Cultural ecology: Adaptation - retrofitting a concept?



Publication Details

Head, L. M. (2010). Cultural ecology: Adaptation - retrofitting a concept?. Progress in Human Geography: an international review of geographical work in the social sciences and humanities, 34 (2), 234-242.


Adaptation was a core concept of twentieth-century cultural ecology. It is having a new life in the context of debates over climate change, particularly as it becomes more significant in public discourse and policy. In this third and final progress report, I identify ways in which geographers and others are currently using the concept of adaptation, tracing both continuities and discontinuities with its earlier heritage. Three differences that warrant attention are the new mitigation/adaptation binary, the deliberate and conscious nature of climate change adaptation, and the fact that the stimuli to which we are adapting are complex assemblages comprising more-than-climate. To 'retrofit' the concept for twenty-first-century conditions, we should avoid the limitations of some past uses, and enhance its operation with new techniques and approaches. I identify four threads in recent geographic research that enhance the retrofit: cultural research around climate; emphasis on everyday practices; attention to the contingencies of scale; and more-than-human/ more-than-nature theoretical conceptualizations. © The Author(s), 2009.

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