What Should We Mean by “Indigenous People”’?
André Béteille The idea of ‘indigenous people’ has acquired wide currency in both academic and public discussions in the last ten or fifteen years. I call it an idea rather than a concept because the purpose it serves is as often evocative as analytical, and its referent tends to shift from one country to another. The idea is not confined to discussions in academic seminars; it has become a rallying point for social and political movements in many parts of the world and transnationally. Those who favour the term feel that it alone conveys the full force of certain disadvantaged and marginalized communities. Those who oppose it feel that in a liberal and secular political order, special claims on the basis of blood and soil should be viewed with deepest misgiving.