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The Erotic-Fierce People

The latest skirmish in the “anthropology wars” reveals a fundamental flaw in how science is understood and communicated
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Another battle has broken out in the century-long “anthropology wars” over the truth about human nature. Journalist Patrick Tierney, in his book dramatically entitled Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon, purportedly reveals “the hypocrisy, distortions, and humanitarian crimes committed in the name of research, and reveals how the Yanomami’s internecine warfare was, in fact, triggered by the repeated visits of outsiders who went looking for a ‘fierce’ people whose existence lay primarily in the imagination of the West.”

Tierney’s bête noir is Napoleon Chagnon, whose ethnography Yanomamö: The Fierce People is the best-selling anthropological book of all time. Tierney spares no ink in painting him as an anthropologist who sees in the Yanomamö a reflection of himself. (continue reading…)

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