Up until the 1970s, most anthropologists approached Indian communities as discrete cultural units (a classic example would be Redfield and Villa Rojas), and were particularly fascinated by and drawn to those aspects of cultural practice and belief that appeared least influenced, distorted, or destroyed by European colonialism. Anthropologists were spellbound by the mystique of pristine, if not always primitive, Indian cultures—the more isolated and removed from the mainstream of nation-states, the better. Even attempts to move anthropology beyond an obsessive focus upon an "Other" that contrasted with "the West" did not necessarily conceptually reconnect Indians to the world system to which they had historically been joined since the fifteenth century. For example, Eric Wolf's early taxonomy of peasantries, and much subsequent ethnography of Indian communities as peasant communities, also characterized such communities as discrete and bounded units, albeit in a different analytic light.
A major breakthrough was achieved by June Nash in her study of Bolivian tin miners, who in her work appeared clearly as simultaneously members of the industrial working class and as Indians. Nash elaborated an analysis that did not downplay the distinctively Indian religious and cultural practices of the miners, their complex political ideological relationship with the Bolivian state, or their emplacement within the capitalist world system. After Nash, it became possible to study Indian communities not only as part of global economic and political systems, but also as part of Latin American nation-states. Describing the policies that such nation-states were developing in response to Indian communities was a logical next step in anthropological work.
- Native Policy - Perspectives On Colonialism And Postindependence Latin America
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