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Tribals of Arunachal Pradesh

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A Respectable Development?
The Tribals of Arunachal Pradesh: Then and Now

“. . . we are faced with the phenomenon of a rapid material, social, and educational development of a tribal society which has found a place in the modern world without so far losing its identity as a distinct ethnic entity.”
-Christoph Von Furer-Haimendorf (approx. 1980)

From time immemorial the until the later half of the twentieth century the people of the highlands of Arunachal Pradesh have lived in almost complete isolation and autonomy from the main body of Indian culture, economics, and civilization. But in 1944 and 1945 the Indian government began a policy of establishing contact with and administration of the tribes that lived in the Kameng and Subansiri districts of the region. At initial inception, the new government policies were very pro-tribal and by the mid 1980’s the communities of the region were flourishing by the standards of the dominant global paradigm. My interest in writing this paper is to discover how this initial blooming has held up in the face of the globalization policies of the twenty first century, as well as to analyze how traditional tribal culture and values have been altered through increased contact with outside peoples, ideas, and systems.
Throughout this research I have taken liberty to clump all of the cultural groups of Arunachal Pradesh into one broad group vaguely labeled as “tribal” (I will provide a definition of this term subsequently). I have done this for the reason of clarity; as repeated cross references between group labels would invariably lead to confusion and the ultimate dilution of the point of this enquiry: which is not necessarily the specifics of any particular tribe, but a general synopsis of the changes that traditional tribal communities have undergone as a result of contact with industrialized society. Where it had become a necessity to distinguish one community from another I have done so but, again, my main focus is on the region as a whole.

I have chosen the tribals of the mountains of Arunchal Pradesh as my research subjects due to the fact that they have remained obscure and autonomous from dominant world systems until relatively recently. Therefore, an ideally concentrated lens has been created from which to view the effects that contact with modern civilization has on ancient ways of life.

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Wade from Vagabond Journey.com
Anduze, France
December 21, 2007

Filed under: Anthropology, Asia, Culture and Society, India, Indigenous People, South Asia

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been moving through the world since 1999, traveling to 55 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, which is a first hand, experiential account of China’s urbanization drive which has created hundreds of completely new cities. has written 2813 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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