In place of the distinct peoples and cultures that once formed the object of ethnographic inquiry, anthropologists have for some time been emphasizing the political and economic processes that connect people and places, and the ongoing production of cultural difference in contexts of unequal power. This trend in scholarly analysis contrasts with assumptions about primordial difference that inspire indigenous rights activists to defend the autonomy of culturally distinct communities from state and market processes intruding on them from the outside. It contrasts also with the emphasis on difference and isolation in official discourses that cast “development” as a program to bring change to people without history, stalled at an earlier point in an evolutionary process.

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