The Cultural Relations of Classification: An Analysis of Nuaulu Animal Categories from Central Seram

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Ethnobiology is concerned with the social and cultural transformation of biological knowledge. Roy Ellen, who has worked among the Nuaulu people of eastern Indonesia for more than twenty years, argues here that ethnobiology is a key theoretical area of anthropological inquiry, because it relies on accessible ethnography to explain the interrelationship between collective representations and cognitive processes. He demonstrates this through a detailed analysis of Nuaulu classification of animal knowledge: the relationship between animal words and animal categories; the construction of different categories and their relationship to one another, and the actual language of classification. The classifications are shown to be context bound and socially embedded, of practical importance to their users, and to reflect an interaction between culture, cognitive processes, and the material world. This is an innovative study which takes our understanding far beyond the taxonomic abstraction characteristic of earlier work in the field.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

List of illustrations
List of tables
List of abbreviations
A note on orthography
1 Introduction 1
2 The language of classification 35
3 Processes of identification and the structure of categories 65
4 The relations between non-basic categories 93
5 Consistency, sharing and flexibility 126
6 Social intrusions and cultural styles 149
7 Changes in classifying behaviour 187
8 Cognition and the cultural relations of prehension 215
App. 1. Terrestrial mammal fauna 235
App. 2. Chiroptera bats 238
App. 3. Birds 240
App. 4. Testudines turtles 248
App. 5. Lizards and related forms 249
App. 6. Snakes 251
App. 7. Amphibians 253
App. 8. Fishes and marine mammals 254
App. 9. Insects 260
App. 10. Molluscs 268
App. 11. Crustacea 271
App. 12. Arachnids 273
App. 13. Annelids, echinoderms, myriapods and related forms 275
Notes 277
References 282
Author index 295
Subject index 298
Index of Nuaula animal names 305
Index of scientific names for animal species mentioned in the text 311
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