First off, power scares and sickens me. I don't associate myself with people who relish and strive for it. Power-trippers make my blood boil and turn me into a confrontational savage.
I was a victim of departmental politics years ago, and it was an experience I would not wish on the worst of my enemies. It was the first time I got disillusioned with anthropology as my chosen career. Anthropology, from studying to publishing, is a matter of numbers like politics, where the powerful majority reigns. If most of the peer-reviewers of a journal don't like what one writes because of his theoretical leaning, ideological tendency, different method that goes against the prevailing grains, and intellectual honesty that critiques the revered and all-mighty, his effort is a waste.
I first read about Chagnon from a British paper a week ago. It was posted by a friend on Facebook. I wondered why his works were never introduced to us in college. I guess Rosaldo's was enough a material on the culture of warfare, fierceness, and status symbol in our Political Anthropology class. Maybe our ex-nun professor found the anthropology of killing and headhunting too much for our fresh minds and for her Christian belief. For sure, I learned a lot about political advocacy in that class.
What I experienced in the field was just a microcosm of what is happening in the field of anthropology-- objectivity is selective and honesty is relative. Because the South American governments use Chagnon's works to support their exploitative development projects and policies, does it mean he is a bad anthropologist? Should anthropologists become advocates of the people they study?
The advocacy of his critics is commendable, but I don't agree with the idea that advocating includes denying the truth and questioning scientific methods. I still think objectivity is possible in advocacy. For that reason alone, I cannot consider the criticism on Chagnon a total nuisance.
If you go to the village of Ilonggots, you will find many who will question the veracity of Rosaldo's works. They are those who don't romanticize headhunting and the savagery of their culture. They are those who are paranoid of what outsiders will say about them. Some will find the idea of "noble savages" an intellectual tokenism. Others will express in a crisp English their Anglican belief in the Commandments.
I think intellectual honesty that has no tinge of paranoia and self-interest plus objective advocacy that does not take sides but offers an avenue for a compromise, if linked together, will produce a sound, relevant anthropology.