The Ecology of the Spoken Word

The Ecology of the Spoken Word: Amazonian Storytelling and Shamanism among the Napo Runa

MICHAEL A. UZENDOSKI
EDITH FELICIA CALAPUCHA-TAPUY
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 264
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5406/j.ctt1xcgkj
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  • Book Info
    The Ecology of the Spoken Word
    Book Description:

    The Ecology of the Spoken Word offers the first theoretical and experiential translation of Napo Runa mythology in English. Michael A. Uzendoski and Edith Felicia Calapucha-Tapuy present and analyze lowland Quichua speakers in the Napo province of Ecuador through narratives, songs, curing chants, and other oral performances, so readers may come to understand and appreciate Napo Runa aesthetic expression._x000B__x000B_Like many other indigenous peoples, the Napo Runa create meaning through language and other practices that do not correspond to the communicative or social assumptions of Western culture. Language itself is only a part of a communicative world that includes plants, animals, and the landscape. In the Napo Runa worldview, storytellers are shamans who use sound and form to create relationships with other people and beings from the natural and spirit worlds. Guiding readers into Napo Runa ways of thinking and being, Uzendoski and Calapucha-Tapuy weave exacting translations into an interpretive argument with theoretical implications for understanding oral traditions, literacy, new technologies, and language._x000B__x000B_Reinforcing the authors' argument that words are only a small part of storytelling reality, a companion website with photos, audio files, and videos of original performances offers readers an opportunity to more deeply understand the beauty of performance and complexity of sound in Native Amazonian verbal expression.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09360-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xvi)
  5. INTRODUCTION. WHAT IS STORYTELLING?
    (pp. 1-22)

    In this book, which takes advantage of digital technology in addition to the printed word, we present a theoretical and experiential translation of Napo Runa mythology and music.¹ One of our goals is to translate myths and songs so that readers can get a better appreciation for the beauty and complexity of Amazonian Quichua poetic expressions. While artful translation is one of our primary tasks, we are equally committed to articulating Napo Runa performative practices in terms of more complex issues related to what storytelling can teach us about language, communication, culture, and experience. As the reader will see, for...

  6. CHAPTER 1 SOMATIC POETRY: Toward an Embodied Ethnopoetics
    (pp. 23-40)

    In Amazonia, communicative action is not limited to humans but also includes spirits and beings from the nonhuman phenomenological world. Throughout Amazonia spirits, plants, and other nonhuman beings possess communicative agency, but these beings communicate with humans through dreams, ritual states, feelings, visions, telepathy, or other means besides language.¹ This Amazonian religious philosophy, which has been written about extensively, is commonly glossed as “perspectivism” (Viveiros de Castro 1998), a philosophy of life that attributes agency, souls, and subjectivity to all living things, including some inanimate things. Most of the literature on perspectivism is densely packaged theory. However, others, inspired by...

  7. CHAPTER 2 PRIMORDIAL FLOODS AND THE EXPRESSIVE BODY
    (pp. 41-57)

    This chapter deals with voices that speak about the great flood, glossed asizhu punzhain the Napo Quichua vernacular.Izhuis an Quichua adaptation of the Spanishjuicio, which indexes biblical notions of judgment, but the concept of the world ending and remaking itself through floods predates the arrival of Christianity to the region.¹ The termizhulikely derives from the proselytizing voices of colonial Jesuit priests from times past, religious specialists who occupied and were expelled from Napo two times. Between the 16th and 18th centuries, the Jesuits established over 74 reductions (concentrations of indigenous peoples for missionization...

  8. CHAPTER 3 THE ILUKU MYTH, THE SUN, AND THE ANACONDA
    (pp. 58-78)

    In this chapter, we share the Iluku story and the origin of the sun story, two beginning-times transformations of celestial relations in Upper Amazonian Quichua mythology. In the first story, Iluku brings into existence an axis mundi of the cosmos through a sound channel of love and desire with the moon man (N. Whitten and D. Whitten 2008). In later episodes of the mythology, Iluku becomes the birth mother to Napo Runa civilization. Through her pregnancy with moon man, she brings into being the Cuillurguna, the culture heroes of the Amazonian Quichua world.

    The origin of the sun involves a...

  9. CHAPTER 4 BIRDS AND HUMANITY: Women’s Songs
    (pp. 79-99)
    Mark Hertica

    In this chapter we present translations and interpretations of six women’s songs that speak to the power of the feminine voice and the feminine soul. These songs feature feminine shape-shifting relations between birds and women, fish and women, and similar mimetic transformations in history, such as the rubber boom. In this context, the spoken word becomes musicalized, and the body realizes different cosmological capacities.

    The materials here show how the poetic structures of the voice, grammar, and music evoke the Native theory of the body’s potency and its ability to attract desirable things, powers, qualities, and people. In confronting the...

  10. CHAPTER 5 THE TWINS AND THE JAGUARS
    (pp. 100-134)

    In this chapter we employ the verse analysis method developed by Dell Hymes (1981, 1985, 1992, 1994) in analyzing an Amazonian Quichua myth-narrative, “The Twins and the Jaguars,” from the province of Napo.¹ The discussion involves two principal themes. First, we provide a more detailed discussion of verse analysis and the aesthetics of grammar in Quichua storytelling. Second, we translate one of the core stories of Napo Quichua mythology—the beginning of the twins cycle—and relate it to the ritual experience drinking the plantpuma yuyu(Teliostacha lanceolata).

    The fieldwork for this project was done by Michael while he...

  11. CHAPTER 6 THE CUILLURGUNA
    (pp. 135-156)

    The Cuillurguna or “twins” narratives are the most extensive and defining stories in Napo Quichua mythology. Culture heroes, the twins effect the “miracles” and transformations that came to define thispacha, or “world.” Here, we expand the discussion of the twins by looking at three additional narratives, the bird-of-prey tale and two tellings of the mundopuma, or “world jaguar,” story. As we have seen in previous chapters, the Cuillurguna, the sons of the union of the moon and the Iluku bird, were adopted and raised by a jaguar grandmother, usually referred to as a pumaabuelaorrukumama(grandmother). Transformers...

  12. CHAPTER 7 THE PETROGLYPHS AND THE TWINS’ ASCENT
    (pp. 157-171)

    In this chapter we share with the reader two stories about the twins, a story about the petroglyphs they left here on the earth and their conversion into stars. Both of these stories reveal the inscribed textuality of transformations embodied in the “twins” stories. Our examples show how Quichua speakers “read” their stories from experience within a living landscape that is rich with the presence of mythological beings and transformations.

    This chapter, as well, is an axis mundi of the book. The presentation of the final episode of the twins cycle, their ascent into the sky, also forces us to...

  13. CHAPTER 8 COSMOLOGICAL COMMUNITAS IN CONTEMPORARY AMAZONIAN MUSIC
    (pp. 172-196)

    In the last chapter we explored the notion that myth telling and somatic poetry create a “stirring in the soul” and force one to confront the question “Who am I?” in relation to the crudity of experience. Even in today’s world of globalization, myths and mythological truths provide answers to the deep and mysterious questions of life for many Quichua speakers, although today mythological truths are more commonly being expressed through a new genre of music called Runa Paju. Despite its modernistic and technological qualities, Runa Paju conveys deep mythological truths. And like storytelling and the musical practices of the...

  14. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 197-204)

    Throughout this book we are concerned with discussing how Quichua speakers use storytelling to make sense of experience and create poetic, spiritual relations among people, ecology, and the larger world they inhabit. We try to convey not just the stories but also the stories behind the stories. We hope that readers can more fully appreciate the complexity and beauty of storytelling as a living, community practice of shared art, experience, and meaning.

    In our presentations of the materials, we use a multimodal strategy. Readers can read our ethnopoetic translations in the book; then, by going online, they can also hear...

  15. NOTES
    (pp. 205-212)
  16. APPENDIX. CONTENTS OF THE WEBSITE AND DESCRIPTION OF THE MEDIA
    (pp. 213-222)
  17. REFERENCES
    (pp. 223-238)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 239-246)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 247-248)