ON A TREE OF TROUBLE: The Tribes of India in Crisis by Beth Roy

ON A TREE OF TROUBLE: The Tribes of India in Crisis

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That as old and crowded a country as India should be home to so many distinct and varied tribal cultures is in itself remarkable. But in India, as elsewhere, modernization is destroying tribal peoples at a pace which makes this survey especially timely and valuable. Roy, an American resident in India, has assimilated the findings of field anthropologists into sympathetic profiles--of the Baiga who excel in magic; the Nagas, whose primitive egalitarianism was marred only by their penchant for headhunting; the Agaria blacksmiths; the proud and aggressive Pathan mountaineers; the Santals who began the Naxalite rebellion for land reform; the pygmy Onges, fast disappearing from their Andaman Island home. A shade overwritten, unillustrated and not entirely authoritative (Roy seems to be mistaken about the height of African pygmies, for example), this is not an ideally accessible presentation. But Roy does present a vast amount of hard-to-get information, and she consistently helps us to see unusual practices--magic, polygamy, superstition, etc.--as integral parts of the culture that produced them. An empathic investigation of vanishing ways of life.

Pub Date: July 7th, 1975
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux