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Us, RelativesScaling and Plural Life in a Forager World$
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Nurit Bird-David

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780520293403

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520293403.001.0001

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Family and Ethnonym

Family and Ethnonym

(p.177) Downscale 5 Family and Ethnonym
Us, Relatives

Nurit Bird-David

University of California Press

The problem of naming forager-cultivator peoples is well-known. They call themselves by terms of kinship and shared humanity, but other people give them a variety of confusing and often derogatory names. Yet ethnonyms underpin ethnographic writing and cross-cultural comparison. This interlude relates the author’s experience of choosing an ethnonym for her study group, whose members call themselves sonta (us, relatives). It shows the appellatory confusion arising in areas with a rich colonial history, like the Nilgiris, where generations of travelers, administrators, and scholars have tried to ethnically map scattered forest groups, ignoring local population sizes and locals’ imaginations of their communities.

Keywords:   Ethnonyms, naming, colonial ethnic mapping, scale-blindness, forest people, indigenous community imaginations [scalar biases, hunter-gatherers, South Asian foragers, plural life]

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