Chagnon among the Anthropologists

by Carol Iannone

In the early 2000s, the discipline of anthropology made itself look stupid and corrupt when the American Anthropological Association went after Napoleon Chagnon for charges that many knew were false at the time. These charges included the accusation that he had incited the violence he documented in his research on the Yanomamö, an Amazonian tribe that had had little contact with the outside world before Chagnon arrived in the mid 1960s. Among other things, the support Chagnon’s research gave to a biological basis for violence in human nature was too much for the Rousseauean and Marxist anthropologists committed to believing in a pristine “noble savage” sullied only by the evils of civilization. Chagnon discusses his work, his career, his discipline, and the witch hunt against him with Academic Questions at the National Association of Scholars website