Spring 2017 Course Description
Ethnobiology is the interdisciplinary study of how groups of people living in different locations and at different times understand and interact with their surrounding environments, and how we are both shaped by, and shapers of, our environments. As such, Ethnobiology weaves together an understanding of the reciprocal relationship between human cultures and the landscapes and seascapes of which we are a part.
Much of this course will focus on where we are now situated, within the traditional territories of the Puget Sound Coast Salish people. From here, we will engage in both intellectual reflection and hands-on activities to understand and engage in Ethnobiological praxis. In doing so, my goal is that you will gain both practical skills and knowledge to grow your own understanding of the role that Ethnobiology can play in addressing complex environmental problems in a manner that is both environmentally sustainable and socially just. We will discuss a variety of social and ecological issues affecting the cultural ecosystems of the Puget Sound basin and the communities that depend on them. In the process, we will develop the skills and knowledge to contribute to solutions that protect, respect and restore biocultural diversity and Indigenous and local forms of knowledge of the natural world. The course will provide students with concepts, skills and communication strategies to help address such natural/cultural resource management dilemmas and environmental justice issues in ways that integrate Indigenous and local forms of knowledge with cosmopolitan science.
As an interdisciplinary field, there are many approaches to Ethnobiology. This course focuses primarily on the field through the lens of Anthropology. Anthropology teaches us that there are many different ways of knowing, experiencing and valuing non-human nature. Sometimes these ways of knowing are complementary, and at other times they are in conflict. In particular, we will stress potential complementarities – but not ignore current and historic conflicts – between knowledge and practice derived from resource dependent communities, and those derived from cosmopolitan science.