On the word "primitive"

Wade Tarzia (wade@PMC.UCONN.EDU)
Thu, 1 Aug 1996 11:54:40 -0400

>Of course you don't tell somebody his culture is primitive, anymore than a
>doctor tells a patient with only one leg that he has only one leg. But the
>doctor doesn't go off and write an article to the medical journal that his
>patient has two legs, either. ...
>Best wishes. R. Snower rs222@worldnet.att.net

-- A reply to a detail, not the broader argument: doesn't the word
"primitive" lack that sensitivity we were discussing a week ago in regard
to enthographic descriptive language? Even if 'primitive' did not hold a
somewhat negative tone (some people feel so, I believe), it couldn't be
applied as a descriptive term except in the most specfied way, am I right
or wrong? One could be using a "primitve" technology while engaging in
very complex ritual (some Australian aborigines?). (and I suppose the
technology could be argued to not so primitive if one included in the
technological decsription the full array of knowledge required to make a
fishing net, for instance). Just a thought from the anthropologically
handicapped... --wt