The furore surrounding the publication of Patrick Tierney's Darkness in El Dorado (2000) (hereafter DED) has been both overtaken and undertaken by events. It has been overtaken by wide journalistic coverage of the book's contents and critiques of those contents, subsequently rendered more modestly scandalous and hence, apparently, un-newsworthy. At the time of writing (December 2001), there is very little press attention to the furore. It has been simultaneously subject to a review of the charges (by a professional body, the American Anthropological Association) that has resulted in an interim report (aaanet.org - a site at which extensive documentation of DEDrelated discussion can be found) which, if it bears any resemblance to the final report, will be judiciously restrictive in terms of adding fuel to the fire. Among the most useful post-mortem discussions is a set of commentaries in the April 2001 issue of Current Anthropology (42:2). 1
The organised defence of the rights of indigenous peoples in the New World has a short and recent history, and professional anthropology - only in existence for the last 100 of the 500 years of what is euphemistically known as 'contact' - while being implicitly an advocate of such rights, has only very erratically raised the political role of the field to the top of the scientific agenda. Nonetheless, the very fact of taking native peoples seriously has granted the field a crucial diplomatic - and occasionally activist - role as expert. The complexity of that mediating role has never been well articulated. It is a source of continuing debate within anthropology itself and proves baffling to most outsiders.
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Publication information: Book title: The Ethics of Anthropology: Debates and Dilemmas. Contributors: Pat Caplan - Editor. Publisher: Routledge. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 2003. Page number: 77.
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