Famed Anthropologist to Lecture at Bates

Napoleon Chagnon, one of the world’s best-known anthropologists, will deliver three lectures during a two-day visit to Bates College March 24 and 25.

All three talks are open to the public free of charge.

Chagnon, considered the foremost authority on the Yanomamo people of Venezuela and Brazil, will speak March 24 at 8 p.m. in Lecture Hall 105 of the Olin Arts Center on “The Use of Interactive CD-ROM in Anthropological Teaching and Research: The Yanomamo Ax Fight.”

His topic March 25 at 4 p.m. in the same location will be “The Politics of Giving Voice: The Nasty Struggle Over Who Speaks for the Yanomamo.” At 7:15 p.m. the same day in Room 113 of Carnegie Science Hall he will discuss “The End of a Human Era: The Last Sovereign Tribe of the Amazon Basin.”

Chagnon, currently a professor of anthropology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has been studying the Yanomamo people for the past 32 years, returning to their home region almost every year. Increasing contact with the outside world has brought the 200 Yanomamo villages into regular contact with Western culture, with only a handful of remote villages remaining isolated.

In his talk March 24, Chagnon will address the controversy over who — anthropologists, missionaries or government agencies, among others — has the right to represent the Yanomamo’s interests to the outside world. The problem has intensified, Chagnon says, because the Yanomamo are now among the best- known ancient cultures in the world. The invasion of Yanomamo territory by Brazilian miners in 1987 focused attention on the issue. Chagnon himself has been assailed by all sides because of his refusal to endorse any of them.

Chagnon’s afternoon lecture March 25 will center on his 1974 film “The Ax Fight” and its conversion into a CD-ROM computer disk to be used as a teaching tool. The film is considered a milestone in ethnographic filmmaking, and the CD-ROM project is near completion.

The final talk in the series, March 25 at 7:15 p.m., will focus on the Yanomamo themselves and Chagnon’s research. Illustrated by slides, the lecture will include commentary by Chagnon on his discoveries, current research and plans for future research, as well as on the problems faced by the Yanomamo and their incorporation into the national life of Venezuela and Brazil.

Chagnon’s visit to Bates is sponsored by the college’s Lecture Committee and Department of Anthropology.

View Comments