Preface

“Even a century ago most of India’s tribal communities persisted in a way of life which had remained constant for scores of generations.” One wonders what made Christoph von Fürer-Haimendorf (1984, 71) so confident when he wrote this sentence in the 1980s. While such statements are difficult to believe, as they rest on a static view of culture, more recent declarations about the general fluidity of culture are likewise problematic, as they seem to originate in the ideological frameworks of Western cultures. Obviously, the situation is more complex, not only because in order to persist, cultures have to change (Oosten 1999; Sahlins 1999), but also because it is an open question what exactly requires an explanation, perdurability or transformation, ...

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