quick anthropology question

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 in

introductory 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.)

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