The Anti-Chagnon: Tobias Schneebaum reminisces

March 26, 2001 3:18 PM   Subscribe

The Anti-Chagnon: Tobias Schneebaum reminisces
Schneebaum falls squarely into the romantic camp. "I'm not an anthropologist, and I didn't go to Peru to gather information," he says with mild distaste. "I wanted to meet people and have a good time. I never thought about if I was exploiting anybody. I was doing something that thrilled me, and that was the only thing on my mind." Ugh, I can't tell which is worse...
posted by rschram (4 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Well, sounds like he did meet people and he did have a good time, at least until the cannibalism episode. Is it exploitation? I'm somewhat amused by his disdain of anthropologists (who, in all likelihood, are also doing things that thrill them), as though his "running away from home" or at least from his Western skin is somehow more noble a reason than an academic interest.

For all his talk about the "freedom" he found, I just wonder how "free" the women were?
posted by petra at 5:09 PM on March 26, 2001

I can't wait to hear what PETA has to say about this.
posted by jennaratrix at 5:49 PM on March 26, 2001

Cannibalism, we are beginning to discover, seems not so strange, offbeat, minor as we assumed, when we thought it used only in backwaters by very primitive peoples. Then too we allow for dire consequences--shipwrecks etc--to make cannibalism understandable.
I have long believed that cannabalism in the concentration camps is a subject that survivors will not discuss but which I suspect might well have taken place, though this but speculation on my part.
posted by Postroad at 6:39 PM on March 26, 2001

I saw Schneebaum last year at the Seattle International Film Festival. He came to accompany a premiere screening of the film about him (now finally getting national release). He's a fascinating man and was even more interesting to hear in person than he is in the film.
A note on the anthropology issue. My wife, who is an anthropologist, asked Schneebaum during the Q & A about how he categorized what he was doing in the Amazon. She was actually quite pleased to hear him say that he didn't consider himself an anthropologist. The issue for her is both that many anthropologists, like the notorious Chagnon, have inflicted harm upon 'primitive' peoples in the act of gathering 'information' about them, AND that there seems to be a general tendency today for people to describe themselves as 'anthropologists' or to say what they are doing is 'anthropology,' whenever they have any contact with other cultures, even if they are really just tourists. So she found it refreshing that Schneebaum thought of his experiences in personal terms, rather than trying to give them fake dignity under the mantle of 'anthropology.'
posted by Rebis at 8:48 PM on March 26, 2001

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