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Yanomami Warfare

A Political History

R. Brian Ferguson

Generations of college students know the Yanomami as the example of “natural” aggression in human society. These reputedly isolated people have been portrayed as fiercely engaging in constant warfare over women, status, and revenge. Ferguson argues persuasively that the Yanomami make war not because Western influence is absent, but because it is present.

1995. 466 pp., 7 maps, notes, references, index, 7 x 10

Contributors: R. Brian Ferguson

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“Ferguson’s theory of infrastructural determinism will set the agenda for debate on the Yanomamö for years to come. It is a book that cannot be ignored.”
—Dr. Keith Otterbein, State University of New York, Buffalo

“Ferguson comes uncomfortably close to claiming my presence among the Yanomamö, especially between 1964 and 1970,‘caused’ the wars I described.”
—Dr. Napoleon Changon, American Anthropologist

Yanomami Warfare is an awesome scholarly achievement …. This is a very important book, especially for everyone who has seriously read or written about the Yanomami, pondered the explanation of Yanomami warfare, or indeed been concerned with the explanation of warfare in general.”
—Marvin Harris, Human Ecology Vol. 24, no. 3 (1996)


List of Maps

Part I: Theory

  1. Yanomami and the Study of War
  2. The Problem of Western Goods
  3. The Use of Force

Part II: Background and Comparisons

  1. Lands, Languages, and Ancient Society
  2. Early Encounters
  3. The Sanema
  4. The Ninam
  5. The Yanomam

Part III: The Yanomamo

  1. The Yanomamo through the Rubber Years: 1820 to 1920
  2. The Yanomamo during the Western Retraction: 1920 to 1940
  3. Maneuvering into War: The Yanomamo, 1940 to 1950
  4. The Yanomamo and the Missionaries: 1950 to 1960
  5. The Yanomamo and the Anthropologist: 1960 to 1966
  6. The Yanomamo, 1966 to 1992: Acculturation Accelerates
  7. Explaining Yanomami Warfare: Alternatives and Implications


There are no working papers for this book at the present time.