Why the Porcupine is Not a Bird: Explorations in the Folk Zoology of an Eastern Indonesian People

By Gregory Forth

© 2016

Why the Porcupine Is Not a Bird is a comprehensive analysis of knowledge of animals among the Nage people of central Flores in Indonesia. Gregory Forth sheds light on the ongoing anthropological debate surrounding the categorization of animals in small-scale non-Western societies.

Forth’s detailed discussion of how the Nage people conceptualize their relationship to the animal world covers the naming and classification of animals, their symbolic and practical use, and the ecology of central Flores and its change over the years. His study reveals the empirical basis of Nage classifications, which align surprisingly well with the taxonomies of modern biologists. It also shows how the Nage employ systems of symbolic and utilitarian classification distinct from their general taxonomy. A tremendous source of ethnographic detail, Why the Porcupine Is Not a Bird is an important contribution to the fields of ethnobiology and cognitive anthropology.

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Product Details

  • Series: Anthropological Horizons
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 400 pages
  • Illustrations: 27
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
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Quick Overview

Why the Porcupine Is Not a Bird is a comprehensive analysis of knowledge of animals among the Nage people of central Flores in Indonesia.

Why the Porcupine is Not a Bird: Explorations in the Folk Zoology of an Eastern Indonesian People

By Gregory Forth

© 2016

Why the Porcupine Is Not a Bird is a comprehensive analysis of knowledge of animals among the Nage people of central Flores in Indonesia. Gregory Forth sheds light on the ongoing anthropological debate surrounding the categorization of animals in small-scale non-Western societies.

Forth’s detailed discussion of how the Nage people conceptualize their relationship to the animal world covers the naming and classification of animals, their symbolic and practical use, and the ecology of central Flores and its change over the years. His study reveals the empirical basis of Nage classifications, which align surprisingly well with the taxonomies of modern biologists. It also shows how the Nage employ systems of symbolic and utilitarian classification distinct from their general taxonomy. A tremendous source of ethnographic detail, Why the Porcupine Is Not a Bird is an important contribution to the fields of ethnobiology and cognitive anthropology.

Continue Reading Read Less

Product Details

  • Series: Anthropological Horizons
  • World Rights
  • Page Count: 400 pages
  • Illustrations: 27
  • Dimensions: 6.0in x 1.0in x 9.0in
  • Reviews

    ‘This book is valuable for specialists in Indonesia and in folk classification systems.’


    E.N, Anderson
    Choice Magazine vol 54:02:2016

    ‘A thought provoking monograph based on authors’ thirty years of field research. It is a good book to think with.’


    Nathan Porath
    Journal of the Humanities & Social Sciences of Southeast Asia. Vol 172:04:2016

    Why the Porcupine Is Not a Bird is an important contribution to our knowledge of the folk-zoology of island Southeast Asia by an experienced and industrious ethnographer of the Nage.”


    Roy Ellen, Professor Emeritus, School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent

    Why the Porcupine Is Not a Bird is a breakthrough. Gregory Forth’s innovative account of Nage animal categories and taxonomies demonstrates that the Nage people possess not only symbolic knowledge of animals but also empirical knowledge and skeptical minds compatible with international scientific practice.”


    Scott Simon, Professor, School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies, University of Ottawa
  • Author Information

    Gregory Forth is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Alberta and a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.
  • Table of contents

    Preface

    Note on Orthography

    Chapter 1. Introduction

    Chapter 2. Investigating Folk Knowledge: A Methodological Prospectus

    Chapter 3. Animals, Humans, and Other Mammals

    Part 1: Mammals

    Chapter 4. Animals of the Village: Domestic and Partly Domestic Mammals

    Chapter 5. The Giant Rat of Flores and Other Never Domesticated Mammals

    Chapter 6. Symbolic and Utilitarian Dimensions of Mammal Categories: Varieties of Special Purpose Classification

    Part 2: Non-mammals

    Chapter 7. Birds, or “Creatures that Fly High in the Sky”

    Chapter 8. Snakes: The Life-form Nipa

    Chapter 9. Neither Fish nor Fowl: A Non-mammalian Miscellany

    Chapter 10. Things with Tails but without Backbones: Invertebrates in Nage Folk Zoology

    Part 3: Comparisons and Curiosities

    Chapter 11. What’s in an Animal Name: Comparative Observations on Animal Nomenclature, Classification, and Symbolism

    Chapter 12. When Birds Turn Into Mammals and Mammals into Fish: Nage “Beliefs” about Animal Transformation

    Chapter 13. Animal Mysteries and Disappearing Animals

    Chapter 14. Concluding Remarks

    Appendix 1. Terms for Human and Animal Body Parts

    Appendix 2. Growth Stages in Several Wild Animals

    Appendix 3. Nage Invertebrate Categories

    Appendix 4. Animal Names Used as Personal Names in Central Nage

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