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Comparative Arawakan Histories

Comparative Arawakan Histories: Rethinking Language Family and Culture Area in Amazonia

Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Comparative Arawakan Histories
    Book Description:

    Before they were largely decimated and dispersed by the effects of European colonization, Arawak-speaking peoples were the most widespread language family in Latin America and the Caribbean, and they were the first people Columbus encountered in the Americas. Comparative Arawakan Histories, in paperback for the first time, examines social structures, political hierarchies, rituals, religious movements, gender relations, and linguistic variations through historical perspectives to document sociocultural diversity across the diffused Arawakan diaspora.

    eISBN: 978-0-252-09150-6
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-22)

    Comparative arawakan historiesis the first attempt to bring together the writings of ethnologists and historians who have specialized in the study of the Arawak-speaking peoples of South America and the adjacent Caribbean basin. Speakers of Arawakan languages are best known to the general public as the first indigenous Americans contacted by Columbus in 1492. Evidence of the influence of Arawak-speaking peoples on European understandings of the “new” world they had “discovered” can be found in the persistence of such common words ascanoe,cacique,hammock,hurricane,barbecue,maize,cassava, andtobacco(Arrom 1999, xii, xviii, xxvii; Rouse 1992, 12)....


    • 1 The Arawakan Matrix: Ethos, Language, and History in Native South America
      (pp. 25-50)

      The relationship between language and culture has been the subject of much speculation in Western philosophy and social sciences. In the recent past, the tendency has been to contest the one language–one culture hypothesis implicit in the writings of eighteenth-century German philosopher Johann G. Herder, an idea that, under several guises, dominated early anthropology and linguistics. In his 1769 essay “On the Origin of Language,” Herder asserted that polities are unified neither by the acceptance of a common sovereign power, as proposed by Hobbes, nor by a social contract based on the general will, as advocated by Rousseau (Barnard...

    • 2 Arawak Linguistic and Cultural Identity through Time: Contact, Colonialism, and Creolization
      (pp. 51-73)

      This chapter is concerned with the basis of linguistic classifications, the particular history of how the linguistic classification “Arawakan” worked culturally in the region of northeastern South America during the colonial period, and the pitfalls that process presents to the uncritical identification of sociocultural relatedness on the basis of such categories. The essays collected here show convincingly that such pitfalls can be negotiated and that there are many reasons for seeking to identify the long-term historical trajectories of linguistically related groups. This issue has been particularly sensitive within the study of indigenous South America because models of historical evolution have...

    • 3 Historical Linguistics and Its Contribution to Improving Knowledge of Arawak
      (pp. 74-96)

      The purpose of this chapter is to discuss the method of historical linguistics that can be used to improve our knowledge of Arawakan languages, Proto-Arawakan, its subgroupings, and relationships with other language groups.Arawakis introduced in the second half of this chapter as the term used to refer to the genetically related languages that are sometimes called Maipure or Maipuran languages, which exclude, for example, Arauán (or Arawan/Arawá) languages. The termsArawakan,Maipure, andMaipuranare used in the first half of the chapter until the reasons are presented later for the preference for the termArawakrather than...


    • 4 Rethinking the Arawakan Diaspora: Hierarchy, Regionality, and the Amazonian Formative
      (pp. 99-122)

      The Arawak, or Maipuran, languages were the most widely distributed language family in South America—perhaps in all of the Americas—in 1492.¹ Arawakan peoples were spread from southern Brazil to as far north as Florida and from the sub-Andean Montaña of Peru and Bolivia to the mouth of the Amazon. It was one of the great diasporas of the ancient world. Not surprisingly, their distribution and cultural history have long interested lowland specialists.² Broad cultural comparisons within the family have languished in recent decades, however, and questions of origins, cultural and linguistic relationships within the family, and the processes...

    • 5 Social Forms and Regressive History: From the Campa Cluster to the Mojos and from the Mojos to the Landscaping Terrace-Builders of the Bolivian Savanna
      (pp. 123-146)

      For a long time an old field note of mine referring to a Matsiguenga group that claimed the self-designation of Mojos has been demanding my consideration. Our reflection on the Arawakan diaspora gives me the opportunity to do it. After some preliminary clarification on the claim suggested by this self-designation, I will discuss diverse sociopolitical aspects of the pre-Andine Arawak cluster, of which the Matsiguenga of Peru are the southernmost province.¹ Then, through a comparative analysis of the Mojos of Bolivia, I will try to reconstitute their type of organization at the time of contact with Jesuit missionaries. This should...

    • 6 Piro, Apurinã, and Campa: Social Dissimilation and Assimilation as Historical Processes in Southwestern Amazonia
      (pp. 147-170)

      While I was doing fieldwork among the Piro (Yine) and Campa (Asháninka) people of the Lower Urubamba River in eastern Peru, my understandings of much of what I saw and was told ran along tracks laid down by my reading of the literature. As I have discussed elsewhere, the production of my own data and analyses forced me to radically rethink what I thought I knew about the history of relations between local people and nonindigenous newcomers (Gow 1991, 2001). But this has also been true of my understanding of the relations between Piro and Campa people, which was framed...

    • 7 Both Omphalos and Margin: On How the Pa’ikwené (Palikur) See Themselves to Be at the Center and on the Edge at the Same Time
      (pp. 171-196)

      It is now acknowledged that the Conquest meant not only the immediate decline or extinction of some Native South American societies, but the growth, albeit short-term, of others in respect of territory, trade, and political and military power (Dreyfus 1992; Whitehead 1993a, 1994; Arvelo-Jiménez and Biord 1994). There also occurred the ethnogenetic formation of new indigenous entities through the aggregation of diverse preexisting and often ethnically and culturally different groups and elements of groups as a result of or, it has been argued, as a strategy of resistance to European expansion (Hill 1996a, 1996c; see also Garcés Dávila 1992, 72–...


    • 8 A New Model of the Northern Arawakan Expansion
      (pp. 199-222)

      When we observe the number of languages that belong to the northern Maipuran groups and their wide distribution in South America, several questions arise regarding the location of ancestral areas, the characteristics and causes of this population dispersal, the processes of linguistic and ethnic differentiation, and the archaeological evidence of these processes and their antiquity. During the last three decades archaeologists have proposed models that tried to answer some of these questions (Lathrap 1970b; Meggers 1987, 151–74; Rouse 1985, 9–21; Oliver 1989; Zucchi 1991a, 113–38, 1991b, 1–33, 1991c, 202–20, 1991d, 368–79, 1992, 223–52),...

    • 9 Shamanism, Colonialism, and the Wild Woman: Fertility Cultism and Historical Dynamics in the Upper Rio Negro Region
      (pp. 223-247)

      This chapter has two interrelated goals. First, I will explore the concept of culture area as it developed in the ethnology of Lowland South America in the twentieth century and suggest ways in which the concept can be retheorized to restore its utility in current anthropology. Particular attention will be given to rethinking culture areas in Lowland South America in relation to the concern for culture, power, and history. A second goal of the chapter is to demonstrate how such a retheorized concept of culture area can be used in developing a dynamic regional interpretation of long-term historical processes that...

    • 10 Secret Religious Cults and Political Leadership: Multiethnic Confederacies from Northwestern Amazonia
      (pp. 248-268)

      The contemporary Baré and Warekena are two Arawak-speaking groups that inhabit several townships of the Upper Guainía–Rio Negro region in the Venezuelan Amazon (map 10.1). There are about 600 Warekena and 2,000 Baré in Venezuela, who are part of a macroregional sociopolitical system with some other 40,000 Tukanos, Makús, and Arawaks living in Venezuela, Colombia, and Brazil (map 10.2). This system is characterized by extensive multilingualism, exogamy, and varied modalities of interethnic relationships (Chernela 1993; Hill 1983, 1993; Jackson 1983; Vidal 1993, 1999; Wright 1981).

      Although European colonization of the Upper Orinoco and Rio Negro basins began in the...

    • 11 Prophetic Traditions among the Baniwa and Other Arawakan Peoples of the Northwest Amazon
      (pp. 269-294)

      This chapter explores prophetic traditions among Arawak-speaking peoples of the northwest Amazon seeking, through a comparative and historical view, to determine what seem to have been critical elements of the Baniwa religious imagination that came to be expressed in historical prophetic movements. It begins with a regional perspective on the Arawakan peoples of the northwest Amazon, focusing on the Rio Negro and, in particular, the Upper Rio Negro valley. Both the written sources and oral histories attest to the existence of vast regional networks of commerce, exchange, and ceremonial interaction among Arawak-speaking peoples as well as intense cultural interaction with...

  8. References Cited
    (pp. 295-326)
  9. Contributors
    (pp. 327-330)
  10. Index
    (pp. 331-341)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 342-342)