The University Record, March 12, 2001

Science, ethics, power is focus of talks

By Judy Steeh
News and Information Services

A three-part series of talks at the University will discuss ethics in research, particularly in the fields of anthropology and history. Titled “Science—Ethics—Power: Controversy over the Production of Knowledge and Indigenous Peoples,” the series will address issues raised by the recent publication and reception of Patrick Tierney’s book, Darkness in El Dorado, and provide a forum for discussion of questions concerning research, ethics and the portrayal of indigenous peoples by researchers and scholars.

Tierney’s book caused a furor in academic circles when it was published last fall. It alleged that actions on the part of anthropological and medical researchers caused serious harm to the Yanomami, an Amazonian indigenous people living in Venezuela and Brazil. Many of the book’s major claims have been rebutted by the U-M.

“The aim of the talks is to open an in-depth dialogue concerning the implications of a number of issues raised in the Tierney book,” says series moderator Fernando Coronil, director of the Doctoral Program in Anthropology and History.

“The Ethics of Inquiry” is the focus noon–2 p.m. March 23 in Room 1636, Social Work Building, with participants Terence Turner, anthropology, Cornell; Kay Warren, anthropology, Harvard; and U-M faculty Joel Howell, history and internal medicine; Randolph Nesse, psychiatry; and Caroline Jeannerat, anthropology and history.

“The Uses of History” is the focus 1–3 p.m. April 2 in Rackham Assembly Hall, with participants Brian Ferguson, anthropology, Rutgers, and Lilikala Kame’eleihiwa, Hawai’an studies, Hawai’i; and U-M faculty David William Cohen and Jennifer Gaynor, of both anthropology and history.

The talks are sponsored by the Office of the Provost, with additional support from the Program in the Comparative Study of Social Transformations, the Latin American and Caribbean Studies program, and the Rackham School of Graduate Studies. Support also was provided by the Ford Foundation.