The "Professionalism" of Napoleon Chagnon

Topics: Amazon Rainforest, Indigenous peoples, Sociology Pages: 2 (378 words) Published: January 25, 2013
Matteo BefiAnthropology

Professionalism of Napoleon Chagnon
There is no doubt that Napoleon Chagnon’s study of the Yanomamo provided the outside world as well as many anthropologists alike with great insight into the lifestyle and culture of these indigenous people living in the Amazon rainforest. Although, with this being true, Chagnon has also been accused of over-emphasizing the fierceness of the Yanomamo, using unethical methods to collect data, and overall crossing the line of professionalism when studying the Yanomamo countless times. In this argument of whether Chagnon respected the moral and ethical responsibilities of an anthropologist or acted unprofessionally in regard to studying the group I think that he did indeed respect his role as an anthropologist and acted in a professional manner.

In Chagnon’s study he recounts that the Yanomamo were a sly and aggressive group of people and they would often steal his goods and play tricks on him as they would amongst themselves. Because Chagnon did not want to constantly fall victim to the tendencies of the Yanomamo he eventually developed a method to regain his stolen goods by saying “I would simply ask a child who took the item and then take that person's hammock when he was not around, giving a spirited lecture to the others as I marched away in a faked rage with the thief's hammock.” Although this may seem like a cruel way to handle the situation I do not think it is because he did not harm anyone in doing this and because of the nature of the Yanomamo to retaliate this isn’t an unprofessional way to approach the situation. I also think that in doing this he gave himself more of a presence amongst the group and it made him a little more respected amongst the Yanomamo.

Overall, I think that there is a fine line between disrespecting the ethical obligations of an anthropologist and acting professionally in the field. Chagnon should not be accused of being unprofessional just because...
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