News of the WeekAnthropology

Chagnon Critics Overstepped Bounds, Historian Says

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Science  11 Dec 2009:
Vol. 326, Issue 5959, pp. 1466
DOI: 10.1126/science.326.5959.1466

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Nine years ago, much of the American Anthropological Association's (AAA's) annual meeting echoed journalist Patrick Tierney's 2000 book, Darkness in El Dorado: How Scientists and Journalists Devastated the Amazon, in attacking Napoleon A. Chagnon, an anthropologist who studied the Yanamamö Indians of southern Venezuela and northern Brazil. This year's meeting had a different slant on the ongoing fight over Tierney's book: Most of the criticism was leveled at Chagnon's accusers and the AAA itself. In the 2 December session, historian Alice Domurat Dreger of Northwestern University reported on her research into AAA's role in the affair, as part of a book on scientific controversies. So problematic were AAA's actions, she charged, "I can't imagine how any scholar feels safe" as a member.