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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Eugene S Hunn
ANTH 458
Seattle Campus

Ethnobiology: Plants, Animals, and People

Culturally mediated relationships between human and natural environment studied in a comparative and evolutionary framework. How do peoples in diverse cultures recognize and name plants and animals and understand their relationship with nature? How is this traditional ecological knowledge applied in people's daily lives? Prerequisite: either BIO A 201, ARCHY 205, or one 200-level ANTH course.

Class description

This course is a general introduction to the interdisciplinary field of ethnobiology. The goal of this course is to show how human life depends on complex systems of cultural knowledge about the natural world. Core themes of the course include the comparative study of folk biological classification and nomenclatural systems, the social context of ethnobiological knowledge, the processes involved in its elaboration and transmission through time, folk explanatory models of environmental systems, and the application of this knowledge in practice. Case studies are drawn from around the world, past and present, to represent the variety of ways humans have devised to make sense of their place in the living world.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

An appropriate mix of lectures, class projects, class presentations, and class discussions of readings. A mandatory overnight fieldtrip is planned to acquaint students with the methods of ethnobiology and the roles local plants and animals play in Native cultures.

Recommended preparation

Some familiarity with academic discourse in cultural and linguistic anthropology and environmental studies/biology are important.

Class assignments and grading

Required texts include:

Mark J. Plotkin, Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice $12.95] Erna Gunther, Ethnobotany of Western Washington, revised edition. $6.95 Richard K. Nelson, Make Prayers to the Raven $14.95 Gary Paul Nabhan, The Desert Smells Like Rain $12.00 Sidney W. Mintz, Sweetness and Power $13.95 E. N. Anderson, Ecologies of the Heart $30.00

& a reading packet available at Rams Copy Center, 4144 University Way NE, Seattle, 632-6630.

Grading will be based on a midterm worth 25% of the course grade, participation in two class projects, each worth 15%, a final exam worth 40%, and class participation worth 5% (25 + 15 + 15 + 40 + 5 = 100%). The midterm and final will be take-home, open-book, essay tests. Class participation will be self-assessed on a weekly basis.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Additional Information
Last Update by Eugene S Hunn
Date: 10/23/1998