Niche Construction and the Study of Culture Change in Anthropology: Challenges and Prospects

Emily A. Schultz

Resumen


Abstract | Many North American anthropologists remain deeply suspicious of attempts to theorize the evolution of culture, given the legacy in our discipline of nineteenth-century stagist theories of cultural evolution that were shaped by scientific racism. In the late twentieth-century, some theorists tried to escape this legacy by using formal models drawn from neo-Darwinian population biology to reconceptualize cultural evolutionary processes, but these more recent approaches have been found unsatisfactory for reasons of their own. For example, gene-culture coevolution and the dual inheritance theory have limited appeal to many contemporary cultural anthropologists because these theories rely on definitions of culture, and assumptions about human individuals and social groups, that many cultural anthropologists no longer find persuasive.Niche construction, by contrast, appears more promising as a framework for connecting cultural change with biological and ecological change. Nevertheless, the innovative features of niche construction coexist uneasily alongside the same problematic features that limit the usefulness of gene-culture coevolution and dual inheritance theory in cultural anthropology. This article discusses anthropological concerns about niche construction theory, but also suggests ways in which some of them might be reduced if niche construction theory were to incorporate insights from developmental systems theory and actor network theory.


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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.22201/ceiich.24485705e.2015.5.47629

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INTERdisciplina, Vol. 7, No. 19, septiembre-diciembre 2019, es una publicación cuatrimestral electrónica, editada por la Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM), Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán, 04510, Ciudad de México, a través del Centro de Investigaciones Interdisciplinarias en Ciencias y Humanidades (CEIICH), Torre II de Humanidades 4º piso, Circuito Escolar, Ciudad Universitaria, Coyoacán 04510, Ciudad de México, <http://www.interdisciplina.unam.mx>, (rev.interd@unam.mx). Editor responsable: Ricardo Lino Mansilla Corona. Reserva de Derechos al Uso Exclusivo No.04-2015-062512120000-203, otorgado por el Instituto Nacional del Derecho de Autor, ISSN electrónico 2448-5705, ISSN impreso 2395-969X. Responsable de la última actualización de este número: Isauro Uribe Pineda (CEIICH-UNAM).
Fecha de la última actualización: 4 de octubre de 2019. Servicios que indexan a INTERdisciplina: Clase y Latindex.
Las opiniones expresadas por los autores no necesariamente reflejan la postura de los editores. Prohibida la reproducción total o parcial de los contenidos e imágenes de la publicación sin la previa autorización por escrito de los editores responsables.