The Fierce Anthropologists
The controversy revolving the tribe of the Yanomamo and the professionals linked to anthropology has caught the world’s attention. Rapid and unforeseeable events have set the tone for the controversy. The study of these Amazonian Indians, who live in regions of the Venezuela and Brazil border, has turned in western exploitation. Accusations about of unethical anthropologist are abundant, but little facts about such accusations are evident. The grand attention that these events have attained has turned into a focus on larger issues in anthropological practices. By comparing the approach and relationships of other research projects, we can identify just ethical standards.
Most of the controversy stems from the publications about the Yanomamo tribe by anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon. His 1968 volume Yanomamo: The Fierce People made the tribe famous due to good writing and extensive interaction with one of the most isolated people on the planet. But ultimately, the way that he portrayed them–violent and fierce–is what attracted wide audiences. Much of his books and his video productions are centralized around the theme that the Yanomamo have an immutable trait of violence. According to Chagnon, he collected data, interacted with opposing Yanomamo villages, and received testimony to arrive to his findings. His researched was very lucrative; his book sold more than 4 million copies, which is well beyond the average of other ethnographies. He not only gained financial benefits, he began to be praised and attacked by people around the globe.
People accused Chagnon of exaggerating the fact that violence is a part of their culture. For instance, French anthropologist Jacques Lizot, who lived with the Yanomamo for more than twenty years, said that violence is periodic; it does not govern their social life for long periods of time. It is worth noting that Lizot was accused of homosexual acts with young Yanomamo and distributing...
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