In Toward a Cultural Ecology of Mountains: The Central Andes and Himalayas Compared, David Guillet writes to address the nature of cultural adaptations between two mountain populations. His research is spurred by increased recognition that human intervention can cause detrimental resource degeneration in these fragile mountain environments. Guillet attempts to answer two questions; What environmental constraints on material provisioning will a human population encounter in mountains? How does the range of possible responses lead to patterns of social relations?
By asking these questions Guillet believes that the production process is the critical link between the culture and the environment. Production is important to the cultural ecology of mountainous regions because; 1.) production decisions are constrained by altitude; 2.) cultural strategies implemented as a result of the mountainous environment are related to production; 3.) comparing production allows for a comparative model of mountain adaptations; and 4.) it shows that individuals and groups are involved in a process of adaptive flexibility that allows human response to the environment (Guillet, 563).
In mountain environments, human populations are limited by vertical constraints on production strategies. The interaction between altitude, climate, and soil fertility sets limits on what types of crop can survive. This is evident in the use of animals to plow fields. The yaks of the Himalayas were able to adapt well to the plow, unlike the Andean camelids that lacked the physical strength for plowing.
The mountain environment impacts many aspects of life. These regions have a poor...
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...ent from degradation.
After reading both Himalayan Herders and Toward a Cultural Ecology of Mountains, I have noticed a difference in the impact of outside invasion. For Bishop, the relatively isolated Melemchi village is rapidly changing, in response to global patterns, as a result of outside influences. However, these herders are able to maintain their cultural knowledge and traditions that have shaped their village for centuries. Why is it that Bishop noticed the dramatic influence of outside forces, while Guillet hardly recognizes this as a factor leading to adaptations in mountain populations? Is it because Guillet’s model needed to be broad that he was unable to focus on this influence?
Guillet, David, 1983. "Toward a Cultural Ecology of Mountains: The Central Andes and the Himalayas Compared," in Current Anthropology, 24(5) 561-574.
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