Mead, Margaret
January 1967
Foreign Affairs;Jan1967, Vol. 45 Issue 2, p304
Academic Journal
This article looks at the rights of primitive people in Papua New Guinea. In the contemporary climates of opinion, all people of the world are claiming the right of nationhood with all its perquisites, sovereignty, economic self-sufficiency and membership in the United Nations. Within this situation, the condition of primitive people -- people who only recently lived a self-sufficient life without script or any relationship to script occupies a peculiar place. Furthermore, within many of the countries dominated by a European or Asian tradition there are minorities which have preserved in their present-day forms of life considerable traces of the unsatisfactory compromise relationships worked out when they encountered the high cultures of Europe, Asia or Africa and were pushed into undesirable land, isolated in special occupations, made dependent and deteriorated wards of the state or were converted into an uneasy peonage, peasantry or proletarian labor force. Furthermore only those primitive people who have maintained such a separate and tribal status are visible at all. For ten thousand years comparable groups have become the peasantry and the proletariat of complex societies, speaking the language and following the customs of the state of which they are a part.


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