Human Ecology

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 265–281 | Cite as

Progressive contextualization: Methods for research in human ecology

  • Andrew P. Vayda


Theoretically or practically significant research results concerning transitory as well as persistent phenomena can be obtained by human ecologists while avoiding commitment to long-term, expensive projects, rigid frameworks, traditional disciplinary goals, and unwarranted assumptions about the stability and purposiveness of units or systems. The procedures to be followed, as illustrated by research on people-forest interactions in East Kalimantan, involve a focus on significant human activities or people-environment interactions and the explanation of these by their placement within progressively wider or denser contexts. Guides for progressively contextualizing activities or interactions include a rationality principle, comparative knowledge of contexts, and the principle of pursuing the surprising.

Key words

human ecology research methods systems analyses people-forest interactions flux stability Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program Kalimantan (Borneo) 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Ashton, P. S. (1977). A contribution of rain forest research to evolutionary theory.Annals of the Missouri Botanical Garden 64: 694–705.Google Scholar
  2. Barton, A. H., and Lazarsfeld, P. F. (1955). Some functions of qualitative analysis in social research.Frankfurter Beiträge zur Soziologie 1: 321–361.Google Scholar
  3. Bennett, J. W. (1976). Anticipation, adaptation, and the concept of culture in anthropology.Science 192: 847–853.Google Scholar
  4. Bennis, W. G. (1966).Changing Organizations. McGraw-Hill, New York.Google Scholar
  5. Berlin, I. (1953).The Hedgehog and the Fox: An Essay on Tolstoy's View of History. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London.Google Scholar
  6. Bohannan, P. (1980). You can't do nothing.American Anthropologist 82: 508–524.Google Scholar
  7. Brookfield, H. (in press). Population, development and environmental relations in planning in eastern Fiji and the eastern Caribbean: MAB methodology and the problems of change through time. InEcology in Practice: Establishing a Scientific Basis for Land Management (proceedings of the 1981 UNESCO-ICSU conference), Tycooly, Dublin.Google Scholar
  8. Chambers, R. (1980).Understanding Professionals: Small Farmers and Scientists. IADS Occasional Paper. International Agricultural Development Service, New York.Google Scholar
  9. Clarke, W. C. (1976). Maintenance of agriculture and human habitats within the tropical forest ecosystem.Human Ecology 4: 247–259.Google Scholar
  10. Colfer, C. J. P. (1981). Women, men, and time in the forests of East Kalimantan.Borneo Research Bulletin 13: 75–85.Google Scholar
  11. di Castri, F. (1976). International, interdisciplinary research in ecology: some problems of organization and execution. The case of the Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme.Human Ecology 4: 235–246.Google Scholar
  12. di Castri, F. (1978). Planning international interdisciplinary research.Science and Public Policy 5: 254–266.Google Scholar
  13. di Castri, F., Hadley, M., and Damlamian, J. (1980). Insights from the Man and the Biosphere programme: The ecology of an international scientific project.Impact of Science on Society 30: 247–260.Google Scholar
  14. di Castri, F., Hadley, M., and Damlamian, J. (1981). MAB: The Man and the Biosphere program as an evolving system.Ambio 10: 52–57.Google Scholar
  15. Eckholm, E. (1979).Planting for the Future: Forestry for Human Needs. Worldwatch Paper 26. Worldwatch Institute, Washington.Google Scholar
  16. Ewel, J. (1978). Views submitted to State Department-AID Strategy Conference on Tropical Deforestation, June 12–14, 1978, Washington, D.C. Mimeographed.Google Scholar
  17. Foster, G. M. (1962).Traditional Cultures and the Impact of Technological Change. Harper, New York.Google Scholar
  18. Foster, G. M. (1969).Applied Anthropology. Little, Brown, Boston.Google Scholar
  19. Glaser, B. G., and Strauss, A. L. (1967).The Discovery of Grounded Theory: Strategies for Qualitative Research. Aldine, Chicago.Google Scholar
  20. Golley, Frank B. (in press). Land management strategies in the humid and subhumid tropics and the role of the MAB therein. InEcology in Practice: Establishing a Scientific Basis for Land Management (proceedings of the 1981 UNESCO-ICSU conference), Tycooly, Dublin.Google Scholar
  21. Gould, S. J. (1982). Darwinism and the expansion of evolutionary theory.Science 216: 380–387.Google Scholar
  22. Hempel, C. G. (1965).Aspects of Scientific Explanation and Other Essays in the Philosophy of Science. Free Press, New York.Google Scholar
  23. Hill, P. (1970).Studies in Rural Capitalism in West Africa. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  24. Hine, V. H. (1977). The basic paradigm of a future socio-cultural system.World Issues 2(2): 19–22.Google Scholar
  25. Homans, G. C. (1970). The relevance of psychology to the explanation of social phenomena. In Borger, R., and Cioffi, F. (eds.),Explanation in the Behavioural Sciences, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 313–328.Google Scholar
  26. Jarvie, I. C. (1964).The Revolution in Anthropology. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London.Google Scholar
  27. Jessup, T. C. (1981). Who do Apo Kayan shifting cultivators move?Borneo Research Bulletin 13: 16–32.Google Scholar
  28. Jessup, T. C., with Vayda, A. P., Kartawinata, K., Hambali, G., and Soedjito, H. (1981). Revised methodology for the MAB research project on shifting cultivation and patch dynamics in an upland forest in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Typescript.Google Scholar
  29. Kartawinata, K., and Vayda, A. P. (in press). Forest conversion in East Kalimantan, Indonesia: The activities and impacts of timber companies, shifting cultivators, migrant pepper farmers, and others. InEcology in Practice: Establishing a Scientific Basis for Land Management (proceedings of the 1981 UNESCO-ICSU conference), Tycooly, Dublin.Google Scholar
  30. Lineton, J. (1975a). An Indonesian society and its universe: A study of the Bugis of South Sulawesi (Celebes) and their role within a wider social and economic system. PhD Dissertation, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.Google Scholar
  31. Lineton, J. (1975b). Pasompe' Ugi': Bugis migrants and wanderers.Archipel 10: 173–201.Google Scholar
  32. Malinowski, B. (1935).Coral Gardens and Their Magic (2 vols.). George Allen and Unwin, London.Google Scholar
  33. McCay, B. J. (1978). Systems ecology, people ecology, and the anthropology of fishing communities.Human Ecology 6: 397–422.Google Scholar
  34. Moser, W., and Peterson, J. (1981). Limits to Obergurgl's growth.Ambio 10: 68–72.Google Scholar
  35. Mulhauser, F. (1975). Ethnography and policymaking: The case of education.Human Organization 34: 311–314.Google Scholar
  36. Murdock, G. P. (1972). Anthropology's mythology: The Huxley Memorial Lecture 1971.Proceedings of the Royal Anthropological Institute... for 1971: 17–24.Google Scholar
  37. Nations, J. D., and Nigh, R. B. (1978). Cattle, cash, food, and forest: The destruction of the American tropics and the Lacandon Maya alternative.Culture & Agriculture: Bulletin of the Anthropological Study Group on Agrarian Systems No. 6, pp. 1–5.Google Scholar
  38. Orlove, B. S. (1980). Ecological anthropology.Annual Review of Anthropology 9: 235–273.Google Scholar
  39. Peoples, J. G. (1982). Individual or group advantage? A reinterpretation of the Maring ritual cycle.Current Anthropology 23: 291–310.Google Scholar
  40. Pickett, S. T. A. (1980). Non-equilibrium coexistence of plants.Bulletin of the Torrey Botanical Club 107: 238–248.Google Scholar
  41. Popper, K. R. (1972).Objective Knowledge: An Evolutionary Approach. Clarendon Press, Oxford.Google Scholar
  42. Raven, P. H. (1981). Tropical rain forests: A global responsibility.Natural History 90(2): 28–32.Google Scholar
  43. Richerson, P. J. (1977). Ecology and human ecology: A comparison of theories in the biological and social sciences.American Ethnologist 4:1–26.Google Scholar
  44. Thomas, L. (1975).The Lives of a Cell: Notes of a Biology Watcher. Bantam Books, Toronto.Google Scholar
  45. Toffler, A. (1970).Future Shock. Random House, New York.Google Scholar
  46. Torry, W. I. (1979). Anthropology and disaster research.Disasters 3: 43–52.Google Scholar
  47. Trend, M. G. (1980). The anthropologist as go-fer.Practicing Anthropology 3(1): 13–14; 62–65.Google Scholar
  48. Turner, V. (1977). Process, system, and symbol: A new anthropological synthesis.Daedalus Summer: 61–80.Google Scholar
  49. UNESCO (1974).Task Force on: the Contribution of the Social Sciences to the MAB Programme, Final Report. MAB Report Series No. 17. UNESCO, Paris.Google Scholar
  50. Vayda, A. P. (ed.) (1969).Environment and Cultural Behavior. Natural History Press, Garden City.Google Scholar
  51. Vayda, A. P. (1980). Buginese colonization of Sumatra's coastal swamplands and its significance for development planning. In Bird, E. C. F., and Soegiarto, A. (eds.),Proceedings of the Jakarta Workshop on Coastal Resources Management. United Nations University, Tokyo, pp. 80–87.Google Scholar
  52. Vayda, A. P. (1981). Research in East Kalimantan on interactions between people and forests: A preliminary report.Borneo Research Bulletin 13: 3–15.Google Scholar
  53. Vayda, A. P., Colfer, C. J. P., and Brotokusumo, M. (1980). Interactions between people and forests in East Kalimantan.Impact of Science on Society 30: 179–190.Google Scholar
  54. Vayda, A. P., with Jessup, T. C. (1980). Shifting cultivation and patch dynamics in an upland forest in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Research proposal submitted to the U.S. MAB Consortium for the Study of Man's Relationship with the Global Environment. Typescript.Google Scholar
  55. Vayda, A. P., and McCay, B. J. (1978). New directions in ecology and ecological anthropology. In Blurton Jones, N., and Reynolds, V. (eds.),Human Behavior and Adaptation, Symposia of the Society for the Study of Human Biology, Vol. 18. Taylor and Francis, London, pp. 33–51. (Revised version of article with the same title published inAnnual Review of Anthropology 4: 293–306).Google Scholar
  56. Vogeler, I. (1981).The Myth of the Family Farm. Westview Press, Boulder.Google Scholar
  57. Von Mises, L. (1960).Epistemological Problems of Economics. D. Van Nostrand, Princeton.Google Scholar
  58. White, B. (1979). Political aspects of poverty, income distribution and their measurement: Some examples from rural Java.Development and Change 10: 91–114.Google Scholar
  59. Whyte, A. (in press). Integration of natural and social sciences in the MAB programme. InEcology in Practice: Establishing a Scientific Basis for Land Management (proceedings of the 1981 UNESCO-ICSU conference), Tycooly, Dublin.Google Scholar
  60. Wilson, P. J. (1977). The problem with simple folk.Natural History 86(10): 26–28; 30–32.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1983

Authors and Affiliations

  • Andrew P. Vayda
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Human Ecology, Cook CollegeRutgers UniversityNew Brunswick

Personalised recommendations