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This influential work is the most important and widely cited book ever published in ecological anthropology. It is a classic case study of human ecology in a tribal society, the role of culture (especially ritual) in local and regional resource management, negative feedback, and the application of systems theory to an anthropological population. It is considered a major wo This influential work is the most important and widely cited book ever published in ecological anthropology. It is a classic case study of human ecology in a tribal society, the role of culture (especially ritual) in local and regional resource management, negative feedback, and the application of systems theory to an anthropological population. It is considered a major work of theory, yet it is also empirically grounded in Rappaport's meticulous collection of quantitative and qualitative data on such "material" matters as diet and energy expenditure, as well as such mental-cognitive-ideational domains as myth and folk taxonomies. Rappaport's tour de force is a recognized classic because it contributes in so many ways to anthropological theory, ethnographic methodology, ecological anthropology, and the anthropology of religion. This enlarged edition offers a carefully reasoned, empirically focused reassessment of Rappaport's original study in the context of ongoing theoretical and methodological problems.


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This influential work is the most important and widely cited book ever published in ecological anthropology. It is a classic case study of human ecology in a tribal society, the role of culture (especially ritual) in local and regional resource management, negative feedback, and the application of systems theory to an anthropological population. It is considered a major wo This influential work is the most important and widely cited book ever published in ecological anthropology. It is a classic case study of human ecology in a tribal society, the role of culture (especially ritual) in local and regional resource management, negative feedback, and the application of systems theory to an anthropological population. It is considered a major work of theory, yet it is also empirically grounded in Rappaport's meticulous collection of quantitative and qualitative data on such "material" matters as diet and energy expenditure, as well as such mental-cognitive-ideational domains as myth and folk taxonomies. Rappaport's tour de force is a recognized classic because it contributes in so many ways to anthropological theory, ethnographic methodology, ecological anthropology, and the anthropology of religion. This enlarged edition offers a carefully reasoned, empirically focused reassessment of Rappaport's original study in the context of ongoing theoretical and methodological problems.

30 review for Pigs for the Ancestors: Ritual in the Ecology of a New Guinea People

  1. 5 out of 5

    Ann

    Materialist Frameworks: Cultural Ecology and Cultural Materialism Pigs for the Ancestors by Roy Rappaport 1967, 1984 Cannibals and Kings by Marvin Harris 1977 Rounding out my recent readings on materialist frameworks within anthropological theory, these two books move past looking at cultural ecology as a type of evolutionism, and explore the concept in more of a deterministic framework. Building on Steward’s efforts to understand the interplay between culture, production processes, and environment Materialist Frameworks: Cultural Ecology and Cultural Materialism Pigs for the Ancestors by Roy Rappaport 1967, 1984 Cannibals and Kings by Marvin Harris 1977 Rounding out my recent readings on materialist frameworks within anthropological theory, these two books move past looking at cultural ecology as a type of evolutionism, and explore the concept in more of a deterministic framework. Building on Steward’s efforts to understand the interplay between culture, production processes, and environment, both Roy Rappaport’s Pigs for the Ancestors (1967) and Marvin Harris’s Cannibals and Kings (1977) put forth case studies which focus on functional relationships within specified groups, and their relations with the broader environment; however, Rappaport presents a more cultural ecological perspective, looking at how ritual acts as a “homeostat,” balancing human and environmental relations, while Harris takes a more cultural materialist approach, discussing cultural adaptive responses that have attempted to combat the determinative factor of steady population growth. In Pigs for the Ancestors, Rappaport puts forth his cultural ecological theoretical framework by presenting the interplay between pig and human populations, sweet potato production, warfare, cultivation lands, and pig-slaying festivals among the Tsembaga Maring, which inhabit a discrete eco-system in New Guinea’s central highlands. At the center of these dynamic factors is the Maring kaiko ritual cycle, which Rappaport contends, internally functions to regulate population numbers, land use, periods of warfare, protein intake, and energy expenditure. As described in Pigs, when the pig population increases to the point that human and natural resources are endangered, women and men engage in an interplay that results in a consensus, whereupon warfare is suspended so that trade and ritual feasting (protein intake) can take place; the “Maring ritual, in short, operates…as a homeostat - maintaining a number of variables that comprise the total system within ranges of viability.” (Rappaport 1967: 229) In addition to presenting his systems based ethnography, in Pigs Rappaport also quantifies his hypothesis by presenting floral and faunal lists and rates of yield and consumption, among other data, furnishing future anthropologists with a model by which they can quantitatively analyze the nutritional needs of a group and their stock animals. At Columbia, both Rappaport and Harris were exposed to each other’s theoretical frameworks; they are fairly similar in some regards, however, Harris embraces a far more deterministic perspective than Rappaport. In Cannibals and Kings, Harris presents cultural materialism, which is an integration of evolutionary theory, cultural ecology, and historical materialism into a pervasively culturally deterministic approach. Harris uses cultural materialism as a means for better understanding and explaining the broad path of cultural evolution since the Agricultural Revolution. His hypothesis is that cultural processes are a reflexive response to population pressure, population growth being a primary determinant of cultural history. According to Harris, as population has increased worldwide, numerous widespread practices have emerged as adaptive responses; these cultural practices have included warfare, female infanticide, agricultural intensification, animal domestication, and redistributive chieftainships. In Harris’s view, each of these adaptive responses functioned to temporarily arrested population pressure; however, as population growth has continued, it has resulted in feudalistic structures, where never ending technological innovation, continually increasing energy expenditure, and greater social controls exist. Harris explains male supremacy, the origins of the state, food taboos, cannibalism among the Aztec, the Mayan collapse, “hydraulic civilizations,” the emergence certain religions, and even Marxism, to all be cultural bi-products of population pressure. I find Rappaport’s cultural ecological theoretical framework clearly both functionalist and materialist, yet understand that in Pigs he was attempting to move past these paradigms and look at ritual not just as a function, but more of an adaptive structure. While Rappaport certainly discusses the Tsembaga political system, group structure, and warfare, he successfully finds a way to study the ecological effects of ritual without having to bring up its dependency on other social institutions. One contention I have is that although Rappaport states that the kaiko has no “practical result on the external world,” doesn’t it in fact play a key role in keeping the Tsembaga ecosystem in balance, having a significant ecological, economic, and political effect on the Tsembaga themselves, as well as the surrounding Maring peoples and greater New Guineans? (Rappaport 1967: 3) As for Harris, while I applaud his attempt to put forth a general process of cultural history, the impossibly deterministic approach he employs, in my opinion, has backfired, leaving his analyses to be a bit overstated and simplified.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tori

    Ethnography, now considered classic ethnography, but groundbreaking for its day

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jim Leftwich

  4. 5 out of 5

    Susan Mazur Stommen

  5. 4 out of 5

    Heather

  6. 5 out of 5

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  7. 4 out of 5

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  8. 5 out of 5

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  10. 5 out of 5

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  11. 4 out of 5

    Christine Kendrick

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    Jorge Rocha

  13. 4 out of 5

    Grant

  14. 5 out of 5

    Tim

  15. 4 out of 5

    Michael Block

  16. 4 out of 5

    Abbytusinger

  17. 5 out of 5

    Julio

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kara

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Baker

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anne-Sophie

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mark

  22. 5 out of 5

    mlo

  23. 4 out of 5

    Christy Chabassol-Moynham

  24. 4 out of 5

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  25. 4 out of 5

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  26. 4 out of 5

    Susan Klemetti

  27. 4 out of 5

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  28. 4 out of 5

    Ashley Burke

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pol Olivella

  30. 4 out of 5

    David

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