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Place and people : an ecology of a New Guinean community

CollectionsANU Press Titles (1965-1991)
Title: Place and people : an ecology of a New Guinean community
Author(s): Clarke, William Carey
Date published: 1971
Publisher: Canberra : Australian National University
The major purpose of this book is to describe the interaction between a place and its people. The people are a Maring-speaking clan cluster called the Bomagai-Angoiang, who number only 154 persons. Their place, or territory, is in such a remote part of the Bismarck Mountains of Australian New Guinea that the people{u2019}s first face-to-face contact with white men was delayed until 1958. Mr. Clarke{u2019}s focus is on the people{u2019}s subsistence behavior viewed ecologically. In what ways are their gardening activities controlled or limited by their physical environment? How effectively do the Bomagai-Angoiang, who have just emerged from the Stone Age, use the resources available to them? What are the crucial links between their social lives and beliefs and their relations with their habitat? In what ways has their completely noncommercial way of life brought about changes in their environment? Now that they have been attached to the western world, what changes will the future bring to the people and their isolated habitat? In order to demonstrate the interacting unity of place and people, Mr. Clarke combines the traditional subject matters of anthropology and geography, analyzing the Bomagai-Angoiang, their activities, and the elements of their physical environment as components of an ecosystem, whose structure and function he attempts to describe. He carries the "microstudy" approach to the level of the individual{u2019}s operations within the ecosystem, and also makes generalizations about the aggregate community. Many previous descriptions of place and people have emphasized either the controlling influence of place on people{u2019}s actions or, on the other hand, the ways in which inhabitants have affected their habitat. Mr. Clarke integrates these two different emphases within an ecological framework so that place and people - man and environment - are seen as parts of a single interacting system. His book differs from some studies of primitive or peasant communities in that, rather than being concerned with how the people{u2019}s lives might be more quickly enmeshed with the economy of the western world, he is interested mainly in judging the "health" of the local ecosystem - a judgment that is aided by the use of the concept of entropy content of systems.


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