Anthropology and Disability: Studies and Information

Ecology and Evolution Are Two Fundamental Concepts in Biology That Are Closely Related and Interconnected

Author: Disabled World
Updated/Revised Date: 2023/09/16
Contents: Main - Subtopics - Publications

Synopsis: Information including recent discoveries, related anthropological news, and scholarly articles pertaining to anthropology and disability studies. Any review of written or oral history, or archaeological skeletal population, large or small, allows us to identify many individuals for whom a physical or mental impairment played a significant role in daily life. People with disabilities constitute a significant part of the human family. Sociocultural Anthropology draws together the principle axes of cultural anthropology and social anthropology. Cultural anthropology is the comparative study of the manifold ways in which people make sense of the world around them, while social anthropology is the study of the relationships among persons and groups.

Main Document

A Broad Definition of Anthropology

Anthropology is defined as the study of various aspects of humans within past and present societies.

In Great Britain and the Commonwealth countries, the British tradition of social anthropology tends to dominate. In the United States, anthropology has traditionally been divided into the four field approach:

These fields frequently overlap, but tend to use different methodologies and techniques.

Sociocultural Anthropology:

Draws together the principle axes of cultural anthropology and social anthropology.

Cultural anthropology is the comparative study of the manifold ways in which people make sense of the world around them, while social anthropology is the study of the relationships among persons and groups.

Cultural Anthropology:

Related to philosophy, literature, and the arts, while social anthropology is more related to sociology and history in that it helps develop understanding of social structures, (such as minorities, subgroups, dissidents, etc.).

These categories also overlap to a considerable degree.

Medical Anthropology:

An interdisciplinary field which studies "human health and disease, health care systems, and biocultural adaptation". Currently, research in medical anthropology is one of the main growth areas in the field of anthropology as a whole. It focuses on the following basic fields:

Other subjects that have become central to medical anthropology worldwide are violence and social suffering, as well as other issues that involve physical and psychological harm and suffering that are not a result of illness.

Anthropology and Disability

Any review of written or oral history, or archaeological skeletal population, large or small, allows us to identify many individuals for whom a physical or mental impairment played a significant role in daily life. People with disabilities constitute a significant part of the human family. One estimate places the number of significantly disabled individuals with serious hearing, vision, mobility, or cognitive impairments, as high as one in every ten persons.

Ecology and Evolution

Ecology and evolution are two fundamental concepts in biology that are closely related and interconnected.

Ecology refers to the scientific study of the interactions between organisms and their environment. It examines how organisms, including plants, animals, and microorganisms, interact with each other and with their physical surroundings such as air, water, soil, and climate. Ecology explores the relationships and interdependencies between living organisms and their habitat, including the distribution and abundance of species, nutrient cycling, energy flow through ecosystems, and the impact of various factors on ecological processes. It also investigates the role of ecological systems in maintaining biodiversity, ecosystem stability, and the functioning of the Earth's biosphere.

Evolution, on the other hand, is the process by which living organisms have changed and diversified over time. It refers to the genetic changes that occur in populations of organisms over successive generations, leading to the emergence of new species and the modification of existing ones. Evolutionary processes, such as natural selection, genetic drift, mutation, and gene flow, shape the traits and characteristics of organisms, including their behavior, morphology, physiology, and genetic makeup. These changes occur in response to environmental pressures and the interactions between organisms, enabling them to adapt to their surroundings and enhance their chances of survival and reproduction.

The Link Between Ecology and Evolution

The link between ecology and evolution lies in the reciprocal relationship between the two fields. Understanding ecology helps us comprehend the selective pressures and environmental factors that drive evolutionary processes, while evolutionary principles provide a framework for understanding the patterns and dynamics observed in ecological systems.

Adaptation and Natural Selection:

Evolutionary processes, such as natural selection, play a crucial role in shaping the adaptations of organisms to their environment. The study of ecology helps identify the selective pressures acting on species, such as predation, competition for resources, or changes in climate. These pressures drive the evolution of specific traits and behaviors that enhance an organism's fitness and survival.

Coevolution:

Coevolution refers to the reciprocal evolutionary changes that occur in two or more interacting species. Ecological interactions, such as predator-prey relationships, mutualistic symbiosis, or competition, can drive coevolutionary processes. As species adapt and evolve in response to one another, this ongoing evolutionary dance influences the structure and dynamics of ecological communities.

Ecological Time and Evolutionary Time:

Ecology often operates in ecological time, which focuses on the interactions and dynamics of populations and communities within a relatively short timeframe. However, ecological processes can have long-term effects on evolutionary trajectories. Conversely, evolutionary changes occurring over extended periods can shape ecological dynamics. Understanding the interplay between ecological and evolutionary timescales is crucial for comprehending the complexity of ecosystems.

Ecological Constraints on Evolution:

Ecological factors can impose constraints on evolutionary processes. The availability of resources, physical conditions, and the presence of other species can limit the range of possible evolutionary trajectories. Ecological factors may favor certain adaptations while constraining others, leading to the divergence or convergence of species in response to different ecological contexts.

Evolutionary Ecology:

Evolutionary ecology is an interdisciplinary field that combines principles from both ecology and evolution to study how ecological processes and evolutionary dynamics interact. It investigates how ecological factors shape evolutionary patterns and how evolutionary changes influence ecological processes. This field integrates concepts from population genetics, behavioral ecology, community ecology, and evolutionary biology to provide a comprehensive understanding of the interplay between ecology and evolution.

In summary, ecology provides the context and selective pressures that drive evolutionary processes, while evolution contributes to our understanding of the adaptations, diversity, and dynamics observed in ecological systems. The link between ecology and evolution is essential for comprehending the complex interactions and patterns that shape life on Earth.

Scholarly Articles

Introduction: Anthropology in Disability Studies:

Devva Kasnitz, Ph.D., Mary Switzer Fellow, Russell P. Shuttleworth, Ph.D.; San Francisco State University.

Disability Worlds:

Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp; Department of Anthropology, New York University, New York, NY. Historically, anthropological studies of disability were often intellectually segregated, considered the province of those in medical and applied anthropology. We show the growing incorporation of disability in the discipline on its own terms by bringing in the social, activist, reflexive, experiential, narrative, and phenomenological dimensions of living with particular impairments. We imagine a broad future for critical anthropological studies of disability and argue that as a universal aspect of human life this topic should be foundational to the field.

Anthropological Theories of Disability:

Allison Ruby Reid-Cunningham; School of Social Welfare, University of California, Berkeley, California. The field of anthropology has contributed to knowledge about cultural relevance, cultural relativity, and defined the meanings of culture (Klotz, 2003). The concept of culture is important to anthropological study of disability because the lens of culture may be applied to disability in a variety of ways: Disability may be considered a culture, culture may be considered a disability, and cultural norms and values influence conceptions of disability (McDermott & Herve, 1995).

Subtopics


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