Successes and Failures

Sun, 17 Sep 1995 12:11:32 -0400

My two cents-not to be construed as a reflection of any of the views of
participants, but more on how they may be extended to broader societal views
and issues.

Cultures are not "successes" or "failures", they may be successful or
unsuccessful in responding to some external or internal stimulus, and that
success or failure must be measured in terms of some value-survival is one
value, but not necessarily the only value that can provide interesting study.
Militarily and organizationally, Native American groups were at a
disadvantage versus European invader/colonizers. This is a perfectly
reasonable arena for study, but in terms of environmental degradation
certainly most autochthonous North American groups were far less intrusive
than later arrivals. There seems little value in studying displaced peoples
like the Native Americans, if Antrhopology's efforts are viewed by the
society at large as merely a tearful aside about how noble these people were
in their heroic but doomed struggle against the natural progression of
events, etc. From my exerience Anthropology is still largley perceived as
studying "primitive peoples", "relict societies" and other curios.
I think it is important to counter the view that anthropology is a
backward looking field, interested only in origins. I try to explain that
the past and the future are linked. For example, in studying cultures
that "lost" we can find ideas for succesful strategies for the future. If we
can translate such concepts to Anthropology I think we can go a long way to
re-establishing Anthropologies relevancy, for we are regarded as being
increasingly irrelevant to the modern world.