There are many differences between the South American Yanomamo culture and the North American culture that we have adapted to, but just at there is culture diversity between us, we have some similarities. The ethnography, which is chose, was “Yanomamo” written by Napoleon A. Chagnon, anthropologists. Chagnon tells us how to it was to live among the Yanomamo family, political and warfare system versus the American Culture.
The Yanomamo are of patrilineal culture, male oriented and very sexist. For some reason they believe that, they are superior to women, so do some men in American culture. However, they are jolted back reality when the law gets involved, unfortunately Yanomamo men don’t have this wake up call.
Marriage is cross-cultural perspective. Yanomamo marriages are much different from that of American marriages. Yanomamo women are treated as materialistic objects and promised by their father or brother to a Yanomamo man in return for reciprocity. The reciprocity could be another Yanomamo women or political alliances. The trades are often practiced in the Yanomamo culture. Polygamy is also a part of the Yanomamo culture. Yanomamo women are kept in the male’s possession. The Yanomamo man tries to collect as many wives as he possibly can in order to demonstrate his power and masculinity. As polygamy in American Culture is referred to as bigamy which is against the law.
Besides, polygamy, the practice of infanticide plays a role in the lack of women in their society. Yanomamo prefer to parent a male child rather than a female child, so in case a female is born she is killed at birth. This again proved their sexist beliefs that women are inferior. Many Yanomamo women fearing their husbands kill a female infant to avoid disappointing their so-called “better half”.
To the people of American culture certain procedures of murdering a new born baby would be considered brutal, horrific and mutilation. But to the Yanomamo choking an infant to death with a vine, suffocating the infant by the placing a stick across her throat, or simply throwing the child against a tree and leaving it to suffer and then die is normal. Yet some Americans would also suggest that abortion is just like murder also, so what’s the difference!
When an acceptable child is born into a Yanomamo family the mother breast-feeds him for a relatively long time. Children are nursed until they reach the age of at most, three or four. As long as the mother breast-feeds she is less likely to be fertile. This is a natural contraceptive. But if a new infant is born it will starve to death, because the older sibling would drink most of the milk, specially if it is a female infant. Male children grow up to be hunters and worriers. Female children although inferior (according to the Yanomamo) are valuable objects of trade and political alliances.
A confusing aspect of the Yanomamo marriages is, even though polygamy is freely practiced so is monogamy but only for the women. Adultery, just like in American culture, is inexcusable to the Yanomamo. In this topic similarities make a breakthrough in both cultures. If relationship between an American woman and an American man goes putrescent and the woman becomes promiscuous violence is only expected by the man. The problem is assault and battery charges can get you into a lot of trouble, not to mention how much you would have to pay a lawyer. But Yanomamo mean get away with their violent retaliation for being disrespected because again there are no laws protecting Yanomamo women not that American women are always protected by the law, it’s just a myth.
The punishment for the Yanomamo women who is only suspected of having an affair with another man is being beaten with a club, burned, shot with a barbed arrow, or the man decides to detach a limb (ex. Arm, leg...) with an ax or machete. Even though it seems as though women are expendable is this culture she may have some one who would aid her if she needed help, her brothers.
A Yanomamo women’s endeavor and search for aid is not always successful espically if her brothers are in a remote village that you could reach if you walked for a couple of days. But if her brothers are around and close enough for some strange reason she might get a little more respect (not too much).
Alliances or formal pacts between groups are incorporated through trade and feasting. The relationships between these two parties are strengthened when the exchange of women takes place. A political alliance begins with an agreement to trade. Women for the Yanomamo are like how money is for Americans. They need it for political game. But payment isn’t usually made at the same time. Members of one village will go to another and trade goods.
The members of second village will have to reciprocate with other type of items some time later. With this constant trade at hand one village is always in debt to another. But this also is a good excuse for visiting the other village, and as long they keep in touch they have a tight bond between them.
Another method of forming political alliances is feasting. Feasting is when one village invites village for a feast or dinner. During the feast there is a lot social activity. The Yanomamo dance and mingle with each other along with eating a different variety of foods. The only catch is the other village must reciprocate a feast by one village. This feast is more like an American dinner party in which members of family or social group invite others to attend.
A feast however can be dangerous and or fatal for those who attend. The Yanomamo can be very conniving and deceiving. They pretend to be loyal friends and invite the other village for a feast. The other very village very trustfully attends the feast not knowing that this might be their last meal. After the feast when the guests are helplessly resting in their hammocks they are attacked and brutally beaten to death. Yanomamo feasts can be dangerous, unlike American dinner parties, which are not violent other than an occasional mishap. But nothing likes the Yanomamo who plots a conspiracy to attack the guests.
The Yanomamo warfare is commonly motivated by revenge. Because the lack of women many villagers raid on another village abducting as many women’s they possibly can. While abducting women they try and kill as many enemies as they can. When the village that was victimized has had some atonement and are prepared they seek out for revenge on the village that attacked them, sometimes procuring the women who were initially from their village.
American warfare maybe a little more involved then the Yanomamo. Our quarrels are not over women, unless it is domestic, but our political reasons. And Americans don’t limit themselves, just to satisfy their need for a war they go international. And with all of the technology these day can do a lot more than villages. Americans also have alliances other countries. These alliances are for backup, just in case a country decides that imperialism is the key to a strong nation, the other countries who signed the treaty back them up. But warfare for any society in my opinion is barbaric and deplorable.
The differences and similarities between the Yanomamo culture and American culture maybe vast, but all humans have an adoption to their culture. If an aspect of the Yanomamo culture is different from American culture it’s discriminated against because it is not understood. Keeping an open mind while I was reading the book was difficult because I was shocked by some of the ways they conducted themselves. But I realized that American don’t really conduct themselves in an orderly fashion at all time either. The Yanomamo make use of the little technology they have,, we on the other hand take advantage of the mass of technology that we have. The similarities between the Yanomamo and Americans was crystal clear, I could imagine Americans without technology living like the Yanomamo the only difference would be Americans would not be handle themselves under theses circumstances.