A Firestorm in Anthropology

By Rose, Peter I. | The Christian Science Monitor, November 9, 2000 | Go to article overview

A Firestorm in Anthropology


Rose, Peter I., The Christian Science Monitor


Two years ago, Jared Diamond won a Pulitzer for his book, "Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies." It included a critical assessment of the effects of outside intervention on tribal peoples. Nowhere is there a better case study of this phenomenon than that of the Yanomami of the Amazon basin.

In recent weeks, prepublication proofs of "Darkness in El Dorado," a new book about those rain-forest natives and the outsiders who studied them, earned the author, Patrick Tierney, a nomination for a coveted prize of his own: the National Book Award in Nonfiction.

Tierney's challenging, heavily documented text, widely circulated in the academic community and summarized in The New Yorker (Oct. 9), also kindled a firestorm of controversy unprecedented in the annals of anthropology.

Now, after considerable delay, all can read Tierney's lengthy brief against those who "discovered" the Yanomami and his view of the story of "how scientists and journalists devastated the Amazon."

While known about for four centuries, the Yanomami were brought to the attention of the rest of the world in 1968 by anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon's book, "Yanomamo: The Fierce People." It quickly became one of the bestselling monographs in the history of anthropology. Following its publication, Chagnon and several collaborators produced a series of documentaries about the Yanomami, making their domain seem at once as mystical and compelling as Alexander von Humboldt's El Dorado.

Chagnon argued against romantic portraits of aborigines who lived in such a place as "noble savages." His Yanomami - that is how he came to see them - were simply savages, and survivors. Charles Darwin not Henri Rousseau seemed to be Chagnon's spiritual father.

In his critique, Tierney, a journalist with considerable field experience in the Amazon Basin, presents the most recent and most detailed of several strong indictments of Chagnon's research, publications, films, and subsequent actions.

Tierney challenges Chagnon's motives and his methods - and his claims as well. For example, he writes that Chagnon's celebrated portrait of warring Indians was far from accurate, that, in fact, much of the notorious fierceness and intra-tribal conflict was not due to primordial antipathies but to what had been induced by outsiders.

Equally serious is the charge that Chagnon, his funding sources (which included the Atomic Energy Commission), and his collaborators, especially Dr. James Neel, were probably responsible for starting a measles epidemic that killed hundreds, perhaps thousands of natives as a result of the experimental administration of a highly suspect vaccine. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

A Firestorm in Anthropology
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.