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What is Yali’s question to Jared Diamond?

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desteny1025 | eNotes Newbie

Posted February 28, 2013 at 12:16 AM via iOS

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What is Yali’s question to Jared Diamond?

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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 28, 2013 at 12:27 AM (Answer #1)

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In the introduction to Guns, Germs, and Steel, Diamond claims that Yali's question was the inspiration for the book. Yali, a local politician in New Guinea (where Diamond was doing field work studying birds) asks Diamond the following question: "Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo [meaning material goods and technology] and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?" The book goes on to investigate the answer to this question, attempting to provide explanations for why Eurasian peoples developed the agriculture, technology, and pathogens that enabled them to project their influence around the world.

Source: Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs, and Steel, 13.

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William Delaney | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted January 26, 2015 at 1:06 AM (Answer #2)

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World War II made a tremendous impression on the peoples of the South Pacific, including the natives of New Guinea. The Americans brought a prodigious amount of equipment and supplies in ships that seemed to cover the entire ocean. The New Guinea natives referred to this spectacular influx of material goods as "cargo." Yali's question to Jared Diamond when they met in 1972 was:

"Why is it that you white people developed so much cargo and brought it to New Guinea, but we black people had little cargo of our own?" 

Diamond says in the prologue to Guns, Germs and Steel (1997) that the book was inspired by that question. He did not publish it until twenty-five years later, at which time it became a best-seller.

"Cargo cults" are still common in the South Pacific. According to Wikipedia,

The name derives from the belief that various ritualistic acts will lead to a bestowing of material wealth ("cargo").

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