Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Doing Fieldwork Among the Yanomamo 2!

As we continue our journey with Chagnon, the researcher trying to learn the ways of the Yanomamo indians of northern Brazil, he begins to overcome his initial culture shock, but then needs to figure out their vastly different societal values.
At the end of the first half of the story, Chagnon discovers that the Yanomamo value sharing as a sign of respect and kinship. However, the manner which the Yanomamo go about seeking something they would like to have shared with them is quite different. You see, the Yanomamo also value being feared (which they consider respect), so when they want something they demand it angrily. And if you timidly deny them, that is disrespectful. You need to be loud and assertive to get your point across. This is not to say they completely value openness, because they do keep a tiny amount of reservation- they do not call each other by name. Also, if they see weakness, they exploit it through teasing and horseplay. Most shockingly, violence is a widely accepted and supported way of disputing conflicts (one indian beats his brother with an axe over a woman and this is okay). To sum it up in the words of Chagnon, they valued being "sly, agressive, and intimidating"(P.89).
All societies have values, because cultures form common ideas and beliefs among the masses. Since the Yanomamo were formed in completely different conditions than us, it is unfair to judge them based on our standards. From their point of view, my being a less intimidating and feared person would make me stand out as weird to them. It is all about perspective. I have never met someone from a distant counrty, but I imagine my American culture would seem crude and unusual to them, but the values of mine that contrast with theirs would probably make them seem unusual to me.

This is an example of the living conditions of the Yanomamo that may have shaped their lifestyles and values

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