Sunday. This afternoon I spoke with an ethnographic researcher who has conducted field work with Tribal people high in the Southern mountains, and is seeking ways to aid them as they seek to maintain their traditional way of life. These people live from and with the forest, and integrate contemporary technology and global culture into their lives when they deem it applicable.
They also face pressures familiar to traditional people everywhere: loss of habitat due to illegal encroachment, governmental threats of relocation, and threats, intimidation, and murder at the hands of local police. In spite of these perils, these tribal people have generously shared their knowledge of the forest and the spirits with some who respectful ask.
The researcher and I sat in a very good coffee shop on the second floor of a department story in a busy commercial section of Chennai. The coffee shop seemed an odd place to speak about the deep forest and the plight of forest peoples. As we spoke, I was carried back to the deep jungle of the Amazon, and the trials faced by Indigenous peoples there.
Our conversation evolved, and we found ourselves speaking about the difficulties facing tribal peoples throughout India and the world. We spoke about the work of supporting marginalized people in telling their stories to the larger world, and the challenges of keeping traditional tribal ways of life and belief from become mere commodities or simply memory. There is a subtext to our conversation, for although we do not name it, we are both aware that marginalization is not limited to the poor.