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The Anthropology of Climate Change: An Historical Reader

Michael R. Dove (Editor)
ISBN: 978-1-118-60595-0
360 pages
December 2013, Wiley-Blackwell
The Anthropology of Climate Change: An Historical Reader (1118605950) cover image


This timely anthology brings together for the first time the most important ancient, medieval, Enlightenment, and modern scholarship for a complete anthropological evaluation of the relationship between culture and climate change.

  • Brings together for the first time the most important classical works and contemporary scholarship for a complete historical anthropological evaluation of the relationship between culture and climate change
  • Covers the historic and prehistoric records of human impact from and response to prior periods of climate change, including the impact and response to climate change at the local level
  • Discusses the impact on global debates about climate change from North-South post-colonial histories and the social dimensions of the science of climate change.
  • Includes coverage of topics such as environmental determinism, climatic events as social catalysts, climatic disasters and societal collapse, and ethno-meteorology
  • An ideal text for courses in climate change, human/cultural ecology, environmental anthropology and archaeology, disaster studies,  environmental sciences, science and technology studies, history of science, and conservation and development studies
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments to Sources viii

About the Editor x

Preface xi

Acknowledgments xiv

Introduction: The Anthropology of Climate Change

Six Millennia of Study of the Relationship between Climate and Society 1
Michael R. Dove

Part I Continuities 37

Climate Theory

1 Airs, Waters, Places 41

2 On the Laws in Their Relation to the Nature of the Climate 47
Charles de Secondat Montesquieu

Beyond the Greco-Roman Tradition

3 The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History 55
Ibn Khaldûn

4 The Jungle and the Aroma of Meats: An Ecological Theme in Hindu Medicine 67
Francis Zimmermann


5 Concerning Weather Signs 83

6 Gruff Boreas, Deadly Calms: A Medical Perspective on Winds and the Victorians 87
Vladimir Jankoviæ

Part II Societal and Environmental Change 103

Environmental Determinism

7 Nature, Rise, and Spread of Civilization 107
Friedrich Ratzel

8 Environment and Culture in the Amazon Basin: An Appraisal of the Theory of Environmental Determinism 115
Betty J. Meggers

Climate Change and Societal Collapse

9 Management for Extinction in Norse Greenland 131
Thomas H. McGovern

10 What Drives Societal Collapse? 151
Harvey Weiss and Raymond Bradley

Climatic Events as Social Crucibles

11 Natural Disaster and Political Crisis in a Polynesian Society: An Exploration of Operational Research 157
James Spillius

12 Drought as a “Revelatory Crisis”: An Exploration of Shifting Entitlements and Hierarchies in the Kalahari, Botswana 168
Jacqueline S. Solway

Part III Vulnerability and Control 187

Culture and Control of Climate

13 Rain-Shrines of the Plateau Tonga of Northern Rhodesia 191
Elizabeth Colson

14 El Niño, Early Peruvian Civilization, and Human Agency: Some Thoughts from the Lurin Valley 201
Richard L. Burger

Climatic Disasters and Social Marginalization

15 Katrina: The Disaster and its Doubles 217
Nancy Scheper-Hughes

16 “Nature”, “Culture” and Disasters: Floods and Gender in Bangladesh 223
Rosalind Shaw

Part IV Knowledge and its Circulation 235

Emic Views of Climatic Perturbation/Disaster

17 Typhoons on Yap 239
David M. Schneider

18 The Politics of Place: Inhabiting and Defending Glacier Hazard Zones in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca 247
Mark Carey

Co-production of Knowledge in Climatic and Social Histories

19 Melting Glaciers and Emerging Histories in the Saint Elias Mountains 261
Julie Cruikshank

20 The Making and Unmaking of Rains and Reigns 276
Todd Sanders

“Friction” in the Global Circulation of Climate Knowledge

21 Transnational Locals: Brazilian Experiences of the Climate Regime 301
Myanna Lahsen

22 Channeling Globality: The 1997–98 El Niño Climate Event in Peru 315
Kenneth Broad and Ben Orlove

Index 335

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Author Information

Michael R. Dove is the Margaret K. Musser Professor of Social Ecology in the School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Professor in the Department of Anthropology,  Director of the Tropical resources Institute, and Curator of Anthropology at the Peabody Museum, Yale University.

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"...a timely contribution to the discourse in anthropology for understanding the various impacts of global climate change from multiple perspectives and contexts...the pairing of relevant and related works under specific thematic areas is useful for class reading assignments and encouraging focused comparative debates." - Sandra Moore, for Anthropology Book Forum, Anthropology News

“I believe that Dove’s book would serve as an excellent supplementary textbook for subjects on the anthropology of climate change because of its historical orientation.”  (The Australian Journal of Anthropology, 6 April 2015)

“…strengthened by Dove’s excellent introduction, in which he outlines key themes and situates each work Dove has assembled a collection that demonstrates how anthropology can enhance our understanding of the relationship between climate and society.’  (Anthem EnviroExperts Review, 1 October 2014)

“In this brilliantly devised compilation, Michael Dove takes the long view, showing shifting perspectives on climate and culture from Hippocrates and Vedic medicine to catastrophic global change. This is a refreshingly diverse contribution at an urgent time.” 
Paul Robbins, Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison

“Fundamentally, climate change is an anthropological problem. In this wonderful book, Michael Dove introduces readers to the rich diversity of anthropological perspectives on climate and society.”

J. Stephen Lansing, University of Arizona

“An innovative and instructive collection of studies on social and climate change, this book is a much needed addition to the ongoing work on how to think about climate change. The critical clarity that the papers in this collection afford should help readers to think beyond the assertions of doom or the skeptical denials that characterize nearly all work on climate – instead, the book, especially its introduction by Dove, is an invitation to think differently: an unusual luxury that gladdens the spirit.”

Arun Agrawal, University of Michigan

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