1st Edition

The Perception of the Environment Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill

By Tim Ingold Copyright 2022
    630 Pages 64 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    630 Pages 64 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    In this work Tim Ingold offers a persuasive new approach to understanding how human beings perceive their surroundings. He argues that what we are used to calling cultural variation consists, in the first place, of variations in skill. Neither innate nor acquired, skills are grown, incorporated into the human organism through practice and training in an environment. They are thus as much biological as cultural. To account for the generation of skills we have therefore to understand the dynamics of development. And this in turn calls for an ecological approach that situates practitioners in the context of an active engagement with the constituents of their surroundings.

    The twenty-three essays comprising this book focus in turn on the procurement of livelihood, on what it means to ‘dwell’, and on the nature of skill, weaving together approaches from social anthropology, ecological psychology, developmental biology and phenomenology in a way that has never been attempted before. The book is set to revolutionise the way we think about what is ‘biological’ and ‘cultural’ in humans, about evolution and history, and indeed about what it means for human beings – at once organisms and persons – to inhabit an environment. The Perception of the Environment will be essential reading not only for anthropologists but also for biologists, psychologists, archaeologists, geographers and philosophers.

    This edition includes a new Preface by the author.

    Part I: Livelihood

    1. Culture, nature, environment: steps to an ecology of life

    2. The optimal forager and economic man

    3. Hunting and gathering as ways of perceiving the environment

    4. From trust to domination: an alternative history of human-animal relations

    5. Making things, growing plants, raising animals and bringing up children

    6. A circumpolar night's dream

    7. Totemism, animism and the depiction of animals

    8. Ancestry, substance, memory, land

    Part II: Dwelling

    9. Culture, perception and cognition

    10. Building, dwelling, living: how animals and people make themselves at home in the world

    11. The temporality of the landscape

    12. Globes and spheres: the topology of environmentalism

    13. To journey along a way of life: maps, wayfinding and navigation

    14. Stop, look and listen! Vision, hearing and human movement

    Part III: Skill

    15. Tools, minds and machines: an excursion in the philosophy of technology

    16. Society, nature and the concept of technology

    17. Work, time and industry

    18. On weaving a basket

    19. Of string bags and birds' nests: Skill and the construction of artefacts

    20. The dynamics of technical change

    21. 'People like us': the concept of the anatomically modern human

    22. Speech, writing and the modern origins of 'language origins'

    23. The poetics of tool-use: from technology, language and intelligence to craft, song and imagination


    Tim Ingold is Emeritus Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen. He is the author of many books, including Lines, Making, Imagining for Real and Being Alive.

    "Tim Ingold's rigorous and imaginative approach to modes of perception as practices involving entire organisms in relations with others is unmatched in contemporary anthropology. This work, drawing on scholarship from across the arts and sciences, addresses foundational questions within and well beyond anthropology’s four fields. His new preface outlining some of the ways he has since developed these ideas is inspirational."
    Gillian Feeley-Harnik, University of Michigan, USA

    "The Perception of the Environment is a formidable work in terms of its intellectual breadth ... its sheer volume ... and methodical consistency and clarity."

    Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

    " ... this is an extremely significant book and quite possibly lives up to its promise "to revolutionize the way we think". The book's power lies in its ability to push readers to places previously unimagined ... it is imperative that this book be read by as many people from as broad an audience as possible."

    Anthropological Forum