Search | Directories | Reference Tools
UW Home > Discover UW > Student Guide > Course Catalog 

Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Eric A Smith
ANTH 457
Seattle Campus

Ecological Anthropology

Survey of anthropological research on interaction between human societies and their environments. Logic of different subsistence systems; intensification and transformation of subsistence strategies; population regulation; ecological aspects of human nutrition, disease, spatial organization, ethnicity, social stratification, conflict, and cooperation; historical roots of current ecological crisis.

Class description

Like other species, humans adapt to their environments and participate in ecological interactions; but we do so using the uniquely human characteristics of language, technology, and culture. Ecological anthropology is thus necessarily a hybrid discipline, combining natural science (principles and concepts from biological ecology) with social science. This course explores human ecology and adaptation in the comparative and holistic tradition of anthropology. Topics include theories of human adaptation, variation and change in subsistence strategies, ecology of disease and nutrition, population ecology and reproductive strategies, and ecological aspects of cooperation and competition (including warfare, ethnicity, and inequality). Emphasis is on non-Western, non-industrial societies, but some attention will be devoted to ecological aspects of "development" and contemporary environmental problems.

Student learning goals

General method of instruction

Classes will mix lecture, small-group presentations, and discussion.

Recommended preparation

This course is intended for juniors, seniors, and graduate students who have some background in anthropology, biology, environmental studies, and/or cognate fields. In order to optimize class size and composition for discussion, enrollment is limited to 25, and an entry code is required. To obtain a code, send an email message to the instructor (name/address below) with the following information: a) Class level (senior, etc.) b) Major c) GPA d) Relevant background (other related courses, etc.) e) A brief statement describing your interest in the subject matter and why you wish to take this particular course

Class assignments and grading

Assignments include two take-home problems, a class presentation on some topic or controversy in the field (in cooperation with 2 or 3 other students), an annotated bibliography linked to this presentation, and a set of discussion topics submitted by email prior to class meetings. The reading consists of several chapters from Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel," plus a variety of journal articles (accessed via UW Library's electronic reserve).

Course grade is calculated linearly from total points earned on the assignments. Thus, someone getting 50% of points possible will receive a 2.0, 75% = 3.0, etc.


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.
Course web site
Last Update by Eric A Smith
Date: 09/05/2007