Anthropology

A student you know has taken an anthropology course in which one of the readings was Beth Conklin’s essay on ritual cannibalism among the Wari’ Indians of western Brazil. After giving the matter considerable thought, she/he has come to the conclusion that exposing western students to this kind of material is actually counter-productive in relation to the aims of anthropology, as it mostly has the effect of promoting racism and unhelpful stereotypes of primitive or tribal peoples. In coming to this conclusion, the student was partly influenced by a survey done some years ago on the effects of films about the Yanomamö, another South American people. The films showed Yanomamö men waging war, taking hallucinogenic drugs as part of shamanistic rites, and beating their wives. The research suggested that exposure to such films often tends to confirm the prejudicial attitudes many westerners have towards non-western peoples. (Note: This is not fictional; there actually was such a study). In the student’s opinion, therefore, articles like Conklin’s should not be used in undergraduate courses, or at least not inintroductory courses like 207.

State whether, or to what extent, you agree or disagree with the student, and justify your position with reference both to the article and to more general concepts, ideas, and approaches covered in the course. (Particularly if you disagree you may, if you wish, write your answer in the form of a letter to the student.)

 3 pages double spaced

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