Anthropology of Religion and Environment

A Skeletal History to 1970


  • E. N. Anderson University of California



anthropology, religion and nature, ethnology, history of anthropology, religion and ecology


Anthropology developed from strains of Platonic and Aristotelian thought, especially as mediated through the works of Immanuel Kant and Adam Smith, respectively. Early anthropologists included Smithians such as Lewis Henry Morgan, who usually tended to downplay the importance of religion, and Kantians such as Franz Boas and Claude Lévi-Strauss, who foregrounded it. Views of religion included seeing it as ‘failed science’, explaining the world; intense transcendent experience; ‘collective representation of the community’ (Durkheim); complex social symbolism that can be interpreted; and, most salient to the concerns of this journal, a social institution that serves (among other things) to regulate management of the environment, stressing long-term considerations. This last allows a harmonious fusion of Platonic and Aristotelian ideas.

Author Biography

E. N. Anderson, University of California

Professor Emeritus Dept. of Anthropology University of California, Riverside


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How to Cite

Anderson, E. N. (2012). Anthropology of Religion and Environment: A Skeletal History to 1970. Journal for the Study of Religion, Nature and Culture, 6(1), 9–36.




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