What makes Jared Diamond possible? Discussant commentary for the panel “Margaret Mead and Jared Diamond: Past Publics, Current Engagements.”
Jared Diamond is not an anthropologist or an archaeologist. Nevertheless, Diamond rose to fame as a popularizer of anthropology and archaeology. But for Living Anthropologically it is important to realize how Diamond promotes misguided ideas.
Pages on Jared Diamond
There are two critical pages on Jared Diamond located in the Archaeology section. Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race examines the still-popular 1987 article that in many ways launched Diamond as a popularizing science writer. Guns, Germs, and Steel: Against History takes up Diamond’s most popular book. I contend that Guns, Germs, and Steel displaced the much better and stronger account offered by Eric Wolf in Europe and the People Without History.
Teaching Jared Diamond
We need to be very careful when using Diamond’s work in the classroom. I still find it useful to assign the “Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race.” See Domestication for class notes in Introduction to Anthropology 2016. Later in 2017 I will attempt to fill in class notes for the page on Domesticating.
Blog Posts (newest first)
At a time when globalization is said to render the national state irrelevant, an anthropology of the state has pressing political and intellectual stakes.
Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture translated US Boasian Anthropology to a mass audience, promoting culture, cultural relativism–and cultural wholes.
An impassioned plea to lower the arrogance decibels. In the wake of Steven Pinker’s “Science Is Not Your Enemy” assessing humanities & science together.
Preparing for the biggest Jared Diamond review of all-time–by Bill Gates. As American Anthropology becomes Public Anthropology, we cannot abandon humanity.
Could epigenetics finally re-write the script about human nature? Maybe, but first we have to go over The Edge’s promotional tribute to Napoleon Chagnon.
An anthropologist caught between “The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable” and “Marginal Revolution: Small Steps Toward a Much Better World.”
If “anthropology’s future depends largely on its ability to contest the Savage slot” (Trouillot 2003:9), then how to take Napoleon Chagnon’s Noble Savages?
Arguments against gun control are rooted in shoddy anthropology: ideas about human nature, culture & history which cannot withstand anthropological scrutiny.
Meredith Small, “Our Babies, Ourselves” introduces many ways to raise babies, the biocultural of neurologically unfinished infants. But childcare and power?
Wonderful recent volume shows how views of human nature as inherently warlike stem not from the facts but from cultural views embedded in Western thinking.
The Ax Fight shows how Yanomami used steel axes long before anthropologists arrive. The Jared Diamond violence calculations must consider interconnection.
Papuan leaders jump into the discussion, as Stephen Corry and Survival International challenge two very public figures–Jared Diamond and Steven Pinker.
The indigenous allies in Matthew Restall’s Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest point to contingent histories, not the inevitability of guns, germs & steel.
Eric Wolf’s Europe and the People Without History attempts to answer Yali’s Question – Why Europe? It’s time to rediscover the history of Eric Wolf.
Ruth Benedict’s Patterns of Culture trumps Jared Diamond for conceptual clarity, writing style, ethnographic example, and impact. Pretty good for 1934.
How might sharing anthropology change anthropological research and presentation? An anthropology of value and the value of anthropology during devaluation.
Anthropology should be front and center–the 2012 Obama Romney election concerns race, culture, history, and power, key issues for political anthropology.
The publication of “Race, IQ, and Wealth” by Ron Unz effectively is game over for Race IQ peddlers–it was always about wealth & inequality.
The really scary part of the Diamond Romney dustup is how Romney recaps Diamond: European imperialism is accidental but societies choose to fail.
Updated sources for teaching race anthropologically. Race is a social construction, but we need to understand that racism is what makes race salient.
The 1987 Jared Diamond article “Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race,” takes from Richard B. Lee–mongongo nuts without credit.
Anthropology of Latin America and the Caribbean is less about “peoples and cultures” and more about processes at work across the Americas.
Anthropology’s Moral Optimism: Four Field Manifesto & alternative visions of humanity. Capitalism is not the most beautiful or respectful of shared planet.
This post on Anthropology 101 in 2011 was a call to action for introductory courses to address the big themes of Human Nature, Race, & Evolution.