Stephen Corry and Lucy Mair ETHNOCIDE AND ETHNOCENTRICITY – CORRESPONDENCE
But the criticism that ‘those who use the word refer without discrimination to two quite different kinds of victim, people and cultures’ is worth examining. It does not need anthropological training to see that if you kill all chickens you won’t have any eggs and if you smash all eggs . . . If you destroy the people what happens to the ‘culture’ (if it’s ‘lucky’ some of its material manifestations wind up in the Museum of Mankind)? If you destroy the ‘culture’ what happens to the people (if they’re ‘lucky’ they end up as servants and prostitutes)? What is meant by saying that these are ‘quite different’? In putting this question I am referring quite concretely to the destruction of a group and not to cultural change which is coming about because the group want it to (what any group ‘wants’ or ‘does not want’ when it comes to interaction with a different society is, of course, a very complex question). In South America – as Lucy Mair states, it was the situation of South American Indians which generated interest in the subject and the coinage of the word ‘ethnocide’ – there is usually no doubt that the acculturation of Indian groups is very much enforced, either physically or by continual psychological pressures which are no less effective. The two examples of ‘non-ethnocide’ given in the article (nomad herdsmen and Eskimo motor sledges) do not come from areas where ethnocide is so evident. Expressed as they are, these two examples can hardly be said to constitute an ethnocidal situation; they are, however, irrelevant if we are discussing what is, or is not, ethnocide.