chapter  14
6 Pages

John Knight ‘THE MOUNTAIN PEOPLE’ AS TRIBAL MIRROR

Written for a popular rather than professional audience, The Mountain People has also proved to be one of the most controversial pieces of anthropological writing. Soon after publication, the book was condemned by one anthropologist as ‘poor anthropology in method, in data, and in reasoning . . . [as] emotionally dishonest or superficial . . . [as] deeply misleading to the public it sets out to inform . . . [and as] grossly irresponsible and harmful to its unwitting objects of study’ (Barth 1974: 100). The book exhibited ‘a number of anthropological difficulties and failings in such a crass form that it deserves both to be sanctioned and to be held up as a warning to us all’ (ibid. 99-100). So extreme were the shortcomings of this

■ ‘THE MOUNTAIN PEOPLE’ AS TRIBAL MIRROR, Anthropology Today, 10.6, December 1994, pp. 1-3

book deemed to be that, in a perverse way, it could become useful in inducing much-needed reflection within the discipline, a deeply regrettable professional transgression that might nonetheless serve to indicate the limits of acceptable anthropological practice.