Darkness in El Dorado - Archived Document
Anthropological Niche of Douglas W. Hume
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Internet Source: Thread, July 20, 2010
Source URL: http://www.thread.co.nz/news/5263/15/Too-many-secrets/d,thread-article


Too many secrets: Secrets of the Tribe

By Helen King

As a former anthropology student I had a special interest in ‘Secrets of the Tribe’. Anthropology is the study of culture and traditionally anthropologists set out on intrepid journeys to study ‘primitive’ cultures.

Among social scientists the discovery of a tribe in the Amazon basin who were ‘as man lived thousands of years ago’ was like striking gold. The Yamomani are a tribal society who have been the studied since the late 1960s and it was the work of anthropologist Napolean Chagnon that really brought the tribe into the public arena.

At first one might think this is just a documentary about the infighting between academics who have differing points of view about the nature of the Yamomani society. However as the documentary progresses the tragic story of how social scientists have impacted the Yamomani unfolds, with one marrying an underage girl and another satisfying his pedophilia with molestation and exploitation.

Secrets of the Tribe is an uncomfortable watch because just when you think the story cannot get any worse it does. It raises interesting debates about the role of academia and the impact social science has had on the societies they study.