[Marxism] Yanomami Science Wars, part seven
lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Sep 8 15:31:35 MDT 2009
The more I study the adventures of anthropologists in Yanomami-land, the
more surreally cinematic they seem. From the pistol-packing Napoleon
Chagnon in a loincloth to Jacques Lizot’s homosexual harem, the need for
a Francis Ford Coppola or a Werner Herzog cries out.
I began reading Kenneth Good’s memoir “Into the Heart: One Man’s Pursuit
of Love and Knowledge Among the Yanomamo” mostly in search of
information that ran counter to Chagnon’s “fierce people” thesis. (There
are at least three acceptable ways of spelling their tribal name:
Yanomami, the most common, as well as Yanomamo and Yanomama.) But the
more I read, the more convinced I became that Kenneth Good is one of the
most remarkable denizens of this world imaginable. Indeed, so compelling
was his story that Hollywood took out an option to turn his memoir into
a movie but it was never made. Now that would have been something I
would have paid top dollar to see.
Kenneth Good first came to Yanomami territory in 1974 as a 27-year-old
graduate student. Despite traveling there under the auspices of Napoleon
Chagnon, he was much closer to Marvin Harris philosophically. As I
discussed in a previous post, Harris challenged Chagnon’s “fierceness”
theory on the basis of cultural materialism, making the point that it
was a struggle for food rather than females that explained clashes among
the Stone Age peoples.
As Good grew closer to the people he was studying, he was offered one of
their daughters as a bride. As it turned out she was 9 years old at the
time. More about this subsequently.
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