Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Internet Source: Public Anthropology, November 7, 2010
YANOMAMI: The Fierce Controversy and What We Can Learn From It
with Bruce Albert, Raymond Hames, Kim Hill , Leda Leitao Martins , John Peters , and Terence Turner
If there is one book that redefines anthropology for the 21st century, this is it. It is a ground-breaking study that takes us to the ethical heart of the social sciences. Using the Yanomami controversy as a lens for examining anthropology itself, Borofsky asks anthropologists – from introductory students to advanced scholars – how we should craft the values that define our work and ourselves. This is an essential book for our times.
Finally, a text that truly illuminates the issues of anthropological ethics and helps anthropologists to think and act effectively. In the form of an inquest on the Yanomami controversy, Borofsky lets all sides and the AAA be heard in their own words, creating a context where no reader is left to be carried away by any one set of arguments. The debates reveal deep perplexities that lie at the heart of our discipline. Marvelous for undergraduate and graduate teaching and for professionals and equally suited for reflective reading and class discussion, this book will forever change my teaching of anthropology as well as my own thinking.
What better way to learn anthropology than through one of its great controversies? Written in a lucid and concise manner, Yanomami is really two books in one: First, it is a riveting, issues-oriented text that is ideal for sparking interest and provoking discussion among introductory students; second it is an invaluable analysis of critical disciplinary questions that every anthropologist and anthropologist-in-the-making need ponder.
The discipline of anthropology has a great debt to Rob Borofsky, who has given us a careful, deliberate reflection that is both specific and general: specific, because the book takes up a fierce debate that has riven the community of anthropologists, scientists and health personnel working with the indigenous people of the Amazon Basin; general because, as Borofsky reminds us, this debate is at heart about the imbalances of power that characterize our world. Yanomami is not only a great teaching tool, one shaped by the input of students, it is also a cautionary lesson that should be read by all scholars and journalists who work across gradients of class, culture, and language.
This is a terrific book for teaching students about the possibilities and practices of anthropology. As ethical individuals and as engaged scholars we have to confront the deep and ongoing contradictions of anthropology's relationship to the vulnerable peoples it studies. Borofsky shows the potential for revitalizing anthropology in the 21st century and challenges students and teachers to work for change right now.
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