North-east India: A Challenge to Anthropologists

Barend Jan Terwiel, Academy of Sciences, Göttingen

After relating how in January 1979, I was introduced to the Tai Phake, Aiton and Ahom and devised a comparison of cultural aspects with those of Tai-speaking peoples in Mainland Southeast Asia and Southern China, I draw attention to the unusual ethnic ambitions of the Ahom minority. When analysing the contrast between the assertiveness and sophistication of the Ahoms on the one hand and the unobtrusiveness and authenticity of the other Tai minorities on the other, the concept of cultural contamination is introduced, and a model presented with which various minorities may be assessed.