9 thoughts on “Twitter: Sahlins submits resignation to National Academy of Sciences

  1. Sahlins: “Needing blood and information quickly, Chagnon would announce his visits to a village in the guise of a Yanomami warrior: dressed only in loincloth, body painted red, feathered–and carrying a shotgun. His field kits have been known to contain chemical mace and an electric stun gun. He tried to cultivate a reputation for dangerous magical power by engaging in narcotic shamanistic seances. When someone stole from him, he got children to inform on the thief; then he returned the favor by carrying off the latter’s hammock until he got his stuff back. But when it came to the reciprocity of food sharing, he protested that he could not feed the whole village. On the contrary, he disgusted curious Yanomami by telling them the canned frankfurters he was eating were animal penises, and peanut butter likewise was just what it looked like. Unselfconsciously, he acknowledges that his unwillingness to share food generously or widely made him “despicable in their eyes.” ”

    Is that his best shot? Sorry, but I can’t blame the guy for being well armed in such an obviously dangerous environment. Though I’m wondering where in the jungle he managed to plug his stun gun battery. And it’s not easy to see how he would be able to feed an entire village, as was apparently expected by the Yanoama. (I refuse to use that clunky term, Yanomamo.) Many indigenous people have been known to make demands of that sort and I’m sure many anthropologists have run into similar problems trying to satisfy everyone. I think Sahlins needs to get a sense of humor. The frankfurter and peanut butter story is hilarious.

    If you read Tristes Tropiques you’ll find a similar story about manipulating children to learn the names of adults, via Levi Strauss. So maybe we should be going after him next.

  2. “I think Sahlins needs to get a sense of humor. The frankfurter and peanut butter story is hilarious”

    You consider Chagnon’s behavior (e.g. carrying arms, lying about the substance of his food and not sharing etc) reasonable given his circumstances. Is this an accurate assessment? Please understand that many Amerindian people (myself included) were raised with a distrust of anthropologists. Of course this doesn’t translate to every single person, at every single moment. But the antagonism is definitely in the air. My particular situation is ironic because now I am in an Anthropology PhD program. But what is even more ironic is how “we” (here I am referring to those in the discipline or even those willing to make comments about it on a blog such as this) could betray the disciplinary importance of fieldwork by overlooking or worse yet condoning our academic predecessors transgressions against the people we work among.

  3. “Sponsel and I were already familiar with many of the subjects covered in the book (those concerned with the conduct and writings of Napoleon Chagnon, and his collaboration with the Venezuelan naturalist, politician, adventurer and mining impresario, Charles Brewer Carias, including their activities in the Siapa region under the patronage of Dona Cecilia Matos, the mistress of the later impeached and imprisoned president, Carlos Andres Perez).”

    “Actually, I can provide some revealing insight into at least one possible reason why Chagnon was repeatedly denied a research permit to continue work with the Yanomami in Venezuela. I was in the audience when he gave a colloquium at the Department of Anthropology of the Venezuelan Institute of Scientific Investigations outside of Caracas in March 1975. During the discussion period one of the Venezuelan anthropology graduate students, Juan Scorza, asked him what he had done to help the Yanomami with their practical problems during all of his time that he conducted research with them. He was noticeably silent for quite some time, apparently that question had never crossed his mind, or perhaps he was trying to formulate an appropriate answer in that venue. Finally, he answered that the Yanomami receive a lot of trade goods from him. Then he stated that he could file a report with the government office in charge of Indigenous Affairs about the problems faced by the Yanomami, but they wouldn’t pay attention anyway. After Chagnon and his associates left many from the audience ascended to a seminar room upstairs in the Department where they expressed their outrage at such
    blatant irresponsibility and irrelevance in the face of the serious health and other problems faced by the Yanomami. There were many witnesses to this fiasco, including five members of Chagnon’s research team during the colloquium, one of whom was Raymond Hames.”

    Please, kids, grow up.

  4. “If you read Tristes Tropiques you’ll find a similar story about manipulating children to learn the names of adults, via Levi Strauss. So maybe we should be going after him next.”

    You’re late. Besides the fact that he is dead, they already questioned him in France.

  5. “Please, kids, grow up.”

    Who are the referents? Such a statement simply undermines your position in this or any other debate.

  6. Nap was elected to May 1 2012.

    Sahlins resigns on February 13,2013.

    What was he doing for 8 months?

  7. Your parents knew anthropologists, and distrusted them? and raise you to distrust them?

    My parents dont even know what anthropologists do?

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