February 14, 2013

"[O]ne of the rare intellectual vocations that do not demand a sacrifice of one’s manhood."

= What Susan Sontag said about anthropology in 1963.

Quoted in a NYT article titled "How Napoleon Chagnon Became Our Most Controversial Anthropologist."

32 comments:

chickelit said...

Just leave Mead out of it.

Michael said...

Great article. I have had the good fortune to have been with some very interesting archeologists in the south of Quintana Roo, people painstakingly uncovering extensive Mayan cities and temples. Today there are literally dozens of sites that have not been excavated because of a lack of funds and because many of the finds have been sacked. The jungles of this part of the world are dense and dangerous despite their proximity to encroaching modernity. Wild animals, drug runners, nasty insects, poachers all render this profession, in the field at least, somewhat uncomfortable and mildly dangerous.

Patrick said...

Only read page one of seven. Will have to wait for later, but it looks really good. Thanks for the link!

AllenS said...

If I can't figure out what's wrong with the brakes on my Jeep project, I might have to turn in my man card. Archeology where I live in Wisconsin means digging up a lot of rocks. Since the ground is frozen, I'll keep working on the brakes.

cubanbob said...

In turning the Yanomami into the world’s most famous “unacculturated” tribe, Chagnon also turned the romantic image of the “noble savage” on its head. Far from living in harmony with one another, the tribe engaged in frequent chest-pounding duels and deadly inter-village raids; violence or threat of violence dominated social life. The Yanomami, he declared, “live in a state of chronic warfare.”

The phrase may be the most contested in the history of anthropology. Colleagues accused him of exaggerating the violence, even of imagining it — a projection of his aggressive personality. As Chagnon’s fame grew — his book became a standard text in college courses — so did the complaints. No detail was too small to be debated, including the transliteration of the tribe’s name. As one commentator wrote: “Those who refer to the group as Yanomamö generally tend to be supporters of Chagnon’s work. Those who prefer Yanomami or Yanomama tend to take a more neutral or anti-Chagnon stance.”


An excellent book that covers this in part is "Before The Dawn". The Noble Savage was always a romantic notion and nothing more. We are slightly less savage than our prehistoric ancestors because we can afford to be less savage.

Chef Mojo said...

What hasn't Susan Sontag opined upon?

edutcher said...

She obviously never met Dr Henry Jones, pere et fils.

Scott M said...

I would think that most of the men in intellectual vocations would disagree with that. Of course, most of those types think baseball is too violent a sport and repeatedly demand to be called "Johnathan" instead of "John".

Methadras said...

edutcher said...

She obviously never met Dr Henry Jones, pere et fils.


I see what you did right there...

traditionalguy said...

Cultural Anthropology is a hobby sport. The rich play it by the rules of the Royal Society founded by the King in the 1600s and run since then by aristocrats with nothing to do.

Chagnon is a poor Michigan boy who ignored their rules of diplomatic restraint and reported raw truth in the politically charged area. His findings of facts upset the genetics over social education (nature v. nurture) balance exposing the pet theories of both sides to be nonsense.

They joined forces to destroy his reputation. They are all jealous of this upstart commoner.

m stone said...

Great article.

Anthropologists seem like a catty bunch. Everything for data and data sets.

All I know of the subject is what Edward Hall wrote in a couple of books. He played it safe in the civilized world.

cubanbob: have to read "Before the Dawn." Thanks.

Mitchell the Bat said...

I wish I could remember more but I took Intro to Cultural Anthropology and there was an account of these anthropologists who made initial contact with some tribe and then they went back to their camp.

After a time the tribesmen showed up and slaughtered them.

We know this because other anthropologists investigated and recovered the movie cameras on tripods that recorded the whole event.

The tribesmen just left them there.

Amexpat said...

An anthropological study is often more about the anthropologist than the people they are studying. Perhaps that's because they have so much freedom, off in the wilds by themselves.

Carlos Castaneda got a PHD, became a cool cat in the counter culture, and made big bucks on his books by making up stuff and presenting it as an anthropological study.

Chip Ahoy said...

My favorite part is where the anthropologists say the thing about natives is they like to fight and they ask the chief native what he thinks about the contents of the anthropologists' books about them and he says, "These anthropologists, they fight and it makes them feel good, right?"

Shana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shana said...

Anthropology as a field of science has always seemed to me to have more than its share of charlatans and gullible fools. I am not necessarily lumping Chagnon in with them. Also, just plain cruelty - the willingness to treat human beings as lab rats.

Michael said...

Redmond O'Hanlon's fabulous "In Trouble Again" deals with his encounters with this tribe. Very funny writer who puts himself in some very bad situations.

Sorun said...

I like the 1971 photo on the first page. Since that ceremony, the tribesmen always refer to Chagnon as "Speedoman."

n.n said...

Sontag had a very narrow, prejudiced perception of what constitutes intellectual and manhood. I wonder how many women share her opinion and would similarly pigeonhole men.

Oh, well. I am only judging her from this single "insight". Perhaps she wasn't as closed-minded as this statement reveals.

There is more to minds and men than anthropology; although, the study of watchers is fascinating.

JAL said...

Allen -- are you in an online Jeep restoration group? I get a lot of help from my tractor group on day to day stuff.

JAL said...

Just a note -- anthropology and archeology are different vocations starting with the same letter.

Obama's mother supposedly took 20 or maybe 30 years getting to be the former. Finally. She studied Indonesian blacksmithing and rallied against globalism and modernism, Or something.

I need to read the article.

AllenS said...

I am JAL. There seems to be a lot of other people having problems with the brakes. I'm going to try 2 new calipers in the front. Also, I put in new stainless steel brake lines, and I've had to deal with a lot of leaks. Right now, the two lines from the master cylinder down to the proportioning value have slow leaks. I cannot tighten them any tighter. The stainless steel just isn't soft enough to seat if the lines are off even just a little little bit. Everything else is ok, finally.

I'm going to make two new lines from brake lines from Carquest for the lines from the master cylinder. One is a 3/16th and the other a 1/4. They are a softer metal from Carquest and should form easily. I already had to replace one in the back. I will have to buy some new fittings to match up, which means I'll have to cut them, replace the fittings and then make a double flare on one of the ends. I have the double flaring tools.

Never had to much trouble in all of my years of working on brakes. It's been very frustrating. I've had friends out who also have worked on brakes, and they can't believe how difficult it is.

Christy said...

I, too, only read the first page, but plan to finish when less distracted. Thanks for the link.

JAL, I toyed with the idea of getting into archaeology after retiring early, but found most of the programs were in the anthropology department. I just couldn't face spending years amongst those whose books I throw against the wall halfway through.

Christy said...

I, too, only read the first page, but plan to finish when less distracted. Thanks for the link.

JAL, I toyed with the idea of getting into archaeology after retiring early, but found most of the programs were in the anthropology department. I just couldn't face spending years amongst those whose books I throw against the wall halfway through.

creeley23 said...

Carlos Castaneda got a PHD, became a cool cat in the counter culture, and made big bucks on his books by making up stuff and presenting it as an anthropological study.

Yes. Castaneda received his BA, MA and Ph.D from UCLA on the basis of his Don Juan writings. He was feted by some of the most prominent anthropologists of his era. Even after it became clear to anyone capable of critical thinking that he was a charlatan, and UCLA was petitioned to acknowledge Castaneda's fraud, UCLA never backed down.

Castaneda was busted by amateurs, notably Richard de Mille, not by academics and scientists, who continue to ignore this egregious failure on their part.

The Castaneda story is truly a shameful episode in the history of academia and ought to be a cautionary tale for those who prattle on about the "scientific consensus."

Castaneda went on to flog a range of crazy New Age products and workshops called Tensegrity, supposedly based on his shamanic knowledge.

Meanwhile he was secretly running a small cult, mostly a harem of attractive women who dyed their hair blond and were his lovers. After Castaneda died of liver cancer, five of these women disappeared never to be seen again except for one -- his adopted daughter -- whose dessicated remains were found in Death Valley.

rcocean said...

Susan Sontag knew all about being a man, wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more.

rcocean said...

Sontag is an incredibly "deep" writer that no one under the age of 50 reads anymore. Probably because they realize she was a wordy, pretentious, odd ball who knew nothing except words.

And parts of Manhattan and LA.

rcocean said...

I read her classic "On Photography" and the next day couldn't remember one thing from it, probably because it took her 100 words to express one idea.

Wasn't German her first language?

JAL said...

"[O]ne of the rare intellectual vocations that do not demand a sacrifice of one’s manhood."

Dang. And all along I thought she was writing about auto mechanics.

Amexpat said...

The Castaneda story is truly a shameful episode in the history of academia and ought to be a cautionary tale for those who prattle on about the "scientific consensus."

Yes. The Castaneda story would make a great film. You could have two interweaving narratives, the fictional story he wrote about Don Juan and the real world reaction to that fiction presented as fact.

I was really into Castaneda in my late teens in the mid 70's(I gave up after Tales of Power). But even though¨I was smoking a lot of dope at the time and had not entered an institute of higher learning, I was always skeptical about the veracity of the books. That didn't bother me as it was the ideas that interested me - especially the stuff about the "way of the warrior". I haven't revisited the books since the 70's, but I suspect I'd either cringe or laugh at myself for having taking those books so seriously.

AlanKH said...

Did Sontag have measurable sanity? Why would she make that remark? Did she think that most intellectual pursuit was inherently wussifying? Or did she think that academia (or some other external factor) has a wussifying influence on intellectual pursuit, but that anthropology was somehow immune?

Rusty said...

Allen.
Make sure your matching the flare angles on the fittings and the lines. I've run into problems like yours when the angle on the fitting didn't match the angle on my flaring tool. The parts store people weren't much help. plus on a couple of occasions they mixed metric with SAE flare nuts.
I hate doing brakes.
We're working on a problem on BILs CJ. Runs so rough it's it's undriveable. I'm going to switch out the ignition module and see if that helps.