Re: Cultural Survival? (fwd)

Bret Diamond (diam9018@TAO.SOSC.OSSHE.EDU)
Sat, 13 Jan 1996 12:47:02 -0800

Forwarded message:
>From diam9018 Tue Jan 9 13:28:41 1996
Subject: Re: Cultural Survival?
Date: Tue, 9 Jan 1996 13:28:41 -0800 (PST)
In-Reply-To: <> from "Keith Dever" at Jan 8, 96 06:57:50 pm
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On 1/8/96, Keith Dover writes:

> At the risk of seeming argumentative, I thing the responsibility should not
> lie with the anthropologist to protect the culture. It should be to inform
> the world at large and the world at large should make that decision and so
> act. The anthropolist, IMO, should act as a recorder and interpretter of
> behavior. The burden is not the anthropologist's to protect; it is the
> world's.

I think that this is frightenly similar to the disdain/callousness that a
research scientist views the lab rats; "I know you're ultimate fate, but
I'm just here to gather data." It is incomprehensible to me that almost
all nations have laws to protect endangered wildlife (which predominately
involves protecting their habitat) yet we bristle at the idea of
"interupting the evolutionary process" when it comes to protecting humans
and their way of life. To me, it is inexcusable that we continue to
eradicate indigenous cultures for the sake of profit; the bottom line is
that most of the last remaining limited-contact culture groups currently
reside in some of the last unexploited concentrations of natural
resources. We are all aware of the impacts on indigenous peoples via
smallpox etc., the diseases that threaten them now are greed and apathy.
At the risk of sounding like an RJ disciple, I believe that if the
discipline of Anthropology continues on it's mostly self-serving path of
"salvage anthropology" and does little or nothing to protect those that
we make our living studying, than we are no differant from the
corporations and governments that seek to eliminate the last strongholds
of indigenous culture as they stand in the way of profit.

> I realize Star Trek's "Prime Directive" is problematic at best, but the
> anthropologist should inform the world about groups, not defend them.

Yet the prime directive was violated time and time again, and we cheered
them on because they were doing what was ethically and morally right.
"Science" does not have to be ethically and morally sterile.

"We are made wise not by
recollections of the past,
but by responsibility
to the future." (George Bernard Shaw)

Bret Diamond