Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Anthropological Niche of Douglas W. Hume
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Internet Source: Bart's Cyber Home, December, 2000
Source URL: http://home.att.net/~bgierson/archives.2000/book_reviews_dec2000.htm


Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Jurnalists Devastated the Amazon: Tierney, Patrick

This is the book which is causing the tremendous uproar in the world of anthropology. (To see what I mean, go to your favorite search engine and do a search on "Yanomami controversy" - you'll be amazed at how many hits you come up with!) Tierney claims that it is the anthropologists, film-makers, and journalists themselves who have not only created a false image of the Yanomami Indians based on their own pre-conceived self-serving notions, but in fact have devasted the people they are trying to study by introducing 'germs, steel, and guns'. Tierney in particular attacks noted anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and geneticist James Neel. As the Amazon.com review states, "Tierney charges that Chagnon himself fomented wars through his tactics of creating false alliances, giving away machetes,and staging scenes in order to substantiate his own belief in male aggression. Even worse, Tierney believes that Chagnon and his mentor, the famous geneticist James Neel, actually started the measles epidemic that decimated up to 20 percent of the tribe's population by administering a contraindicated "dinosaur vaccine" to a highly vulnerable population." I am not an anthropologist, so at times it is difficult to sort out the accuracy of some of the accusation. However, it is clear that bringing large amount of western goods into a culture whose numeric system consists of "one, two, many" is going to have profound effects on that society. Even if some of Tierney's particular claims are inaccurate, his basic point that those making contact with cultures less materialistically advanced should be aware of their potentially devastating impact, is still valid. For another persepctive on the Yanomami, see Kenneth Good's Into the Heart.