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ANT204H1 Lecture Notes - Indeterminism, Houseplant, Hubris

Course Code
Saul Cohen

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ANT204H1F February 6th, 2011
Lecture #5
Surely Nature is “Natural” (part 2): The Social Construction of the Pristine
Activity: Someone Else Elephant
a. The social Construction of Nature
Video: Second Nature
b. Objectivist versus Constructivist Ideas of Nature
Recap: My Houseplant (Nature and Culture)
c. Separation of Nature and Culture
d. History Construction of Nature
A - The Social Construction of Nature
What does this mean?
When we see his particular image, this particular animal (two elephants) is seen and
all the things we know about it comes to mind. One can think of many things when
looking upon this image, such as ecotourism, which move away from the literal
representation of animal. One can think of the animal as endangered, or
overpopulated (Kenya vs South Africa). South Africa has to many elephants who are
damaging the environment and allow a certain number of them to be killed and sold,
but ironically the money is funneled back into conservation efforts. If elephants have
the same kind of emotion that is considered human-like, why are we killing them to
preserve the environment and why not humans?
Can be considered a pest or a threat to your life, because they can kill and destroy
There is something inherently positive about it. The idea of nature, pristine nature,
is powerful and transmitted through the image. Yet some people see it as ivory, or
financial means. Few of us have even seen an Elephant in it’s natural habitat.
Which or whose meaning wins? Which meaning becomes dominant or dominates?
Who gets to decide if this is a financial idea or natural one?
Struggles over nature and resources are struggles over meaning. **
If the meaning of wilderness is pristine, if you can convince or create the idea, then
you have won the resource; you control the meaning
B Objectivist versus Constructivist Ideas of Nature
o These are your hard core scientific approaches. Reality observable through
senses and they are subject to experimentation.
Some are preferred over another because they have certain practical and political
Hard “constructivist”:
o Argue that nature is completely socially constructed and not separate from
us at all. It is always completely apart of us.
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