Particularism vs. Cultural Ecology Franz Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1302 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Anthropology


Man adapts to two environments cognitive and operative Culture imposed on nature as well as nature imposed on culture. How men participate in an ecosystem depends not only on the structure and composition of that ecosystem but also upon the cultural baggage of those who enter it, what they and their descendents subsequently receive by diffusion or invent themselves the demands imposed on the local population from outside, and the needs which may be fulfilled by the local population from abroad.

Rappaport, as quoted in Marquette)

Here, we see that Rappaport is much more interested in the specifics of the historical situation as they present themselves to the observer and in considering the possibility of outside influences as well of the effects of the culture itself in subsequent developments. Thus, while Rappaport employs an overarching framework that would be in accordance with Steward's ideas about Cultural Ecology, his focus is not on the systematic development of the relationship between environment and culture, but on the particulars of any culture or historical event that is engrossed in the process of undergoing change. Indeed, Rappaport "stated that much is to be gained by regarding culture 'as part of the means by which animals of the human species maintain themselves in their environment'" (Runk). Thus, his focus on the particularities of an event reflects the influence of Boaz on his work.

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In his work, Marvin Harris, too has established the link between environment and culture. In his work, he has even developed an idea, known as "Cultural Materialism," which deals with a similar interaction between culture and environment as those that have been considered above, albeit with some very important and notable differences:

TOPIC: Term Paper on Particularism vs. Cultural Ecology Franz Assignment

Harris accepts modern criticisms of narrow views of the scientific method, but argues that science is still special in some way, that it is not "just another cultural practice." At the centre of cultural materialist epistemology is the distinction between the emic and the etic (roughly that between mental processes and symbolic structures on the one hand and observable physical and behavioural phenomena on the other) and a concern that the study of the latter take epistemological precedence over the former. This is not unique to cultural materialism, however, and the latter's distinguishing feature is a division of culture into infrastructure (ecological and biological constraints, modes of production), structure (kinship, politics) and superstructure (religion, art), coupled with a belief that this ordering reflects the dominant direction of causality.


Here, Harris reveals himself to be similarly situated between the legacy of Steward and Boaz and this shared inheritance is revealed in the compartmentalization of his work into several different elements that contribute to the functioning of culture. Like Steward's concept of the Cultural Center, Harris believes that ecological and biological restrictions as well as the requirements of the modes of the production lie at the center of cultural structure, as well as our basic instinctual impulses as humans, and the other cultural elements develop from these bases.

Thus, while Boaz and Steward's views of Historical Particularism and Cultural Ecology disagree on the way in which the emphasize the interaction between culture and environment, later theorists have attempted to resolve the differences between the theorists. The work of Rappaport and Harris shows the influence of both theories.


Boaz, Franz. A Franz Boaz Reader. George W. Stocking Jr., ed. Chicago: U. Chicago

Press, 1974.

Cultural Ecology." Apr. 30, 2003.

Marquette, Catherine. "Some Notes on the Development of Cultural Ecology.' Apr. 30, 2003.

Runk, Julie Velasques. "What Pigs for the Ancestors Wrought: A Presentist

Historiography." Apr. 30, 2003.

Yee, Danny. "A Review of Cultural Materialism." Apr. 30, 2003. [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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