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Prof. Les E. Sponsel

Department of Anthropology

University of Hawaii

Commentary on Working Paper 2.7

 

In the section on the 1996 NOVA film "Warriors of the Amazon" in the Preliminary Report of the AAA Task Force on El Dorado, Jane H. Hill and Ray Hames are identified as having "Primary research responsibility" while Trudy Turner and Joe Watkins are identified as having "Supplementary editorial responsibility" whatever these distinctions might mean.

 

Hill and Hames quote a single sentence from one of my publications on the Yanomami: "Among the several dozen films and videos on the Yanomamo, in my opinion by far the most balanced and humanistic is ‘Warriors of the Amazon,’ which Lizot made in collaboration with the television science series Nova" (Sponsel 1998:99). It is puzzling why that single sentence is lifted from the article without any discussion or explanation, yet nothing else in the article is mentioned anywhere in the Preliminary Report. For example, my article also contains a substantial section on professional ethics and an extensive bibliography including 75 citations of publications in which numerous and diverse anthropologists have criticized various aspects of Napoleon Chagnon's research and publications (Sponsel 1998:114-116). Is that discussion of ethics irrelevant to the Task Force's investigation, or is it being considered in another section for their Final Report?

 

In his book Darkness in El Dorado investigative journalist Patrick Tierney (2000) quoted the exact same sentence as did the four members of the Task Force who assume responsibility for this discussion of the NOVA film. Is Tierney's book or my article the source of the quote by the Task Force? In either case, in the second endnote in his Chapter 13 on the film “Warriors of the Amazon” where Tierney (2000:368) quotes the same sentence from my article he follows it with this sentence: "However, Sponsel has many reservations about the film." Tierney (2000:216) also refers to me as one critic of the film. Therefore, it is puzzling why Jane H. Hill, Ray Hames, Trudy Turner, and Joe Watkins did not include this second sentence after they quoted the first sentence, or at least admit that I am critical of some aspects of the film even if I am very positive about others. Did none of these four scholars read Tierney's endnote? If any of these four scholars did read the endnote, then didn't they remember the qualification-- "However, Sponsel has many reservations about the film." Or, another logical possibility, were all   four authors of this section of the Preliminary Report purposefully ignoring the qualification? If so, then why? If so, then is that honest scholarship? Is that ethical? This point may seem minor, but in fact it exemplifies a common pattern of misinformation and   disinformation symptomatic of partisans defending Napoleon Chagnon and others, yet in this instance and others this pattern repeatedly occurs in the Preliminary Report of the Task Force on El Dorado which is supposed to be conducting an impartial investigation of serious allegations.

 

One of the major differences between Tierney and the Task Force is that he interviewed me by phone and corresponded with me, unlike any member of the Task Force so far. That is how Tierney learned that I had reservations about this film. If anyone in the Task Force had bothered to ask me, then they would have learned that and much more as well. Yet point four in the motion on setting up an inquiry of the Executive Board of the AAA on February 3-4, 2001, states: "It is expected that the Task Force will seek information from AAA members, the author, and key anthropologists mentioned in the book." Furthermore, a month or so after the last AAA convention I asked six Yanomami   specialists if they had been consulted by the Task Force, and none had at the point in time. Which Yanomami specialists has the Task Force consulted? Even though more than a year has passed now since the establishment of the Task Force by the AAA Executive Board, has it still not finished the investigation which its appointed members agreed to undertake?

 

My opinion about the film “Warriors of the Amazon” remains unchanged, it is the most balanced and humanistic film available on the Yanomami. It is the most balanced film for at least three reasons. First, it touches on more aspects of Yanomami daily life and culture than any other single film or video:   material culture, technology, shabono, forest camp, subsistence, hunting, treks, fishing, cooking and other food preparation, economy, trade, exchange, reciprocity, family, children, kinship, social organization, politics, religion, shamanism, healing, hallucinogens, magical plants, illness, family health care, birth, death, funeral rituals, mourning, body ornamentation, war, peace, feasts, reconciliation, and alliances. What other single film or video on the Yanomami touches on so many ethnographic themes?

 

Second, “Warriors of the Amazon” is the most balanced because it explicitly treats nonviolence and peace as well as violence and war, unlike "The Feast" or "The Ax Fight." Some of the films that Timothy Asch   himself made deal with aspects of nonviolence and peace, but not as a single film in which nonviolence and peace counterbalance violence and war as in the case of “Warriors of the Amazon.”

 

Third, “Warriors of the Amazon” is more balanced because it encompasses aspects of cultural contact and change as well as traditional culture. Chagnon and Asch made films on missionization, "The New Tribes Mission" and "Ocamo is My Town," but most of their films emphasize traditional culture, so that only when their films are considered collectively is there some degree of balance, and apparently that is a result of Asch's concerns.

 

The problem of balance in film as ethnography is emphasized by Kathleen Kuehnast (1992:191) who observes: "The visual images we create about others can easily diminish or accentuate certain aspects of their lives, sometimes so extremely that a given quality of experience is erased while another is exaggerated to absurdity." The same may apply to printed ethnography. Thus, Good (1991:69) wrote:   “As I began to understand this better, I got increasingly upset by Chagnon's 'Fierce People' portrayal. The man had clearly taken one aspect of Yanomama behavior out of context and in so doing had sensationalized it. In the process he had stigmatized these remarkable people as brutish and hateful.” (Also see Gross 1988 and Michaels 1982).

 

In my opinion the film “Warriors of the Amazon” is also the most humanistic portrayal of the Yanomami for at least three reasons. First, it reveals the suffering, illness, dying, death, caring, and grief of Yanomami to a far greater extent that any other film or video. Many of my students find most striking of all the young girl who cares for her mother and then is orphaned when her mother dies. “Warriors of the Amazon” often attracts the empathy and concern for the Yanomami of students, unlike "The Feast" or "The Ax Fight."

 

Second, “Warriors of the Amazon” highlights one of the most elemental and pivotal values held by the Yanomami, reciprocity, and its manifold expressions in economic exchange, social organization, politics, religion, and discourse. (More on this later).

 

Third, “Warriors of the Amazon” shows aspects of nonviolence and peace that are neglected in other films like "The Ax Fight" and "The Feast." Nonviolence and peace are not likely to impress most viewers of “Warriors of the Amazon,” if they are noticed at all, because American values and attitudes toward violence and war through cultural conditioning often lead to a fixation on them. Also aggression is more dramatic and accordingly attracts more attention. Nevertheless, “Warriors of the Amazon” emphasizes the feast as a form of reconciliation between enemies working through a peace process, in contrast to the "The Feast" which places more emphasis on the possibility of treachery and violence following Chagnon's focus. (Compare Chagnon 1997:170-183 and Lizot 1994). Asch (1985) also seems to think that Lizot's work is more humanistic.

 

At the same time, while “Warriors of the Amazon” remains in my opinion the most balanced and humanistic ethnographic film available on the Yanomami for the various reasons just explained, I do have reservations about it. First and foremost among my reservations is the deaths from illness while the film crew was in the field. The Task Force mentions the death of the mother and her baby, but in fact the narration at the end of the film states that four people died: "The film crew was here for a period of eight weeks. During the same time, four people died out of a population of ninety." The Task Force should contact the field crew listed in the credits at the end of the film, and especially Andy Jillings and Jacques Lizot, to try to ascertain if any medical assistance was provided by the film crew or others and to discover more about the specific circumstances of these deaths and related matters rather than jumping to conclusions through speculation. The occurrence of four deaths during the eight weeks while the film crew was in the field is indeed a serious matter, but more information might lead to a better understanding of the situation. However, Tierney (2000:220-221) had little success in getting much information from Jillings. A second reservation I have is the focus on so-called war and traditional culture (Sponsel 1998, 2001). It is obvious from the video that these are acculturated Yanomami and that the film crew and Lizot were part of the cultural contact situation. I think that the whole emphasis of the film should have been shifted to disease and other practical problems associated with cultural contact and change, including the influence of anthropologists, missionaries, film crews, tourists, and so on. Such an emphasis would have been more realistic--- the greatest threats to Yanomami survival and welfare are external. As a matter of fact, Melanie Wallace of NOVA who wrote the narration sent to me for my comments work copies of the video and script at the recommendation of Jacques Lizot. I responded as always with very detailed comments including criticisms. I suggested that the focus on war and the word "Warriors" in the title should be changed to more accurately reflect the contemporary problems and challenges the Yanomami face. Jillings had similar concerns according to Tierney (2000:220). Wallace rejected such a major reorientation, claiming that NOVA wanted to present to the public only traditional culture. Wallace, however, did include a few changes that I suggested, such as adding the statement: "The Yanomami are an endangered people, increasingly threatened by extinction." Yet the Task Force appears to think that extinction is merely some kind of Western myth, representation, or cultural construction about native Amazonians employed merely for dramatic purposes or other questionable motives (cf. Slater 2002). However, the historic, ethnohistoric, and ethnographic records on many indigenous societies which have become extinct from the Amazon to Tasmania and beyond proves that extinction and the threat thereof are indeed very serious matters (Bodley 1999, Klein 1997, Stonich 20001). The seriousness of extinction and the threat thereof is also demonstrated by the existence of advocacy anthropology and of Cultural Survival, the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, the Pro-Yanomami Commission (CCPY), Survival International, among other organizations working on behalf of the Yanomami and other indigenous societies and ethnic minorities. Do the members of the Task Force really not take the threat of biological and/or cultural extinction of such societies seriously? (See Prins 1997). Incidentally, two other prize winning films, "Contact: The Yanomami Indians of Brazil" and "Amazon Journey," by Geoffrey O'Connor (1997) are particularly useful for their documentation of wild cat goldminers and consequent disease and other negative impacts on the Yanomami in Brazil. (These are available through Filmmakers Library from Realis Pictures, 32 Union Square East #816, New York, NY 10003, 212-505-1911, or West Glen Films, 1430 Broadway, New York, NY 10018-3397). (Also see Graham 1998).

 

Someone who views “Warriors of the Amazon” only superficially may conclude that the Yanomami are isolated and primordial, but closer attention to Western influences apparent throughout the film indicates otherwise. The film narration does begin by emphasizing the isolated, pristine, and traditional character of the Yanomami, which is, of course a popular myth perpetuated by many of Napoleon Chagnon's publications (cf. Ferguson 1995, Peters 1998, Ramos 1995). Nevertheless, the film exposes a plethora of Western manufactured goods and materials: boat motor, shotgun, axes, machetes, knives, metal sheet, aluminum pots, pans, cup, plastic bowls, plastic cup, enamel bowl, enamel plate, plastic bag, store hammock, red cloth, cloth dresses, shorts, bathing suit, cloth baby sling, beaded necklaces, metal bracelets, metal earrings, ring, wrist watch, coins, metal scissors, plastic comb, and money. Also a second theme of the film is disease and consequent death from Western contact. Thus, whatever the initial narration might suggest about primordiality, that myth is soon dispelled by any careful attention to the narration and images. Hill and Hames in this section of the Preliminary Report also attempt to belittle the resources on the NOVA website. For NOVA I composed the list of supplementary materials which includes widely recognized books on human ecology, gold mining, and human rights in the Amazon as well as the main Yanomami ethnographies by Chagnon, Good, Lizot, and Ramos plus Ferguson's book on Yanomami warfare. The supplementary materials also include the addresses of five major advocacy organizations: Commission for the Creation of the Yanomami Park, Cultural Survival, Rainforest Action Network, Survival International, and World Rainforest Movement. (I wanted to include Chagnon's Yanomami Survival Fund, but he never responded to inquiries for information about it from myself and several other individuals). However, by now the NOVA resource list does need to be updated to include Tierney's book and the Douglas Hume website (http://www.anth.uconn.edu/gradstudents/dhume), the Robert Borofsky Roundtable (http://www.publicanthropology.org), and other new material like the Peters book. Anyone can explore the NOVA website and judge for themselves whether or not the Task Force's characterization of it is really accurate and fair, or yet another example of partisan misinformation and disinformation (http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/shaman/ yanobiblio.html). Much more could be revealed about my comments and criticisms to NOVA, and my opinion of the film “Warriors of the Amazon”. However, here suffice it to say that even though I have reservations about the film, I still think it is the most balanced and humanistic portrayal of the Yanomami available in any film or video. Still, I recognize that Geoffrey O'Connor's award winning documentary First Contact: The Yanomami of Brazil is also a humanistic portrayal and I actually use it far more frequently in classes because I am more concerned about the contemporary situation of the Yanomami and advocacy anthropology than about the salvage ethnography of traditional culture in some enduring but now unreal ethnographic present.

 

At the same time, it is puzzling that so far the Task Force is silent regarding the films which Chagnon and Asch made in comparison to the one by Lizot. Tierney devotes Chapter 13 to "Warriors of the Amazon" but he devotes Chapter 6 to "Filming the Feast" and Chapter 7 to "A Mythical Village." A comparison of these chapters would quickly and easily demonstrate some most interesting and significant similarities and differences. However, it is not my job to make a comparison for the Preliminary Report. Nevertheless, one point is especially relevant. According to Tierney (2000:221) the field crew for Lizot's film had a medical examination beforehand, apparently unlike the numerous individuals brought in by Chagnon at various times. Shouldn't this be investigated? Shouldn't Chagnon and any others involved be afforded the opportunity to provide pertinent information on such matters? Why doesn't the Task Force make a comparison of “Warriors in the Amazon” and "The Feast" together with the relevant chapters in Tierney's book? Could it be because such a comparison would reveal far worse problems with the making of "The Feast"? Why doesn't the Task Force scrutinize the films by Chagnon and Asch the way they do the film by Lizot? Is the Task Force applying the same criticisms to Lizot's film that Tierney and others have leveled at some of the films by Chagnon and Asch? If not, why not? Is this a tactic to delegitimize Lizot because of his previous criticisms of Chagnon? Is this a tactic to distract readers from criticisms of Chagnon? Are Tierney's allegations against Chagnon adequately addressed here or in any other section of the Preliminary Report? Does the Task Force's selective treatment of the NOVA film and the chapter on it in Tierney's book while remaining silent on the films of Chagnon and Asch as well as Tierney's chapters on them reveal any bias? The Task Force concludes their discussion of the NOVA film by stating that, with respect to Tierney's Chapter 13 "Warriors of the Amazon" they find that "his analysis is clear and revealing." Do they hold the same opinion of his chapters 6 and 7? If not, why not? Aren't chapters 6-7 even more revealing? (See the response to Tierney's criticisms of Asch by the Society for Visual Anthropology: http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/VAR/tim-resol.html).

 

An interesting pedagogical experiment would be to show students "The Feast" and “Warriors of the Amazon,” discuss them in comparison, and then have the students read and discuss chapters 6, 7 and 13 in Tierney. Would such an exercise validate or invalidate the conclusions of the Task Force? By now some comments have been posted on the AAA website regarding this section of the Preliminary Report by individuals who are apparently anthropology students and have seen the NOVA film. They do not seem to be as disturbed by the NOVA film as the Task Force. Furthermore, some of them are actually more disturbed with the Task Force's discussion of the film.

 

Another question I believe the Task Force should pursue is the matter of reciprocity, something so elemental and pivotal for the Yanomami. John Peters (1998) channels any proceeds from his book to a fund for medical assistance for the Yanomami as does John Early (2000) for his CD-ROM. In the case of the films by Chagnon and Asch as well as by Lizot, what percentage of the profits were returned in some form to the Yanomami for practical assistance? Was this one of the intentions of Chagnon's Yanomami Survival Fund? Chagnon donated 200 bow and arrow sets and other artifacts from the Yanomami worth $20,000 to a museum at the Minnesota State University in Mankato (http://www.mankato.msus.edu/depts/reporter/reparchive/10_27_98/news2.html). Were Chagnon's profits from his publications, films, and CD-ROM shared in any way with the Yanomami? (See Biella, Chagnon and Seaman 1997). To be fair, shouldn't Chagnon be afforded the opportunity to explain such matters to the Task Force? Likewise, shouldn't Lizot be afforded the opportunity to explain such matters to the Task Force? The Task Force seems particularly concerned with the NOVA representation of the Yanomami in terms of themes like isolation and primordiality. Why does the Task Force criticize the NOVA film for this, but not Chagnon's films and publications? In the last edition of his case study book, Chagnon (1997: 5, 10, 11, 19, 31, 76, 79, 139, 144, 145, 211, 247, 248) refers to the Yanomami as "primitive" at least thirteen times, whereas other contemporary ethnographies of the Yanomami are essentially devoid of the label (Sponsel 1998:113-114). [Also see Fabian (1983) on the practical political implications of this denial of coevalness]. Where in the films made by Chagnon and Asch is the suffering, illness, dying, death, caring, and grief of the Yanomami from introduced Western diseases depicted? Have the Task Force members viewed these films recently? Tierney (2000:95-96) asserts that James Neel censured Asch from including such scenes. Then is the NOVA video more candid or honest in depicting them? Is it more humanizing? Ethnographic representation is an extremely important consideration and a single anthropologist can even change his or her impression of another culture over time. Timothy Asch is a most interesting and relevant example in the case of the Yanomami. Asch, prior to his first trip to the Yanomami, read Chagnon's publications available at that point. Asch (1972:8) describes his image of the Yanomami:  

 

" After reading the description of the people themselves I was convinced that it would be difficult to live with them, and that regardless of how eager I was to go, there was no point in committing suicide on my first attempt to perform a new method of making ethnographic film. I asked my wife to read the Natural History article [by Chagnon]; she wasn't as nearly frightened as I was, but then, she wasn't the one who was going. My friends said that I was out of my mind: two anthropologists said I shouldn't go under any circumstances--- I think they really feared for my safety."

Obviously at the start, Asch accepted Chagnon's representation of the Yanomami as "the fierce people." However, two decades later, after spending time in the field with the Yanomami and following considerable reflection, Asch (1991:35) changed his mind:     "The fierce people" indeed, you can't call an entire society the fierce people or any one thing for that matter. You can call an individual fierce or smart or nice or whatever, maybe we shouldn't, but we do. But you can never say of a society that is one thing or another. You might, if pushed, call the Yanomami the "tricksters" because many of them, generally speaking, live for a good joke as much as anything else. Or you might call them "Energetic People" because they seem to have more energy than anyone else I've ever lived with. But it would be silly to do so, of course. You could say, however, that Chagnon is "the fierce person." You could never say that a society is the "fierce people." Later in the same essay Asch (1991:38) refers to the Yanomami as "... the irresponsibly categorized and grossly maligned `fierce people'...." (See Gross 1988 and Michaels 1992). Moreover, Asch and others eventually became increasingly concerned about using ethnographic films in teaching (Loizos 1993: 28). Eventually Asch (1992, undated:11) also became increasingly concerned about the ethics of ethnographic filming. The Task Force might find Asch's ideas about ethics in filming quite relevant. (On ethics in ethnographic film making also see Barbash and Taylor 1997:485-487, Gross 1988, Gross, et al., 1988, Hafsteinsson and Eyjolfsdottir 1997, Kuehnast 1992, and Heider 1976:118-134. For criticisms of Tierney's description of film making by Chagnon and Asch, see Biella 2000 and Ruby 2000a).

 

In short, there are different ways of understanding, representing, and interpreting the Yanomami, even during the career of a single anthropologist like Asch. Likewise, there may be different ways of reading a single film like “Warriors of the Amazon.” (See Atkinson 1992, Hammersley 1990, van Maanen 1995, and Martinez 1992). But can every different viewpoint be equally valid and useful?

 

A quite different interpretation of “Warriors of the Amazon” is possible from the one proposed by the Task Force, especially for anyone informed by Brian Ferguson's (1995) brilliant and meticulous analysis of the political history of Yanomami contact, conflict, and violence. Perhaps it is even an intentional or inadvertent subtext of the film “Warriors of the Amazon”. According to Ferguson, to a large degree Yanomami aggression and disease are byproducts of the forces of Western contact and penetration. Many of the health problems of the Yanomami are from contact diseases like measles. The Yanomami do not have the germ theory of disease, but instead understand illness as the black magic of an enemy shaman and accordingly take revenge through physical and/or spiritual attack on the supposed enemy. However, in my opinion, Ferguson doesn't attend sufficiently to the factor of disease in Yanomami aggression. Nevertheless, he does convincingly demonstrate that competition for trade goods is a major factor in conflict and violence because of their differential access and distribution. Accordingly, Lizot's film could be viewed as an independent test and confirmation of the important role that trade goods and introduced dieases play in conflict and violence among the Yanomami. This also points to the fact that the Yanomami are hardly the isolated and primordial society that Chagnon has depicted, a point sustained by Ferguson's historical analysis as well. On the surface, "warfare" appears to be among Yanomami, but a deeper analysis reveals that they are mostly struggling with the external influences of Western contact and disruption of their society. (Also see Ferguson and Whitehead 1992). Perhaps differing interpretations of the Yanomami and films about them exemplify the Rashomon affect (Heider 1988). In any case, wouldn't the Task Force be guilty of essentializing to insist on their interpretation of Lizot's film as the only true or valid one to the exclusion of all others?

 

One member of the Task Force even proposed "that the AAA request that the film be withdrawn from circulation." Curiously, Asch suggested that some of the films he made with Chagnon might be removed from circulation because they might reinforce racial and ethnocentric prejudices (Ruby 19 :134-135). Is the Task Force simply turning the criticisms of the Chagnon-Asch films onto the NOVA film and thereby trying to distract   attention from the former? (Also see Martinez 1992). The Task Force wonders "how the film might be possibly made meaningful," alludes to treating the Yanomami like baboons, and asserts that the video is racializing and dehumanizing (cf. Landes, et al., 1976). The Task Force actually goes so far as to suggest that to use the film in class "it seems that extensive preparation and deep teaching teaching and discussion at an almost psychotherapeutic level would be required." Is this deep investigation and deep thinking by the Task Force?

 

The NOVA film displays several values and attitudes of the Yanomami:   emphasis on sharing and generosity, especially with food; taboos on the use of personal names, particularly of deceased individuals; taboos on blood; and so on. Curiously, these are among the Yanomami values and attitudes that in one way or another Chagnon violated repeatedly by his own admission throughout his publications. But few seem to pay much   attention. Is the repeated violation of Yanomami ethics any less serious than the repeated violation of medical and anthropological ethics? Does the Task Force pay adequate attention to such violations? A more general problem with any photography or filming of the Yanomami is that many of them are very uncomfortable with such alien activity to say the least and may even feel threatened by it (Asch 1972:10, 12; Tierney 2000:85). For instance, at least one Yanomami is recorded as reacting very negatively to the "Yanomamo Interactive: The Ax Fight" by Biella, Chagnon and Seamon (1997)(Ritchie 2000:239-244). However, Yanomami concerns don't seem to have caused any hesitation for most anthropologists, journalists, photographers, film makers, tourists, and so on. The Yanomami are one of the most filmed of all indigenous societies (Ruby 2000b:120). During my fieldwork among a northern subgroup of Yanomami, the Sanema, I was allowed to take photos, but not of children because their spirits were considered to be very vulnerable. I have published only one photo of a Sanema in a 1974 article, and thereafter decided not to publish anymore photos to avoid offending any Yanomami. When John Early was developing his CD-ROM on the Yanomami I agreed to provide some of my slides, but ask that he not include any facial views. Perhaps this is over reacting to the concerns of many Yanomami about being photographed or filmed, but the point is that outsiders need to be far more respectful and responsive to the sensitivities expressed by Yanomami, even if these can be surmounted by bribing them with sufficient trade goods. Tierney (2000:84, 105) showed Yanomami some of the films made in their society and found a lot of disapproval. Has the Task Force discussed such matters with the Society for Visual Anthropology? Does that organization have any special code of ethics? Should the AAA Committee on Ethics develop a special briefing paper for commentary regarding photography and filming?

 

There is yet another important question for visual anthropology: How can it be ascertained when the thresholds between fact and fantasy, science and fiction, documentary and entertainment crossed? In the case of the Yanomami Jacob Pandian (1985) provides a cautionary note:   "Contemporary anthropology continues to invent other peoples to serve as vehicles to conceptualize important social and intellectual problems of the Western human self today. We have invented the Yanomamo of South America as a symbol of human aggression and sexuality" (p. 48). Later Pandian goes on to state: "In other words, the social and cultural reality constructed by the anthropologist is actually a portrait of his own psychological reality, as dictated by the ideas that are considered meaningful to him and his audience" (p. 90, cf. Asch undated:20, 25-26). (Also see Ellingson 2001, Jahoda 1999, and Klein 1997). In light of Pandian and other considerations, isn't the Task Force's assertion that the NOVA film is essentializing questionable? If there is any essentializing committed, is it by the Task Force? Like all of the other sections of the Preliminary Report, it must be asked if the discussion of the NOVA film is symptomatic of the selective use of information by partisans which in effect amounts to misinformation and disinformation? Is this inquiry really of a scholarly and moral kind? Is this Preliminary Report profoundly problematic? Is this section on “Warriors in the Amazon” a bias attempt to trash the film and distract attention from examining the films of Chagnon-Asch? If Tierney is critical of both the films by Lizot and Chagnon-Asch, why isn't the Task Force?

 

Recently Raymond Hames resigned from the Task Force to try to prevent the appearance of bias. In the sections of the Preliminary Report in which Hames shared responsibility, such as the one on “Warriors of the Amazon” which I have just commented on, do readers conclude that Hames has been objective and unbiased?

 

Most people appreciate the high quality of programing on NOVA, WGBH, and PBS. Also many anthropologists, including specialists on the Yanomami, appreciate the high quality of the Yanomami ethnography by Jacques Lizot, whatever else may be the case with his personal affairs.   Is “Warriors of the Amazon” really an exception? After reading the Task Force's discussion of “Warriors of the Amazon” and my comments, readers may wish to view the film themselves if they haven't done so previously in order to assess if the Task Force is really being accurate and fair to the film. [The video can be ordered for only $19.95 plus shipping and handling from NOVA by phone (1-800-255-9424) or mail (WGBH, P.O. Box 2284, S. Burlington, VT 05407-2284)].

 

 

References Cited

 

Asch, Timothy, 1972, "Ethnographic Filming and the Yanomami Indians," Sightlines 5(3):6-12, 17.

 

Asch, Timothy, 1985, "Foreword," Tales of the Yanomami: Daily Life in the Venezuelan Forest, Tales of the Yanomami: Daily Life in the Venezuelan Forest, Jacques Lizot, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, pp. vii-xi.

 

Asch, Timothy, 1991 (June), "The Difference of Yanomami Society and Culture: Its Importance and Significance," La Iglesia en Amazonas XII(53):35-38.

 

Asch, Timothy, 1992, "The Ethics of Ethnographic Film-making," Film as Ethnography, Peter Ian Crawford and David Turton, eds., Manchester, England: Manchester University Press, pp. 196-204.

 

Asch, Timothy, not dated, "Bias in Ethnographic Reporting: A Personal Example From the Yanomamo Ethnography," unpublished paper.

 

Asch, Timothy, and Patsy Asch, 1995, "Film in Ethnographic Research," Principles of Visual Anthropololgy, Paul Hockings, ed., New York, NY: Mouton de Gruyter, pp. 335-360.

 

Atkinson, Paul, 1992, Understanding Ethnographic Texts, Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.

 

Barbash, Ilisa, and Lucien Taylor, 1997, Cross-Cultural Filmmaking: A Handbook for Making DOcumentary and Ethnographic Films and Videos, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

 

Biella, Peter, 2000 (December), "Visual Anthropoogy in the Plague Year," Anthropology News 41(9):5-6.

 

Biella, Peter, Napoleon A. Chagnon, and Gary Seaman, 1997, Yanomamo Interactive: The Ax Fight, Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

 

Chagnon, Napoleon A., 1997, Yanomamo, New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace College Publishers.

 

Cote, William, and Roger Simpson, 2000, Covering Violence: A Guide to Ethical Reporting About Victims and Trauma, New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

 

Early, John, 2000, The Yanomami in the Amazon Rainforest: A Visual Experience (CD-ROM), Boca Raton, FL: Ethnoview Productions (available for $26.00 from Plumsock Mesoamerican Studies, Route 106, P.O. Box 38, South Woodstock, VT 05071-0038, phone 802-457-1199, email pmsvt@aol.com).

 

Ellingson, Ter, 2001, The Myth of the Noble Savage, Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

 

Fabian, Johannes, 1983, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes its Object, New York, NY: Columbia University Press.

 

Ferguson, R. Brian, 1995, Yanomami Warfare: A Political History, Santa Fe, NM: School for American Research.

 

Ferguson, R. Brian, and Neil L. Whitehead, eds., 1992, War in the Tribal Zone: Expanding States and Indigenous Warfare, Santa Fe, NM: School for American Research.

 

Good, Kenneth R., with David Chanoff, 1991, Into the Heart: One Man's Pursuit of Love and Knowledge Among the Yanomama, Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall.

 

Graham, Laura R., 1998, "Eye on the Amazon: Brazilian Indians, the State, and Global Culture," American Anthropologist 100(1):163-176.

 

Gross, Larry, 1988, "The Ethics of (Mis)representation," Image Ethics: The Moral Rights of Subjects in Photographs, Film, and Television, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, pp. 188-202.

 

Gross, Larry, John Stuart Katz, and Jay Ruby, eds., 1988, Image Ethics: The Moral Rights of Subjects in Photographs, Film, and Television, New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

 

Hafsteinsson, Sigurjon Baldur, and Johanna K. Eyjolfsdottir, guest editors, 1997, "Images and Human Rights," Visual Anthropology 9(3-4).

 

Hammersley, Martyn, 1990, Reading Ethnographic Research: A Critical Guide, New York, NY: Longman.

 

Heider, Karl G., 1976, Ethnographic Film, Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

 

Heider, Karl G., 1988, "The Rashomon Effect: When Ethnographers Disagree," American Anthropologist 90:73-81.

 

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