Re: What now to call "primitives"?

Kevin E. Smith (kesmith@FRANK.MTSU.EDU)
Tue, 10 Jan 1995 22:08:21 -0600

When given the choice, I tend to refer to "peoples" by their preferred
terminology -- for example Cherokee, Lakota, etc. When teaching classes
which require some more generic term, I tend to use "indigenous
peoples." At this point, that term seems to have fewer negative
connotations. "Aboriginal peoples" is ok, but does seem to have some
minor negative connotations on the part of a few of my students (usually
associated with stereotypes of Australian Aborigines).

I don't like the term "non-literate" peoples personally because it
carries a number of potential negative connotations in general usage. I
do a lot of work with the general public here at home, and literacy has
too many agendas associated with it elsewhere to make it an effectual
term. No complaint intended -- it is just simply too difficult to sort
the contemporary issues from the terminology for most of my students in
general usage.

I also use the term "traditional society" in some instances. In my
experience, this terminology doesn't carry any negative connotations, and
actually carries some positive ones for students. There is a great deal
of interest in traditional (Euroamerican) culture here, and the term
seems to be easily interpretable and acceptable by students.

My two cents worth....

Kevin Smith
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
Middle Tennessee State University
Murfreesboro TN