Well after discussing on the paradigms of environment human relations we have discussed the three different forms of paradigms namely Orientalism, paternalism and communalism. Now moving on in this lecture we would be looking at the relationship is not the different ontological ideas or the ontology of how nature, culture, magic and science are in a way being understood in the domain of anthropology and which I would call as the sort of epistemological threads in anthropology.
And in this we would primarily dealing with some of the work of reading who is a social anthropologist whose base in the university of Bergen and his works are primarily on the environmental knowledge and also which are pretty much related with the areas in Solomon Islands. Now in the course of these discussions I would be sighting on the two primary communities or case studies of Evans Pritchard study of witchcraft among the agendas and also among the fishing community or if not among the Solomon Islands.
Now for quite some time this notion of epistemology is guided by the understanding of this Western science and as we have discussed in the last lecture how anthropology in a way was seen to be pretty much an off spring of Western colonialism. Now here it would be interesting to look at how this knowledge in a way the epistemology of the one on the Western science and on the other hand on the native or the local communities tends to evolve and also how this dualism of nature culture which happens to be pretty much demarcated is also in a way of personalized among the native societies but in a different way and by saying.
So we does not mean that the native societies do not engage in the idea of wild with everything but the notion of engagement in that violent term or the perception and interpretations or the way it is being applied is different from what we normally see from the European Western notion of understanding. Now also we would also differentiate between what is the emic and etic perspective or notion of interpreting things. As we have also discussed in the last lecture of how translations textual translation or translation in general is important because that is how things operate in we trying to make an understanding of a particular cultural group.
Now let me just to have a brief idea or background of this discussion I would like to quote from some of the works of Levi-Strauss wherein he says that the relationship which normally exists between people and their environment particularly that is which is the often presumed universal conceptual dualism of nature and culture. Now this sort of universalizing or the universal understanding or universal culture in general for quite some time has been pretty much the obsession of many anthropologists.
And particularly we tends to judge or evaluate others culture from understanding that is how it is being guided by the Eurocentric ideas in a way. Now therefore it is important to look at the different trends and once is which involves in the epistemological privileges in the domain or in the discipline of anthropology. Now this nature culture dualism if you look at from the western ethnoepistemology which I may use in a way derived from non-universal ontological basis. Now when we talk about ontology it is also mostly to do with how we deal with the nature of being and or maybe trying to see things from its own natural laws. Now therefore if we try to incorporate the concepts such as magic and science in a way if one tries to investigate such concepts with reference to a dualist uses in anthropological discourse and to wider philosophical debates.
Now therefore the kind of language which is being used denotes differently to different cultural groups and also how we make sense of the environment is not necessarily based on preconceive or assumption or presumption rather because it is mostly with the knowledge which is gained through the practical engagement now that is how this ontology in a way is being developed and it evolved in certain kinds of societies.
Now why is there the sort of privilege of epistemological in the disciplines of anthropology now we would ask the question as to whether or not these western rationalist presuppositions can be taken as representative of the human universal or can we afford to sort of universalized or generalize any kind of culture or human society for that matter which with their relations to their environment by simply and giving or dwelling upon the Western rationalist presumed presuppositions or whether this Western knowledge can be accorded an epistemological privilege positioned in cultural translations.
Now therefore as we have discussed in the paradigms of more importantly Orientalism there is this notion of Eurocentric ideas or biasness in which they tends to be guided by that preconceive notions of ideas of dominance over other, so this predominance over other culture, other human society innocence is to some extent blurring the boundaries if not within the discipline of anthropology itself.
Now this sort of Cartesian dwelling if not what we had discussed talk about the cartesian anxiety and in essence other metaphysics characteristic of this western ontological presuppositions have in away dominated the anthropological analyzes mostly which were undertaken during the colonial period and even in the post-colonial period. Now this dominant discourse of European culture to sort of engage in universalizing to some extent has also talked about the engagement or using the ideas of taxonomy classification categories or in essence trying to in a way. So the dualism of nature and culture as if nature and culture is a separate identity so this sort of ridiculousness which in a way was part of the European culture often in a way tries to ignore the others that is the non-European culture ways of structuring the world. Now therefore it is important for us to also look at contextualize or which in context so that this ideas of universal categories can in a way be sort of sidelines so in sometimes that can be an alternative forms of and epistemology.
Now this presumes ideas of dualism of nature and culture what Wagner is argues at although we allow that which I quote although we allow that other cultures comprise a set of artifacts and images which differ in style from our own when he say from our own he talking about the European culture we tend to superimpose them on the same reality nature as we perceive it so that sort of superimpositions or if not the attitude of this dominance or rather paternalistic. Sort of attitude has been evolving for quite some time when other cultures are being studied if not also how nature is being perceived because as there is a stringent or boundaries which is drawn between nature and culture and that is how this sort of dichotomy is being established between the humans and the environment, the kind of relationship which is being shared is rather interpret in a different sense.
Now therefore there is no from the EU centric stance there is no such thing as nature or culture and it is highly relativize concept this again is being stated by Strathern which of course is widely credited claim for bringing a new trends in the ecological anthropology by using this concept called cultural ecology. Now Strathern in a way has a different opinions and understanding or perceptions of these ideas of nature and culture, for him this sort of dualism does not really exist.
And doesn’t make sense because what he says is both this notions nature and culture is highly in a way relative in nature because it depends on how one Maxim's and interpret from that particular context and situations. So therefore this ultimate significance must be sort of understood or derived from its place within a specific metaphysics so therefore it is important to read the text and context rather than sort of engaging in the presumption.
So this sort of stance were in a way pretty much revolving around even among the anthropologists themselves or within anthropology itself. Now if you take the some of the examples for instance like witchcraft magic and Oracles.
Now witchcraft for many of you who might not be really familiar in essence is a witchcraft is something which is being performed in order to pull some kind of some ills or rather how people are in a way and using in creating a psychic kind of act so witchcraft in a way is not something which is not simply a physical thread but also something which is being inherited. Now since it is an inherited sort of personality this practices in a way progress as the body also progress so by saying so one becomes sort of a pretty robust in that sense and once it evolve from a different stages of life. Now there are certain understanding about an explanation about witchcraft now usually this the death which is normally being caused by this witchcraft is anyway seen to be the primary things is to a binge.
So therefore among the agendas now people normally engage in sort of consulting the Oracles in order to check as to whether they are being affected by this witchcraft or not. Now and this sort of rituals or spells, sort of magic which are pretty much revolving around in the life of this agendas. Now this communities the Zande are mostly inhabiting the areas called in Africa and southern mostly concentrated in the southern student and they are pretty much guided by these beliefs or the existence of these mythical powers which exists amongst them.
And as they believe there is a sort of privilege of these practices and in a way it becomes sort of a part of their social world so this kind of practices is pretty much rampant among the Zandes communities. Now if one tries to evaluate if not looked at the prevalence of this maybe its witchcraft magic or maybe the practice of this oracles. What Evans-Pritchard make a statement is that our body of the scientific knowledge and logic are in a way sole arbiters what are mystical, common-sense and scientific notions.
And what he also further add is a context independent reality. So in a way we might tends to presume from the scientific knowledge that it is an independent reality but then there is sort of interconnections among these because it cannot happen or exist in isolation therefore this prevalence is pretty much among the social members. Now Pritchard father argue that judged by these criteria of this western science, the witchcraft in a way does not really exist and then it sometime appears that to and ethic from an ethic perspective it tends to be sort of rubbish and then it makes no sense or rather it is nonsensical to believe in the sort of prevalence of this witchcraft.
So despite the observed and recorded facts that this Zande notions about witches and their doings display a consistent logic all on their own. So it is interesting and rather the lending to record and look at the way in which this the existence of witches and how this witchcraft in a way is being operationalize because with the extensive fieldwork Pritchard has look at among the Zandes, he in a way has recorded and confirmed the existence of these practices.
Now Wittgenstein another philosopher who mainly talk in terms of this the use of logic and language again tends to see these practices or the existence of this witchcraft among Zandes as something called the language game and which in a way can be defensive or compared with a Western science. Now what he says is each set of notions Zande and this western scientific are based on the language of games of a given community and cannot be really be afford to be judge merely based on an independent reality or a meta language.
So it is not really adequate to sort of engage with universalized knowledge or understanding and it is it would be in a way ridiculous to even think of generalizing this sort of understanding. Now therefore the western scientific logic in a way cannot constitute a context independent truth or a sole arbiter in according to which the Azande magical beliefs and practices can be judged.
Now in some sense this rational explanation of the cause and effect or maybe it might not be really valid enough to how to what extent these magical practices or how it is being effective but to those who practices it is pretty much a part of their social world and social life that in a way have certain kinds of implications and repercussions among those who practices. Now way back in the 1950s mostly the anthropological investigations are mostly based on this idea of prefixing this notion of ethno which in a way is concerned with a kind of a cognitive approach.
to the native point of view, also with regard to specific sub branches of Western science. Now in away as I use that ethno epistemology now by using this prefix notion of this ethno you are in a way trying to see the natives point of view also by inculcating these are ideas of this western science, you tends to use the Western science to interpret or maxims of these the local knowledge of these native societies.
Now in a way beginning from the 1950s, anthropological or anthropologists rather started using like the ethno science, ethno biology, ethno medicine so and so forth depending on the kind of branches or knowledge which they want to study by prefixing with ethno they are in a way engage in exploring but this again is being translated or treated as a sub branches of Western science. Now this cognitive anthropological study of systems of classification, taxonomy structure are found in other cultures.
Now therefore these classifications of plants, animals so and so forth have for quite some time been introduced in the field of this anthropological studies. Now what is this EMIC and ETIC distinction in ethnoscience? If you look at the ethnoscience so in a sense it is pretty much related with the EMIC site of the EMIC, ETIC distinctions which was originally being coined by Pike. Ethno in most cases used to be sort of a prefix name of distinguishing that Western epistemology considers to be more of an objective science based on the rigors of hypothetical deductive method.
Now in a way by using this Western science you are engaging in more of a deductive method that is not the internal or the subjective part but more evaluate or understand from the ethics if not the objective part. So in a way you can sort of state by looking at more of the Objectivist Western notion of science.
Now this prefix of using this ethno is indeed likely to sort of indicate a field or of the native knowledge whose status is relative to a canonical counterpart within the nonethno Western science. Now by using this specific prefix Ethno it tends to sort of give a sense of native knowledge and but letter rather also to be seen as sort of synonymies with the Western science.
Now what then is I would not really go into the details of every concepts which is being used with the prefix ethno because the list goes on like ethno biology, ethno medicine so and so forth but the one explanations on the one particular topic that is the ethno ecology. Ethno ecology in a way has to do with the study of the indigenous knowledge of Natural Resources and their exploitation which is cited from Ellen and the prefix ethno in a way thus indicates that the specific field of knowledge is that of the observed rather than the observer.
So which means you are in a way are trying to interpret things from the native point of view. So therefore the use of this ethno in a way somehow justifies or equate the use of this what we know as the Western science. Now we tends to see nature in terms of cultural images. Ellen strongly argues by saying that we tend to see nature from an Objective wise or objective notion rather than seeing in terms of the subjective that is the cultural images the kind of relationship which humans share with nature if not the environment around them.
How do they make sense of that? So that sort of relationship is not being adequately or indepthly being looked at, but rather from only the ethic point of view that is which seems to be rather external rather than internal. Now this western discipline of ecology as defined why one of its pioneers the study of the earth’s life-support systems what Odum has said, whereas ethno ecology in a sense remains tied to notions of about the natural environment.
Now when you see or looked at ecology and different from ethno ecology you tends to sort of the demarcate sort of the relationship between the notions of human and the natural environment.
Now this cultural meaning which is pretty much embedded in the human natural relationship is seen as something which is interacting with the laws that regulate nature. Now because this cultural meaning can only be explained in a more empirical way only when you look at the kind of laws or with nature that is how it operationalize therefore emphasis in a way is given to studying people cultural maps that is their knowledge their ideas which move around in the particular environment.
How the maxims or how they sort of integrate or the kind of relationship which they share to a natural environment who is given our attributes are again defined by a Western science. So this sort of cultural meaning which in a way is looking at the laws of this how regulate with nature has to be a sort of you know we I would not say the bank but then we need to sort of come out of this obsession.
Now if you look at the Evans-Prichard’s understanding or explanation of the practices of Azande witchcrafts from the ethnoecological point of view is in a way likely to sort of presuppose the existence of a context independent reality against which the rationality of indigenous ecological knowledge may be evaluated. So therefore, the notion such as truths which is established by or facts which is established by Western biological and ecological science in a sense retain this epistemological privilege.
Now therefore one should not be obsessed or defined or directed by this western science when one evaluates any form of knowledge may be the Azande witchcraft or something else because it has to be sort of sins sin in the perspective of its independent reality but not guided by certain kinds of prefix if not presumption. Now moving on now we need to proceeds from this ontological construct.
That is in which this dualism of nature and culture dominates because this is what normally is being sinned and the ideas which is conceived by many Western anthropologists or maybe the environment orientalist. In a sense this conventional study of ethno ecology in a way tends to imply that a subjective rate of culture is imposed upon the objective reality of nature, so this sort of imposition of this objective reality or the kind of ontological ontology of this nature has to be sort of understood.
So that how we move on from this ontological constructs of that is the existence of this dualism of nature and culture in a way is in away dominating distance of this anthropology. Now if you see from the perspective of methods like for instance which a way looked at talks about the validity and then applicability and also how in a way is being proven. Methodologically speaking this approach that is in a way generates much information on taxonomic representations and that is the classifications of plants and animals.
but less on the environmental processes and also the relations as perceived by the people in question. The subject which we normally study in a way is being missed out so when you sort of your focus is more on the taxonomic representations you tends to ignore or maybe turn a deaf ear to sort of the waiting's which is being structured around that is the environmental process and relations because you tends to missed out.
So in a way you can say that you miss the trees for the woods so, so therefore if one is guided by investigating or looking on the particular things you tend to miss out the whole structure and then the kind of relations which exist in this environmental processes.
Now therefore one cannot afford to single out a particular epistemology of the native people because those knowledge again is interrelated. Now therefore its not be seen from the perspective of this only a predator and a prey but rather it should be seen from the point of how an individual tries to Maxim's or tries to look at the inter relations which exists among the communities.
where one tends to like study. Now since those processes in a way be being judged or understood from a priori by the anthropologist by looking at the using the gaze of this Western scientific knowledge about the reality of nature, they tends to miss out certain important indicators. As I pointed out the environmental process and relations which is more to be seen from the holistic approaches. Now if one is being again obsessed and guided by this western scientific knowledge about reality of needs because that that sort of relations which is share between the human and environmental relations is again missed out. Now thus the studies which normally is about the ecological knowledge of many indigenous societies
normally emphasizes on the taxonomic if not the categories and criteria for classification again do not correspond to those of Western science because it is sometimes difficult to categorize and classify these indigenous ecological knowledge because often times it cannot be documented and, and one cannot really explain as in the case of the formal knowledge of Western science as A is the cause of B or vice versa or may be rather from the indigenous ecological knowledge. It is more to be seen in terms of A is seen to be in relation to B and vice-versa. Remember we had talked about these ideas of this protection and reciprocity when we talk about the human environmental relations mostly which is operationalized among the hunting and gathering societies so therefore there is no scope or one cannot really afford to clearly distinguish between nature and culture or rather the existence of this dualism.
And in nature and culture is something which we cannot afford to explain in the context of the indigenous communities. So therefore it does not really corresponds to those of the Western science and that this indigenous perceptions of ecological linkages are not consistent with Western postulates of causality.
So as I said one cannot afford to be engaged on this causal explanation of this knowledge unlike the Western science. Now therefore Berlin who is the founder of this ethno biology has argued that these widespread regularities in terms of this classification and naming of animals and plants among these the aboriginals or these native societies reflect similarities in people’s largely unconscious appreciation of nature's basic plan.
Now therefore as I had also talked about the prevalence of this totem where in the plant, animal or so and so are in a way being named or classified wherein it also represents the symbols of that particular community and therefore it is seen as scared. So this sort of a particular animal used as a totem of the community again cannot be the sort of sins from the Western postulates on causality or one cannot really engage in a classification and naming unlike what the biologists and so and so forth does.
Now this sort of looking at these plans mostly that is the taxonomy of what normally the ecologists and the biologists are engage into, therefore among these nonliterate societies this name and classification in a way reflects certain kinds of largely the unconscious appreciation of nature's basic plans among the people who are alien if not outside that particular society.
Now therefore why do we talk about privileging of epistemology and anthropology because this privileging of these natural laws or phenomena and domains that are not in nature that is according to science or this westerns ontology may well be sort of precluded from having a real explanatory value in the analysis of this cultural ecological relations. Now therefore this sort of rational explanation might not be possible in terms of how it is being operationalized among the indigenous ecological knowledge as it is in practice in terms of the Western ontology.
Now thus this sort of the practice of these taxonomic categories, naming, classifications and whatnot the chains of these implications and causal linkages is perceived locally maybe sometimes or often times misrepresented by the anthropological observer which sometimes also lead to inadequate levels of contextualization.
So therefore even when the anthropologist is not spend a number of time and then it can be months, years to in studying a different cultural group oftentimes if they are being guided by this western scientific ontology they might chances are there that they might still miss out certain things and those things in a way can lead to adequate levels of contextualization.
Now one cannot really ruled out this privileging of natural laws or maybe the kind of biasness which normally is being shown by the visitor or the observer on the observe or this the host communities. Now therefore a patterned order or a universal in this classification in a way tends to obscure certain facts or truths which are embedded in that context so, so now without any one type of this environment.
So considerable cultural variation which has to be recognized so one needs to recognize that under one environmental setting or one type of environment there are n numbers of sort of cultural variations the kind of understanding or may be the kind of name which is being given to a particular plant might also denote something else so it is important to look at the kind of metaphors.
The textual language which is being used as rightly pointed out by the against it. Now therefore one needs to have a closer observation that is the practice in which humans and get with the environment that is the relationship which they shear therefore one needs to have a closer examination rather than simply engaging from a positivist pursuit of these cognitive models mainly of the taxonomic representations.
If we happens to do so that is by pursuing from a positivist if not a western science orientation will may tends to lead the way into an expanded approach to a more of cultural ecology and reversal to the long-running neglect of ethnobiology by the mainstream anthropologist. Now this is what Ellen has argued and therefore one needs to have a closer attention rather than simply engaging in these ideas of positivist notions of understanding which otherwise lead need to different kinds of the neglect of these details of anthropology.
Now what could perhaps be the alternatives of this epistemologies not necessarily which is guided by the Western positivist or the western epistemology. Now what is the because it is important at this point for us to locate the epistemologies of the native people or the local knowledge. Now reading has made an extensive study among the Solomon island as I pointed out among them marovo lagoon which is located in the new Georgia area and the western province.
Now this place is again an ecologically diverse environment and people are more or less relying on their daily engagement with the sea environment that is they are molars dependent for the subsistence on this environment. People in a way tends to relate more to the environment see that is the coral reef and also the rainforest in which they depend for the material and spiritual sustenance.
Now when we talk about the material we are in a way trying to again see the dichotomy of nature and culture but over here it is something different because it tends to look at how they are dependent on this environment not just for the material aspect but also for the spiritual sustenance.
Now in this Marovo lagoons there are more or less being inhabited by around like ten thousand in populations and mostly the household productions are primarily centered on shifting cultivation or Sweden agriculture of root crops mainly they plant sweet potatoes and also they engage in collecting the coral reefs and lagoons fishing and every small amount of different variation in terms of the case pursuit that is in terms of engaging in different kinds of trading and so and so forth
Now if you look at this the Marovo lagoons now it is important to again contextualize from the ontological premises that the organism relationship with these nonliving components of the environment is again subsumed in the concept of in the local term known as puava which is to be seen as the relationships of this land, sea and the territory. So this in a way does not constitute a distinct Realm or territory of nature or natural environment separate from cultural human society rather there is this sort of interrelationship or the kind of relations which they share is to be sinned in relationship with something else. Now for instance the reefs, sea and forest and the living things therein are not viewed by these the Marovo people as an environment of neutral optics or may be seen from the ontology of maybe natural laws or something else.
Now as I had in the beginning in the introduction pointed out that there is of course these ideas of this wild and tame dimension which is personalized among the marovo people but in a different way. This concept again is a matter of degree and functions which is seem to be sort of in relationship rather than binary of positions that is a dualism or something which is a radical distinction is made but rather it is seen in terms of an analytic code.
That is we are related rather than contrasted and also they do not constitute an equivalent to a nature culture dichotomy. Now which we had also in the previous lectures talks about were Strathern again look into the Cree people sorry in the New Guinea Island how the
Log in to save your progress and obtain a certificate in Alison’s free Ecology: The Environmental Crisis and Religion online course
Sign up to save your progress and obtain a certificate in Alison’s free Ecology: The Environmental Crisis and Religion online course
Please enter you email address and we will mail you a link to reset your password.