Sunday, June 22, 2008

'White Man's Imagined Burden'

I was flipping through news channels a few days ago and came across and interview with a white European anthropologist who was commenting on the "uncontacted Indian tribe" story that broke in late May.

The anthropolgist, whose name I unfortunately missed, commented that the Indians in the picture were firing arrows at what they thought was a giant bird.

Yeah broer, I am not making this sh*t up. A giant bird in 2008 flying over "uncontacted" Indians somewhere in the "jungles" of Brazil. What a 'discovery' hey?


How far have we come since Livingstone and Kipling huh?

Anyway, the other white man who took the pictures, Carlos Meirelles (61) has admitted that the story is a bunch of .... ummmmmm, crap.

Meirelles works for the Brazilian Indian Protection Agency (Funai) and is said to be one of only a few seranistas, or indigenous tribes expert.

He knew that the folks he was picturing were not newly "discovered", in fact they have been known about since 1910.

The story he sold to the world was intended to 'protect and save' the Indians from outsiders (he says loggers) who threaten the "uncontacted" Indians. Just how much of this 'discovery' was staged is not fully disclosed but it makes me wonder about the notion of "uncontacted" tribes.

What does "uncontacted" mean? Who is supposed to be doing the 'contacting'? And how is "uncontacted" tied to the myth of 'discovery' by white 'pioneers' (now researchers)?

I am not questioning the humanitarian need to repsect and guard the rights of peole to live in remote areas and outside of the contrived rationalization of the nation-state and its purported modernity.

What I am pointing at here is the manner that the story of being "uncontacted" is seated in the architecture of racism and its institutional appendages.

Meirelles used what he knew would grab attention. He spoke to the colonial impulse to discover, plot, and catalog, tribes (savages). And for a spell it worked.

Will this be the last 'discovery'? Hell no! 'Discovery' is a mainstay of whiteness and the travel industry, in particular, knows that too well.

I mean have you watched the Travel Channel? See those kids from whiteburbia 'discovering' exotic peoples in India, Cambodia, Kenya, while expressing the Western ideal to 'learn and take back' (read appropriate).

Lonenly Planet travel guides are assembled to make the way for this kind of post-colonial 'contacting' and 'discovering'. And if you think this is a one-way exchange you would be absolutely wrong.

The tribes in India, Cambodia, Kenya, understand the penchant to romanticize and infantalize (Orientalize) them.

Nonetheless, this capitalized transaction is destructive and absolutely racist. Like the "uncontacted" tribes, the 'contacted' ones are stuck in the imagination of whiteness.

And so Columbus, Polo, Drake, among other 'discoverers' and 'contacters', live on blissfully entrenched in their racist delusions.


Picture Credit


Infidel said...

oh and let's just ignore current day slavery in arab lands and totally ignore the Arabs role in enslaving your sorry black asses 1000 years before mean old whitey. The more I listen to this race crap the more I realize that it wasn't worth a thin dime to have done anything with you whores except ship you back to the pig sty you call your "homeland". In the end sweetie, nigger is the only word that best describes you. Indeed, that is all you will ever be.

Ridwan said...

Wow. Thanks Infidel for demonstrating the dibilitating disease of whiteness here.

Ana said...

Tautoko Ridwan

what a piece of racist pus, your right brother an excellent example of one infested with white supremacy and racism.

Kia Kaha

Dade said...

Wow! I wonder if infidel is legit or just some troll looking to get people up-in-arms. It's hard to imagine someone with enough education to type holding such views.

My take on the Lonely Planet travelers is a bit different, Ridwan, my friend. I'm sure there is manipulation taking place, as you point out, but, on the other hand, anytime you get people from different cultures together in a peaceful way, valuable understanding takes place. No?

Ridwan said...

*Peaceful greetings to you sista Ana. Thank you for your comment. We know this kind of evil well my sista and "still we rise."

Be well sista and thank you for being there.

**Dade thanks for looking brother. Infidel's has to be the most crass comment I have received here.

I wonder if s/he has not migrated here because this post is not about slavery. Nontheless, there are a lot of idiots out there who think like s/he does.

The one thing that is clear is that Infidel is American and thoroughly racist.

I have used Lonely Planet guides for India, Malaysia, and Nepa.

They are useful but written for a Western audience. I found a lot of Orientalizing in the guides.

One particular aspect was the troubling discussion of how to deal with Indian/Nepalese men if you are a Western woman.

That discussion was absolutely racist. And I am not saying that women travellers should not be advised of how to stay safe when travelling, particularly alone.

That said, I think it a wonderful thing that we travel and visit and exchange. I am with you on this for sure.

I wonder if Lonely Planet includes a section in their North American literature that helps people of color deal with racists or sexist men?

I don't think so. Those guides are not even handed.

On another note, it is very annoying to follow the guide and realize that hundreds of other folks are doing the same :0)

Be well brother and thanks for your comment.

Peace to both of you.


Dione said...

The western world always seems to decide when and whom people and places are discovered, just like when Columbus "discoverd" America. The issues of the South American natives have been going on for a long while. I remember watching a film 12 years ago in school about indigenous south Americans whom referred to a helicopter as a big bird, and have also seen footage on TV where anthropologists have inflicted themselves upon an indigenous community by living with these people so that "we" can understand them. Of course western society reaps all the benefits from these contacts, while the indigenous societies become infested with disease they didn't have before, ect.

Since, this history continues to repeat itself with the white western world assuming that all others need their assistance to become "civilized" the argument stands that whiteness wins the award for the most abuse. True, we do not hear enough about the slavery in china, and east Africa and that of the Arab world, but again who continues to inflict themselves on all others?

Infidel is tiered of all this race crap because he is a white male and has not had the "pleasure" of experiencing real discrimination and only knows privilege.

Here is a tip from mean old whitey, go read an oldie but a goodie Black Like Me, by John Howard Griffin.

Ridwan said...

Hey there Dione. Thanks kindly for your comment.

I remember "Black Like Me", it was made into a movie too.

I read it when I was a child. An American embassy worker had brought it in SA and then gave it to my father and he passed it on to me.

I remember the scene where he brought candy to a very poor Black family and the mother gave some to her crying child.

It is a powerful scene and I can still see in my head the mother licking her fingers to get just a little sweet sugar on her tongue.

Folks like Infidel are sensitive about racism for all the right reasons.

I am not scared of his/her kind. It is the liberal kind that speak of change that worry me the most.

The kind that rules the world with its 'stab you in the back racism'.

Infidel is just more rude and direct.

Best wishes to you.


Shus li said...

infidel is a hater and not worth any energy.

I'm kind of glad the story is as bogus as "Last of the Dogmen." It would be too cruel to drag a non-contacted tribe into this mess we call civilization.

Peace out, BroRid

Ridwan said...

Shusli you are absolutely right. No time and energy to waste on that kind of hate.

I had an uneasy feeling about the 'new discovery' story. It just did not fit right in my head.

At the very least we now know it is just false.

Peace my sista,