Yanomami

Yanomami: The Fierce Controversy and What We Can Learn from It

Robert Borofsky
Bruce Albert
Raymond Hames
Kim Hill
Lêda Leitão Martins
John Peters
Terence Turner
Copyright Date: 2005
Edition: 1
Pages: 391
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1ppq5z
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  • Book Info
    Yanomami
    Book Description:

    Yanomamiraises questions central to the field of anthropology-questions concerning the practice of fieldwork, the production of knowledge, and anthropology's intellectual and ethical vision of itself. Using the Yanomami controversy-one of anthropology's most famous and explosive imbroglios-as its starting point, this book draws readers into not only reflecting on but refashioning the very heart and soul of the discipline. It is both the most up-to-date and thorough public discussion of the Yanomami controversy available and an innovative and searching assessment of the current state of anthropology. The Yanomami controversy came to public attention through the publication of Patrick Tierney's best-selling book,Darkness in El Dorado,in which he accuses James Neel, a prominent geneticist who belonged to the National Academy of Sciences, as well as Napoleon Chagnon, whose introductory text on the Yanomami is perhaps the best-selling anthropological monograph of all time, of serious human rights violations. This book identifies the ethical dilemmas of the controversy and raises deeper, structural questions about the discipline. A portion of the book is devoted to a unique roundtable in which important scholars on different sides of the issues debate back and forth with each other. This format draws readers into deciding, for themselves, where they stand on the controversy's-and many of anthropology's-central concerns. All of the royalties from this book will be donated to helping the Yanomami improve their healthcare.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93856-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. A NOTE TO TEACHERS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. A PERSONAL NOTE TO UNDERGRADUATES
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. SUGGESTED YANOMAMI/YANOMAMÖ FILMS
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. HELPING THE YANOMAMI
    (pp. xix-xix)
  8. MAP
    (pp. xx-xx)
  9. PART I
    • 1 THE CONTROVERSY AND THE BROADER ISSUES AT STAKE
      (pp. 3-21)

      At first glance, the Yanomami controversy might be perceived as being focused on a narrow subject. It centers on the accusations made by the investigative journalist Patrick Tierney against James Neel, a world-famous geneticist, and Napoleon Chagnon, a prominent anthropologist, regarding their fieldwork among the Yanomami, a group of Amazonian Indians. But it would be a mistake to see the Yanomami controversy as limited to these three individuals and this one tribe.

      First, the accusations Tierney made against Neel and Chagnon in his bookDarkness in El Dorado(2000) generated a media storm that spread around the world. People knew...

    • 2 CHAGNON AND TIERNEY IN THEIR OWN WORDS
      (pp. 22-34)

      In moving deeper into the controversy, we will start with the key figures’ own words to learn what they did (and did not) say before we turn to what others suggest they said. Since the material on Neel is limited—we have covered most of it already and will discuss the rest in chapter 6—this chapter focuses on Chagnon’s and Tierney’s work. I start with Chagnon.

      Chagnon’s description of his first day of fieldwork has captivated millions of students over the past thirty-five years. Here are selected passages from his chapter “Doing Fieldwork among the Yanomamö”:

      My first day...

    • 3 HOW THE CONTROVERSY HAS PLAYED OUT WITHIN AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGY
      (pp. 35-52)

      The Yanomami controversy had been brewing for years before the publication of Tierney’sDarkness in El Doradoin 2000. Most anthropologists did not take much notice. Still, elements of the controversy were there if one cared to look.

      Elements of the controversy could be seen in 1988 when Maria Manuela Carneiro da Cunha, the past president of the Brazilian Anthropological Association (ABA), wrote to the American Anthropological Association’s (AAA’s) Committee on Ethics regarding Napoleon Chagnon. The committee never addressed her concerns, but her letter was eventually published in theAnthropology Newsletter. Carneiro da Cunha wrote: “The recent appearance in the...

    • 4 BROADER ISSUES AT STAKE IN THE CONTROVERSY
      (pp. 53-60)

      Different anthropologists define cultural anthropology in slightly different ways. Kroeber, in his classic 1948 introductory text,Anthropology, observes that cultural anthropology “sometimes . . . seems preoccupied with ancient and savage and exotic and extinct peoples. The cause is a desire to understand better all civilizations” (1948:4). Felix Keesing, in 1958, writes that “the cultural anthropologist looks at human behavior comparatively” (1958:v). His son Roger, almost twenty years later, suggests that cultural anthropology is “concerned with the study of human customs: that is, the comparative study of cultures and societies . . . especially what used to be called ‘primitive’...

    • 5 KEEPING YANOMAMI PERSPECTIVES IN MIND
      (pp. 61-71)

      In dealing with the Yanomami controversy, we must not lose sight of the Yanomami themselves. Throughout the controversy, claims of concern for the Yanomami’s welfare have produced a lot of political posturing. But as noted in chapter 1, the Yanomami do not seem to have substantially benefited from the piles of paper this posturing has produced. In talking about the Yanomami, we often seem to be talking about our hopes for ourselves as ethical professionals.

      Hearing Yanomami voices and experiencing Yanomami perspectives on the controversy, however, is not easy to do because (1) the Yanomami speak with many voices, not...

    • 6 YOU DECIDE
      (pp. 72-100)

      Specialization seems an obvious way to handle the massive amounts of materials we are confronted with in a controversy such as this. There are so many publications to read and so little time to read them. It seems better to focus on one subset of the material and let someone else focus on another. But such specialization creates problems for developing wider, collective, conversations.

      In 1893 Emile Durkheim publishedThe Division of Labor in Society, in which he set out two general forms of social solidarity:mechanical(in which people possessed solidarity because of their shared experiences) andorganic(in...

    • 7 A PLATFORM FOR CHANGE
      (pp. 101-106)

      Readers who have followed the controversy this far might feel hopeful about the discipline’s ability to address the central issues that have been raised. We have progressed from learning about the Yanomami controversy (chapters 1–5) to reading what the experts have to say about its central issues and deliberating over them (chapter 6). We are now able to wend our way through the controversy and evaluate different positions without being overwhelmed by any one scholar’s arguments. Readers wishing further elaboration need only turn to part 2 for a detailed discussion of particular points. Many readers may also feel inspired,...

  10. PHOTOGRAPHIC INTERLUDE
    (pp. None)
  11. PART II
    • 8 ROUND ONE
      (pp. 109-156)

      Having set out in part 1 the key events, issues, and individuals associated with the Yanomami controversy, we turn in part 2 to a deeper analysis of them. Where part 1 involved a single authorial voice, part 2 involves seven. Where part 1 guided readers into the controversy’s concerns, part 2 is much more like a jury trial where, faced with a set of arguments and counterarguments, readers guide themselves.

      At the heart of part 2 is a Roundtable in which six experts (or participants)—Bruce Albert, Raymond Hames, Kim Hill, Lêda Martins, John Peters, and Terence Turner—discuss the...

    • 9 ROUND TWO
      (pp. 157-209)

      In Round Two, participants discuss where they agree and disagree with one another’s contributions in Round One in the previous chapter. This process allows readers to clarify the strengths and weaknesses of each participant’s position.

      Although all of us made efforts in Round One of our debate to rise above the factional Manichaeism of the Chagnon-Tierney dispute that has been raging ever since the galley proofs ofDarkness in El Doradocirculated and the revised book was published, perhaps we did not entirely get beyond its initial terms. However, it is clear that all contributors demonstrated a deep concern for...

    • 10 ROUND THREE
      (pp. 210-281)

      What is striking in Round Three is how, despite clear differences, participants also find shared points of reference. It is the weaving back and forth between their agreements and disagreements that makes this final exchange intriguing.

      I was favorably impressed with the progress of our last round of papers in turning the wild polemics overDarkness in El Doradointo a more intellectual and constructive debate oriented toward a wider reflection on essential points of anthropological, biomedical, and missionary ethics. To pursue these issues further, I will first comment on two themes emerging in our last round that are especially...

    • 11 THREE ASSESSMENTS
      (pp. 282-316)

      In drawing the book’s themes together in this final chapter, we turn to three assessments of the Yanomami controversy. The assessments consider the following questions: What are the key issues at stake in the controversy? How do we ethically assess what the various participants did (and did not) do—from Neel, Chagnon, and Tierney on the one hand to American anthropology and the American Anthropological Association on the other? And, most critically—since assessing blame for past actions is less important than trying to ensure that we do not repeat the ills so openly displayed in the controversy—where do...

  12. APPENDIX: SUMMARY OF THE ROUNDTABLE PARTICIPANTS’ POSITIONS
    (pp. 317-342)
  13. REFERENCES
    (pp. 343-358)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 359-372)