cultural survival

Joseph M. O'Neal (josephon@ADMIN.STEDWARDS.EDU)
Mon, 8 Jan 1996 14:52:51 CST

I have strong feelings about the issue raised by Bret Diamond. I'm not
sure that I agree with him that most anthropologists do little or nothing
to aid "their" people with whom they conducted fieldwork. Part of the
code of ethics is fair payback to the people who made your fieldwork
possible, and very often that payback involves acting as advisor,
advocate, and cultural broker to assist the group in coping with change
and the outside world.

I am not certain that we have an ethical obligation as anthropologists to
actively promote the well-being of indigenous peoples, but I certainly
think we have a humanitarian obligation. But we have to be cautious in
our activism, helping the indigenous group promote what *they* desire and
not trying to make those decisions for them.

Not only Cultural Survival and Survival International are active in
promoting the health of indigenous societies, but many other NGO's do so,
including many indigenous people and federations of such peoples. Look
at the debate and discussion surrounding the draft Declaration of the
Rights of Indigenous People in the United Nations. John Bodley's book
_Victims of Progress_ also discusses many activist native peoples. Look
also at the Native-L list and the many activists posting there who are
concerned with the w ell-being of Native Americans.

I do not agree at all with Anthony Dauer in his promotion of
non-interference and the Prime Directive from Star Trek. Even Kirk and
his crew constantly interfered with the peoples they encountered. As
anthropologists, by the mere act of doing fieldwork we are interfering in
the lives of the people we study. And it is not as if native peoples
will be left alone as long as we anthropologists do so. With modern
technology, the reach of multinational corporations, and the drive of
developing nations for economic growth, all native peoples in the world
are at great risk. People are not deer, to return to Dauer's example,
and native peoples are not isolated primitives who are part of the
natural ecology of a region.


Joseph M. O'Neal 512-448-8745
St. Edward's University FAX: 512-448-8767
Austin, TX 78704

"We [anthropologists] have been the first to insist on a number of
things: that the world does not divide into the pious and the
superstitious; that there are sculptures in jungles and paintings in
deserts; that political order is possible without centralized power and
principled justice without codified rules; that the norms of reason were
not fixed in Greece, the evolution of morality not consummated in
England. Most important, we were the first to insist that we see the
lives of others through lenses of our own grinding and that they look
back on ours through ones of their own." Clifford Geertz, Distinguished
Lecture: Anti Anti-Relativism. American Anthropologist 86:2:263-278
(June 1994).