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What is this ? David Correia's critique of Jared Diamond: "He disguises the racism of his biological and environmental determinism in a…. If your academic journal article has a title this concisely expressive, no one needs to actually read it. This is hosted by Altmetric on behalf of Routledge. Routledge Article Metrics.

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At 77, Diamond is due back in New Guinea imminently on fieldwork; he has no plans to retire from teaching, and is at work on a new book, about how societies respond to national crises. The future of the world became more real and more important. At 47, he was an accomplished scholar, but in two almost comically obscure niches: the movement of sodium in the gallbladder and the birdlife of New Guinea.

The chances were tiny — but if you sleep under trees many nights a year, they add up. But the book triggered the harshest criticisms yet. Instead, it was a matter of geography. Meanwhile, humans living among farm animals developed immunity to the diseases they carried. Once, on a field trip, he proposed setting up camp under a beautiful old tree, but his New Guinean colleagues refused. It is due to be published when he is 81 or He appears to have no intention of letting falling trees or slippery showers — or, for that matter, angry anthropologists — stand in the way.

The biggest dangers in his LA life today, Diamond believes, are slipping in the shower, tripping on uneven paving stones and car accidents.

Even so, few could have predicted how large a canvas he would choose. The bestselling biogeographer talks to Oliver Burkeman about dealing with the critics who condemn him as a cultural imperialist.

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They condemn him as a cultural imperialist, intent on excusing the horrors of colonialism while asserting the moral superiority of the west. Because the fact is that geography has a strong influence on humans. Europe and the Middle East had good soil, plenty of easily domesticable animals and plants, and a main axis running east-west, instead of north-south — meaning that crops, livestock and tools could spread easily, without confronting big changes in climate or day length.

Born in in Boston to Eastern European Jewish immigrants — his father a paediatrician, his mother a linguist and concert pianist — Diamond graduated from Harvard, then completed a PhD in physiology at Trinity College, Cambridge.

October 26,

Like the others, it starts with a mystery. One day, during a long walk, he fell into step with a local politician, Yali, who posed the visiting academic a question. Towards the end of The Third Chimpanze e, he broaches the question that would define his career: not why humans came to dominate other animals, but why some humans came to dominate others.

Clearly, he needed a larger canvas. By the time they encountered other societies, their military power, metal tools and, above all, their deadly germs gave them the decisive advantage.

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It should instead be condemned [because it] is wrong. So it is slightly disconcerting to meet this strident propagandist for capitalism in his faculty office. I would encourage anyone who disagrees to try standing around in Greenland in January without clothes.

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Because 8, years ago — to borrow from Guns, Germs and Steel — the geography of Europe and the Middle East made it easier to farm crops and animals there than elsewhere. Photograph: Steve Schofield.

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This general charge — that Diamond offers a hugely oversimplified, morally exculpatory of history — is the only thing that punctures his politesse. After all, they are explicitly a retort to racism; he denies Eurasian societies any grounds for pride at ending up on top, exposing the geographic privilege on which their success relied.

Oliver Burkeman. That certainly acknowledged human agency — but after allegedly excusing the oppressors, Diamond now seemed to be blaming the oppressed for their fate. A life in Jared Diamond. Fri 24 Oct Topics Jared Diamond A life in Reuse this content.

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Simultaneously, the tribal rights group Survival International accused Diamond of aiding the elimination of these cultures by portraying them as incorrigibly violent and, implicitly, in need of state subjugation. At first glance, this argument treats indigenous cultures with respect: Diamond argues that we should let them teach us how to raise children collectively, eat more healthily and value older members of society. It won a Pulitzer prize and has sold more than 1. They are correct that he leans heavily on anecdote to make his case — but then it is hard to see how such an all-encompassing could do otherwise.

He examines how some cultures destroyed themselves by ignoring geography — the saddest example being Easter Island, whose occupants deforested their home, launching themselves on a downward spiral of war, cannibalism and eventual eradication.

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Whether such satisfying explanations are in fact true is the subject of vicious jousting between Diamond and many anthropologists. Diamond, who describes himself as a biogeographer, answers them in translucent prose that has the effect of making the world seem to click into place, each fact assuming its place in an elegant arc of pan-historical reasoning.

The bigger message, clearly, is that we are all acting like Easter Islanders today, sabotaging ourselves by ruining the climate. The question had nagged at Diamond since his early visits to New Guinea, the island that would become virtually a second home. He attributes his taste for discipline-hopping to his childhood, especially his years at Roxbury Latin schoola private academy dating back to the 17th century, where he was encouraged to study Latin and Greek. Mitt Romney quoted it admiringly in his presidential campaign, garbling its message entirely.

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Even if the chance of serious injury or death in the bathroom is one in 1, that is far too big for something you do every day. By the s he was teaching physiology at UCLA, but travelling to the southwest Pacific to study birds, a passion that was becoming another expertise. Why did westerners conquer the Americas, Africa and Australia, instead of the other way round?

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Our interview itself provides an example: one white man arriving to interview another, in English, on the imposing main campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, in a landscape bearing little trace of the Native Americans who once thrived here. What changed, Diamond argues, was a seemingly minor set of mutations in our larynxes, permitting control over spoken sounds, and thus spoken language; spoken language permitted much of the rest.

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It was dead, they explained, and might kill them in the night. Why do some civilisations prosper, while others collapse? Guns, Germs and Steel began by repudiating the obvious, racist answer: that Eurasian peoples won out because they were smarter and more vigorous, down to their genes.

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Geography sometimes plays a huge role; sometimes none at all. Unlike Richard Dawkins and others, though, he has opted not to wade into debate with fundamentalists.

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For instance: why did one species of primate, unremarkable until 70, years ago, come to develop language, art, music, nation states and space travel?

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They condemn him as a cultural imperialist, intent on excusing the horrors of colonialism while asserting the moral superiority of the west.

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He wrote a book called Guns, Germs, and Steel which won a fucking Pulitzer for some reason which alleged that European expansionism and colonialism was an inexorable result of their superior geography and agriculture.

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Frankly, I have no idea how he became so well known or popular in anthropology at all.

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David Correia jared diamond guns germs and steel racism.