SOCIAL ANALYSIS OF ECOLOGICAL CHANGE Fall 1995
R. Soc 660/ S&TS 660/ B&Soc 460
3 or 4 credits
Seminar Tu 1.25-4.30
Asst. Prof. Peter Taylor
Science & Technology Studies
624 Clark Hall; 255-7294; email: email@example.com
Office Hours (by sign-up sheet) Tu 11.15-1.15
Processes such as deforestation, species loss, land degradation,
overpopulation, and global warming are, in their causes and their effects,
social and environmental at one and the same time. This seminar examines a
range of approaches to the analysis of ecological and social processes, drawing
on interpretations of different socio-ecological studies by historians,
sociologists and anthropologists to inform our discussions.
Topics include ideas of nature, colonial conservation science, systems ecology,
the tragedy of the commons, neo-Malthusianism, human ecology, local knowledge,
nomadic pastoralism, ecological degradation and its determinants, political
ecology, women and eco-development, and global environmental discourse.
Interpretations address themes of metaphor, worldviews, individualism,
simpling, environmental determinism, levels of analysis, relations of
production, social construction, gender, subalternity, technocratic rationality
and participatory research.
This course aims to work from two angles:
i) examining the study of ecological and social processes, as undertaken since
World War II in the disciplines of human ecology, geography, anthropology,
range ecology, environmental science, etc ; and
ii) contributing a social studies of science perspective on these studies.
Through this two-angle approach students from rural/ development sociology,
natural resources, and history and social studies of science (and other fields)
should become acquainted with a range of the problems and analytic frameworks
of historians, sociologists and anthropologists dealing with science, and this
angle should provide them critical perspectives on the different analyses of
socio-ecological issues that the course reviews. Although the coverage of
"socio-ecological" science can neither be exhaustive* nor avoid overlapping
with other courses, the topics and readings have been chosen so students should
acquire new critical perspectives on the analysis of socio-ecological issues.
(*Note: The issues analyzed tend to be Third world and non-urban, and the
interpretive perspectives come mostly from the Western commentators.)
1. Reading (sometimes a lot), attendance, and participation in the
2. Lead (probably with 1 or 2 others) the discussion for 2 seminars. Leaders
must prepare the extra readings (others are encouraged, but not required to),
and interpret their message to the class. Leaders must meet with me in advance
of the class.
3. Before class at least 8 times in the semester students must email to the
class list, STS660-L@cornell.edu, two questions that they would like
4. Undergraduates will be assigned to a peer group(s), which will meet for an
hour in advance of each class in order to prepare for the discussion and to
formulate requests for "background briefings" from me. This makes up the extra
or fourth credit.
5. Each week the first part of the seminar will be reading the 1 page
reflection/discussion provocations that students bring to class (at least 5
times in the semester). Bring enough copies for everyone in the seminar.
Emailing these also in advance to the class list will allow discussion leaders
to prepare better for discussions.
6. The last part of the seminar each week will consist of 1 or 2 students
giving short presentations on the progress of their term paper research,
conforming to the ideal schedule of progress toward the final term paper (see
7. The term paper will be either a research proposal related to your
work or a review of the growing literature in an area or period of
"socio-ecological" science. Reviews of areas not covered directly or
sufficiently in the syllabus are particularly welcome, e.g. Ecological
economics; Environmental sociology; Deep ecology, environmental ethics and left
ecologies; Sustainable development; New sociology of agriculture; Adaptive
approaches to social & ecological theory; Conservation Biology; Subaltern
studies and the environment; Women and the environment. I can provide a list
of possible readings for many of these topics. The review should use in a
disciplined and explicit way some of the social studies of science frameworks
or themes introduced in the course. 10-15 pages for undergraduates; 15-20 for
graduates, properly referenced.
Topic & bibliography 9/26
Draft 12/1 (Note the early date!)
Final version (revised following comments) 12/12 (Note the early date!)
Class presentation 11/21, 11/28 or 12/5
8. Extensions are given only if they are negotiated well in advance, and if
you get more than 2 weeks behind the schedule above, you must propose an
acceptable revised schedule. I do not want any prolonged incompletes from this
9. Submission of one or two suggested additions or substitutions to the
readings, with a brief note explaining the recommendation. Due: 12/5
Class participation 10%
Discussion leading 20
Submission of reflection/discussion provocations 10
Progress report on term paper 10
Term paper 50
Only graduate student auditors will be allowed, and they will be required to do
the reading and participate in class, including to take their turn at leading
discussions and to submit reflection/ discussion provocations.
Syllabus and readings
(Interpretive themes are given in parentheses below the topic.)
Readings will be available from Gnomon copy for around $60 (including copyright
permissions). Some required readings, marked #, are not included in the
reader, mostly because of excessive permission charges. These and the "extra"
readings will be on reserve in xerox form in the Biology & Society reading
(aka "advising") room (Clark Hall 278; open from 8.30-4.30 M-F only).
1. Introduction to course and participants
(two strands: study of ecological and social processes and social
studies of science; "intrasecting processes")
Post- class reading: Taylor, P. J. and R. García-Barrios (1995). "The
social analysis of ecological change: From systems to intersecting processes."
Social Science Information 34(1): 5-30.
2. Nature as a social and historical construct
(Historians' tools: historical semantics, cultural materialism, material
Williams, R. (1980) "Ideas of Nature," in Problems in Materialism and
Culture. London: Verso, 67-85.
Wolf, E. (1982). "Introduction & Afterword," in Europe and People
without History. Berkeley, U. Calif. Press, 1-23; 385-391.
Cronon, W. (1983) Changes in the Land N.Y.: Hill & Wang, 3-15;
Merchant, C. (1989). Ecological revolutions. Chapel Hill, U. N.
Carolina, chaps. 1 & 8
Denevan, W. M., 1992, "The pristine myth - The landscape of the Americas in
1492", Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 82(3):
Giles-Vernick, T. (1995). "Envisioning history in land: Mpimu historiography
and ecology in the Central African Republic." Workshop on Science,
Technology, and Natural Resource Management in a Comparative Global
Context, Cornell University, April.
Worster, D. and et al. "A round table: Environmental history." The journal
of American history 76 (4, 1990): 1087-1147.
Worster, D. (1977) "Science in Arcadia & The empire of reason." In
Nature's economy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2-55.
4. Systems: Cybernetics and ecology in the atomic age
(Post-WW2 technocratic optimism, correlations between social location and
Heims, S. (1980) John von Neumann and Norbert Weiner Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 179-220.
Excerpts from the Conference on Teleological Mechanisms:
Frank, L.K. (1948) "Foreword." Annals of the New York Academy of Science
Hutchinson, G. E. (1948) "Circular Causal Systems in Ecology." Annals of the
New York Academy of Science 50: 221-223,236-246.
Taylor, P. J. (1988). "Technocratic Optimism, H.T. Odum, and the Partial
Transformation of Ecological Metaphor after World War II," Journal of the
History of Biology 21(2): 213-244.
Odum, E.P. (1964), "New Ecology," Bioscience 14: 14-16.
#Odum, H.T. "Chaps. 1, part 2, 11." In Environment, Power & Society,
Pp. 1-41, 304-310. New York: Wiley-Interscience, 1971.
Taylor, P. J. and A. S. Blum (1991). "Ecosystems as circuits: Diagrams and the
limits of physical analogies," Biology & Philosophy 6: 275-294.
5. Individuals: Selfish and Aggregable
A. Tragedy of the commons
(Simple models, simpling, atomized individuals)
Hardin, G. (1968). "The Tragedy of the Commons," Science 162:
Roberts, A. (1979) "The 'tragedy' of the commons," from The Self-Managing
Environment London: Allison & Busby, chap. 10
#Berkes, F., D. Feeny, B. McCay & J. Acheson (1989) "The benefits of the
commons." Nature 340:91-93.
Peters, P. (1987). "Embedded systems and rooted models: The grazing lands of
Botswana and the commons debate," in B. J. McKay and J. M. Acheson (Ed.),
The question of the commons: The culture and ecology of communal
resources. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 171-194.
Taylor, P. (ms.) "Two inversions"
Wade, M. (1987) "The management of common property resources: collective action
as an alternative to privatisation or state regulation," Camb. J. Econ.
Hymes, D. (1974), excerpts from "Traditions and paradigms," in D. Hymes (ed.)
Studies in the History of Linguistics: Traditions and paradigms
Bloomington: U. Indiana Press, 15-20.
Taylor, P. (1989) "Revising models and generating theory," Oikos 54:
Marginson, S. (1988) "The economically rational individual," Arena 84:
Harvey, D. (1974). "Population, resources and the ideology of science,"
Economic Geography 50: 256-277.
6. Human ecology: adapted?, environmentally determined?
(common units of measurement, environmental determinism, relations of
production, borrowings between & relative status of natural vs. social
Coughenour, M., J. Ellis, D. Swift, D. Coppock, K. Galvin, J. McCabe, T. Hart
(1985) "Energy extraction and use in a nomadic pastoral ecosystem," Science
Ellis, J. and D. Swift. (1989) "Stability of African pastoral ecosystems:
Alternate paradigms and implications for development," J. Range Management
Watts, M. J. (1984). "The demise of the moral economy: food & famine," in
E. Scott (Ed.), Life Before the Drought. Boston, MA: Allen & Irwin,
Little, M. A., N. Dyson-Hudson, R. Dyson-Hudson, J. E. Ellis, and D. M. Swift.
"Human Biology and the Development of the Ecosystem Approach." In The
Ecosystem Approach in Anthropology, ed. E.F. Moran. Boulder: Westview,
Rappaport, R. (1968). Pigs for the ancestors: Ritual in the ecology of a New
Guinea people. New Haven: Yale University Press. Reprinted with epilogue,
Watts, M. (1983) "On the poverty of theory: Natural hazards research in
context," in K. Hewitt (ed.) Interpretations of calamity from the viewpoint
of human ecology Boston: Allen & Unwin, 231-262.
7. Models of nomads and nomadic modelers
(social construction & heterogeneous resources, socio-ecology,
counter-factual analysis, universal vs. locally particular science)
Picardi, A. and W. Seifert (1976). "A tragedy of the commons in the Sahel,"
Technology Review May: 42-51.
Taylor, P. (1992). "Re/constructing socio-ecologies: System dynamics modeling
of nomadic pastoralists in sub-Saharan Africa," in A. Clarke and J. Fujimura
(Ed.), The Right Tools for the Job: At work in twentieth-century life
sciences. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 115-148.
Little, P. (1988). "Land use conflicts in the agricultural/pastoral
borderlands: The case of Kenya," in P. Little, M. Horowitz and A. Nyerges
(Ed.), Lands at risk in the third world: Local level perspectives.
Boulder: Westview, ed., 195-212.
8. Local knowledge: adapted, flexible, or vulnerable?
Richards, P. (1983). "Ecological change and the politics of land use," African
Studies Review 26: 1-72.
Watts, M. (1983). "Good try, Mr. Paul: Populism and the politics of African
land use," African Studies Review 26: 73-84.
Rocheleau, D. (1991). "Gender, ecology and the science of survival: Stories and
lessons from Kenya." Agriculture and Human Values 8(1): 156-165.
Toledo, V. (1990) "The ecological rationality of peasant production," in ed.
Altieri, M. and S. Hecht, Agroecology and small farm development. Boca
Raton; CRC Press, 53-60.
9. Political ecology I: Agricultural margins & forest
(Political economy meets ecology)
Watts, M. (1987) "Drought, environment and food security," in M. Glantz (ed.),
Drought and hunger in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 171-211.
Ribot, J. C. (1993). "Forestry policy and charcoal production in Senegal."
Energy Policy (May): 559-585.
Hecht, S. (1985) "Environment, development and politics: capital accumulation
and the livestock sector in eastern amazonia," World Development 13: 663-684.
Collins, J. (1987) "Labor Scarcity and Ecological Change," in Little, P.,
Horowitz, M., and Nyerges, A. (eds.) Lands at Risk in the Third World:
Local Level Perspectives. Boulder: Westview, 19-37.
García-Barrios, R. and García-Barrios, L. (1990) "Environmental
and technological degradation in peasant agriculture: A consequence of
development in Mexico," World Development 18: 1569-1585.
Watts, M. and R. Peet (eds.) (1993) "Environment and development, Special
double issue," Economic Geography.69(3-4): 227-448. -- note: not on
10. Political Ecology (continued):
(Levels & structure of social action)
P. Blaikie, The political economy of soil erosion in developing countries
(London: Longman, 1985), chaps. 5-7.
Watts, M. (1990a) "Review of Brookfield and Blaikie: Land degradation and
society," Capitalism, Nature, Socialism 4:123-131.
Peet, R. and M. Watts (1993). "Introduction: Development theory and environment
in an age of market triumphalism." Economic Geography 69(3): 227-253.
Taylor, P. ms. "Political ecology as radical social theory"
11. Gendered ecologies and the politics of production
Schroeder, R. (1993). "Shady practice: Gender and the political ecology of
resource stabilization in Gambian garden/ orchards." Economic Geography
Carney, J. and Watts, M. (1990) "Manufacturing dissent: Work, gender and the
politics of meaning in a peasant society," Africa 60: 207-241.
Guyer, J. (1991). "Female farming in anthropology and African history," in M.
di-Leonardo (Ed.), Gender at the Crossroads of Knowledge: Feminist
Anthropology in the Post-Modern Era. Berkeley, University of California
Leach, M. (1992). "Gender and the environment: Traps and opportunities."
Development in Practice 2(1): 12-22.
Jackson, C. (1995). "Radical environmental myths: A gender perspective." New
12. Resistance, agency and power
Mackenzie, F. (1991). "Political economy of the environment, gender and
resistance under colonialism: Murnag'a District, Kenya 1910-1950." Canadian
Journal of African Studies 25(2): 226-256.
Scott, J. (1987). "Resistance without protest and without organization,"
Comparative Studies in Society and History 29: 417-452.
Sarkar, T. (1985) "Jitu Santal's Movement in Malda, 1924-1932: A Study in
Tribal Protest," Subaltern Studies IV: 136-164.
Smith, C. A. (1984) "Local history in global context: Social and economic
transitions in Western Guatemala," Comparative studies in society and history
Adas, M. (1980). "'Moral economy' or 'contested state'? Elite demands and the
origins of peasant protest in Southeast Asia," Journal of Social History
Mitchell, T. (1990). "Everyday metaphors of power." Theory and Society
13. Student Paper Reports
14. Global discourse
(Global vs. trans-local; cultural analysis)
Ross, A. (1991) "Is global culture warming up?" Social Text 28: 3-30.
#Taylor, P. (1995ms.) "How do we know we have environmental problems?
Undifferentiated science-politics and its potential reconstruction"
Peluso, N. (1993). "Coercing conservation: The politics of state resource
control," Global environmental change (June): 199-217.
Meffe, G. K., A. H. Ehrlich, et al. (1993). "Human population control: The
missing agenda," Conservation Biology 7(1): 1-3.
Taylor, P. J. and R. García-Barrios (1995). "The dynamics of
socio-environmental change and the limits of neo-Malthusian environmentalism,"
ms. to appear in M. Dore, T. Mount and H. Shue (Eds.), Limits to markets:
Equity and the global environment. Oxford, Blackwell.
Taylor, P. J. and R. García-Barrios (1995). "The social analysis of
ecological change: From systems to intersecting processes." Social Science
Information 34(1): 5-30.