What Makes the Yanomamo Primitive

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What Makes the Yanomamo Primitive?

Bailey Lee
Monterey Peninsula College

Keywords: Primitive, Yanomamo, Angeloni

Through examination of the book Angeloni’s Annual Editions Anthropology we will discuss what makes the Yanomamo primitive. Using various definitions of the word primitive, as well as psychology of understanding we will define what it truly means to be primitive. We will look at the Problems with Ethnography which may lead to the belief of a population being Primitive as well. It is thought that the Yanomamo are Primitive in nature, but at a closer look we will question this assumption and prove it wrong. It is not the Yanomamo themselves which are primitive but rather our own views as well as the society which we know and understand which make them so.

In Angeloni’s Annual Editions Anthropology the Yanomamo are described as such “The Yanomamö are thinly scattered over a vast and verdant tropical forest, living in small villages that are separated by many miles of unoccupied land. They have no writing, but they have a rich and complex language. Their clothing is more decorative than protective. Well-dressed men sport nothing more than a few cotton strings around their wrists, ankles, and waists. They tie the foreskins of their penises to the waist string. Women dress about the same.” The article goes on to describe the Yanomamo’s simple daily life, their aggression, their low life expectancy rate, and their poor hygiene. Napoleon Chagnon walks the reader through what would seem a horrible experience with the Yanomamo. He begins his experience sharing his excitement and expectations of the Yanomamo “In a few minutes I was to meet my first Yanomamo, my first primitive man.” Chagnon goes on to depict his visions of success and romanticize what the Yanomamo people must be like. “I had visions of entering the village and seeing 125 social facts running about altruistically calling each other kinship terms and sharing...
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