February 14, 2013

“They may be fighting, but they are happy. They fight, and this makes them happy.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — acagle @ 4:50 pm

How Napoleon Chagnon Became Our Most Controversial Anthropologist

Among the hazards Napoleon Chagnon encountered in the Venezuelan jungle were a jaguar that would have mauled him had it not become confused by his mosquito net and a 15-foot anaconda that lunged from a stream over which he bent to drink. There were also hairy black spiders, rats that clambered up and down his hammock ropes and a trio of Yanomami tribesmen who tried to smash his skull with an ax while he slept. (The men abandoned their plan when they realized that Chagnon, a light sleeper, kept a loaded shotgun within arm’s reach.) These are impressive adversaries — “Indiana Jones had nothing on me,” is how Chagnon puts it — but by far his most tenacious foes have been members of his own profession.

At 74, Chagnon may be this country’s best-known living anthropologist; he is certainly its most maligned. His monograph, “Yanomamö: The Fierce People,” which has sold nearly a million copies since it was first published in 1968, established him as a serious scientist in the swashbuckling mode — “I looked up and gasped when I saw a dozen burly, naked, filthy, hideous men staring at us down the shafts of their drawn arrows!” — but it also embroiled him in controversy.

Good, albeit long, article. I think it’s pretty balanaced but, heh, that could be because of my own agenda! Definitely worth reading though. And will explain a lot about why I’m not in anthropological academia. . .

I liked this line: “These are people who are supposed to be scientists”.

Ha. Cultural anthropologists. . . .

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