Readers' reactions

October 13, 2000

Last week in The THES...

Tim Ingold attacked western science for its idea of the primitive world as a laboratory

Edward Allison. School of Development Studies University of East Anglia

Tim Ingold intended to rally anthropologists against the threat posed to their discipline's ethical and scholarly credibility by claims that a tribe of Amazonian Indians was experimented upon. Unfortunately, the sweeping condemnations of western science and claims to the moral high ground for his own subject do little to defend its credibility.

Ingold challenges public misconceptions but does not explain how anthropology champions the victims of western arrogance. Western science has also achieved much in improving human wellbeing. Scientists are coming to terms with their mistakes and are learning humility. There are better ways of defending anthropology than attacking science.

The forthcoming "naming and shaming" session at the American Anthropological Association meeting can only do the discipline good. Humbled scientists and shamed anthropologists might even forge a relationship more productive than the one of "continued struggle" that Ingold seems to think is so important.


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