Blue Ridge Center
for environmental stewardship
preserve ~ experience ~ enjoy

Cultural Studies

The Cultural Studies Program (CSP) promotes a multi-disciplinary approach to the investigation of cultural-historical and ecological issues. The program seeks to enable researchers from a variety of disciplines, such as Anthropology, Archaeology, Architecture, and History, to undertake both synchronic and diachronic studies of cultural and ecological issues in the region.  

100_0069.JPGAs a result of its emphasis on environmental stewardship, the Blue Ridge Center promotes studies into the historical relationship between humans and the natural environment, how that relationship has evolved through time, and how knowledge of it can contribute to sustainable strategies for modern development. These studies may focus on any period of human occupation in the region from its initial occupation nearly 11,000 years ago by American Indians to the present day.

A multi-disciplinary approach is also supported by the CSP as pertains to the program’s outreach activities. The CSP is committed to bringing together researchers from the fields discussed above with professionals and students from fields such as communications, marketing, and art in an effort to create outreach programs that engage and educate the public on the issues addressed through the CSP’s research program.

Some examples of the types of outreach activities that the Blue Ridge Center promotes include:
•    Public lectures and workshops
•    Tours and discussions of on-site programs
•    Public art installations addressing supported themes
•    Volunteer involvement by the public in Blue Ridge Center supported research

To inquire about the Cultural Studies Program, contact us at


As a discipline that approaches the study of human beings holistically by focusing equally on our capacities as both biological and cultural beings, anthropology is particularly well suited for contributing to the CSP. Two of the sub-disciplines of anthropology, archaeology and environmental anthropology, have especially strong potential for contributing to the program’s research objectives. These fields can provide invaluable knowledge of the relationship between humans and their environment during both the past and present, as described below.

While modern environmental problems are widely recognized as matters of great public and scholarly concern, far more attention has been focused on physical and biological dimensions of these problems than on social, cultural, and historical dimensions. A primary aim of environmental anthropology is to redress this imbalance. Since sociocultural and environmental phenomena shape each other through processes of mutual influence, environmental anthropology fosters an integrated analysis of their interaction. At the heart of contemporary environmental anthropology is an understanding that proceeds from a notion of the mutualism of person and environment and the reciprocity between nature and culture.

Some examples of the types of environmental anthropological research topics that the Blue Ridge Center promotes include:
•    Ethnoecology, ethnobiology, and traditional environmental knowledge
•    History of human interactions with environmental contexts
•    Sustainable development 
•    Environmental justice

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sc03628611.jpgThe study of how humans have affected the evolution of the natural environment and how the natural environment has affected the evolution of humans, has been a central preoccupation of archaeology for more than a century. This is particularly true regarding the nature and timing of plant and animal domestication by humans. Archaeology’s ability to provide knowledge about issues such as these is unique, as no other discipline is capable of providing the temporal perspective that is needed to understand the thousands of years of human interaction with the environment that stretch deep into the ancient past.  

While the Blue Ridge Center supports many types of archaeological research, preference is given to research designs that focus on the history of the relationship between humans and the natural environment.

Some examples of the types of archaeological research topics the Blue Ridge Center promotes include:
•    Prehistoric or historic settlement patterns
•    Prehistoric or historic subsistence patterns
•    Human impact and environmental change 
•    History of plant and animal domestication by humans

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With its focus on the study and design of the built PICT0990.JPGenvironment, architecture presents some unique opportunities for contributing to the goals of the CSP. Architecture operates at an important nexus of nature and culture. The built environment plays a critical role in the establishment of community identity and holds a prominent place in our notions of cultural heritage. Few human undertakings have a greater impact on our world’s natural resources than does the construction and maintenance of our built environment. The promotion of environmentally-responsible decisions regarding issues such as building size, construction materials, and energy systems, is critical if we are to succeed in shaping a more responsible socio-environmental ethic. 

The study and revival of a “native architecture” that blends traditional elements with sustainable methods of construction is strongly supported by the CSP. This approach is especially promoted for the construction of community buildings whose presence will provide broad exposure of environmentally-responsible architecture to a large and diverse group of citizens.

Some examples of the types of architectural research topics that the Blue Ridge Center promotes include:

•    The region’s architectural history
•    Sustainable methods of construction
•    Sustainable approaches to community planning
•    The study of cultural movements pertaining to sustainable living (e.g., Eco-Villages)

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History is the study of the past, with special attention to the written record of the activities of human beings over time. It is a field of research that uses a narrative to examine and analyze a sequence of events, and often attempts to investigate objectively the patterns of cause and effect that determine events. Through the study of the written record, historians can contribute to the goals of the CSP. By focusing on periods, geographical locations, or cultural groups or events, historical investigation can contribute much to our understanding of the region’s social history, and can shed much light on the topic of land use during the historic period.

Some examples of the types of historical research topics that the Blue Ridge Center promotes include:
•    History of land use
•    History of health and nutrition among the region’s various populations
•    History of economic organization
•    History of the region’s ethnic composition

Blue Ridge Center for Environmental Stewardship

11661 Harpers Ferry Rd.

Purcellville, VA  20132



The Blue Ridge Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supported by donations

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