Dictionary of Human Evolution and Biology

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Chagnon, Napoleon (1938-)

US biocultural anthropologist at UCSB. Chagnon was an anthropologist with J. V. Neel’s multidisciplinary expeditions to Venezuela, and has spent several cumulative years among the Yanomamö since 1964. Chagnon published descriptions of the lifeways of these people, with particular emphasis on demographic dynamics. This culminated in Yanomamö: Fierce People (1968), and became required reading in introductory classes; supplemented by Chagnon’s films on the same themes, he became a high-profile authority on human warfare. In the 1990s Chagnon’s interpretations of Yanomamö warfare came to have a sociobiological emphasis, and he and his colleagues, including Neel, came under severe criticism from cultural anthropologists. The issues surrounding their fieldwork remained contentious and unresolved in 2004. Chagnon was instrumental in founding the Yanomamö Survival Fund. He was co-editor (with W. I. Irons) of Evolutionary Biology and Human Social Behavior: An Anthropological Perspective (1979).

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