There is diversity in the world. But not as diverse as previous times. Globalization–aka neo-colonization, has made empires and colonies into nation-states.
Western colonial forms of knowledge leave us with tremendous forms of thinking and doing research across social scientific, scientific perspectives. These combined with local forms of understanding reality, but which have gone dominated by colonial perspectives since the late 15th century through today.
In seeking to understand ethnicity and modernity in these postmodern times, we must understand colonial forms alive today, internalized in us and our forms. These systems of labeling, organizing, mapping, and analyzing, are indeed tremendous but are also needing decolonization while we appreciate detail work and rationalities in a world that cannot be reduced to these forms. This is because these forms tend to seek origins in things, into linear movements of history and bodies and ideas, and also have centuries of overriding, excluding, and killing of ideas that we, today, do not even know much less remember.
Negrito peoples, within scientific fields, continue to be defined by their status today, through the prisms of scientific and social sciences lenses that must be careful of origins and our projections.
Negrito peoples are diverse. There are assumptions circulating, which beg to connect the various Negrito peoples as coming from African origins, as if there is an “Africa” in reality, outside of Western forms of seeing Black, Africa, indigenous, primitive, heathen, closer to nature, natural, original “man,” without time or history, more like animal, etc. etc.
Even as a Black Pacific focus is one lens through which one may look at the various indigenous darker-skinned peoples in the Pacific rim region, in trying to “understand” and to “know,” we may project ideas. The Negrito people who had inhabited where we call Taiwan, Southern China, and across Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands today, have come through history. The raging debate on origins speaks to the question of WHY people want them to be from the same area and are surprised to learn of different languages, cultural notions of themselves and others. And in this difference, there are those people who want to scurry and hurry to study and think of how to make them somehow “the same” or originating from somewhere. What is the point?
The diversity and the loss of diversity. This is the present-day reality. Partha Chatterjee, in his book The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories, says: “In Western Europe, the institutionalization of a modern regime of power coincides with or follows a process of the extinction of the peasantry.” Here in an overall scheme, from my own studies of power and colonialism through today, the “peasantry” speaks to an annihilation of certain forms of living. Since an indigenous people, a “primitive” people, there is no movement through time but a static time (thinking Fabian in Time and Other) from which those of us living so-called “civilized nations” see modern, postmodern, indigenous, poor, wealthy, black, white, yellow, brown, etc. –and perhaps subconsciously or unconsciously, their killing by our own governments and corporations and pollutions and militaries, are “foreseen” and foregone conclusions. This is why there is no outrage, really.
And one cannot forget that this “static time” in which we place people that are labeled “indigenous,” is political. First, it may hide the fact that many of these people have had to live away from urban areas and “accessible” regions because they were made to. They were pushed out by military and cultural forces of dominance. If they came into the dominant areas, they were often killed, captured, humiliated, and/or chased back out. They couldn’t find jobs or were treated so badly, they came back. Others stayed away because they saw how modern society created problems that they themselves chose to stay away from. For this, they were ridiculed.
Negrito people are alive today, in their diversities. Instead of hunting for fictional origins, how about allying with them for social justice?
Here is an interesting article by Razib Khan on Discover Magazine‘s Blog: Asian Negritos are Not One Population