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The Perception of the Environment: Essays on Livelihood, Dwelling and Skill Paperback – 31 Mar 2000

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Product details

  • Paperback: 480 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge; Reissue edition (31 Mar. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415617472
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415617475
  • Product Dimensions: 17.3 x 2.8 x 24.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 58,932 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


‘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.' - The 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

About the Author

Tim Ingold is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Aberdeen, UK.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lionel R. Playford on 25 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Thsi is for anyone with a deeper interest in the ways in which we in the West have represented the world around us since the Renaissance. My review is a professional artidst trying to better understand how the world around me has been represented in my culture. This set of essays from the early 90s onwards considers various different but related models of representation of the world we inhabit, some contemporary and others from previous eras. Ingold boldly challenges orthodoxies from academia, including from his own area of anrhropoplogy, but more bravely from the world of science generally. He argues that the rational, experimental evidence based modelling of life misses an important aspect of human experience and history. Typically science places the observing hypothesising mind outside the world, representing nature as something 'out there' with a rigid spatial framework and set of unchanging principles that govern all interactions through a chain of cause and effect (ideas that took hold in the 18th century and which Prof Brian Cox happily promotes to the next generation). Ingold asks us to accept, as Heidigger argued, that we cannot in reality be outside of nature acting as a neutral rational observer but are always involved intimately in the unfolding of the world, our lived experience entangled in and inseperable from the events and phenomena our minds see. He argues against the separation of mind from body,proposing that our concepts of the world are embodied in our sensory experience which inevitably will frmae the world in different ways depending on our priorities for survival and the qualities of the surronding environment.Read more ›
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By SophusHelle on 9 Jan. 2012
Format: Paperback
Tim Ingold's The Perception of the Enviroment is an unmissable experience. It delivers a whole new perspective on the human condition, with academic precision corroborated by delightful ethnografic material. It is as captivating as it is insightful. I am eagerly waiting for Being Alive to arrive in my mailbox!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 5 reviews
42 of 43 people found the following review helpful
A masterpiece by one of the best anthropologists we have 15 May 2002
By Michael S. Mcintyre - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of twenty-three essays (chapters), most of which were written by the author for presentation at various conferences, or for publication in scholarly journals. However, the essays have been revised -- some of them extensively -- and Ingold states that, "All were written... with the ultimate intention of bringing them together into one coherent work." In my opinion, he has succeeded in creating a book that works beautifully as a unified whole, i.e. the book does not "read" like a collection of separate essays.
In the general introduction (each of the three main parts of the book also have separate introductions), Ingold provides a synopsis of the book's overall direction and purpose. He first tells how, as an undergraduate at Cambridge, he came to choose anthropology as a field of study, despite his early aptitude for, and interest in, the natural sciences. In anthropology, he had hoped to find a field that could bridge the widening gap between the humanities and the natural sciences. Instead, Ingold discovered that anthropology itself had been "fractured along the very lines of fission that I thought it existed to overcome." There is social or cultural anthropology, and there is biological or physical anthropology, "whose respective practitioners have less to say to one another than they do to colleagues in other disciplines on the same side of the academic fence." He attributes the split to the dichotomy between the perceived 'two worlds' of humanity and nature -- a dichotomy that he says lies at the heart of Western thought, and ramifies through all subordinate domains of study.
Ingold's initial approach to mending this rift was what he calls his "complementarity" thesis, which he advanced in two books, Evolution and Social Life, and The Appropriation of Nature, both published in 1986. "But," he adds, "I had continued to be troubled by the inherent dualism of this approach, with its implied dichotomies between person and organism, society and nature." Ingold then describes a defining moment in 1988 when, on his way to catch a bus in Manchester, it suddenly occurred to him that 'person' and 'organism' could be one and the same thing, i.e. that the person _is_ the organism. "Instead of trying to reconstruct the complete human being from two separate but complementary components, respectively biophysical and sociocultural, held together with a film of psychological cement, it struck me that we should be trying to find a way of talking about human life that eliminates the need to slice it up into these different layers." Ingold goes on to say, "Everything I have written since has been driven by this agenda."
In wondering why it took him so long to come to this realization, Ingold thinks it was chiefly the prevailing conception of the organism in mainstream biological theory. "According to this conception, every organism is a discrete, bounded entity, a 'living thing', one of a population of such things, and relating to other organisms in its environment along lines of external contact that leave its basic, internally specified nature unaffected." Ingold goes on to say, "I had assumed that my task was not to challenge accepted biological wisdom but to reconcile it with what contemporary anthropology has to teach us about the constitution of human beings as persons."
Thus, Ingold realized an important implication of the insight he had in 1988: the need for a "radically alternative biology." He soon discovered the 'developmentalist' critique of neo-Darwinian biology (as articulated by Susan Oyama and others). The combination of 'relational' thinking in anthropology, 'developmental systems' thinking in biology, and 'ecological' thinking in psychology (following on James Gibson's pioneering work), yields a synthesis that Ingold believes is more powerful than any of the current alternatives, all of which invoke some form of the complementarity thesis.
The twenty-three chapters in the book are grouped into three parts: Livelihood, Dwelling, and Skill. Ingold says, "Surveying the book in its entirety, I see it somewhat in the shape of a mountain, with a steady climb through the first part, a brief plateau at the start of the second followed by an ascent to the summit in Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen [two of the four chapters written especially for this volume]. Having reached that far, the third part affords a relatively easy descent." I concur with this assessment. I think that Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen are indeed the heart of the book, although they are not as difficult to read as Ingold's mountain climbing analogy might suggest. Indeed, Ingold is to be congratulated on his ability to write clearly about difficult topics without lapsing into thickets of specialist jargon. He is eminently readable at all times.
Other chapters that stood out for me included: Four, Six (another chapter that is original to this volume), Seven, Eleven (I especially liked the part that used the painting, The Harvesters, for illustration), Twelve, Eighteen, Nineteen, and Twenty-one. If pressed, I would probably rank the three parts of the book, in order of merit: Dwelling, Livelihood, and Skill. Only in the last (Skill) part of the book did I feel there was an occasional drop in terms of quality (e.g. the occasional lapse into repetition). But this is the sheerest form of nitpicking, i.e. I feel the need to work hard to say something -- anything -- negative about a book that I believe to be a masterpiece.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
conscious expanding observations 16 July 2006
By Joseph C. Black - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not an easy book for me. I have been reading it , studying it, and contemplating its revelations. So much so, my brain hurts. Mr. Ingold is able to use a straight forward style and simple words to explain these valuable insights.

Highly recommend " taking this class".
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Perception of Wisdom 9 Mar. 2012
By Nathan Daley, MD, MPH - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The other reviewers have provided a synopsis of the book. I simply want to concur and provide another enthusiastic recommendation. Ingold's work, beginning with this book and onward, is hugely important and I hope that it will be widely read and heavily influential. Tim Ingold is a true transdisciplinarian. While the specialization of scientific discourse has allowed many to simply ignore the complexities of whole systems, and the human experience of being within and of these systems, Ingold brilliantly departs from these fragmented "views" and charges directly toward that experience of being. The book is an inspirational and practical resource. I return to it often, very often.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I'm so bad at catchy titles--so just read this book already 20 Sept. 2014
By ChimChim - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is the book that began my intellectual love affair with Tim Ingold. (Spoiler alert: his work gets even better!) Time and again, reading his work, I have those "Yes! That is what I was thinking but could never find the words to say!" moments. And there were many more moments of "I never thought of it that way!" In my view, what Ingold is doing is what anthropology as a discipline should have been doing years and years ago. Obviously though, Ingold is ahead of his time since no one else does what he does.

When I was a grad student in anthropology, we used to joke about how anthro is the "master discipline," because it's the only one that combines incredible time depth (up to ca. 6 million years ago), biological science, genetics, philosophy, language studies, and studies (with fieldwork!) of contemporary societies. It bridges humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. There is, simply, no other field that gives as wide OR deep a view of what it means to be a human being. I admit there was more than a little arrogance there (ah, youth), but from its practitioners' perspective, anthropology the only discipline that looks at people in context.

And yet. The nature of academia limits what is possible for anthropology as a discipline and anthropologists as people and as intellectuals. An academic is expected to publish in specific ways and places, and to deliver talks at conferences, and in both situations one can expect to be viciously critiqued. In order to maintain the appearance of objectivity and expertise in such an adversarial system, an anthropologist inevitably has to hold a part of him/herself back, always remaining an analytical outsider to their own research. A Ph.D. in English is allowed to love Shakespeare and write novels or poetry; a Ph.D. in anthropology dare not confess a human susceptibility to beauty (because what is beauty and how is that negotiated via the construction of agency in the context of prestige economies, amiright?), let alone explore aesthetics professionally. The irony, for a discipline that holds cultural relativity as its prime directive, is that this leads to a secret attitude of academic (and almost always Western) superiority. Trying for objectivity doesn't make the subjective go away, it just drives it underground. We try to escape this, but it always lurks there, and the best fix that has been achieved is to simply admit to it and even try to analyze it reflexively. As much as we study others' epistemologies, we never succeed in transforming our own--only in navel-gazing thought exercises.

But Ingold has actually managed to get beyond that. Few anthropologists have had the intestinal fortitude to actually look at the phenomena of consciousness and the mind and how they unfold in relationship to...well, everything (Gregory Bateson being the other that pops to mind--though there are others who *claim* to do it, with results that are at best meh). Where others are shackled by the internal politics of the academy and even ethnocentrism (gasp!), it's as if Ingold doesn't even care! He does what he wants! (You don't pay his rent!) The result is an entirely new, transpersonal, transcultural perspective but one which is still relevant to the individual. Granted, Ingold writes in an academic style, which may make it seem like his work is only of interest to academics, but in the best moments what he says can make you rethink what you "know" about everything, no matter what walk of life you are in. This book should be recognized not just as anthropology but as philosophy. I believe Rilke and Goethe would have found much to like and agree with. I mean who else but Ingold would write about how your feet perceive the world? Who else could inspire me to use exclamation points like a fangirl?! No one!!!
4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
An ecological account for the perceptions of the environment 8 Oct. 2003
By Taylor Sando - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The dualistic divide schisms not only the humanities and the natural sciences, but cuts across all aspects of human perception. Ingold's insight on developmental systems and an ecological/monistic approach towards relating to the environment is interesting. His model is a vast improvement on the dualistic model that has plagued Western Thought. I would highly recommend this book.
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