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Secrets of the Tribe (2010)

The field of anthropology goes under the magnifying glass in this fiery investigation of the seminal research on Yanomami Indians. In the 1960s and '70s, a steady stream of anthropologists ... See full summary »


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Credited cast:
Robert Borofsky ...
Jesus Cardozo ...
Napoleon A. Chagnon ...
Marie Isabel Eguillor ...
Brian Ferguson ...
Kenneth Good ...
Paul R. Gross ...
Raymond Hames ...
William Irons ...
Barbara Johnston ...
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Marie-Claude Mueller ...
Frank Salamone ...
Leslie Sponsel ...
Patrick Tierney ...

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The field of anthropology goes under the magnifying glass in this fiery investigation of the seminal research on Yanomami Indians. In the 1960s and '70s, a steady stream of anthropologists filed into the Amazon Basin to observe this "virgin" society untouched by modern life. Thirty years later, the events surrounding this infiltration have become a scandalous tale of academic ethics and infighting. Written by Sundance Film Festival

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Tribal Warfare in the Academic Jungle






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Release Date:

22 January 2010 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Segredos da Tribo  »

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User Reviews

Not a straightforward documentary, but recommended nonetheless
25 March 2011 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This is not a straightforward documentary that presents easily digestible facts that can be carried away and recited. For me, it was more like a trial where many perspectives are laid out for the audience, and it is up to each person to decide where they stand. I think the documentary did a great job in sympathizing with each side and making judgment truly difficult.

It's the story of a traumatic epistemological division within an academic discipline. The stakes are high. The divide is nothing short of a disagreement about human nature. One side thinks that there is something in humans that predisposes them towards violence. The other rejects this as a dangerous notion and, even if true (which they probably sincerely do not believe), it is still completely contradictory to the their ethical purpose as academics which is the proliferation and attainment of peace.

Complications arise when we learn that the involved parties did some super shady stuff while they were conducting their research. Each side ushers as much incriminating evidence against the others as they can in order to discredit them. They aren't just mindlessly bickering, they are doing this because they have very different epistemological perspectives on human life.

On top of this, the documentary calls into question problems that are inherent in the entire field of anthropology (or at least anthro at this time period).

I think it would be most enjoyable for people who are interested in this idea that I touched upon--- that it is a story of an academic discipline in epistemological turmoil--- because this happens all the time throughout all of academia.

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