Sentient Ecology

For the second class of Cultural Ecology 2017, we finished the chapter on “Culture, nature, environment” in Tim Ingold’s Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill. We also began Hugh Brody’s classic Maps and Dreams: Indians and the British Columbia Frontier.

This material was for Cultural Ecology 2017. The first class introduced the Culture, Nature, Environment and the next class tackled the paradox of Rational Foraging.

Ingold has a great quote about sentient ecology:

Intuitive understanding, in short, is not contrary to science or ethics, nor does it appeal to instinct rather than reason, or to supposedly ‘hardwired’ imperatives of human nature. On the contrary, it rests in perceptual skills that emerge, for each and every being, through a process of development in a historically specific environment. These skills, I maintain, provide a necessary grounding for any system of science or ethics that would treat the environment as an object of its concern. The sentient ecology is thus both pre-objective and pre-ethical. I have no wish to devalue the projects of either natural science or environmental ethics, indeed both are probably more needed now than ever before. My plea is simply that we should not lose sight of their pre-objective, pre-ethical foundations. My overriding aim has been to bring these foundations to light. (2000, 25)

For parallel material in Cultural Ecology 2020, see the class on Revelation.

In 2022 I revisited this material for a course in the History of Anthropological Thought:


Living Anthropologically means documenting history, interconnection, and power during a time of global transformation. We need to care for others as we attempt to build a world together. This blog is a personal project of Jason Antrosio, author of Fast, Easy, and In Cash: Artisan Hardship and Hope in the Global Economy. For updates, subscribe to the YouTube channel or follow on Twitter.

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