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The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador

The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador

Michael Uzendoski
Copyright Date: 2005
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador
    Book Description:

    Based upon historical and archival research, as well as the author's years of fieldwork in indigenous communities, Michael Uzendoski's theoretically informed work analyzes value from the perspective of the Napo Runa people of the Amazonian Ecuador. _x000B_Written in a clear and readable style, The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador presents theoretical issues of value, poetics, and kinship as linked to the author's intersubjective experiences in Napo Runa culture. Drawing on insights from the theory of gift and value, Uzendoski argues that Napo Runa culture personifies value by transforming things into people through a process of subordinating them to human relationships. While many traditional exchange models treat the production of things as inconsequential, the Napo Runa understand production to involve a relationship with natural beings (plants, animals, spirits of the forest), which are considered to be subjects that share spiritual substance, or samai. Throughout the book, value is revealed as the outcome of a complicated poetics of transformation by which things and persons are woven into kinship forms that define daily social and ritual life. _x000B_

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09269-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction: Value and Ethnographic Translation
    (pp. 1-24)

    I remember standing with a group of Napo Runa men in a long, motorized dugout canoe at the edge of a wide, slow-moving river. The luscious, tall trees bent toward us, blocking out the rays of the newly risen morning sun.¹ Birds flew overhead, looping and singing, while insects buzzed and chirped. A fresh rain the night before had left the river dark, and intermittent clumps of debris from the shower moved steadily down it. Still cooled from the dimness and the passing rain, the air was crisp.

    It was a Sunday during the first months of my fieldwork in...

  7. 1 Sinzhi Runa: The Birth Process and the Development of the Will
    (pp. 25-49)

    I begin by thinking through the tropes of “strengthening” (sinzhiyachina) and “straightening” (dirichuyachina) children. I heard these terms constantly in talk about children and their growth and states of social maturity. I later realized that they were linked to a greater philosophy of life involving relationships among internal and external states of personhood, cosmology, and social values. Sinzhiyachina and dirichuyachina reflect the problematic nature of translating implicit concepts of “what goes without saying” (see Bloch 1992, 1998) from one culture to another.¹ Napo Runa socioculture shapes birth and the upbringing of children through the development of the will, a social...

  8. 2 The Poetics of Social Form
    (pp. 50-68)

    According to the Amazonian Quichua, mythical space-time (unai) is centered within human awareness and inhabits the body. Unai is a source of both knowledge (yachai) and power (ushai). Quichua people experience unai through dreams, storytelling, music, ritual, sickness, curing, and many other contexts. As Whitten and Whitten write, “Unaiis always with us. It exists in the present and will continue into the future. It is the source of mythology, of visionary reality, of some dreams, and of enduring tradition” (1988:30). Unai is a means of perceiving the world, especially the rainforest. It is not a mere “concept.” It is...

  9. 3 Ritual Marriage and Making Kin
    (pp. 69-94)

    Before my wedding, during the “dry” months of 1994, I and those associated with my adoptive family in Yacu Llacta spent months preparing for the arrival of the warmi parti, or “woman’s side.” On the day the warmi parti was due, I was particularly exhausted from having stayed up all the previous night, participating in the fiesta for the cari parti, or “man’s side.” We had been preparing for weeks: fishing, harvesting manioc, preparing beverages and food, recruiting helpers and other ritual participants for the wedding ceremony, and providing the warmi parti with transportation from Pucara.

    Galo and I were...

  10. 4 The Transformation of Affinity into Consanguinity
    (pp. 95-117)

    In this chapter I move away from the ritual transformations of the bura to discuss various forms of affinal relationships: masha/cachun incorporation,compadrazgo(coparenthood), alliance, and adoption.¹ These kinship forms all exhibit a common theme: the transformation of affinity into consanguinity. They are modeled on the idea of consanguineal relations and the sharing of substance. In addition, I will discuss circuits of exchange (Bohannan 1955, 1959; Piot 1991; Damon 1980, 1983, 1990; Mayer 1977, 2002) that structure the metamorphosis of value and show that daily life is oriented along a continuum of giving and reciprocal relations in which exchange relates...

  11. 5 Meat, Manioc Brew, and Desire
    (pp. 118-143)

    The Runa say that people must become food producers before they can become life producers. This chapter addresses the relation between these two practices, food production and life production. Discussing this issue requires returning to issues covered in earlier chapters, but doing so in relation to a larger discussion about personhood, marriage, and value. I will therefore now examine how desire, gender complementarity, and cosmology are structured from the perspective of circulation and the general process of value production.

    One day some men were loading a canoe with sacks of maize they planned to sell at the market, and I...

  12. 6 The Return of Jumandy: Value and the Indigenous Uprising of 2001
    (pp. 144-166)

    In this chapter I will discuss how the ritual and kinship forms presented in earlier chapters structure views of past and future epochs and events. Instead of looking at the ethnographic present, I turn to the millennial nature of the Runa system of value (see Whitten 2003; Brown and Fernández 1991; Wright 1998; Hill 1988, 1996) to show more broadly why systems of value matter. Drawing on earlier themes in the book, I discuss how cultural defense, memory, and historical consciousness, too, are inhabited by the philosophy of the circulation of substances and symbols (see Rival and Whitehead 2001:10; Whitehead...

  13. Glossary of Quichua Terms
    (pp. 167-170)
  14. Notes
    (pp. 171-180)
  15. References
    (pp. 181-192)
  16. Index
    (pp. 193-198)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 199-202)