A broad reflection on some of the major surprises to anthropological theory occasioned by the history, and in a number of instances the tenacity, of indigenous cultures in the twentieth century. We are not leaving the century with the same ideas that got us there. Contrary to the inherited notions of progressive development, whether of the political left or right, the surviving victims of imperial capitalism neither became all alike nor just like us. Contrary to the “despondency theory” of mid-century, the logical and historical precursor of dependency theory, surviving indigenous peoples aim to take cultural responsibility for what has been done to them. Across large parts of northern North America, even hunters and gatherers live, largely by hunting and gathering. The Eskimo are still there, and they are still Eskimo. Around the world the peoples give the lie to received theoretical oppositions between tradition and change, indigenous culture and modernity, townsmen and tribesmen, and other clichés of the received anthropological wisdom. Reports of the death of indigenous cultures—as of the demise of anthropology—have been exaggerated.


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