Leslie Sponsel's Approach to Investigation of the Amazon Basin

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Leslie Sponsel takes a remarkably sensible approach to certain academic controversies over anthropological investigation of the Amazon Basin. To some degree, Sponsel's article demands to be understood in a larger context within the overall ecosystem of academic anthropology, so to speak. As indicated in the title of her article, Sponsel approaches the subject with a special focus on "adaptation," which necessarily implies changing conditions. As she notes in her introductory remarks: For convenience the review is organized around the following domains: ecosystem, cultural system, change, and research trends and needs. An ecosystem is composed of abiotic and biotic components which interact through the flow of energy, matter, and information, and all of this varies in space and time. (67) It is here that a reader in 2012 gets a glimpse of the much larger context. At the time of Sponsel's writing in 1986, an ecological approach that included the "flow of"¦information" which "varies in space and time" appears remarkable prescient, considering that in the three decades that have passed since the article's original publication, Sponsel's own culture has undergone a complete technological revolution in "flow of"¦information": the Internet, the cellular telephone, the personal computer were all in their infancy. This may seem like a minor point, but it indicates the fundamental validity of Sponsel's approach: the contentious battles over theory between anthropologists like

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