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Becoming Mapuche

Becoming Mapuche: Person and Ritual in Indigenous Chile

Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Becoming Mapuche
    Book Description:

    Magnus Course blends convincing historical analysis with sophisticated contemporary theory in this superb ethnography of the Mapuche people of southern Chile. Based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork, Becoming Mapuche takes readers to the indigenous reserves where many Mapuche have been forced to live since the beginning of the twentieth century. Exploring their way of life, the book situates the Mapuche within broader anthropological debates about indigenous peoples in South America._x000B__x000B_Comprising around 10 percent of the Chilean population, the Mapuche are one of the largest indigenous groups in the Americas. Despite increasing social and political marginalization, the Mapuche remain a distinct presence within Chilean society, giving rise to the burgeoning Mapuche political movement and holding on to their traditional language of Mapundungun, their religion, and their theory of self-creation. In addition to accounts of the intimacies of everyday kinship and friendship, Course also offers the first complete ethnographic analyses of the major social events of contemporary rural Mapuche life--eluwün funerals, the ritual sport of palin, and the great ngillatun fertility ritual. The volume includes a glossary of terms in Mapudungun.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09350-0
    Subjects: Anthropology, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Marta walked through the small patch of broad beans at the side of the creek with a look of disgust on her face. Just the tall thin stalks remained; the pods were gone. Some had been taken bykamtrü, a bird notorious for raiding gardens. The rest of the beans had been stolen by Marta’ssocia, her partner in themedieríaarrangement in which one person contributes land and the other seed, and the two then labor jointly before splitting the fruits of the eventual harvest. “If there was no necessity, there would be no society. We could all just...

  7. Part One

    • 1 Che: The Sociality of Exchange
      (pp. 25-43)

      In this chapter, I advance two arguments that are central to my argument as a whole: first, that personhood is necessarily predicated on relations with others, and second, that a privileged mode of these relations with others is that of exchange, what I term the “sociality of exchange.” I start by introducing the Mapuche concept ofche, a concept roughly translatable as “true person.” This step is a necessary prerequisite to the rest of the book, which goes on to explore the ways such persons construct, and are themselves constructed by, different modes of sociality. In the final part of...

    • 2 Küpal: The Sociality of Descent
      (pp. 44-67)

      In this chapter, I explore relations between people sharingküpal, a concept that Mapuche people translate into Spanish asdescendencia, “descent.” It should be stated from the outset thatküpalis an ambiguous and amorphous concept that means different things in different contexts. My purpose is not to provide a conclusive definition ofküpalbut to describe how the concept serves simultaneously as a key symbolic underpinning of an aspect of Mapuche personhood, of a specific form of relations between persons, and of certain aggregates created by such relations. By prioritizing an aspect of the person in order to make...

    • 3 Ngillanwen: The Sociality of Affinity
      (pp. 68-91)

      If the relations of friendship and equal exchange that I characterize as the sociality of exchange could be considered “potential affinity” (Viveiros de Castro 2001), I turn in this chapter to explore two aspects of what we could call “actual affinity.” First, I focus on the maternally derived aspect of personhood and the relations to which this gives rise. Second, I explore the relations created by marriage, which for a number of reasons are closely related to the maternally derived aspect of the person. Through an ethnographic account of these two forms of relations, I attempt to answer a question...

    • 4 Eluwün: The End of Sociality
      (pp. 92-114)

      Death for Mapuche people is the absence of life (mongen) where it once was present. It is, in this sense, represented as pure negativity, a lacuna registered in its linguistic formulation,lan, the verbalized form of the suffix -la, a suffix used to negate any other verb. Death is often considered the result of the volition of others, whether these be witches (kalku), demons (weküfe), or other malevolent forces. Although local people acknowledged that natural deaths could theoretically take place, many of the deaths that occurred during my time in Piedra Alta were attributed to unnatural causes. This understanding has...

  8. Part Two

    • 5 Palin: The Construction of Difference
      (pp. 117-137)

      All the men sat and stared in silence at the mud on their boots. All the men, that is, apart from the dead man who lay stretched out in front of us, his eyes and face covered by a ragged felt hat. It fell to José to somehow give meaning to the deceased’s life, a life which according to popular opinion had had no meaning—and he was struggling. The mud on his boots seemed more interesting than ever. Then slowly he lifted his face, stood up, and said, “Muna kümey palife tufachi wentru em,” “This dead man was a...

    • 6 Ngillatun: The Construction of Similarity
      (pp. 138-160)

      There are three paths one can take to reach Panku. The eastern path cuts down to the bottom of a gully filled with wild rhubarb, mud, and flies, before rising steadily through a stand of eucalyptus. The southern path follows the bare, open ridge running the length of the high cliffs towering over the Pacific below. The northern path, the path of themütrüm, the “obligatory guests,” winds its way southward through low hills. On reaching their destination, the three paths open out onto a field, big and broad and empty. And facing the field to the West is Panku...

  9. Conclusions
    (pp. 161-168)

    One of the key challenges facing rural Mapuche people in all of the contexts described in this book is that of maintaining individual autonomy while entering into various kinds of social relations with others. It is in the very act of creating oneself asche, as a true person, that one runs the greatest risk of losing oneself, of slipping from being the autonomous author of one’s own person to being the product of somebody else’s intention. Indeed, this is exactly what occurs on death, as I described in my account of theamulpüllün(funerary discourses) in chapter 4. Using...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 169-176)
  11. Glossary of Terms in Mapudungun
    (pp. 177-184)
  12. References
    (pp. 185-196)
  13. Index
    (pp. 197-200)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 201-202)