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The Fierce Controversy and What We Can Learn from It

Rob Borofsky (Author), Bruce Albert (Contributor), Raymond Hames (Contributor), Kim Hill (Contributor), Lêda Leitão Martins (Contributor), John Peters (Contributor), Terence Turner (Contributor) & 2 more

Available worldwide

Paperback, 391 pages
ISBN: 9780520244047
January 2005
$29.95, £25.00
Other Formats Available:
Yanomami raises questions central to the field of anthropology—questions concerning the practice of fieldwork, the production of knowledge, and anthropology's intellectual and ethical vision of itself. Using the Yanomami controversy—one of anthropology's most famous and explosive imbroglios—as its starting point, this book draws readers into not only reflecting on but refashioning the very heart and soul of the discipline. It is both the most up-to-date and thorough public discussion of the Yanomami controversy available and an innovative and searching assessment of the current state of anthropology.

The Yanomami controversy came to public attention through the publication of Patrick Tierney's best-selling book, Darkness in El Dorado, in which he accuses James Neel, a prominent geneticist who belonged to the National Academy of Sciences, as well as Napoleon Chagnon, whose introductory text on the Yanomami is perhaps the best-selling anthropological monograph of all time, of serious human rights violations. This book identifies the ethical dilemmas of the controversy and raises deeper, structural questions about the discipline. A portion of the book is devoted to a unique roundtable in which important scholars on different sides of the issues debate back and forth with each other. This format draws readers into deciding, for themselves, where they stand on the controversy’s—and many of anthropology’s—central concerns.

All of the royalties from this book will be donated to helping the Yanomami improve their healthcare.
A Note to Teachers
A Personal Note to Undergraduates
Suggested Yanomami/Yanomamö Films
Helping the Yanomami



1 The Controversy and the Broader Issues at Stake
2 Chagnon and Tierney in Their Own Words
3 How the Controversy Has Played Out in American Anthropology
4 Broader Issues at Stake in the Controversy
5 Keeping Yanomami Perspectives in Mind
6 You Decide
7 A Platform for Change photographic interlude


8 Round One
9 Round Two
10 Round Three
11 Three Assessments

Appendix: Summary of the Roundtable
Participants’ Positions
Robert Borofsky is Professor of Anthropology at Hawaii Pacific University and the author of Making History (1987) as well as the editor of Assessing Cultural Anthropology (1994) and Remembrance of Pacific Pasts (2000).
“Yanomami will be on anthropology course reading lists for many years. But it is also aimed at, and throughly merits, a wider audience.”—Adrian Barnett New Scientist
"If there is one book that redefines anthropology for the 21st century, this is it. It is a ground-breaking study that takes us to the ethical heart of the social sciences. Using the Yanomami controversy as a lens for examining anthropology itself, Borofsky asks anthropologists — from introductory students to advanced scholars — how we should craft the values that define our work and ourselves. This is an essential book for our times."—Carolyn Nordstrom, University Notre Dame

"What better way to learn anthropology than through one of its great controversies? Written in a lucid and concise manner, Yanomami is really two books in one: First, it is a riveting, issues-oriented text that is ideal for sparking interest and provoking discussion among introductory students; second it is an invaluable analysis of critical disciplinary questions that every anthropologist and anthropologist-in-the-making need ponder."—Alex Hinton, Rutgers University

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