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Patricia Alonso

Freelance journalist based in Istanbul. Keeping an eye on Turkish politics and development.

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piqer: Patricia Alonso
Monday, 03 December 2018

Should Isolated Tribes Be Left Alone?

A few weeks ago, news broke that American missionary John Allen Chau had been killed by an isolated Indian tribe, the Sentinelese. Chau had traveled to the island ignoring Indian law and advice, which aim to protect the tribe from foreign pathogens that could kill its members. His plan was to preach to the Sentinelese. 

It's not the first time something similar happens. However, anthropologists argue that the Sentinelese are not violent people. They feel insecure and only want to protect themselves from outsiders. 

Should these groups be actively protected, thoroughly researched, or simply left alone?

That's part of the leading discussion on this new episode of Matter of State, a podcast produced by young professionals in international relations. Conceived as a conversation among friends, the result is fresh and makes a few interesting points for further discussion. 

Do these tribes play a role in international affairs? Isolated tribes are worthy of study, but is it possible to gather information without influencing them?

Modern society is interested in making contact for anthropological and medical reasons. We want to know how they treat their sick, how they farm, how their society is structured. But we risk exposing them to diseases, and causing the loss of their unique culture. 

During the discussion, it's also noted that as human beings, the Sentinelese  have a right to self-determination, and to set up their own communities. But those are concepts shaped by modern society. Are these groups subject to the same laws as the rest of society in their country?

One thing is clear. We should not allow ourselves to be driven by fascination with the exotic and unknown alone. 

Should Isolated Tribes Be Left Alone?
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