Sampa, Elias

Applying the Aims and Methodology of ACA

by  Elias Sampa

Posted on October 27, 2013 at 11:15 PM


At this point it seems that an Anthropology that addresses the human person in the context of the cosmos and more precisely as a being in relation with the total universe is indeed cosmic anthropology. And by addressing practical questions pertaining to that relationship with the intent of providing practical solutions and frameworks, such anthropology is also likely to be applied. 



This topic is inspired by the intellectually stimulating lectures that we had. It is therefore an attempt to understand what Applied Cosmic Anthropology is in terms of its unique aims and methodology. After establishing or at least approximating that distinct standpoint, I wish to find out a perspective of “sustainable development” that would emerge and how that perspective would apply in analyzing the two trends of residence development in Metro Manila, Condominiums and Villages (subdivisions). I consider these trends as a concrete sustainable development issue surrounding the management of the fast growing population density of the metro polis. Physically, the Metro Manila has attempted to grow its residence by reclaiming the sea and by converting farm lands into Villages and Condominiums. These trends need to be examined on several fronts vis-àvis the ecological base. Will the cities sustain their population on external resources including importation of all farm products? What about forestation needed to provide fresh air and natural air cleaning mechanism? Intrinsic quality of life or socioeconomic concerns: Cost of Housing, Governance, Population density, and Transportation?

Since this is my very first course in Applied Cosmic Anthropology, this attempt would help me appreciate more the field and the challenges it is set to address, in short my life after graduation. It is also my hope to further develop this inquiry into a dissertation if it passes the criterion for acceptability. I draw on several readings suggested and encountered in the course and discussions as well as my personal readings. This is more a reflection paper than a research one.


Defining Cosmic Anthropology


What is Applied Cosmic Anthropology? This is the first question to ask when starting the study of Applied Cosmic Anthropology because it a model of perception needed to understand anything within its coverage. If in case the definition has to be drawn on the two coordinates of cosmology and anthropology, no definition would do justice to the enormous wealth and diversity of concepts, views, experiences, and expressions accumulated in the two fields through out the centuries of scholarly and discourse endeavors. However, the answer to this question seems extremely difficult. At first sight the phrase seems self-explanatory, yet it defies precise definition because it presupposes cutting across several disciplines originating from either Cosmology or Anthropology with different meaning-making processes and assumptions.

Nevertheless, an attempt to define Applied Cosmic Anthropology is necessary in order to find some distinctive or possibly unique set of qualities and parameters or “essence” that distinguishes Applied Cosmic Anthropology from other sciences or human discourses. For this purpose, we need a useful working definition or established parameters to locate properly an Applied Cosmic Anthropology discourse as well as develop professional consensus among ACA scholars. This may be considered a starting point of an Applied Cosmic Anthropological view of social phenomena and issues and to be able to understand, interpret and compare them. Such a working definition or parameter does not have to be perfect or final but practical and useful enough to respond to certain criteria and to posses certain characteristics. On that matrix a perspective of sustainable development can then be construed or constructed.


1. The Applied Aspect


The basic premise of an applied scientific method for social transformation is that by using accepted principles and ideas of (social) sciences, one could “guide” or “direct” change in such a way as to facilitate positive change and minimize the unintended negative effects of such change (Tima, 2005:8). “Applied” science would refer to the application of method and theory in that particular science to the analysis and solution of practical problems. Inasmuch as such a science properly comprises the sub-disciplines associated to it the practical application of any of those sub-disciplines may properly be designated "applied.” Indeed, some practical problems may invoke all sub-disciplines. For example, Applied Anthropology (with four sub-disciplines) in addressing a community development program may involve archeological research to determine legitimacy of water rights claims, ethnography may involve assessing the current and recent historical cultural characteristics of the community, linguistics may be applied to restoring language competence, and biological, or more specifically "medical" anthropology may be applied to determine the factors contributing to dietary deficiency diseases, etc.

In this case, how can perspectives developed uniquely and specifically by Cosmic Anthropology be utilized to address practical issues and problems, like sustainable development, so that they can be analyzed, understood and better responded to in a manner that makes life better? In other ways, what is the practical value of a perspective derived from Cosmic Anthropology for our daily and desirable life? This being the direction of “Applied” in “Applied Cosmic Anthropology,” I dare drop further inquiry into its role in the phrase. I assume it to be a logical implication of the answers arrived at by explaining what Cosmic Anthropology is.


2. The Cosmic Aspect


Cosmology is a term from the universe and all its components. The ancient Greeks used the term to describe a total universe characterized not by chaos but by systematic harmony. Cosmos is an all-inclusive description of existence consisting of everything from tiny atoms to huge planets and galaxies. (Webster’s) The Greek mind studied Universe in its totality, and by extension, humanity's place in it. The word ''cosmology'' is attributed to Christian Wolff, philosopher, as the first to use it in 1730 in his ''Cosmologia Generalis''. However, the study of the Universe has a long history involving science, philosophy, esotericism and religion. For this reason Cosmology tends to be associated with four sub-disciplines: Physical cosmology with physics and astrophysics playing a central role in shaping its identity; Metaphysical cosmology, dealing with the world as the totality of space, time and all phenomena; Religious cosmology, trying to explain the beginnings of the Universe and life; and Esoteric cosmology, providing many teachings involve highly elaborate cosmologies including states of existences and consciousness. There more sub-variations to these discipline (Wikipedia). It is also worthwhile to note that these distinction are not always clear cut, they often intermesh so much that a rigid attitude to see clear lines among them may not be helpful at a certain point. But an careful exploration for each thread of some cosmological nuance would certainly yield useful insights as was brought out in the lecture series.

Viewed this way, Cosmology is therefore very broad and constantly evolving like any other science. There vertical and horizontal dynamisms. It endeavors to use methods and procedures to understand the origin, evolution and ultimate fate of the entire Universe. Like any field of science, cosmology involves the formation of theories or hypotheses about the universe, which make its own specific predictions that, can be tested with observations. Depending on the outcome of the observations, the theories would need to be abandoned, revised or extended to accommodate new revelations. The prevailing theories of the origin and evolution of our Universe have undergone several variations from the so-called Big Bang theory to the Quantum theory, Isaac Newton’s cause-and-effect mechanistic cosmos to Fritjof Capra’s one inseparable whole, forever in motion, alive, and organic cosmos (Capra 1996:11). It is important to maintain that at any point of discourse relating to cosmology one is always dealing with wide rage of perspectives, opinions, central and peripheral, old and new. This means that sensitivity is needed to ovoid a tendency of narrowness and rigidity.


3. The Anthropology Aspect


Anthropology (from the Greek word Üíèñùðïò, "human" or "person") consists of the study of humanity (Homo). It is holistic in two senses: it is concerned with all humans at all times and with all dimensions of humanity. Anthropology is traditionally distinguished from other disciplines by its emphasis on Cultural relativism, in-depth examination of context, and cross-cultural comparisons. In North America, "anthropology" is traditionally divided into four sub-disciplines: Physical anthropology, or biological anthropology, which studies primate behavior, human evolution, osteology, forensics, and population genetic; Cultural anthropology (called social anthropology in the United Kingdom and now often known as sociocultural anthropology), which studies social networks, diffusion, social behavior, kinship patterns, law, politics, ideology, religion, beliefs, patterns in production and consumption, exchange, socialization, gender, and other expressions of culture, with strong emphasis on the importance of fieldwork or participant observation (i.e., living among the social group being studied for an extended period of time); Linguistics anthropology, which studies variation in language across time and space, the social uses of language, and the relationship between language and culture; and Archaeology (material culture), which studies the material remains of human societies. These subdivisions are further divided (Wikipedia). Again it may not be necessary to go into those details the purpose of understanding anthropological discourses. Most probably, such an endeavor can only lead to information overload. It is enough to be able to identify views as arising from and belonging to the schema of Anthropology. Likewise, it is important to know that Anthropology represents a wide range of perspectives and views.


4. Cosmic Anthropology


At this point it seems that an Anthropology that addresses the human person in the context of the cosmos and more precisely as a being in relation with the total universe is indeed cosmic anthropology. And by addressing practical questions pertaining to that relationship with the intent of providing practical solutions and frameworks, such anthropology is also likely to be applied. However, the starting point of such a fusion of horizons should be Anthropology because all understanding is based on being and perception. Although some people hold the view that humans are equal with dogs and cats and plants. They challenge the centrality of the human person in the created order. For me, it is safe to say that the end goal of all the understanding is to improve the human person. Indeed using the Anthropic principle, the cosmos was created for and is at the service of the human person.

After drawing on Anthropology, then we can move to Cosmology to develop Cosmic Anthropology as a fusion of the two horizons to provide us some constants. This is point at which Cosmic Anthropology should display its uniqueness worldview, perspectives or simply constants. While this attempt is simply too simplistic, the following drawings has a story that or kind of framework to explain the relationship possible movement of the spirit within the Cosmic Anthropology path. The ensuing constants can now be brought in dialogue with a specific reality such as sustainable development. It is possible to consider what would come out of that fusion of horizon as Cosmic Anthropology perspective of Sustainable Development, a distinct worldview which is ready for application and in this view, Applied Cosmic Anthropology. See the diagram below. 


Mathematically, Anthropology + Cosmology = Cosmic Anthropology. Then, the issue or concern at hand (Sustainable Development) + Cosmic Anthropology = Applied Cosmic Anthropology. Whereas Anthropology stands generically to represent all discourses relating to Anthropology and Cosmology also is representing a whole broad range of Cosmological enquiry. The resulting worldview would constitute some constants.


5. Constants


It seems to me the following may represent what may be called constants. The list is not exhaustive.


·   A perspective is said to be Cosmic Anthropology if it is constructed or construed from a dynamic interaction between anthropology and cosmology in their broadest sense and complexity whereby the fusion of horizons produces a perspective distinct from the Anthropological and Cosmological perspectives taken separately.

·   Epistemological privilege or starting point should be anthropology (being/experience) because our mode of perception is basically our being human.

·   There has to be a variety of perspectives under the banner of Cosmic Anthropology which should also be open to a diversity of methodologies.

·   Cosmic Anthropology must transcend accidentals or fragments of reality such as ethnocentrism, culture, gender, nationality, specialization, territoriality and the like.

·   Application of Cosmic Anthropology in bringing about social change has to be issue based.


6. The Villages and Condominiums


With the ever growing population in Metro Manila, managing population has meant expanding places for human activity among which housing the population is a perennial challenge. In the last 15 years the residence development trends have taken on two formats. The villages sometimes referred to as subdivisions and Condominiums also called high rise. While the Village development has reclaimed outer city agricultural lands, the Condominiums are replacing inner city town plazas and city centers and some open grounds.

Houses in Villages have average lot sizes of 2,000 sq.m. These homes have four to eight bedrooms. They are generally home to affluent Filipinos, business tycoons, and foreign diplomats. High walls and fences, mostly with swimming pools and large landscaped gardens, generally surround the houses. They normally have 24-hr security guards, checkpoints, with their own shared facilities like village pavilion, playgrounds, post office facilities, gym, badminton and basketball courts, tennis courts, small medical and dental clinic for residents and domestic helpers, small fire department and intra-village free transport service utilized by the domestic staff. It is also common to find nursery, elementary and high schools run by or for the village association. The Villages have elected officers who compose the administration to mange the village with full time hired staff. Except for those villages whose status has been elevated to a Barangay, most Villages have nothing to do with the governments. They manage all their affairs and service delivery systems on revenues collected from residents. Some prominent Villages in the Metro Polis of manila include Dasmarinas Village, South Forbes Park, North Forbes Park, Bel-Air- 1 and 4, all around the central district of Makati City, Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa City and many more.

The Condominiums vary depending on the location and size. Generally they are within or occupy the upper floors of commercial areas, supermarkets, and restaurants with complete amenities such as swimming pools, gym, common function halls. They average 160 sq.m. in size per unit. They are strategically located to mega transport linkages, train stations and highways leading to other cities, commercial sites and schools and universities. They are often managed by the real estate developers or agencies to run 24 –hr security, service maintenance, telephone operation, garbage, pest control and others. They stretch a high of 38 – 45 storey with units ranging from studio-type, 1,2 to 3 bedrooms.

The variables to examine here in the light of Sustainable Development perspective of ACA are: Housing Cost, Governance, population density, transportation, community life, and resources utilization such as land and energy consumption. Fundamentally, are these trends in the population and resources management sustainable? Should we continue this way? What are the implications these two development trends on the overall metropolitan manila as well as national development?


7. An analysis and conclusion


The topic is barely scratched. What we have come to is but the end of the introduction so that the process suggested and outlined must be subjected to total scrutiny. It seems that there is a possibility to explore issues utilizing aims and methods specific to ACA that would yield results reflective of uniquely ACA perspectives.