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Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon

Patrick Tierney



What Guns, Germs, and SteelM did for colonial history, this book will do forpresent-day anthropology. Darkness in El Dorado is an explosive account of how ruthless journalists, self-serving anthropologists, and obsessed scientists placed one of the Amazon basin's oldest tribes on the cusp of extinction. First coming to prominence in the 1960s, the "savage" Yanomami Indians were the subject of anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon's multi-million-copy bestseller Yanomamo: The Fierce People and many award-winning films. These exemplars of human ferocity, however, did not arrive at such dispositions naturally. Patrick Tierney describes how the Yanomami's internecine warfare was triggered by repeated visits of leading anthropologists from around the world as well as by the Atomic Energy Commission, which wished to use Yanomami blood in radiation studies in the mid-1960s. This is an epic, compelling work, sure to shake the very foundations of American anthropology.


From Library Journal The latest salvo in the academic mudslinging concerning the study of Yanomami Indians is fired by self-described advocate Tierney (The Last Tribes of El Dorado: The Gold Wars in the Amazon Rain Forest). Echoing themes found in Jared M. Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies (LJ 2/15/97), Tierney examines how the Yanomami have been exploited by researchers who have altered Yanomami culture to fit their models and theories. He also documents how the Yanomami have been victimized by biological agents such as measles--introduced into their midst by careless researchers and missionary groups--that have devastated their population. Tierney singles out Napoleon Chagnon as the most egregious example of self-serving anthropologists victimizing the Yanomami for personal glory. Chagnon, the first anthropologist to study the Yanomami, created a cottage industry among anthropologists with his Yanomam : The Fierce People (1968. o.p.). The documentation here of Chagnon's work collecting blood for geneticists affiliated with the Atomic Energy Commission is particularly disconcerting. Tierney's book is recommended for academic collections in anthropology and medical ethics and for public libraries.--John R. Burch Jr., Campbellsville Univ. Lib., KY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.