Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
A Walk To The River in Amazonia

A Walk To The River in Amazonia: Ordinary Reality for the Mehinaku Indians

Carla Stang
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 248
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    A Walk To The River in Amazonia
    Book Description:

    Our lives are mostly composed of ordinary reality - the flow of moment-to-moment existence - and yet it has been largely overlooked as a subject in itself for anthropological study. In this work, the author achieves an understanding of this part of reality for the Mehinaku Indians, an Amazonian people, in two stages: first by observing various aspects of their experience and second by relating how these different facets come to play in a stream of ordinary consciousness, a walk to the river. In this way, abstract schemata such as 'cosmology,' 'sociality,' 'gender,' and the 'everyday' are understood as they are actually lived. This book contributes to the ethnography of the Amazon, specifically the Upper Xingu, with an approach that crosses disciplinary boundaries between anthropology, philosophy, and psychology. In doing so it attempts to comprehend what Malinowski called the 'imponderabilia of actual life.'

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-931-4
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Figures
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Plates
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiii)
  6. Acknowledgements
    (pp. xiv-xv)
  7. Pronouncing Mehinaku Words
    (pp. xvi-xvi)
  8. Glossary
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  9. Introduction
    (pp. 1-24)

    The idea for this book first came to me after watching a spectacular Mehinaku dance called theKayapa.My friend Wanakuwalu and I took up some water containers and began to make our way down the path to the river. As we walked along I thought about theKayapa,its significance and so on, and then watching the forest line felt the stinging heat on my skin from the sun above, smelled the wetness rising from the earth, and looking at Wanakuwalu walking swiftly ahead, suddenly thought: what is all this to her? The earth, the sunshine, the walking along?...

  10. 1 My Walk
    (pp. 25-28)

    Here I will give the portrayal of my experience of a trip to a river in Amazonia. It was one of countless such walks I made during my time with the Mehinaku and one of the first I happened to write down in my journal in some detail. Everyone, if they are able, makes this trip about three times a day to bathe, and for the women also to bring water. Throughout my time there, I walked to the river with the women of the house I lived in (just as I did almost everything in their company), sometimes with...

  11. 2 Configurations in Mehinaku Experience
    (pp. 29-72)

    For our final purpose, after many chapters to come, of comprehending Wanakuwalu’s walk to the river, an experience of Mehinaku ordinary reality, here we begin the exploration of Mehinaku reality in general. In this chapter we will look at the various formations in their lived experience.

    During the first weeks with the Mehinaku what struck me most was how material their sense of existence seemed to be. This appeared to contradict the elaborate cosmologies that are written about Xinguano and other Amazonian peoples, of animal and tree spirits, shamans and soul journeys. During this time I was told many narratives...

  12. 3 Dynamic Aspects in Mehinaku Experience
    (pp. 73-124)

    In this chapter we continue with our journey through Mehinaku experience toward an understanding of the particular experience of a walk to the river. Here I will discuss what are the specifically dynamic aspects in Mehinaku experience, as well as related categories and connections. We will begin by looking at how the universal dynamic of human existence, the ‘ongoingness’ of life, has particular qualities in the Mehinaku context, one of flowing continuity and particular rhythmic and substantial attributes. As the chapter goes on it will be seen what these flows have to do with the different kinds of ‘souls of...

  13. 4 Experience of Mehinaku Experience
    (pp. 125-150)

    Working towards the ultimate goal of coming to terms with what ordinary reality in particular is like for the Mehinaku, in the last two chapters I have investigated their experience of reality in general, the fundamental categories, connections and dynamics of their existence. In doing this, I have sought to avoid finding pieces from the Mehinaku worlds to fit into a preconceived theoretical model. Details of Mehinaku existence were not broken up and put to the service of an extrinsic explanation, rather it has been the other way around: Western language and its categories (which are the only explanatory media...

  14. 5 Experience of the Mehinaku Social World
    (pp. 151-176)

    We have been exploring Mehinaku lived experience so that at the end of this book we are ready to come to terms with a particular experience, one of ordinary reality, a walk to the river. Here in the final stage of this exploration we will focus on their experience of their social world. We will look at some social phenomena that have already been touched upon in the previous chapters, and it will be seen how what has been found out thus far about Mehinaku life in general helps to explain its main social aspects. I will consider the shamans...

  15. 6 Some Conclusions
    (pp. 177-182)

    In the preceding chapters we have learned of what and how the Mehinaku experience in their lives so that in the next and final chapter we will have the terms with which to describe the way Wanakuwalu might have experienced her walk along a path to the river. Before we finally arrive at this walk let us review here what we have understood so far and what significance this knowledge may have ethnographically and theoretically. After this, I will discuss some ideas to do with the writing of the phenomenological description of the walk.

    In chapter 2 we saw the...

  16. 7 Her Walk
    (pp. 183-190)

    This book started with a walk to the river, the narrator and reader unfamiliar with the Mehinaku and their world. Following this, the rest of the book has been an attempt to come to terms with this lived world, so as to return to that walk here* and see what can now be understood of Wanakuwalu’s experience of these moments of ordinary reality.

    Small plants that encroach on the dirt path are coolly wet on her feet, as Wanakuwalu begins her way down the path towards the river. She thinks of all the manioc they dug up this morning, that...

  17. Cross References from the Description to Chapters 2–5
    (pp. 191-200)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 201-210)
  19. Index
    (pp. 211-221)