Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Chagnon, Napoleon A.
Location University of Missouri-Columbia
Primary Field Anthropology
Secondary Field Evolutionary Biology
 Election Citation
Chagnon's monumental longitudinal study of Venezuela?s Yanomamo Indians has yielded reliable data for rigorous tests of ecological and evolutionary hypotheses about human behaviors including warfare and political leadership. These revealed important interrelations between social behavior and ecological, epidemiological, demographic, and genetic processes in human biological and behavioral evolution.
 Research Interests
Following the anthropological interests of Emile Durkheim, Marcel Mauss and Claude Levi-Srauss, Chagnon focused on the social and political organization of tribesmen and how marriage alliances, patrilineal descent from prominent male founders, and complex genealogical ties add cohesion to villages as they grow from a few score people to upwards of 400 people before splitting into smaller, often mutually hostile communities who engage in lethal raiding against each other, raiding that results in an adult male mortality rate due to violence of 30%. He studied one of the last large, multi-village Amazonian tribes that were still relatively isolated from the effects of acculturation, had not been decimated by introduced diseases, and were still conducting inter-village warfare. He was able to show genealogically and measure with Sewall Wright's coefficients of relatedness that villages whose residents were more closely related to each other were able to grow significantly larger than villages whose residents were less closely related to each other, demonstrating the inherent limits set by tribal social design based on kinship and marriage alliances and why societies had to develop non-kinship institutions such as law, formal leadership institutions, and nonegalitarian status differentials to take any further steps to develop social and political complexity and the political state.

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