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Under Four Flags: Recent Culture Change Among the Eskimos [and Comments and Reply]

Charles Campbell Hughes, Kaj Birket Smith, Edmund Carpenter, Norman A. Chance, Ronald Cohen, Stephen P. Dunn, Ethel Dunn, R. W. Dunning, I. S. Gurvich, L. A. Fineberg, John J. Honigmann, Heinz Israel, Helge Kleivan, George Nellemann and James W. VanStone
Current Anthropology
Vol. 6, No. 1 (Feb., 1965), pp. 3-62+63-69
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2740105
Page Count: 67
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Under Four Flags: Recent Culture Change Among the Eskimos [and Comments and Reply]
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Abstract

The paper attempts to review the widespread changes occurring in Eskimo societies since World War II, and especially to bring together an inventory of trends in Greenland, Canada, Alaska, and Chukotka (Siberia) in the areas of community structure, social and political organization, and economic adaptation. Such an integrative inventory is needed in view of the sustained power of the stereotyped image of "the Eskimos" in anthropological literature, as well as the rapidity and extensiveness of their involvement in the industrialized world over the last two decades. Data of diverse types are the basis for the review: anthropological community studies, ethnographic accounts, reports of governmental agencies concerned with separate aspects of development, technical and semi-popular journal articles, unpublished theses and reports. Despite the frequent incomparability and disparity in basic data sources, it is evident that at some levels of generalizability certain pervasive tendencies exist across the four national jurisdictions represented. In most areas, for example, there has been greater population concentration into stable, year-round communities; much increased use of technology imported from the industrialized world; greater demand for wage work and use of money as a standard of value and symbol of a new ecological transaction with the environment; lessened sociopolitical autonomy in the context of more widespread governmental activity of diverse types; development of schooling and of health and sanitation programs; decline in formal and overt aboriginal religious practice; more primary contact with representatives of the dominant culture. In some areas for which data exist there are beginnings of factionalism based upon ethnic, religious, socioeconomic, and "self-image" criteria. The existence of changing personality patterns may also be inferred in behavioral evidences of a shift in self-identification; and there appear widespread instances of sentiments of relative deprivation and of behavior oriented to conceptions of outside "references cultures." Questions of community integration and of psychological adjustment and mental health are too sparsely covered in the literature to allow for systematic comparative interpretation. The extent of overall integration differs among the development programs being undertaken by the four national governments concerned. Activities of the Danish and Soviet governments, for example, avowedly cover wider areas of group life than is true of those of Canada and the United States, and appear to be based on a more explicit set of long-range goals and images of community life. A range of factors, often acting in concert, is suggested as having been involved in effecting some of the basic changes in many areas: ecological and habitat shifts; increased levels of stress, of contacts with the outgroup, and of opportunities for "anticipatory socialization"; as well as continued application of traditional Eskimo cultural and personality emphases on coping with a changing environment. It is suggested, finally, that the most fruitful framework for studying situations of change in group behavior is a dynamic one which combines psychological with sociocultual factors in a reciprocative and transactive relationship.

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