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Against the Grain: The Vayda Tradition in Human Ecology and Ecological Anthropology

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 customer review
ISBN-13: 978-0759111738
ISBN-10: 0759111731
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Against the Grain provides an admirable survey of Vayda's career, shows some interesting extensions and applications of his ideas, and provides an elaborated critique of contrasting views in human ecology and ecological anthropology. I recommend this book to all who explore human environment relationships and those economic botanists who wish to explore why questions in their study of plant use. (Economic Botany)

This is an excellent volume. Its strength lies in providing an intellectual history of an eminent anthropologist and a partial understanding of his influence on scholars and on anthropological theory, methodology, and practice over a considerable number of years. (Current Anthropology, October 2009)

. . . An excellent volume . . . Its strength lies in providing an intellectual history of an eminent anthropologist and a partial understanding of his influence on scholars and on anthropological theory, methodology, and practice over a considerable number of years. (Current Anthropology, October 2009)

The volume is a resource that is likely to be referenced frequently by researchers and individual chapters will provide excellent reading material for courses in ecological anthropology. (Human Ecology, 18 February 2010)

In a world of enormous socio-environmental complexity, perhaps the most laudable intellectual position is one of rigorous humility. The works in this volume are compelling tributes to such an approach, providing sober, meticulous, and powerful explanations, all of which urge against over-simple generalization and a priori assumptions, which too often blur our understanding of the environmental changes around us. The Vayda tradition is alive and well, and we would all do well to heed its lessons. (Paul Robbins, University of Wisconsin–Madison)

Against the Grain provides an admirable survey of Vayda's career, shows some interesting extensions and applications of his ideas, and provides an elaborated critique of contrasting views in human ecology and ecological anthropology.I recommend this book to all who explore human environment relationships and those economic botanists who wish to explore "why" questions in their study of plant use. (Economic Botany)

About the Author

Bradley B. Walters is associate professor of geography & environment at Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick. Bonnie J. McCay is Board of Governors Distinguished Service Professor at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, in the Department of Human Ecology. Paige West is assistant professor of anthropology at Barnard College, New York. Susan Lees is professor emerita of anthropology at Hunter College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 392 pages
  • Publisher: AltaMira Press (December 16, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0759111731
  • ISBN-13: 978-0759111738
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,343,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By E. N. Anderson VINE VOICE on March 16, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Andrew Vayda has a record of over 60 years of leadership in ecological anthropology. This book is a collection of 18 essays by his students and associates with a final long essay by Vayda himself. The essays exemplify Vayda' approach to explaining events, or, in a couple of cases, critique it (respectfully).
Vayda has spent many years exploring the problem of causation in social science. Humans are complex, and anything important that humans do inevitably has a long and problematic causal chain leading to it. Vayda has long insisted on analyzing "events," or closely-defined "types of events" (see p. 318), and working outward carefully to establish exactly what directly led to them on the ground. He opposes the classic science approach of invoking broad covering laws and seeing events merely as examples of a law in action. The latter often works, especially in the hard sciences, but in social science it all too often leads to the blithe assumption that the event is satisfactorily explained, when in fact the event is the result of a complex web of interacting causes. Vayda's favorite examples are claims that all is "politics" (as in the more extreme forms of "political ecology") and that all is Darwinian genetic selection (as in "Darwinian social science"). A pair of Darwinians, Catherine Driscoll and Stephen Stich, attempt to answer in this book, but their chapter is too brief and sketchy to make a good case--which is a pity, since really good Darwinian explanations have an excellent track record in biology. Their failure in social science is due to poor data-gathering and undertheorizing more often than to basic inadequacies of the theory itself.
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