The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill

The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill

Tim Ingold

Language: English

Pages: 480

ISBN: 0415617472

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


In this work Tim Ingold offers a persuasive approach to understanding how human beings perceive their surroundings. He argues that what we are used to calling cultural variation consists, in the first place, of variations in skill. Neither innate nor acquired, skills are grown, incorporated into the human organism through practice and training in an environment. They are thus as much biological as cultural.

The twenty-three essays comprising this book focus in turn on the procurement of livelihood, on what it means to 'dwell', and on the nature of skill, weaving together approaches from social anthropology, ecological psychology, developmental biology and phenomenology in a way that has never been attempted before. The book revolutionises the way we think about what is 'biological' and 'cultural' in humans, about evolution and history, and indeed about what it means for human beings - at once organisms and persons - to inhabit an environment.

Reissued with a brand new preface, The Perception of the Environment is essential reading not only for anthropologists but also for biologists, psychologists, archaeologists, geographers and philosophers.

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as we recognise that feeling is a mode of active, perceptual engagement, a way of being literally ‘in touch’ with the world. The craftsman feels his raw material, as the potter feels clay or the turner feels wood, and out of that process of feeling there emerges the form of the vessel. Likewise, the orchestral musician feels – or rather watches – the gestures of the conductor, and out of that feeling comes a phrase shaped in sound. Or more generally, art gives form to human feeling; it is the

‘shout’, ‘bubble’, and ‘yell’ (Janácˇ ek 1989: 232). Figure 1.4 is a reproduction of what he Figure 1.4 Janácˇ ek’s sketches of the sounds of the waves, as he stood on the shore at the Dutch port of Flushing in 1926 (taken from his essay ‘The sea, the land’, in Janácˇ ek 1989: 229–34). From Janácˇ ek’s Uncollected Essays on Music, Selected, Edited and Translated by Mirka Zemanová, published by Marion Boyars Publishers of London and New York, 1989, p. 232. • 23 • • 24 • Livelihood put in

a feeling tantamount to love and one that, in the domain of human relations, is experienced in sexual intercourse. In telling of the hunt he gives shape to that feeling in the idioms of speech. In his recent study of reindeer herders and hunters of the Taimyr region of northern Siberia, David Anderson (2000: 116–17) writes that in their relations with animals and other components of the environment, these people operate with a sentient ecology. This notion perfectly captures the kind of knowledge

to all humans, not just ‘modern Western’ or ‘civilised’ ones, and it is ethnocentric to imagine that while we decide what to do in any given situation on the basis of rational deliberation, they are bound in their actions by blind conformity to the received wisdom of cultural convention. What, then, of non-human animals? They, too, seem to come out with strategies of resource procurement which would look eminently rational, had they worked these strategies out for themselves. But of course, you

nature and culture, or In the following three sections I shall move between physical substance and conceptual form. on to examine, in more detail, how this 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 40 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 118 Hunting, gathering and perceiving 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 1 2 3111 4 5 6 7 8 9 20 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 30 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 40 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 118 contrast has been played out in the context of Western anthropological studies of hunters and

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