Benedict Anderson on the paradoxes of “strategic essentialism” among Southeast Asian minorities

4 Sep

“Their very isolation leaves them unacquainted with the ceremonies of private property, the techniques of coalition politics and even the organizational methods needed for modern self-defence. The irony is that typically, they are not ethnic groups; to survive they may have o learn to think and act as such….Yet, the costs of going ethnic, that is, participating in ethnic majority politics and economics within the nation-state, are not to be underestimated….These [ethnic] identities…occlude and submerge non-ethnic local identities in the very process of attempting to defend them. Such identities, may,under ill-starred circumstances, invite conscious oppression rather than malign neglect, but they also open the way to developing a necessary political and economic bargaining power.”

“Introduction,” Southeast Asian Tribal Groups and Ethnic Minorities, Report No. 22 (Cambridge, Mass.:Cultural Survival, 1987), 1-15 (quote on 11).

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