Seminar on Cognitive/Linguistic Ethnoecology

VIth ethnoecological seminar

Organized by the MTA Centre for Ecological Research,Vácrátót and

the Hungarian Society of Natural Sciences, Budapest, Hungary

25-26 April 2014


The goal of this seminar is to broadly survey the field of ethnoecology, origins, evolution, and future prospects. We begin with a capsule history of the field in „Four Phases”: emphasizing respectively utilitarian, cognitive, ecological, and indigenous perspectives. We then consider Phase II with a focus on the powerful role of language in organizing human environmental understandings. Two case studies further illustrate these issues, a hunter-gatherer society (NW America) and a peasant farmer society (Mexico). We then consider ethnogeography as counterpoint to the more traditional focus on ethnobiology, particularly the power of place names. We then address the controversy over the role of Indigenous communities in  „natural resource conservation,” with an example from the Tlingit of Southeastern Alaska. We then consider the epistemological foundations of Traditional Environmental Knowledge (TEK)/Ethnoscience and the vexed issue of „knowledge as power.” We conclude with a brief consideration of research demonstrating the innate human capacity to appreciate biodiversity and the contemporary urban disruption of that capacity. Finally, some discussion of methodological choices.


Structure of the seminar: ca. 50% presentation, 30% discussion, 20% break for even less formal discussions.

Accommodation: in the guest house of the institute and in a small hostel (ca. 10-15 euros/night).

Meal: participants are asked to bring home made food and sweets to share for breakfast, lunch and dinner; green and herb tea, mineral water and coffee will be provided.

Participation fee: 15 euro.





Readings marked with an asterisk (*) are highly recommended; others are just recommended for those with particular interest in the topic. Pdf-s will be provided to participants in a drop box.



An excellent comprehensive text:

 E. N. Anderson, Deborah M. Pearsall, Eugene S. Hunn, and Nancy J. Turner, eds. 2011. Ethnobiology. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Blackwell.

I.     Four Phases in the evolution of ethnoecology

 *Hunn, Eugene S. 2007. “Ethnobiology in four phases.” Journal of Ethnobiology 27: 1-10.

 Hunn, Eugene S. 1999. “The Value of Subsistence for the Future of the World.” Pp. 23-36 in Ethnoecology: Situated Knowledge/Located Lives, Virginia Nazarea, ed. University of Arizona Press, Tucson.


II.Ethnoecology II: Ethnobiological Classification and Nomenclature

a.     What’s in a Name?

b.     Tzeltal Mayan examples

 Atran, Scott. 1998. “Folk biology and the anthropology of science: Cognitive universals and cultural particulars.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 21:547-609.

 Berlin, Brent. 1992. Ethnobiological Classification: Principles of Categorization of Plants and Animals in Traditional Societies. Princeton University Press.

 Hunn, Eugene S. 1976. “Toward a Perceptual Model of Folk Biological Classification.” American Ethnologist 3:508-524.

 Hunn, Eugene S. 1982. “The Utilitarian Factor in Folk Biological Classification.” American Anthropologist 84:830-847.

 *Hunn , Eugene S. and Cecil H. Brown. 2011. “Linguistic Ethnobiology.” In Ethnobiology, E. N. Anderson, Deborah M. Pearsall, Eugene S. Hunn, and Nancy J. Turner, eds., pp. 319-334. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley-Blackwell.


  III.Sahaptin Ethnoecology: A Hunter-Gatherer Case Study

 *Hunn, Eugene S. 1990. Nch'i-Wana, “The Big River”: Mid-Columbia Indians and Their Land. University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington.

 Hunn, Eugene S. 1981. “On the Relative Contribution of Men and Women to Subsistence Among Hunter-Gatherers of the Columbia Plateau: A Comparison with Ethnographic Atlas Summaries.” Journal of Ethnobiology 1:124-134.


 IV.  San Juan Gbëë Ethnoecology: A Peasant Farmer Case Study

 *Hunn, Eugene S. 2008. Zapotec Botany: Trees, Herbs, and Flower, Birds, Beasts, and Bugs in the Life of San Juan Gbëë, with CD Rom. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.


V.    Ethnogeography: Toponymy and Landscape Ethnoecology


Hunn, Eugene S. 1994. “Place-Names, Population Density, and the Magic Number 500.” Current Anthropology 35(1):81-85.


*Hunn, Eugene S. 1996. “Columbia Plateau Indian Place Names: What Can They Teach Us?” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 6(1):3-26.


Hunn, Eugene S., and Brien A. Meilleur. 2009. “Toward a Theory of Landscape Ethnoecological Classification.” In Landscape Ethnoecology, L. M. Johnson and E. S. Hunn, eds., pp. 15-26.



VI.            Ethnoecology III: Traditional Resource Management/Conservation

a.     Tlingit Gull Egg Harvest Strategies: Is it conservation?

 *Hunn, Eugene S., Darryll Johnson, Priscilla Russell, and Thomas F. Thornton. 2003. “Huna Tlingit Traditional Environmental Knowledge and the Management of a “Wilderness” Park.” Current Anthropology 44 (S5):79-104.

 Berkes, Fikret. 1999. Sacred Ecology: Traditional Ecological Knowledge and Resource Management. Philadelphia, PA: Taylor & Francis.

 Lewis, Henry T. 1989. “Ecological and technological knowledge of fire: Aborigines versus park rangers in Northern Australia.” American Anthropologist 91: 940-961.



VII.        Ethnoecology IV: Indigenous Science

a.     “Knowledge as Power” to What Ends?

b.     TEK: Alienable versus Inalienable Property


Hunn, Eugene S. 1999. “Ethnobiology in Court.” Pp. 1-11 in Ethnoecology: Knowledge, Resources, Rights, Ben Blount and Theodore Gragson, eds. University of Georgia Press, Athens.

 *Hunn, Eugene S. 2002. “Traditional Environmental Knowledge: Alienable or Inalienable Intellectual Property.” In Ethnobiology and Biocultural Diversity, Stepp, J.R., Wyndham, F.S., and R.K. Zarger (eds.), pp 3-10. Athens: University of Georgia Press.

 Brown, Michael F. 2003. “Ethnobotany blues.” Chapter 4 in Who Owns Native Culture: 95-143.


 VIII.    Ethnoepistemology

 *Blurton-Jones, Nicolas, and Melvin J. Konner. 1976. “!Kung knowledge of animal behavior (or: The proper study of mankind is animals),” in Kalahari Hunter-Gatherers, R. B. Lee and I. DeVore, editors, pp 325-348. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.


IX.            Precocious Acquisition and “Nature Deficit Disorder”

 Hunn, Eugene S. 2002. “Evidence for the Precocious Acquisition of Plant Knowledge by Zapotec Children.” In Ethnobiology and Biocultural Diversity, Stepp, J.R., Wyndham, F.S., and R.K. Zarger (eds.), pp 604-613. Athens: University of Georgia Press.


 X.   Methodological Issues

a.     Hypothesis Testing versus “Witnessing”

 *Hunn, Eugene S. 1992. “The Use of Sound Recordings as Voucher Specimens and Stimulus Materials in Ethnozoological Research.” Journal of Ethnobiology 12:187-198.

 Martin, Gary J. 2004. Ethnobotany: A 'People and Plants' Conservation Manual, Earthscan Publ.

 Boster, James Shilts. 1985. “’Requiem for the Omniscient Informant’: Or, There’s life in the old girl yet,” in Directions in Cognitive Anthropology, J.W.D. Dougherty, editor, pp 177-198. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.