Socio Cultural Anthropology

Human populations play a crucial role in shaping tropical forest environments. An adequate understanding of past and future modifications of these complex ecosystems by societies requires that we identify correctly the particular cultural attitudes, social and political organizations, resource management practices and technical expertise underpinning the behavior of community members. The enormous variation that exists in the structures, beliefs, knowledge, and technologies of tropical forest peoples is a unique and valuable reservoir of environmental knowledge and know-how.

Anthropologists at STRI –together with their pre and postdoctoral assistants— study the complex processes that mediate interactions between humans and their “natural” or anthropogenic (man-made) environment. Not only do we communicate and exchange information continuously with STRI’s archeologists, but we also profit from the wealth of theoretical insights and empirical observations stemming from research conducted by STRI biologists, paleontologists and geologists.

To isolate the most important variables and processes regulating social and ecological relations –including the symbolic construction of human interactions—we conduct comparative research in humid zones within tropical Africa , Asia and the Americas from a holistic perspective. Our research deals with the following general questions:

  1. What are the long-term ecological, social and economic consequences of the ways indigenous peoples shape the natural landscape to suit their needs for livelihood and social reproduction?
  2. How do the various kinds of resource management systems –developed on the basis of divergent cultural models and expectations– affect biological diversity and habitat integrity?
  3. What economic and political conditions at the local and global levels promote, and which prevent, rational land use and the conservation of natural resources?


Staff scientists researching Anthropology