A View from a Point Ethnoecology as Situated Knowledge

Nazarea, V. (1999). A View from a Point Ethnoecology as Situated Knowledge.Ethnoecology: Situated Knowledge/Located Lives.

In this piece Virginia Nazarea discusses the meaning of ethnoecology and the origin of the term. “Ethno-“ denotes a localized application of a branch also an attempt toward understanding local understanding about an experience, the “native point of view.” There were two original approches of ethnoecology: Berlin’s was to demonstrate Western scientific ignorance about other peoples’ ways of thinking and doing and noting the arrogance in dismissing anything different as being inferior. This approach places value on local knowledge by emphasizing its internal coherence and environmental and sociocultural adaptiveness. The other, led by Hunn and Ellen, is to cross-reference native systems of classification to Western’s and demonstrate how they match rank by rank and category by category. The second approach subjects local knowledge to a test of legitimacy by measuring it against Western systems of classification and downplaying its adaptability to varying environmental demands and cultural dimensions. This caused a shift in thinking from viewing native systems as naïve and rudimentary to recognizing that local cultures know their own environment and how to use it for their day to day life. Nazarea says that anthropologists can no longer use Western systems of though as a way to measure everything that is good or true. Nazarea thinks that we could combine the efforts on getting rid of universals while simultaneously placing importance on how culture shapes cognition and mediates behavior. Lastly, Nazarea describes how she thinks ethnoecology can make the connection between cultural conceptions of landscape and management of the commons.