[Marxism] What the press is saying about Napoleon Chagnon

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Feb 20 08:25:11 MST 2013

The best place to start is with Emily Eakin’s piece in the Sunday NY 
Times Magazine that provides a good background. Titled “How Napoleon 
Chagnon Became Our Most Controversial Anthropologist”, the article can 
best be described as damning with faint praise. She makes sure to 
identify the mistakes made by Patrick Tierney in his “Darkness in El 
Dorado,” a book that Chagnon blames for destroying his reputation, but 
he could hardly be happy with her reporting:

"Chagnon strides into the middle of a shabono in a loincloth and faded 
high tops and strikes a warrior pose — a bearded Tarzan aping his 
subjects, to their audible delight."

A bearded Tarzan aping his subjects? This is hardly the metaphor that a 
man of science should welcome although it does strike at the heart of 
darkness imagery that defines Chagnon’s career. As clear from his 
writings, Chagnon enjoyed lording it over the tiny Yanomami men. Clearly 
his sociobiological “Naked Ape” predilections inspired him to develop an 
“alpha male” relationship with those he was studying.


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