Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Internet Source: Current Anthropology, Volume 42, Number 2, April 2001
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Perspectives on Tierney's Darkness in El Dorado
Given the heated debates preceding its publication, the reception of Patrick Tierney's ( 2000 ) Darkness in El Dorado risks becoming entangled in sterile academic battles about turfs and personalities. This would be unfortunate, for the book offers a controversial account of the impact of Western research on an indigenous population that should urge us to think hard about our work. Even before its publication, Darkness in El Dorado became a Janus-faced text that in calling attention to methodological and ethical shortcomings of scientific research in the Amazon also brought attention to faults in its own production. This should not obscure its contribution or make us forget that the central issue in this drama, after all, should be the Yanomami. Far from worrying about the possible discredit this book may bring to anthropology, we ought to welcome the chance it offers to broaden its concern with the ethics and politics of knowledge production in the West.
Under what conditions does one produce knowledge? To what end does one produce knowledge? How can one produce meaningful knowledge? I draw these questions from Susan Sontag's reflections on her play Alice in Bed , about the life of Alice James ( New York Times, October 29, 2000). Alice, Sontag says, finds it difficult to meet life's demands. How to respond to a beggar? "You can walk on, knowing you can't change a beggar's life by giving him money. Or you can give everything you have. Or you can give one warm coin. All three ways of acting seem wrong. Alice is constantly thinking about the question, the great question: How does one live? How ought one to live? How can one live better?"
Tierney's harrowing account forces us to ask how personal and professional ethical questions are defined and connected. His merit is to have brought together a vast amount of information about Western anthropological and medical practices carried out among the Yanomami and to have situated these practices within the network of institutional connections that made them possible and the ideologies of science and history that have rendered them so popular. At the book's heart is a two-stranded argument concerning the work among the Yanomami by the anthropologist Napoleon Chagnon and the geneticist James Neel. One strand follows their involvement in a complex set of medical practices centering on the collection of blood samples and a measles vaccination campaign. The other traces Chagnon's spectacular career as the creator of the Yanomami as anthropology's well-known "fierce people." While Tierney's focus is on individuals, his book locates them in two relevant contexts: the cold war and the Vietnam War, during which currents of evolutionary genetics, sociobiology, and cultural anthropology claiming that aggression plays a positive role in human evolution found broad support, and the Venezuelan petrostate culture of clientelism, which fostered a network of corrupt politicians and businessmen with interests in the Yanomami and their territory for reasons of profit and power. His discussion argues that the work of Chagnon, Neel, and other scientists brought the Yanomami neither empowerment nor well-being but fragmentation and destruction.
The first strand of the book, which occupies less than one-tenth of Tierney's text but has received the most public attention, argues that Neel and Chagnon collected blood samples for the Atomic Energy Commission to compare mutation rates in populations contaminated by radiation with those in one uncontaminated by it and at the same time carried out an experiment on immunity formation among an isolated population involving a measles vaccination program. According to Tierney, although a safer and cheaper vaccine was already available, Neel chose the Edmonston B vaccine because it produced antibodies that would allow for comparison of European and Yanomami immune systems and prove the latter's ability to generate levels of antibiodies similar to those of populations previously exposed to the disease. Tierney's most controversial and damaging charge is that these activities may have led to a deadly outbreak of measles. While medical experts agree that no vaccine could have caused an epidemic, it is still not clear why this outdated vaccine was chosen or what measures were taken to care for those affected by its known reaction.
The book's second and more significant strand centers on Chagnon's anthropological work. Tierney argues that Chagnon created the myth of the Yanomami as the "fierce people" through his own personal brand of physical and symbolic violence against them. On the basis of extensive research, Tierney claims that Chagnon used his power and material resources to obtain information, often through bribes and coercion, about personal names and genealogies (which are taboo to reveal), created divisions by distributing valuable goods among different factions, promoted warfare for film performances, and misrepresented the Yanomami as an extraordinarily violent people. In numerous publications respected scholars (including Albert, da Cunha, Ferguson, Good, Jiménez, and Ramos) have long criticized Chagnon's practices, data, and essentialist and ahistorical arguments about such issues as Yanomami violence and its reproductive value. Scholars and activists in Venezuela and Brazil have argued that while Chagnon is entitled to have his views and is not responsible for the use others make of them, he is accountable for not having spoken against those who use his images to legitimize protecting "the Yanomami against themselves" by taking their territories and undermining their autonomy. Tierney reports that after Chagnon was barred from Yanomami territory by Venezuelan authorities he sought access to it through an alliance with two high-profile Venezuelans: Cecilia Matos, the mistress of then President Carlos Andrés Pérez (who was impeached for corruption), and Charles Brewer Carías, an ex-Minister of Youth turned mining entrepreneur. Had there not been a public uproar in Venezuela protesting their plan, they might have been able to establish a private biosphere in Yanomami territory, a sort of scientific hacienda where they would have had control over people and resources. This rejection by academic and political authorities in Venezuela had limited impact on the reception of Chagnon's work in the United States.
While the market value of Tierney's book undoubtedly comes from the sensational marriage of these two strands, its intellectual value has already suffered from their unfortunate union. As with a marriage, one may speculate whether this pair was brought together by bonds of conviction or of convenience. One may also wonder about the discrepancy between the rush to judgment that made possible the book's most marketable claim about the measles epidemic and the much more carefully supported discussion about Chagnon's work. The book's scholarly value may also be undermined by Tierney's propensity to explain social effects in terms of personal intentions and to personalize structural relations. This has already provoked defensive reactions that risk turning substantive discussions into proclamations about the intentions or integrity of individual scientists. A flurry of statements from leading institutions about Neel's personal and scholarly integrity has already served to cast a protective shadow over Chagnon's work. The simple fact that even an outdated vaccine cannot cause a measles epidemic has led some to dismiss the rather complex issues raised by the rest of the book. In the debate in the United States, so focused on the technical aspects of the epidemic, the concerns and information of scholars from Brazil and Venezuela about Chagnon's work have been fundamentally absent.
The controversy surrounding this book makes evident that in matters of knowledge, as in real estate, location is decisive. Most of the information Tierney presents has long been public knowledge in Venezuela and Brazil and has circulated in U.S. academic circles. Yet Tierney's book, by bringing this information together and by presenting it in the United States through a major commercial press, has shaken academic circles in this country and public opinion in Venezuela and Brazil. In Venezuela the government has already decided to create a high-level investigative commission whose work may have more than ornamental effects, given President Chávez's mandate to combat past corruption. There are also signs that in the United States this debate may evolve into a serious engagement with the politics of knowledge that acknowledges the special responsibility of those who work in a center of power that has profound impact on the rest of the world.
Like Sontag's Alice, we are constantly confronted with social suffering. When Jesús Cardozo, a Venezuelan anthropology student doing fieldwork in a Yanomami village under Chagnon's direction, asked his adviser to bring medical help to an acutely ill Yanomami girl, Chagnon reportedly replied that Cardozo would never be a scientist. "A scientist doesn't think of such things. A scientist just thinks of studying the people. ... We didn't come to save the Indians. We came to study them" (quoted by Tierney, p. 184). Though Chagnon refused this aid, he offered goods in exchange for information in the pursuit of science. As scholars, even as we may aid in particular situations, our privilege is to be able to respond to social suffering by producing knowledge that shows that isolated acts of assistance cannot undo the structures of domination that produce it. Our gift, our responsibility, is to work to produce forms of understanding that make intolerable the conditions that maintain injustice in any form, including our use of the privilege of science itself.
ALAN G. FIX
Tierney employs the methods of a reporter and an advocate to document the harm done to the Yanomami of Venezuela since the beginnings of anthropological and biomedical research among them in the 1960s, but there is sufficient guilt-by-association, innuendo, and misrepresentation in his book to call his conclusions into question.
The Hippocratic oath, "Primum Non Nocere," requires the physician to focus on the individual patient's well-being. Scientific research is often justified as bringing other benefits such as increased knowledge, but even so, societal good should not come at the cost of harm to human subjects. For Tierney, however, seemingly any biomedical research is unethical; all studies for Tierney are "experiments" (however observational their methods), and all "experiments" that do not directly benefit the community involved in the study are "criminal" (p. 43). Thus James Neel, a recently deceased distinguished human geneticist as well as physician, who carried out an extensive series of biomedical studies of the Yanomami, is criminalized.
Although Neel is not alone in being demonized by Tierney, I propose to focus on the allegations against him in this review, since Tierney says (p. 297) that "Neel was the key to comprehending the Yanomami tragedy" and I know his work well. The pattern of errors (including incorrect citations of sources) apparent in Tierney's treatment of Neel's work shows serious problems with his general case that the Yanomami have suffered great harm as a result of scientific research .
Perhaps the most alarming claim prior to the book's publication was that "hundreds, perhaps thousands" (p. 53) of Yanomami had been killed by a measles epidemic which if not caused by was at least exacerbated by Neel's team. In chapter 5, "Outbreak," Tierney no longer asserts that Neel knowingly caused the epidemic by using a "live" virus vaccine. Dr. Samuel Katz, one of the developers of the vaccine, is now cited (p. 80) as saying that "vaccine virus has never been transmitted to susceptible contacts and cannot cause measles even in intimate contact." Furthermore, at the open discussion session of the American Anthropological Association on the Yanomami issue in November 2000, the initial case of measles was identified as having occurred in September 1967, months before Neel arrived in Venezuela. Thus Tierney cannot establish that Neel introduced measles to the Yanomami; rather, he attempts to document a pattern of callous disregard for Yanomami life as the team ruthlessly pursued its scientific goals in the face of the epidemic, and he continues to insinuate that "experiments" were being performed to test various "quirky" theories.
Why should Neel want to experiment with human lives? Tierney seems to think that a credible motive is Neel's supposed eugenic theories. "Neel and his eugenic missionaries engineered a bold creation myth, a ferocious Garden of Eden, where the healthy, well-fed Yanomami fought for the fun of it and killed their infant daughters for sexual pleasure" (p. 313, emphasis added). In chapter 4, "Atomic Indians," Tierney creates his (mythical) case for Neel as a eugenicist. He states that Neel's "openly eugenic views made him something of a pariah outside his specialty" (p. 38), failing to note that Neel was a member of the National Academy of Sciences and a recipient of the National Medal of Science. More to the point, Neel can be called a eugenicist only in the broadest sense. Four bioethicists in their book on genetics and justice state that the "core belief common to all eugenicists" was "concern for human betterment through selection—that is, by taking measures to ensure that the humans who do come into existence will be capable of enjoying better lives and of contributing to the betterment of lives of others" (Buchanan et al. 2000 :42, emphasis added). While this might appear "an unexceptionable aim," the problem came in the "measures" to be taken—invariably the changing of the breeding practices of human beings. Here is where Neel parted company with classical eugenics. He never advocated selective breeding practices. He merely pointed out the selective consequences of Yanomami polygyny (Neel 1980 ) and noted with irony the extreme unlikelihood that populations in the industrialized world would adopt Yanomami marriage practices. His prescriptions for the gene pool (Neel 1994 ) all involved manipulating the environment rather than genetics. These included efforts to control population growth, "euphenics" or the reshaping of environments to "ameliorate the expression of our varied genotypes" (Neel 1994 :353), keeping mutation rates as low as possible through control of exposure to environmental mutagens, and providing counseling to prospective parents to decrease the transmission of genetic diseases. None of these ideas bear any resemblance to classic eugenic schemes.
Neel did have a theory of the evolution of what is now often called "social intelligence" (Byrne 1995 ). He argued that since headmen were often highly polygynous they differentially passed their genes to the next generation. If some heritable attributes were associated with headmanship (Neel avoided calling this "intelligence," since it included much more than IQ), then the differential fertility consequent on polygyny would increase their frequency through time. The set of characteristics, due to many genes at many loci, was very close to that specified in the social intelligence model (see Neel 1994 :186–and included knowledge of tribal history and law, the ability to speak persuasively, and being skilled in battle and the hunt. This model is simply a description of natural selection for polygenic traits the outcome of which is an increase in gene frequencies for social intelligence in the population as a whole. It is surely possible to argue about whether this model applied to the Yanomami or more widely, but it is not by itself a "eugenic" model or necessarily evil. However, in the hands of Tierney this model is transmuted into the "leadership gene," which is "located at paired alleles" (whatever that might mean) and "concentrated in the offspring of dominant, polygynous chiefs" (p. 40) and is characterized as reflecting "quirky ideas about hierarchies of violence and genetic selection" (p. 13).
Now, it is possible that this is simply a misunderstanding. In many places scattered through the text there is ample evidence that Tierney has only the vaguest idea of genetics or Neel's actual findings. A truly ludicrous example is his saying that Neel attributed the short stature of the Yanomami to "genetic microdifferentiation" (p. 263), not realizing that this concept refers to one of Neel's major research results—the marked local differentiation in gene frequencies among villages—rather than selection for small body size.
Elsewhere Tierney's misrepresentations cannot be dismissed as this kind of error. For instance, he associates unethical experiments in the University of Rochester Medical School with Neel, who was "company commander" and "ran much of the hospital" (p. 301). But rather than running the hospital, the page cited by Tierney from Neel's autobiography ( 1994 :22) says that he drilled the students in military exercises required by their army service. This is a particularly useful example of Tierney's misuse of citations, since it is so easily checked. What of all the personal interviews he cites that cannot be checked?
Other factual errors and misinterpretations too numerous to detail in this short review can be viewed on the web (e.g. http://national-academies.org/nas/eldorado , http://slate.msn.com/HeyWait/00-10-24/HeyWait.asp , and http://www.umich.edu/~urel/darkness.html ).
But what of the Yanomami in all this? They are the ones who have sustained harm—why should we care about James Neel? This is exactly the false ethic of the classical eugenicists, "the failure to deal with the tension between social good and individual liberties, rights, and interests" (Buchanan et al. 2000 :30). The greater good of calling attention to the situation of the Yanomami should not be achieved at the expense of James Neel's reputation. Tierney's, in my opinion, profoundly immoral book does harm to individual researchers, to anthropology, and potentially to the health and welfare of indigenous peoples insofar as they may now reject biomedical research and vaccination.
Instead of joining the chorus of those arguing in the press and on the Internet about "what really happened" when science intervened in Yanomami society, I would like to draw attention to the representations of these events. What kind of book has Tierney written? Its title suggests something like Conrad's Heart of Darkness or, behind that, Roger Casement's Putumayo report (see Taussig 1992 ): a genre of colonial revelation that relies on the promise to unmask a public image of professed good intentions and expose the violence it hides—even if these intentions are the objectivist ones of Chagnon's anthropology or Neel's medical research rather than Kurtz's activist vision of improving the native. Such a genre requires an attack on a widely shared public image, a target that Tierney provides in the person of Napoleon Chagnon (rather than James Neel, as many comments have suggested) partly because he is "the best-known American anthropologist since Margaret Mead" (p. 8). Subsequently, Tierney presents an enormous mass of detail in a more or less chronological sequence (which raises the question whether a thematic ordering would have produced a more concise statement of his claims, thus reducing the book to more manageable proportions). Massive presentation of detail characterizes conspiracy theories: the sheer bulk of scholarship is meant to prepare for an interpretive leap from undeniable facts to an almost unbelievable secret hiding behind a public image (Hofstadter 1967 :38). The genre of conspiracy theory is emblematic of a popular mode of Western moral reasoning: the "emotive" theory that the public profession of good intentions usually hides the pursuit of personal interests (MacIntyre 1981 ).
However, identifying its stereotype genre and discourse does not, of course, imply that the book's facts are wrong. Describing a conspiracy is, contrary to what some of Tierney's critics have argued, a scholarly pursuit (Hofstadter 1967 :37). It relies on a mode of representation that claims to "tell it like it is," a genre that, like the "science" adhered to by many of Tierney's critics, is not supposed to lie. On the one hand, only a quarter of Tierney's facts is sufficient to show that science does lie and that none of the parties concerned is in a position to say "what really happened out there" in the Orinoco region. On the other, the identification of Tierney's book as a species of revelatory prose allows one to ask whether there actually were secrets to expose and conspiracies to unmask. If the answer to that question is that the prose of revelation produces the secrets it pretends to reveal (rather than "finding" them "out there")—and I think that is the case—we find ourselves faced with a far more complex ethical conundrum. Rather than asking what violence is hidden behind false representations of good intentions or objective facts, it suggests that the act of research itself may be violent—regardless of the truth of the representations produced.
Tierney suggests that Neel's hidden research and theoretical interests made him violate the Hippocratic oath he subscribed to in public. Here, Tierney shows himself to be a sophisticated conspiracy theorist, for—as far as I can judge from the book and the commentaries circulated on the Internet—he rarely seems to overstep the limit of his presentation of data, leaving the imaginative leap towards an unbelievable secret largely to his readers. The leap required (and actually made by, among others, Terence Turner and Leslie Sponsel and a number of journalists acting on their supposedly confidential letter to the American Anthropological Association) would argue that Neel inherited a callous attitude towards the Hippocratic oath from colleagues who participated in the Atomic Energy Commission's lethal experiments on patients in the study of human responses to nuclear radiation; that he let this attitude loose on Yanomami, resulting in a measles vaccination experiment with possibly fatal consequences, as well as a refusal to minister to Yanomami patients when required by the measles epidemic; and that this all happened to prove a point of theory about "leadership genes" arising from an early version of what we now call sociobiological reasoning.
Most of the factual links required for this imaginative leap seem to be missing or flawed: the direct link between the AEC's secret programs and the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission is only suggested (p. 310), Tierney never explicitly states that the Edmonston B measles vaccine had contagious results among Yanomami (pp. 79–80), and Neel's supposed theory about "leadership genes" turns out to be based on the testimony of Terence Turner only (pp. 39–40). However, this does not make Tierney's suggestion that Neel inherited a less-than-responsible attitude towards patients from his military superiors less plausible—it clearly calls for more research. More important, Tierney provides evidence (in the form of Timothy Asch's tape recordings of the "measles" expedition) that Neel and Chagnon were—even if only momentarily—worried that the vaccine might have lethal results after all, against medical expectations but perhaps because of doubts about what the vaccine would do to a previously unstudied virgin population. He also gives reason to doubt their public claim that they gave up all their research plans in order to vaccinate a ring around the epidemic (pp. 73, 78, 89). So even if the suggested conspiracy is not supported by factual detail—if there is no secret—doubts about a possible violation of the Hippocratic oath by the procedures of medical research remain.
Unfortunately for us anthropologists, such doubts—now translated to the anthropological equivalent of the Hippocratic oath: the injunction not to harm the people we study—are strengthened when we turn to Tierney's accusations of Chagnon. Building on and supported by previous critics of Chagnon's popular image of the Yanomami as a "fierce people," Tierney elaborates Ramos's ( 1987 ) argument that different anthropological interventions have produced different representations of Yanomami and Ferguson's ( 1995 ) argument that Chagnon may have fostered aggression among Yanomami rather than merely recording it. He provides sufficient evidence to suggest that Chagnon may have convinced the filmmaker Timothy Asch to portray Yanomami as violent people, that he scared Yanomami by being possessed by a particularly violent spirit, and that he used a doubtful mode of eliciting secret data by playing one village off against another. Most damaging for Chagnon, his association with the Venezuelans Charles Brewer and Cecilia Matos, who used journalism and research (at least partly) as a cover for attempts to reduce Yanomami living space in their own (mining) interests, has not, as far as I know, been challenged. Still, none of this suggests that there were secrets to conceal and conspiracies to unmask (even the Brewer/Matos connection to Chagnon's research is openly documented). Moreover, by seeming to exonerate Asch and contextualizing Jacques Lizot's dubious sexual interventions in Yanomami society by showing that he had a genuine concern for Yanomami welfare, Tierney highlights the personalized, accusatory approach towards Chagnon with which he started his account. Thus, the ethical issue is reduced to the personal and secret betrayal of the proper goals of scientific practice rather than a consideration of the possible violence that scientific research in general may entail.
Anthropologists have been concerned with the way in which their research interventions in the societies studied have modified their representations of these societies at least from the critique of "Orientalism" onwards. It is unfair to single out Chagnon in this respect, even if it proves to be true that he was associated with some of the more violent repercussions of outside intervention in Yanomami life. Tierney's book would have been much better (but might not have sold as many copies) without the revelatory prose and its concomitant suggestion that some publicly shared ethical code has been violated by specific scientists. I feel that the book could have claimed a better place in the anthropological literature by elaborating, in an empirically informed historical account, on the suggestion that the primitivist nostalgia of the representations of Yanomami by Chagnon, Lizot, and others draw from a much wider field of ethnographic representations, including a tradition of colonial revelations of spurious "virgin" populations (anthropological El Dorados) "discovered" time and time again in Amazonian forests ever since Alexander von Humboldt. But it is much more important that a different style of writing could have improved the presentation of Tierney's most damning—and, I feel, well-documented—indictment: that the recent experience of many Yanomami convinces them (in present-day ethical terms, by their own "informed consent") that medical and anthropological researchers bring xawara (a poisonous, contagious, and lethal "smoke" or black magic) that destroys their way of life (p. 282). That is a predicament that escapes any simplistic profession of good or bad intentions or claim to know "what really happened." Never mind whether Yanomami's perception of scientific researchers "tells it like it is" or that researchers did not "really" harm them. It is, after all, such perceptions of research as well that anthropological versions of the Hippocratic oath are meant to prevent.
CHARLES L. BRIGGS and CLARA E. MANTINI-BRIGGS
Going against the grain, perhaps, we suggest that Tierney's Darkness in El Dorado potentially raises some very important issues. Its publication could even leave the world a better place. Unfortunately, the book does not help its readers sort out what is really at stake in the debate. Nor, from what we have seen, have the many e-mails, web pages, reviews, statements, and public forums helped spark a discussion that could contribute to improving the well-being of Yanomami or any other indigenous population in South America.
Indeed, some of the anthropological defenses that have been mounted threaten the institutional strength of the discipline as much as they distort Tierney's argument. There is a tendency here to assimilate Tierney to an "antiscience" position—to cast him as just one more character in the ranks of the humanists, postmodernists, and other threats to the power and legitimacy of science in anthropology. It is very hard to sustain this reading of Darkness in El Dorado . A great deal of the book consists of amateur epidemiology and demography, attempting to put together fragmentary data regarding outbreaks of measles and other infectious diseases without much understanding of clinical, microbiological, immunological, or fertility issues. Epidemiologists generally have more respect for the difficulties that plague assertions as to where an epidemic began or how it was transmitted. Tierney invokes what Derrida refers to as a metaphysics of presence, using narrative detail in placing himself in scene after scene in order to displace Chagnon's accounts. Oddly, he does not draw heavily on ethnography; his counterassertions generally portray motives in commonsense journalistic terms rather than by attempting ethnographic analysis. He employs many of the rhetorical tropes that he attributes to his adversaries, lauding a "stunning statistical correlation" (p. 176), speaking in sexist terms of a "headman" who had "accumulated more wives" (p. 174), claiming to supply the "real geographical coordinates" of communities (p. 207), and lapsing recurrently into disappearing-cultures rhetoric ("I doubt anyone will ever be able to do such a study again, anywhere in the world" [p. 273]). Eileen Welsome's summary of Atomic Energy Commission research seems to provide an apt characterization of Tierney's conclusion about the studies of Napoleon Chagnon and Jacques Lizot, his main adversaries: "`They were not just immoral science, they were bad science"' (quoted on p. 309). Darkness in El Dorado is not an attack on scientific anthropology. The science-antiscience debate has already sufficiently oversimplified anthropological arguments and split enough departments—there is no reason here to add fuel to the fire.
What is truly sinister about framing the issue as a battle for truth and visibility in the press between two gringo professionals is that it helps marginalize everyday conditions of life and death among communities classified as "indigenous" in Venezuela, both in Amazonas state and elsewhere. The sensational assertion that vaccinating people with Edmonston B caused a measles epidemic or that anthropological "expeditions" created or at least extended outbreaks of infectious disease draws attention away from the way in which racialized populations become expendable in general. For an indigenous population in Delta Amacuro state in eastern Venezuela, for example, Wilbert ( 1980 ) suggests that prepubescent mortality in the 1950s–1970s was 49%. Recent statistics place mortality in the first year of life at 36% (SOCSAL [ 1998 ]), and some 500 people died in a cholera outbreak in 1992–93 (Briggs with Mantini-Briggs n.d. ). A recent statement issued by the World Health Organization ( 1997 ) suggests that the health of indigenous populations worldwide is deplorable. Kim et al. ( 2000 ) suggest that steep rises in social inequality within and between countries are creating alarming health conditions among the poor. This story is far more important than the reputations of two seemingly healthy North Americans, and the scandal caused by Darkness in El Dorado seems to be doing little to render it newsworthy. If improving everyday health conditions in Yanomami communities really mattered to Tierney more than to Chagnon, the subject might have taken center stage before the final two pages of the book.
Another unfortunate common feature of anthropological responses to the scandal is the tendency to blame Yanomami health conditions on the Ministry of Health and Social Development. To be sure, the MHSD needs to face up to its failure adequately to protect the health of indigenous populations, just as the U.S. Public Health Service and New York officials need to take responsibility for the unconscionable infant mortality rates in Harlem. Indeed, President Chávez's Minister of Health, Gilberto Rodríguez Ochoa, has recently been assigned the task of transforming the public health system in such a way as to challenge social inequality rather than extending and naturalizing it. Tierney mentions the influence of the French embassy and multinational corporations without pausing to reflect on the role of other nation-states, businesses, and international organizations (such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund) in creating the global economic conditions and shaping Venezuelan social policies in such a way as to render health conditions more precarious. In a remarkable footnote (n. 42, p. 384), he cites the U.S. State Department official Gare Smith as having criticized the Venezuelan government for failing to "do more for the Yanomami"; he does not seem to have asked Smith how this assertion squares with the pressure that the U.S. embassy in Caracas places on Venezuela for more privatization and neoliberal cutbacks. If anthropologists defend themselves by "Third-Worlding" Venezuela and bashing public health professionals, they certainly cannot expect to form partnerships aimed at improving health conditions.
When forced to reconcile health policies and democratic rhetoric with unacceptable rates of mortality, well-trained and well-intentioned public health practitioners frequently draw on an anthropological rhetoric of culture. "The Indians," it is asserted, are unable to understand modern hygiene, prefer shamans to doctors, and the like; epidemics and everyday death are thus to be explained by culture rather than institutional racism or structural adjustment (see Briggs with Mantini-Briggs n.d. ). Anthropologists—North American, European, and Venezuelan—contribute to the development of these deadly logics, often unwittingly, through their employment by or collaboration with the MHSD and in statements to newspapers, reports, ethnographies, and casual conversations. Paul Farmer ( 1999 ) argues that epidemiologists use cultural reasoning in constructing "immodest claims of causality" worldwide. But influences and blame are complex here—anthropologists also sometimes oppose institutional appropriations of cultural accounts. Good-cop-versus-bad-cop stories are too simple to handle these complex relations. Tierney opposes the "fierce people" image that is one of the more striking candidates for generating state policies of benign neglect, but he contributes to widespread images of indigenous Venezuelans as mendicants, as incapable of counting to more than two (in spite of his frequent allusions to bilingual Yanomami, who would presumably know Spanish or Portuguese numerals), and as incapable of thinking of the past or the future (a false Whorfianism). These sorts of cultural images help to place racialized and poor populations at the mercy of unscrupulous researchers, as the United States's own Tuskegee syphilis "experiment" suggests. Tierney joins Chagnon in largely ignoring the role of Yanomami and other indigenous activists, who do much more than just protest abuses suffered at the hands of researchers.
Although anthropologists do not enjoy total control over institutional uses of the ethnographic images that they generate, they can think about the effects that particular images are likely to have on health, political representation, and legal protections, and they can systematically study how images of "culture" are used, denounce their abuse, and collaborate with community leaders and government officials in countering denigrating stereotypes. Neither the anthropological angst nor the journalistic coverage generated by Darkness in El Dorado seems to have raised the serious and potentially productive question how anthropology helps shape such life-and-death issues. It is high time for the real debate to begin.
Darkness in El Dorado appears to be a serious scholarly work; its author worked on it for ten years, traveled to many of the villages where Yanomamö ethnographers worked, and interviewed 90 people (myself included). However, I would argue that the 1,599 footnotes that festoon it are mere adornments to enhance its credibility. It strikes me as comparable to a legal brief prepared by a rogue district attorney prosecuting scientists for alleged crimes against humanity. The prosecutor is aided and abetted by anthropologists who are avowed enemies of the accused. A tremendous amount of evidence is submitted. Evidence that exonerates the accused is suppressed. The lay and professional publics are outraged by the revelations.
Quickly, historians of science, anthropologists, biomedical researchers, professional associations, university committees, and journalists begin to examine the evidence and soon conclude that the fundamental claims are without foundation. Those who gave depositions claim that they were quoted out of context or answered hypotheticals. In fact, much of the evidence exonerates the accused. At this point in this sad affair it is abundantly clear that James Neel and Napoleon Chagnon did not cause or attempt to cause a measles epidemic but tried to prevent one from spreading; that James Neel was not a eugenicist and in fact worked against the goals of eugenicists; that Timothy Asch did not fraudulently stage Yanomamö films; and that Marcel Roche was not attempting to use radioactive iodine tracers to cause genetic mutations. The evidence assembled by expert panels to refute Tierney's statements has been made available by colleagues of the accused at the University of California, Santa Barbara ( http://www.anth.ucsb.edu/ucsbpreliminaryreport.pdf ), a commission of the University of Michigan ( http://www.umich.edu/~urel/darkness.html ), the National Academy of Sciences ( http://www4.nationalacademies.org/nas/nashome.nsf/b57ef1bf2404952b852566dd00671bfd/57065f16ff258371852569920052d283?OpenDocument ), and the International Genetic Epidemiology Society ( http://hydra.usc.edu/iges/neelresolution.html ), to mention but a few entries in a list that grows longer weekly. This sort of outpouring of support from the scientific profession is perhaps without precedent in the history of anthropology.
It has been clearly demonstrated that Tierney's fundamental claims rest on misreadings of the evidence and unfounded surmises. Why, one might ask, should we bother to examine the rest of his charges? The answer is that anthropology's role as objective witness and supporter of indigenous rights is threatened. Some of the charges can easily be evaluated through an examination of the literature he cites and/or ignores, while others draw on interviews and documents to which we have no access. I will focus on the former and limit my review to claims about Chagnon's alleged fabrications of Yanomamö warfare.
Key to understanding Tierney's interpretive method is the work of Ferguson ( 1995 ), who, from an intensive reading of the ethnographic and historical literature and without ever having done any ethnographic research on the Yanomamö, concludes that competition over trade goods is the main cause of Yanomamö warfare. Ferguson's technique is to document Chagnon's presence in an area and then note Chagnon's report of the outbreak of violence after his visit (sometimes weeks, months, or years later). Where Chagnon does not visit he makes no reports of warfare. Since Chagnon distributed trade goods, trade goods cause warfare. Tierney extends this technique in his explanation of a 1968 measles epidemic. Neel and Chagnon entered the area to do research and a measles epidemic erupted; therefore, it was caused by Neel and Chagnon. More commonly we find Tierney describing Chagnon's having visited a village and then quoting a Yanomamö informant to the effect that after Chagnon's visit some Yanomamö had died, usually of malaria or a respiratory infection. If warfare and death through infectious disease are common events, they will reliably follow the visit of a trade-goods-distributing ethnographer. Of course, births, marriages, and village relocations are also events that reliably follow ethnographers' visits. Obviously, this method is so powerful that it can demonstrate similar causation of any such event.
The ethnographic accounts we have on the Yanomamö speak of intracultural trade as the main source of Western trade goods. In some cases Yanomamö have raided with the specific intention of acquiring trade goods, but most of such raids took place well before the arrival of anthropologists. Yanomamö ethnographers have amply demonstrated that warfare predates the widespread introduction of trade goods. More to the point is the detailed ethnographic research of John Peters, who has lived with and studied the Yanomamö since 1967. Peters is thanked in the acknowledgments for his "comments and encouragement" (Tierney 2000:xviii), and his research on demography (Early and Peters 1990 ) is cited. Not cited is his ethnography of the Brazilian Mucajai Yanomamö, in which he presents case-study historical data on warfare to examine Ferguson's thesis about steel goods and warfare and concludes that the Yanomamö really like trade goods but warfare revolves around revenge ( 2000 :207–20). Nearly all the ethnographers who have published on the Yanomamö specifically deny that material resources (land, game, or trade goods) are the cause of Yanomamö warfare (Ales 1990 :89; Albert 1985 :24–29; Barker 1961 ; Eguillor García 1984 :133–35; Lizot 1977 ; Chagnon 1988 ), and revenge is the most important cause of that warfare. Tierney ignores this critical information.
In numerous places Tierney claims that Chagnon has exaggerated Yanomamö violence. He is not alone in this accusation. It has been made by other Yanomamö field researchers, including Lizot ( 1994 ), Albert ( 1989 ), and Good (Good and Chanof 1991 ). It is unclear whether they are saying that Chagnon overgeneralizes, warfare being intense only where he did his research, or that warfare is less important than he believes in his own area of study. It is therefore important to examine what these ethnographers say about warfare in their own research areas.
Lizot's charge is belied by his own statements. In the narration for Warriors of the Amazon , a film shot in his long-time research village for which he was the ethnographic consultant, we find the following: "The necessity of these lessons is reinforced by the threat of warfare that overshadows their lives. Although men may only go off to fight two or three times a year, they live in a state of vigilance" ( http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/transcripts/2309warr.html ). In a recent letter to the Venezuelan newspaper El Nacional ( http://www.el-nacional.com/eln17112000/f-pc4s1.htm : 17 November 2000), Lizot condemns Tierney's book and defends Chagnon against charges of starting a measles epidemic and causing war with trade goods. Here he says that warfare is a constitutive trait of Yanomamö social and political organization. In the same letter he repeats his charge that Chagnon tends to exaggerate Yanomamö violence, but it is difficult to square this charge with his own statements about the fundamental pervasiveness of warfare in their daily lives (see also Lizot 1984 : esp. 36–37). Catherine Ales, a French colleague of Lizot who has been working on and off with the Yanomamö for nearly three decades in the more peaceful Parima region, echoes Lizot's statement on Yanomamö warfare: "In Yanomami society, the system of aggression is a constitutive element of their social organization" ( 1984 :110, my translation). This comes near the end of an article in which she details habitual forms of Yanomamö aggression from shouting matches to duels to raiding and concludes that duels, sorcery, and war are ways of defending private and collective rights (see also Ales 1990 :92).
Finally, Peter's recently published ethnography on the Yanomamö has a chapter on warfare which begins with the following sentence: "Anyone who is even minimally acquainted with the Yanomami is familiar with the central role of war in this culture" ( 2000 :207). The last two sentences of the chapter read: "Humans are killed almost as easily as monkeys in the forest. There is no shame, no guilt, and little conscience in the killing, although there will be a fear that the murder might be avenged by raid or sorcery in future" ( 2000 :220). From three different ethnographers we have summary statements that warfare is either central to or constitutive of Yanomamö social organization. Again, Tierney ignores these sources.
One way to determine if Chagnon has exaggerated Yanomamö warfare is to look at the adult male mortality from warfare (fraction of all males older than 16 who die from war) documented in different areas of the Yanomamö distribution by other ethnographers. A few years ago Bruce Albert, a major critic of Chagnon, provided such data in this journal ( 1989 ). I have modified his table ( 1989 :637, table 1) by adding two new sources (table 1 ). Mortality from warfare is clearly higher in the Shamatari area than in any other, but another of Chagnon's groups, the Namowei-teri, has a mortality rate very similar to those of groups studied by Peters and Lizot. Perhaps one can argue, as does Tierney, that Chagnon "cooks" his data to make warfare appear more intense. In that regard, Lizot's observations about the accuracy of Chagnon's data are worth considering. In n. 9 of an article ( 1994 ) critical of Chagnon's work he says of his mortality statistics: "Chagnon's figures seem to me to be close to reality." He goes on to note that the Yanomamö he and Chagnon studied were unacculturated and more warlike than the acculturated Yanomamö studied by others such as Albert. He is able to make such an assessment because his area of study slightly overlaps with Chagnon's, he has visited many of the villages Chagnon studied, and they have had informants in common.
The reviews here and elsewhere will surely be followed by journal articles, professional symposia, edited volumes, and perhaps even monographs devoted to an evaluation of Tierney's fantastic and reckless claims. Over the long term I am confident that the discipline and the individuals harmed will recover. What worries and saddens me is the enormous short-term damage that this will inflict on native peoples.
More than once as the controversy over this book unfolded reporters and others told me the number of footnotes in Tierney's chapter on the measles outbreak: 147. I have now tallied the total number of footnotes in the entire book including the appendix (1,599). Such numbers seem to interest people. It is considerably more difficult to quantify the evidentiary force and legitimacy of these footnotes. My own assessment is perhaps suggested by the fact that I have rewritten this review several times in an effort to make it difficult for anyone to extract a decontextualized endorsement on some future web page or book jacket. This accounts for the somewhat stilted style, for which I apologize.
On its own terms, the book is well within a traditional journalistic genre, the exposé of injustice, with a strong emphasis on making the victims visible and empathetic by giving them names and identities and perspectives and voices. Eileen Welsome's ( 1999 ) Plutonium Files is a somewhat comparable study of a different group of human subjects, those involved in AEC radiation tests. Tierney's engagement with the Yanomami, which reflects this journalistic formula, is the most respectable aspect of his work. His Yanomami speakers have intense and visible agency, and while I never fully trust the storyteller the stories are nonetheless compelling, even riveting. There is the emergence of the strange young leader Cesar Dimanawa and the remarkable life of Helena Valero, who was kidnapped at 12 by a Yanomami group and became Yanomami. There is Yarima, who married the anthropologist Kenneth Good but could not live in New Jersey and left her children there to return to the forest. There is the image of Yanomami filmmakers producing their own documentary about the activities of a National Geographic film crew. To his credit, Tierney does not construct the Yanomami as silent or unable to speak for themselves.
In Tierney's further defense, Napoleon Chagnon seems to have provided ample testimony to his many enemies, and Tierney draws some of his most damaging quotes from Chagnon's own published work. I am not sure what Chagnon was practicing, but I do not think it was the sort of thing students should be encouraged to emulate, and I consider it extremely unfortunate that his work has been so widely and so uncritically distributed to students in the United States as a model of anthropological research.
Tierney's credibility problems, however, make reading every sentence in this book an exercise in hermeneutics. There was a moment in the text, on the second or third reading, when I began to feel that I was developing some expertise, some fluency, in Tierney's style. It was when he began to discuss a section of the 1968 tape recording in which, he writes, "a [Yanomami] man muttered a sentence including the word horemu, meaning `lying' or `faking'" (p. 105). I felt fluent when I could see, immediately, the sentence's porous structure and instability. Tierney's wording is characteristically vague ("a man"?), and the quote about "horemu" is followed immediately by a disclaimer saying that the tapes "still await competent translation." Was Tierney's translation incompetent? And didn't Tierney's wording leave open the possibility that the muttered "sentence including the word horemu" was in fact something like "we are not lying" or "faking would be wrong" or something equally innocuous, irrelevant, or difficult to interpret? When I read this passage and could see its porosity, I began to be confident of Tierney's fixed grounds of reference and of his self-subversion.
That self-subversion takes the form of apostasy. Tierney is a disappointed adventurer, denouncing the masculine seductions that once enthralled him and also drawing on them at every turn, invoking personal risk as central to authenticity, foregrounding his research acumen, and mirroring the epistemological frames of his primary actors. The resulting text is incoherent, keeping the reader always slightly uncomfortable with content, evidence, and narrative track.
Tierney for example expresses high confidence in Yanomami reports of numbers of deaths in one chapter (most of his data on measles and other disease deaths come from Yanomami reports) and in another states that Yanomami reports of deaths from warfare cannot be taken as true because the Yanomami do not count higher than two and, in another discussion, because they do not necessarily distinguish between physical death and spirit death. He castigates the behavior of Napoleon Chagnon and Timothy Asch and then says that he himself would have behaved even more inappropriately in the same situation. He constructs science as an evil knowledge system linked to nuclear weapons and corporate capital and prepares his own technical charts from data in the New England Journal of Medicine or from his own field research into "Filming Deaths" (p. 121). He chooses to locate himself in the terrain of courageously excavated pure fact and then neglects to worry too much about accuracy. He also picks up threads from different people and different institutions and amalgamates them for the purposes of the narrative stream. Thus his James V. Neel seems to be a composite character, with the basic persona of a generic evil scientist (see any recent disaster movie) combined with aspects of the fly geneticist H. J. Muller, the mouse geneticist William Russell, and occasionally even Neel himself. And Tierney's Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission seems to be a cross between Douglas MacArthur, the AEC, and the Manhattan Project instead of the tenuous and insecure institution it was until 1974. Some of Tierney's details are correct, but they apply to different people, different institutions, different issues, different periods. This is disorienting when one knows the subject and opaque when one does not.
The text twists and turns, bringing up details that are not quite relevant, evoking paranoiac vistas, jumping between unrelated events in ways that suggest conspiracies, and oscillating between technocratic rationality and emotive experience and between rage and love. And all this, I suspect, provides the narrative tension. Reading it is like watching someone self-destruct for a good cause. Tierney is a flaming Buddhist monk. One cannot quite turn away.
From my examination of the evidence presented in relation to the 1968 measles epidemic, I assume that only about one-sixth of what Tierney reports has any general basis in what might be understood to be actual events. Yet even diluted to one-sixth strength, it is a terrifying story of unintended consequences, ignorance, cruelty, and self-deception by anthropologists and other scientists, physicians, government officials, missionaries, and journalists. The story and characters are astonishing, and they grow larger and more astonishing in every chapter until they are literally all bound together in an evil global conspiracy (p. 310).
When I began to read Neel's field notes about his work with the Yanomami in Venezuela in early 1968, I lingered over the names of those vaccinated and the names of the small villages in which they lived. At Coshiwora-tedi, Boshidoma had a bad rash from the 8th to the 16th of February, but Cajicumwa had only a slight headache after the vaccination. At Bisaasi-tedi, the infant Coima ijiyu was not vaccinated because he was too small and young. I wondered if for them, for Boshidoma or Cajicumwa, being vaccinated was desirable or terrible. I wondered if they would have chosen the vaccine or chosen to take their chances with the measles that was making its way down the Orinoco River. I wondered how it felt to interact with the American geneticist and his teams. I wondered, too, if Neel might have sought the resources and the personnel to make possible a comprehensive and well-coordinated vaccination program instead of a haphazard stopgap program as an add-on to a project focused on other, more important things like blood and data collection.
I wish very much that someone else had written Tierney's book. I wish someone had written it who could have both told the story in a way that would attract attention (this Tierney has been able to do) and also been careful about records and claims and done justice to the labyrinthine world of the Yanomami. Tierney's handling of the measles epidemic is inexcusable and irresponsible, and his portraits of his primary actors are deeply flawed. His 1,599 footnotes are little more than textual display. Yet even with all its manifest weaknesses, the book has opened a public debate. Its unstable narrative has provoked many of us to look at ethnographic and genetic practices with disturbing, if not novel, questions.
The Yanomami have been asked to participate in many different stories over the years. They have been asked to be Stone Age people who could reveal how human evolution occurred and therefore how society should be organized. They have been asked to be the seductive messengers of the potential of liberal humanism. They have also been asked to demonstrate the terrible impact of industrialized steel goods and technocratic rationality. Yet who should bear the burden of such chaotic industrialized longings?
ALCIDA RITA RAMOS
The dust jacket of Darkness in El Dorado reflects the hyperbolic tone of the whole book. On the front cover, a subtitle promises to show how scientists and journalists devastated the Amazon; government-sponsored swarms of road builders, tens of thousands of gold miners, national and foreign lumber companies, and state and private agribusiness megaprojects apparently do not count. On the back cover, one finds an equally puzzling characterization of the book by the anthropologist Leslie Sponsel: "in many respects, the most important book ever written about the Yanomami." This sentence may have been taken out of context for publicity reasons but must strike the reader as odd when applied to a book of uncertain importance that is not about the Yanomami. Other bombastic statements permeate the text, such as proclaiming Chagnon "the best-known American anthropologist since Margaret Mead" (p. 8) and attributing to him the power to "cast a spell on the whole world of anthropology" (p. 313). Stylistic excesses notwithstanding, very serious issues are raised even when the author stretches his journalistic imagination to its limits.
A particularly disturbing aspect of the book is the incoherence that was introduced when the author made significant changes in the galley proofs. These proofs had been widely circulated and became the object of an extraordinary electronic panic in the academic world. The late and extensive revisions have made a confusing and sometimes contradictory tangle of what was a key element in the galleys, the forceful denunciation of a pattern of unethical behavior towards the Yanomami of Venezuela by the geneticist James Neel's research team in the late 1960s. The revised text that was published retains part of this denunciation while simultaneously undercutting it and fails to address the resulting inconsistency. Chapter 5, the main locus of the author's accusations, originally closed with hints of cover-up operations with the disappearance, "like the ashes of the Yanomami dead," of important film footage. Now it ends by giving Neel the benefit of the doubt: "At times, Neel genuinely wanted to help the Yanomami and sincerely thought he was doing so" (p. 82). Whereas in the galleys Neel emerged as an aggressive scientist intent on carrying on his atomic-genetic experiments at all costs, in the published version Neel and his assistants are reduced to a bunch of bewildered men at a loss amidst a ravaging measles epidemic. Anyone who has ever experienced the pandemonium of a generalized epidemic consuming 80 to 90% of an indigenous community can appreciate their overwhelming sense of urgency and disorientation (Ramos 1995 ). Tierney insists that Neel used the wrong measles vaccine and more than insinuates that, instead of protecting the Yanomami, the Edmonston B live virus caused the 1968 epidemic that afflicted the Upper Orinoco communities. Although acknowledging expert opinions that the vaccine virus cannot cause epidemics, Tierney affirms his view through a tangle of poorly described acts, facts, and dates involving Neel's team. For instance, on p. 71 Neel is said to have ordered the epidemic filmed by Timothy Asch, but on p. 95 he does not want to show the sick on film. On the same page he objects to his team's administering medicines to the Indians, which he considers a waste of research time, but on p. 96 he anxiously radios Caracas asking for antibiotics.
It took a patient step-by-step fine-combing through the chaotic chapter 5 by a group of Brazilian epidemiologists, two of them seasoned professionals in epidemics among the Brazilian Yanomami, to unravel the sequence of events described by Tierney (Lobo et al. 2000 ). The measles epidemic that closed in on Neel's team originated in two points of Yanomami territory on the Brazilian side: Apiaú in April/May 1967, radiating to Mucajaí in late 1967, and Toototobi in September/November 1967, spreading out to Upper Demini and over the mountains to Venezuela along the trails frequently used by the Yanomami in their intervillage visitations. By January, when Neel and his team arrived at Ocamo, the epidemics had reached a number of Venezuelan villages, and the vaccines were administered too late. In short, the epidemics arrived before the vaccine, as Neel himself asserted in his autobiography (1994:162). This Brazilian document, as well as several others by experts on epidemiology available on web sites, provides technical data to refute Tierney's major argument for a vaccine experiment using the Yanomami as guinea pigs.
Without the prop of the experimental vaccine, Darkness in El Dorado loses much of its edge and becomes just one more narrative of unethical scientific behavior. The powerful accusation of medical experiments involving a highly respected scientist and a highly exoticized people saved this book from the near-oblivion to which another tabloid-style volume about Yanomami ethnologists in Venezuela, Mark Ritchie's ( 1996 ) Spirit of the Rainforest , was consigned.
Darkness in El Dorado has been commended (by Terence Turner on the dust jacket) for its solid documentation. Indeed, there is a profusion of end notes, but these notes require closer examination. For instance, to challenge Chagnon's data on Yanomami polygyny, Tierney chooses a sentence from a Waorani ethnography (n. 104, chap. 10). To support his description of "the sad history of the Marashi-teri and their struggle with the gold rush" he cites an article by Bruce Albert written about a different Yanomami community well before the gold rush.
If as a self-styled epidemiologist Tierney does not fare very well, his ethnography is equally infelicitous. Allusions to marriage rules, shamanism, the spirit world, and ceremonial dialogues are regurgitated garbled pastiches of written ethnographies and bits of information picked up from interpreters in his crusade through Venezuelan villages. Tierney achieves his best results in his proper role as journalist, particularly in chapter 11, where he tracks Venezuelan documents and news items for information that might elucidate the convoluted Brewer Carías affair, the latter's association with Chagnon, and the involvement of government officials in grandiose schemes in Yanomami lands.
Tierney also has the merit of forcefully bringing the issue of research ethics to the attention of the academic community. By relentlessly exposing at full volume the shocking behavior of foreign anthropologists in Venezuela, he has succeeded in achieving what several of us anthropologists in Brazil apparently failed to do in the sober key of academic discourse when we tried to alert North American social scientists to the harmful effects of careless ethnographic renderings of Yanomami life (Albert 1989 , 1990 ; Albert and Ramos 1988 , 1989 ; Carneiro da Cunha 1988 ).
Even when these scandals are cut down to ordinary size, unobstructed by sensationalism, there is still plenty of dirty laundry on display in anthropological academia, particularly in the United States. In his genetic projects with Yanomami "virgin-soil" populations (Neel 1994 :161), did Neel follow international protocols such as the 1964 Helsinki I Declaration or the 1947 Nuremberg International Tribunal requiring the informed consent of human subjects? Did Chagnon observe these norms when he drew liters of Yanomami blood and took them away to the United States, violated the name secrecy of the dead, and forced a movie camera on a people notoriously averse to photographs? What has happened to the Yanomami blood? What procedures have been observed regarding the intellectual rights of the Yanomami? How long can the anthropological community in the United States continue to ignore the social consequences of unethical ethnographic writing? How long can claims to social science neutrality be upheld?
Tierney's own work is not above criticism. After castigating both Chagnon and Lizot for their abusive camera work, including the filming of a woman in her death throes and her subsequent cremation, Tierney proceeds to display photographs of sick and dying women and children (unnumbered photos between pp. 164 and 165, p. 226). After condemning Chagnon for bribing the Yanomami into violating their own mores, Tierney "quintupled" his Yanomami guide's salary (p. 276) to persuade him to continue their jungle pilgrimage retracing the steps of Chagnon, the hero and philosophical inspiration of his undergraduate days (pp. xxiii–xxiv). In Tierney's hands, Yanomami warfare becomes a fight over access to anthropologists (p. 276), a bizarre spin-off of the Chagnon-Harris obsession with Yanomami violence. Puppets of the anthropologists' trading whims, Tierney's Yanomami show no cultural coherence, no will of their own, and blindly kill each other for Western trinkets. In the heart of Tierney's Darkness in El Dorado , the Yanomami are described as "the tiniest, scrawniest people in the world" (p. 8), perpetually in a state of hunger because of ecological constraints and anthropological abuses. Along the lines of the epithets profusely applied to these Indians over the years, the unsuspecting reader would be justified in labeling these Yanomami " the hungry people ." The prejudice here is all the more apparent when the yardstick Tierney chooses to measure proper human height is "the people in the United States today" (p. 265). Caught in mounting competition among Western egos, the Yanomami have constantly been used by opportunists who seem far more concerned to advance their own careers than to address the issues of the Indians' well-being and dignity.
The irony of all this is that the Yanomami, portrayed as the most primitive tribe on earth, are currently demonstrating a tremendous talent as students in an education program launched in 1995 by the Brazilian NGO Comissão Pró-Yanomami. In just five years, these monolingual people have mastered the technology of writing, produced their own texts, acquired teaching skills, learned educated Portuguese, and passed official exams on microscopy. Where, then, is that primitiveness but in the eye of the beholder?
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