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Chagnon Debate Essay

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Chagnon Debate In Patrick Tierney’s article “The Fierce Anthropologist,” he discussed the faults that are, or may be, present in Napoleon Chagnon’s anthropological research of the Yanamamo, or “The Fierce People,” as Chagnon has referred to them in his best-selling book on the people.

Due to Chagnon’s unparalleled body of work in terms of quantity and, as many argue, quality, Marvin Harris draws heavily on his research to support his point, which is that the origin of war is ecological and reproductive pressure. One should question Harris’s theories (and all theories), especially in the light of the aforementioned article, but I do not believe his arguments are, or should be, adversely affected by the information presented in this
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Factions solidify and tensions mount.” (Pg. 77). According to Harris, this almost always precedes Yanamamamo warfare. If Tierney’s accounts concerning warfare and the derivatives of warfare are correct, this makes Harris’s arguments incredible.

On the other hand, Tierney’s viewpoint is arguable. As Irven Delfore, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard, points out in, “The Fierce Anthropologist,” “Chag was both first and thorough…thorough in the sense that Chag has visited at least 75 Yanamami villages on both sides of the Venezuelan and Brazilian borders…Chag gathered very detailed and documented data on the villages – so much so that another investigator could study the same population and come to a different conclusion.”(Pg. 55). This seems to be exactly what Harris has done. In fact, Harris begins the chapter “Proteins and the Fierce People” by pointing out a different in opinion stating that “Chagnon – who knows them best – has denied that the high level of homicide within and between villages is caused by reproductive and ecological pressures.” (Pg. 67). Harris goes on to use others, as well as Chagnon’s own evidence to disprove his claim. Harris shows how fighting over women is correlated to reproductive pressure, and there is a shortage of meat in the area in which the Yanamamo reside – this is quite obviously a type of ecological pressure.

Harris’s use of evidence outside of Chagnon’s own indicates that he has done
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