organizationalstrengthof the segmentarylineagesystem.More recently,
attemptshave beenmadeto relatethe presenceof the segmentarylineage
systemamongthe Nuer and its absenceamongthe neighboringDinka to
differentlevelsof populationpressure(206) and to differentialspatialpatternsof resourcedistribution(110). Southall(285) offersa detailedanalysis
of bothfactors.Sacks'(261)interestingrecenttreatmentemphasizespolitical economy.The Nuer and the Dinka had differenthistoricalexperiences
withtradersfromotherareas,andtheserelationsled to thesecharacteristic
patternsof internaldifferentiation.As in the case of Chiapas,though,
differentexplanationsfocuson politicaleconomyon the one handandlocal
ecologyandsocialstructureon the other.Effortsat synthesisof the two are
still incomplete.
Similaraspectsof processualecologicalanthropologyare shown in the
February1977issue of AmericanEthnologistdevotedto humanecology.
Sevenof the 11articlesexaminethe rationalityof individualactorsandthe
mannerin whichexternalconstraintsshapetheirchoices.Thereis a correspondingdeemphasison conceptssuchas carryingcapacityandhomeostasis whichwerefavoredby the neofunctionalists.
It is significantthat all the
articlesexaminecomplexstate societiesratherthan small-scalesocieties.
Neofunctionalist
ecologicalanthropology,whichwasmorefocusedon local
populationsin homeostaticequilibriumwith their environment,restricted
itself to such populations.The greatertime depth possible in complex
settings,andoneseriesof responsesof differentgroupswithinsuchsocieties,
demonstratesthe importanceof historicalchange rather than of static
equilibriumor long-termevolution,justifyingthe labelof "processual"for
such studies.This settingin complexsocietiesclarifiesthe importanceof
extralocalties andof the accessto extralocalresourceswhichthe neofunctionalistsneglected.Thesesettings,as Formanand Colliershow, are ones
in whichconffictcanbe examined.Theseaspectsof socialorganizationwere
greatlyneglectedby neofunctionalists,whose focus on the adaptationof
localpopulationsled themto assumethatthe interestsof all individualsand
groupswithin the populationwere similarand compatible.Aside from a
functionalistexaminationof primitivewarfare,a discussionof conffictappears in only a few cases of works by neofunctionalistecological an-

ECOLOGICAL
ANTHROPOLOGY 261
thropologists,notablyBarth(13) andLeeds(170),bothof whomhaveused
actor-basedmodelswith considerablesuccessin the analysisof social and
economicorganizationof complexsocieties.Some nonstatesettingshave
also attractedprocessualecological anthropologists(36a). New Guinea
allowsfor the testingof Boserup'shypothesison demographicpressureand
and the natureof Melanesiansocialand politiagriculturalintensification,
cal organizationmakesactor-basedmodelsparticularlyappealing.Nevertheless, many of the factorsidentifiedin complex societies are at work
elsewhere,and even the supposedlyisolatedlocal populationsstudiedby
neofunctionalistecologicalanthropologistshave undergoneprocessesof
historicalchangeandrelyon extralocalresources,as shownby Anderson's
(5) criticismsof Rappaport's(236) analysisof Tsembagain highlandNew
Guinea,Helms'(142)analysisof MiskitoIndiansin lowlandCentralAmerica, studiedby Nietschmann(207), and Schrire's(275a)reexaminationof
the San (166, 166b)of southernAfrica.

CONCLUSIONS
Processualecologicalanthropologyis a reactionto neofunctionalistand
neoevolutionary
approaches,whichwerealsoresponsesto the pioneerwork
of Julian Stewardand Leslie White. Adoptingan historicaltime frame,
ratherthan examiningsynchronichomeostaticequilibriaor the manymillenia of humanhistory,permitsa closer focus on mechanismsof change.
By studyingunitsotherthanthe localpopulationon whichthe neofunctionalists concentrated,studieshave been carriedout of largerunits (political
economy)and smallerones (actor-basedmodels).The eliminationof functionalist assumptionshas had severalconsequences:(a) a focus on the
mechanismswhichlink environmentand behavior;(b) an abilityto incorporateconflictas well as cooperationby recognizingthat not all goals are
population-wide;
(c) more precisestudiesof productiveactivities,settlementpatterns,andthe likewithoutassumptionsaboutequilibriummaintenance.
Processualecologicalanthropologydrawson severalrecenttrendsin the
social sciences:demography,an examinationof environmentalproblems,
the conceptof adaptivestrategies,and recentworkin Marxism.Decisionmaking models link all of them. The gap between anthropologistsand
biologistsis also narrowing,as specialistsin each fieldbecomemoreaware
of workin the otherand havebeguneffortsto link the two theories(as in
dual inheritanceapproaches)and to borrowmore cautiouslythan in the
past. The homologiesbetweenactor-basedmodels and naturalselection
favor this connectionbetweensciences without assumingthat they are

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virtuallyidenticalas the sociobiologistsdo, and the ecosystemecologists,


neofunctionalists,
and neoevolutionistsdid.
modelsas mechanismsof change
The incorporationof decision-making
has led to a greateremphasison socialorganizationandculture.Socialand
culturalsystemsinfluencethe goals which actorshave, the distributionof
resourceswhichthey use, andthe constraintsunderwhichthey operate.It
appearslikely that the comparativework in ecologicalanthropologywill
emphasizecultureareas,as in the Pacific,European,Mayan,and Andean
casesmentionedhere,as wellas the comparisonsof evolutionarystagesand
productiontypes which characterizedthe neofunctionalistand neoevolutionarystages.As this workprogresses,materialistandidealistapproaches
in anthropologyare likely to find more commongroundthrougha more
of cultureand ideologyas systemswhichmediate
thoroughinterpretation
betweenactorsand environmentsthroughthe constructionof behavioral
alternatives.
As ecological anthropologydraws closer to biology and history, it
becomesenrichedandenrichesotherfields.Althoughit incorporatesmodels and researchmethodsfrom other areas of anthropologyand other
disciplines,it must reworkthem to suit its own needs ratherthan adopt
themblindly.Thisassociationwithotherfields,however,createsthe danger
of a fragmentationof ecologicalanthropologyinto a seriesof specialized
thoughit shows a growthof
areasof inquiry.The currentdiversification,
new lines of productiveresearch,could lead to a loss of analyticalcoherence.An examinationof theoreticalissuesandof the complexhistoryof the
field is thereforean urgenttask. Future developmentsin ecologicalanof the new commonelementsin
thropologythus rest on an understanding
processualapproaches-theimportanceof the timeframe,the roleof actorbasedmodels,a clearerfocus on mechanismsof change,and a more balancedpositionon the role of social organization,culture,and biology.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Many people provideduseful suggestionsof items to include. I wish to


thank the individualswho sent me lists of references.RichardBurger,
CandaceCross-Drew,WilliamDavis, Gary Hamilton,LaurenceKrockman,AnthonyLeeds,ValerieLevulett,ThomasLove,PeterRicherson,and
Karl Yambertgave me manyvaluablecommentson an earlierversionof
the article,which has since been published(214) .I also receivedhelpful
commentson the later versionfrom David Boyd, RobertBoyd, Michael
Chibnik,MarioDavila,WilliamDurham,TimothyEarle,MichaelHarner,
MarvinHarris, CristinaKessler, Bonnie McCay, Ellen Messer, Daniel
Meyerowitz,RobertNetting, BernardNietschmann,ChristinePaddoch,

ECOLOGICALANTHROPOLOGY

263

Eric Ross, LeslieSponsel,RobertWasserstrom,and David SloanWilson.


I also wish to thank my researchassistants,Aaron Zazuetaand Gary
Newport, for their help in locating and classifyingreferences,and the
secretaries,WandaGreene,CeceliaOdelius,Lyn Schonewise,and Clifford
Shockney,who patientlytypedvariousdraftsof this manuscript.Finally,
I would like to acknowledgethe usefuldiscussionsand insightsgenerated
by the studentsin the Anthropology/Ecology211 seminaron cultural
ecology.
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