Accepted Paper:

Integrating transactional people-environment studies into architectural anthropology: a case for useful theory building  


Paul Memmott (University of Queensland)

Paper long abstract:

This presentation outlines a transdisciplinary theoretical framework for what could be termed a transactional theory of architectural anthropology that has evolved over 40 years with particular application in Indigenous Australia. One platform component is the general theoretical frame of culture taken from anthropology including constructs of enculturation, acculturation, cultural change process, cultural identity, theory of person, material culture, social behavior and control. To this framework is joined the model of transactional people-environment relations, explaining the continuous stream of mutually adaptive interactions that people have with their surroundings at the sensory, perceptual, cognitive and behavioural levels. This approach gives equal emphasis to how people use and find meaning in their environments, and to how people encode meaning into their environment via design and construction processes, as well as to a type of structuralist approach that incorporates the transformations of properties of people-environment units or settings, the self regulation of these units or systems and their temporal properties (an example being the ‘behaviour setting’). The integrated theory has provided a potential for addressing a range of Indigenous social problems, including housing design, crowding, homelessness, and effective service delivery. Peoples intentions, needs and social capital are understood and contextualized in terms of their enculturated identity, social values and group relationships as embedded in past environmental behaviours adapted within processes of directed and reactive cultural change in the colonial and post colonial eras.

Panel P092
Towards an architectural anthropology