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ANTHROPOLOGY and social welfare in the Peruvian Amazon

Stuart Rawlings, an anthropologist, writes:

"While doing Ph.D. field work on Indians of the Peruvian Amazon, I was often struck by the conflict between anthropology and social welfare. The anthropology side of me bemoaned the steady disappearance of tribal cultures and wanted to isolate all of Peru's remaining 65 tribes. My social welfare side supported the massive introduction of medicine, mosquito nets, and basic hygiene education. The many Indians I interviewed were almost unanimous in desiring more contact with the modern world --in the form of jobs, schools, trade, electricity, radio and television, money, food, etc.

Peru's Indians have not yet experienced the kind of liberation and corresponding ethnic pride which we have here in America. There has been no Chief Joseph, Sitting Bull or Dennis Banks to resist the mental and physical encroachments of the white man. My hope is that somehow Peru's Indians can develop more of an interest in their culture, while at the same time availing themselves of the comforts and healthy aspects of ours."

My comment: In the Highland, that pride exists, witness the Tupac Amaru and presidential candidate Alejandro Toledo. As Stuart points out, regardless of this, Indians want the advantages of modern civilization.

Ronald Hilton - 9/06/00