Anthropology's allies

October 20, 2000

In response to Edward Allison's challenge to explain "how anthropology champions the victims of western arrogance" (Readers' Reactions, THES, October 13), I point him to the growing presence of local (indigenous) knowledge research that has emerged with participatory approaches to development.

Several of us are now working closely with enlightened scientific colleagues (agriculturalists, medical practitioners, foresters, veterinarians and so on) to advance our understanding of poverty and to promote environmentally and culturally sustainable interventions to further its alleviation. It is one of the most promising fields in anthropology today.

We need to focus our fire not on one another but on politicians and their bureaucrats who set the agendas and policies of international and national agencies (such as the World Bank and Department for International Development). Even participatory approaches to development are proving susceptible to top-down manipulation.

Few anthropologists would disagree with the sentiments expressed by Tim Ingold (Soapbox, THES, October 6). If the allegations of experiments on a small Amazonian population with a lethal vaccine are true, readers will surely feel revulsion akin to the horror of reading reports of the Holocaust, Cambodia's killing fields and such acts of bestiality.

Paul Sillitoe

Professor of anthropology

University of Durham

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