Department of

Anthropology

Napoleon Chagnon

Professor
573-884-9134
115 W Business Loop 70 W Room 318, Mizzou North
Emphasis: 
Cultural Anthropology
PhD Info: 
University of Michigan 1966, PhD

Bio

Napoleon Chagnon has been labeled as the "most controversial anthropologist" in the United States in a  New York Times Magazine profile preceding the publication of his book, Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes—the Yanomamö and the Anthropologists, a scientific memoir.

He is best known for his long-term ethnographic field work among the Yanomamö, his contributions to evolutionary theory in cultural anthropology and to the study of warfare. The Yanomamö are a society of indigenous tribal Amazonians that live in the border area between Venezuela and Brazil.

Working primarily in the headwaters of the upper Siapa and upper Mavaca Rivers in Venezuela, Chagnon conducted fieldwork among these people from the mid-1960s until the latter half of 1990s. Because the Yanomamö people could not pronounce his last name, they nicknamed him "Shaki," the closest pronunciation they could approximate, which also seemed appropriate because Chagnon was constantly asking questions, and "Shaki" means "pesky bee." A major focus of his research was the collection of genealogies of the residents of the villages that he visited, and from these he would analyze patterns of relatedness, marriage patterns, cooperation, and settlement pattern histories. Applying this genealogical approach as a basis for investigation, he is one of the early pioneers of the fields of sociobiology and human behavioral ecology.

Publications

Chagnon, Napoleon A (1966), Yanomamö Warfare, Social Organization and Marriage Alliances (unpublished PhD dissertation), Ann Arbor, MI: Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan

Books

  • Chagnon, Napoleon A (1968), Yanomamö: The Fierce People.
  • (1974), Studying the Yanomamö, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston.
  • (1992), Yanomamo – The Last Days of Eden.
  • Cronk, Lee; Irons, William (2002), Adaptation and Human Behavior: An Anthropological Perspective.
  • (2013), Noble Savages: My Life Among Two Dangerous Tribes – The Yanomamö and the Anthropologists.

Book chapters
Chagnon, Napoleon A (1986), "Yanomamö social organization and aggression", in FRIED, M, War; the Anthropology of Armed Conflict and Aggression, New York: Garden City

(1995), "Chronic Problems in Understanding Tribal Violence and Warfare", in Willey & Chichester, Genetics of Criminal and Antisocial Behavior, Ciba Foundation Symposium

(1972), "Tribal social organization and genetic microdifferentiation", in HARRISON, A; BOYCE, A, Structure of human populations, Oxford

(1973), "Daily life among the Yanomamo", in ROMNEY, AK; DEVORE, PL, You and others, Cambridge

(1973), "Yanomamo social organization and warfare", in FRIED, M, Explorations in Anthropology, New York: Crowell

(1973), "The culture-ecology of shifting (pioneering) cultivation among the Yanomamo Indians", in GROSS, DR, International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, New York: Garden City

(1977), "Yanomamo – the fierce people", in GOULD, R, Man's many ways, New York: Harper & Row

(1977), "Yanomamo warfare", in COPPENHAVER, D, Anthropology full circle, New York: Prager

(1979), "Is Reproductive Success Equal in Egalitarian Societies?", in CHAGNON, N; IRONS, W, Evolutionary Biology and Human Social Behavior, North Scituate: Duxbury

(1979), "Mate Competition, Favoring Close kin, and Village Fissioning Among the Yanomamö Indians", in CHAGNON, N; IRONS, W, Evolutionary biology and human social behavior, North Scituate: Duxbury

(1982), "Anthropology and the Nature of Things", in WIEGELE, T, Biology and the Social Sciences, Boulder: Westview

(1982), "Sociodemographic Attributes of Nepotism in Tribal Populations: Man the Rule-Breaker", in GROUP, KSCS, Current problems in sociobiology, New York: Cambridge University Press

Ayers, M; Neel, JV; Weitkamp, L; Gershowitz, H (1975), "The influence of cultural factors on the demography and pattern of gene flow from the Makiritare to the Yanomama indians", in HULSE, FS, Man and nature: studies in the evolution of the human species, New York: Random House

Bugos, PE (1979), "Kin selection and conflict: an analysis of a Yanomamö ax fight", in CHAGNON; IRONS, W, Evolutionary biology and human social behavior, North Scituate: Duxbury Press

Flinn, MV; Melancon, TF (1979), "Sex-ratio variation among the Yanomamö Indians", in CHAGNON, Napoleon; IRONS, W, Evolutionary Biology and Human Social Behavior, North Scituate: Duxbury Press

Journal articles
Chagnon, Napoleon A (1967a), "Yanomamo – the fierce people", Natural History LXXVII: 22–31

(1967b), "Yanomamö Social Organization and Warfare", Natural History LXXVI: 44–48

(1968a), "The Culture-Ecology of Shifting (Pioneering) Cultivation Among The Yanomamö Indians", International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences 3: 249–55

(1968b), "The feast", Natural History LXXVII: 34–41

(1970), "Ecological and Adaptive Aspects of California Shell Money", Annual Report of the UCLA Archaeological Survey 12: 1–25

(1973), "The culture-ecology of shifting (pioneering) cultivation among the Yanomamo Indians", in GROSS, DR, International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences, New York: Garden City

(1975), "Genealogy, Solidarity and Relatedness: Limits to Local Group Size and Patterns of Fissioning in an Expanding Population", Yearbook of Physical Anthropology 19: 95–110

(1976), "Yanomamo, the true people", National Geographic Magazine 150: 210–23

(1980), "Highland New Guinea models in the South American lowlands", Working papers on South American Indians 2: 111–30

(1981), "Doing fieldwork among the Yanomamo", Contemporary Anthropology: 11–24

(1988), "Life Histories, Blood Revenge, and Warfare in a Tribal Population", Science 239: 985–92

(1989), "Yanomamö survival", Science 244: 11

(1990), "On Yanomamö violence: reply to Albert", Current Anthropology 31: 49–53

Ayers, M; Neel, JV; Weitkamp, L; Gershowitz, H (1970), "The influence of cultural factors on the demography and pattern of gene flow from the Makiritare to the Yanomama indians", American Journal of Physical Anthropology 32: 339–49

Hames, RB (1979), "Protein Deficiency and Tribal Warfare in Amazonia: New Data", Science 203: 910–13

Le Quesne, P; Cook, JM (1971), "Yanomamö Hallucinogens: Anthropological, Botanical, and Chemical Findings", Current Anthropology 12: 72–74

Margolies, L; Gasparini, G; Hames, RB (1982–83), "Parentesco, demografia, patrones de inversion de los padres y el uso social del espacio arquitectonico entre los Shamatari-Yanomamo del TF Amazonas: informe preliminar" (in Spanish), Boletin Indigenista Venezolano (VZ) 21: 171–225

Filmography
The Yanomamo Series, in collaboration with Tim Asch, includes 22 separate films on the Yanomamo culture, such as:

  • The Ax Fight (1975)
  • Children's Magical Death (1974)
  • Magical Death (1988)
  • A Man Called Bee: A Study of the Yanomamo (1974)
  • Yanomamo Of the Orinoco (1987)
  • Yanomamo Filmography list, University of California, Santa Barbara