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Environment Constrains and Enables Culture.pdf

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ANTH 206
Peter Rudiak- Gould

Problems with Environmental Determinism No room for human agency Agency as creativity It's functionalist Geertz: one doesn't, remembering Aztecs human sacrifices or the self-immolation of Indian widows, know whether to laugh or to cry No room for motivations other than survival Assumes that every society is well adapted to their environments Fails to account for cultural diversity within single environments Possibilism Environment does not cause a culture to be a certain way, but rather makes it possible for it to be certain ways and impossible for it to be other ways People have agency Softer version of determinism Marshal Sahlins Explains why some Polynesian societies are more stratified than others Stratification is the "building up of layers" The dividing of a society into levels based on power or socioeconomic status As resource availability increases, the stratification level increases Food surplus Leaders can direct the use of the surplus food Allows the creation of a chiefly class Possibilism Environment did not determine how stratified the society is, but made it POSSIBLE for the Polynesians to CHOOSE it Measured stratification Are the chiefs obliged to participate in subsistence activities? Chief's clothing Are chiefs like king in terms of decision-making? Inter-chiefs marriage? The more rights the chiefs has, the more stratified the island is Hawaii/Tonga/Samoa/Tahiti Very highly stratified Mangareva/Mangaia/Easter Island/Uvea High stratified Masquesas/Tikopia/Futuna Moderately stratified Pukapuka/Ontong Java/Tokelau Weakly stratified Jared Diamond Explains why some societies became dominant over others
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