University of Hawai'i at Manoa

Inventing Paradise: The Tasaday

by Robin Hemley, Ph.D.

In this talk, Dr. Hemley discusses his findings on the Tasaday controvery based on his newly published book, Invented Eden: The Elusive, Disputed History of the Tasaday, published by in New York by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in 2003. Hereunder is the publisher's summary of the book, and an indication of the contents of the lecture:

The riveting story of a modern Piltdown hoax-which may not have been a hoax at all

In 1971, a band of twenty-six “Stone Age” rain-forest dwellers was discovered living in total isolation by Manuel Elizalde, a Philippine government minister with a dubious background. The tribe was soon featured in nightly American newscasts and graced the cover of National Geographic. They were visited by such celebrities as Charles Lindbergh and Gina Lollobrigida. But after a series of aborted anthropological forays, the 45,000-acre Tasaday Reserve established by Ferdinand Marcos was closed to all visitors, and the tribe vanished from public view.

Fast-forward twelve years. A Swiss reporter hikes into the area and discovers that the Tasaday were actually farmers who had been coerced by Elizalde into dressing in leaves and posing in caves with stone tools. Soon the “anthropological find of the century” has become the “ethnographic hoax of the century.”

Or maybe not. Robin Hemley tells a story that is more complex than either the hoax proponents or the Tasaday advocates might care to admit. At the center of it is a group of very poor people who have been buffeted by forces beyond their control. Were the Tasaday the creation of gullible journalists, bumbling scientists, and an ego-driven madman, or were they the innocent victims of cynical academics and politicos? In answering that question, Hemley has written a gripping and ultimately tragic tale of innocence found, lost, and found again.

Date and Venue: October 8, 2003, Kuykendall 410, 7:00PM.

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