Thursday, August 2, 2007
Hugh Brody (1943-)
Hunter-gatherers are often represented as exotic or doomed – not just in the popular literature and by the administrative consciousness of the countries that deal with them (Canada, Australia, southern Africa), but even by some anthropologists.
This is a double vision. On the one hand, a people or way of life that is wonderful, beautiful, wild. On the other, a people with no possible future. So you can go there – to the world of hunter-gatherers – and experience something strange at the very edge of things; the edge of what it means to be human; the edge of what an environment can sustain.
These are people who are barely able to live, yet do so, and are therefore rather fantastic. Yet partly for these very reasons, there is a sense that they are doomed. It is just too much of an edge, too minimal an existence, too hard, too primitive – so there is no place in the world for these people. These two ideas work together in the representation of many indigenous peoples, but especially hunter-gatherers. They’re exotic and they’re doomed.
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In his book Maps and Dreams, Hugh Brodie stresses the point that part of the problems Canadians have in understanding First Nations cultures comes from the fact that we do not perceive the native culture accurately. We tend, he says, to base our understandings on perceptions we have inherited from our own traditions; furthermore, these perceptions are strongly influenced by our own desires about what we want the do with the land, the country, our fellow citizens, and thus the First Nations people. Thus, we are inevitably insensitive to important differences between us and many First Nations cultures. [Adapted from Ian Johnston]
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