Place and Environment

The question of place is a central and ongoing theme among anthropologists and scholars from related disciplines. Place comprises geographical locations and forms narratives of belonging, shaping identities and histories cross-culturally. Place is also connected to questions of adaptability and the environment. As such, the intersection of place and environment engages cultural and physical realities shaping ever-changing subsistence strategies and symbolic attachment to place.

Place is transformed by processes of globalization and transnationalism. For example, our faculty emphasis on migration includes a focus on how mobility engenders new relationships to place, including both loss and the creation of new place-based identities, as in Deborah Boehm's work with Mexican migrant communities. Linguistic Anthropologists examines place and environment within the context of sociolinguistics situating the study of language where place and environment are expressed as markers of identity through names, signs and other symbols of expression. Mikaela Rogozen-Soltar's work in urban anthropology examines the links between race, religion and place-making in multicultural cities. Louis Forline looks at the issues of place and environment among indigenous and peasant groups of the Brazilian Amazon, examining how territoriality, security and resource utilization interface with their management of natural resources.

Archaeology deals with the study of place and environment through both a historical and pre-historic perspective. Carolyn White examines mining communities of the American West; she and Boehm also study more contemporary places situated in the desert playa in the annual Burning Man Festival. Sarah Cowie also conducts historical archaeological research that engages place and space in collaborative archaeology with American Indian communities, in addition to reconstructing lifeways of regional mining towns. From a pre-historic view, Geoff Smith and Christopher Morgan examine place adaptation in desert and mountain environments of the American West.

Physical anthropologists G. Richard Scott and Marin Pilloud research human origins and variation focusing on the adaptability of humans, past and present, and how place and environment impact human variability.