Amazonia has long been a focus of debate about the impact of the tropical rain forest environment on indigenous cultural development. This edited volume draws on the subdisciplines of anthropology to present an integrated perspective of Amazonian studies. The contributors address transformations of native societies as a result of their interaction with Western civilization from initial contact to the present day, demonstrating that the pre- and postcontact characteristics of these societies display differences that until now have been little recognized.
Amazonian Anthropology: Strategy for a New Synthesis, Anna C. Roosevelt
The Ancient Amerindian Polities of the Amazon, Orinoco and Atlantic Coast: A Preliminary Analysis of Their Passage from Antiquity to Extinction, Neil Lancelot Whitehead
The Impact of Conquest on Contemporary Indigenous Peoples of the Guiana Shield: The System of Orinoco Regional Interdependence, Nelly Arvelo-Jiménez and Horacio Biord
Social Organization and Political Power in the Amazon Floodplain: The Ethnohistorical Sources, Antonio Porro
The Evidence for the Nature of the Process of Indigenous Deculturation and Destabilization in the Amazon Region in the Last 300 Years: Preliminary Data, Adélia Engrácia de Oliveira
Health and Demography of Native Amazonians: Historical Perspective and Current Status, Warren M. Hern
Diet and Nutritional Status of Amazonian Peoples, Darna L. Dufour
Hunting and Fishing in Amazonia: Hold the Answers, What are the Questions?, Stephen Beckerman
Homeostasis as a Cultural System: The Jivaro Case, Philippe Descola
Farming, Feuding, and Female Status: The Achuara Case, Pita Kelekna
Subsistence Strategy, Social Organization, and Warfare in Central Brazil in the Context of European Penetration, Nancy M. Flowers
Environmental and Social Implications of Pre- and Post-Contact Situations on Brazilian Indians: The Kayapo and a New Amazonian Synthesis, Darrell Addison Posey
Beyond Resistance: A Comparative Study of Utopian Renewal in Amazonia, Michael F. Brown
The Eastern Bororo Seen from an Archaeological Perspective, Irmhilde Wüst
Genetic Relatedness and Language Distributions in Amazonia, Harriet E. Manelis Klein
Language, Culture, and Environment: Tup¡-Guaran¡ Plant Names Over Time, William Balée and Denny Moore
Becoming Indian: The Politics of Tukanoan Ethnicity, Jean E. Jackson
When E.J. Levy arrived in northern Brazil on a fellowship from Yale at the age of 21, she was hoping to help save the Amazon rain forest; she didn’t realize she would soon have to save herself.
Amazons: A Love Story recounts an idealistic young woman’s coming of age against the backdrop of the magnificent rain forest and exotic city of Salvador. This elegant and sharp-eyed memoir explores the interaction of the many forces fueling deforestation—examining the ecological, economic, social, and spiritual costs of ill-conceived development—with the myriad ones that shape young women’s maturation.
Sent to Salvador (often called the “soul of Brazil” for its rich Afro-Brazilian culture), a city far from the rain forest, Levy befriends two young Brazilians, Nel, a brilliant economics student who is estranged from her family for mysterious reasons, and Isa, a gorgeous gold digger. When the university closes due to a strike, none of them can guess what will come of their ambitions. Levy’s course of study changes: she takes up capoeira, enters cooking school (making foods praised in Brazilian literature as almost magical elixirs), gains fluency in Portuguese and the ways of street life, and learns other, more painful lessons—she is raped, and her best friend becomes a prostitute.
When Levy finally reaches the Amazon, her courage—and her safety—are further tested: on a barefoot hike through the jungle one night to collect tadpoles, she encounters fist-sized spiders, swimming snakes, and crocodiles. When allergies to the antimalarial drugs meant to protect her prove life-threatening, she discovers that sometimes the greatest threat we face is ourselves. Eventually, her work as a “cartographer of loss,” charting deforestation, leads her to realize that our relationships to nature and to our bodies are linked, that we must transcend the logic of commodification if we are to save both wilderness and ourselves.
The Amazon is a perennially fascinating subject, alluring and frightening, a site of cultural projection and commercial ambition, of fantasies and violence. Amazons offers an intimate look at urgent global issues that affect us all, including the too-often abstract question of rain forest loss. Levy illuminates the burgeoning sex-tourism trade in Brazil, renewed environmental threats, global warming, and the consequences of putting a price on nature. Accounts of the region have most often been by and about men, but Amazons offers a fresh approach, interweaving a personal feminist narrative with an urgent ecological one. In the tradition of Terry Tempest Williams, this timely, compelling, and eloquent memoir will appeal to those interested in literary nonfiction, travel writing, and women’s and environmental issues.
"In the rain forests of the western Amazon," writes author Andrew Revkin, "the threat of violent death hangs in the air like mist after a tropical rain. It is simply a part of the ecosystem, just like the scorpions and snakes cached in the leafy canopy that floats over the forest floor like a seamless green circus tent."
Violent death came to Chico Mendes in the Amazon rain forest on December 22, 1988. A labor and environmental activist, Mendes was gunned down by powerful ranchers for organizing resistance to the wholesale burning of the forest. He was a target because he had convinced the government to take back land ranchers had stolen at gunpoint or through graft and then to transform it into "extractive reserves," set aside for the sustainable production of rubber, nuts, and other goods harvested from the living forest.
This was not just a local land battle on a remote frontier. Mendes had invented a kind of reverse globalization, creating alliances between his grassroots campaign and the global environmental movement. Some 500 similar killings had gone unprosecuted, but this case would be different. Under international pressure, for the first time Brazilian officials were forced to seek, capture, and try not only an Amazon gunman but the person who ordered the killing.
In this reissue of the environmental classic The Burning Season, with a new introduction by the author, Andrew Revkin artfully interweaves the moving story of Mendes's struggle with the broader natural and human history of the world's largest tropical rain forest. "It became clear," writes Revkin, acclaimed science reporter for The New York Times, "that the murder was a microcosm of the larger crime: the unbridled destruction of the last great reservoir of biological diversity on Earth." In his life and untimely death, Mendes forever altered the course of development in the Amazon, and he has since become a model for environmental campaigners everywhere.
Winner of the Society for Economic Botany's Mary W. Klinger Book Award.
Cultural Forests of the Amazon is a comprehensive and diverse account of how indigenous people transformed landscapes and managed resources in the most extensive region of tropical forests in the world.
Until recently, most scholars and scientists, as well as the general public, thought indigenous people had a minimal impact on Amazon forests, once considered to be total wildernesses. William Balée’s research, conducted over a span of three decades, shows a more complicated truth. In Cultural Forests of the Amazon, he argues that indigenous people, past and present, have time and time again profoundly transformed nature into culture. Moreover, they have done so using their traditional knowledge and technology developed over thousands of years. Balée demonstrates the inestimable value of indigenous knowledge in providing guideposts for a potentially less destructive future for environments and biota in the Amazon. He shows that we can no longer think about species and landscape diversity in any tropical forest without taking into account the intricacies of human history and the impact of all forms of knowledge and technology.
Balée describes the development of his historical ecology approach in Amazonia, along with important material on little-known forest dwellers and their habitats, current thinking in Amazonian historical ecology, and a narrative of his own dialogue with the Amazon and its people.
A transdisciplinary collaboration among ethnologists, linguists, and archaeologists, Ethnicity in Ancient Amazonia traces the emergence, expansion, and decline of cultural identities in indigenous Amazonia.
Hornborg and Hill argue that the tendency to link language, culture, and biology--essentialist notions of ethnic identities--is a Eurocentric bias that has characterized largely inaccurate explanations of the distribution of ethnic groups and languages in Amazonia. The evidence, however, suggests a much more fluid relationship among geography, language use, ethnic identity, and genetics. In Ethnicity in Ancient Amazonia, leading linguists, ethnographers, ethnohistorians, and archaeologists interpret their research from a unique nonessentialist perspective to form a more accurate picture of the ethnolinguistic diversity in this area.
Revealing how ethnic identity construction is constantly in flux, contributors show how such processes can be traced through different ethnic markers such as pottery styles and languages. Scholars and students studying lowland South America will be especially interested, as will anthropologists intrigued by its cutting-edge, interdisciplinary approach.
The Amazon rain forest covers more than five million square kilometers, amid the territories of nine different nations. It represents over half of the planet’s remaining rain forest. Is it truly in peril? What steps are necessary to save it? To understand the future of Amazonia, one must know how its history was forged: in the eras of large pre-Columbian populations, in the gold rush of conquistadors, in centuries of slavery, in the schemes of Brazil’s military dictators in the 1960s and 1970s, and in new globalized economies where Brazilian soy and beef now dominate, while the market in carbon credits raises the value of standing forest.
Susanna Hecht and Alexander Cockburn show in compelling detail the panorama of destruction as it unfolded, and also reveal the extraordinary turnaround that is now taking place, thanks to both the social movements, and the emergence of new environmental markets. Exploring the role of human hands in destroying—and saving—this vast forested region, The Fate of the Forest pivots on the murder of Chico Mendes, the legendary labor and environmental organizer assassinated after successful confrontations with big ranchers. A multifaceted portrait of Eden under siege, complete with a new preface and afterword by the authors, this book demonstrates that those who would hold a mirror up to nature must first learn the lessons offered by some of their own people.
Governing Indigenous Territories illuminates a paradox of modern indigenous lives. In recent decades, native peoples from Alaska to Cameroon have sought and gained legal title to significant areas of land, not as individuals or families but as large, collective organizations. Obtaining these collective titles represents an enormous accomplishment; it also creates dramatic changes. Once an indigenous territory is legally established, other governments and organizations expect it to act as a unified political entity, making decisions on behalf of its population and managing those living within its borders. A territorial government must mediate between outsiders and a not-always-united population within a context of constantly shifting global development priorities. The people of Rukullakta, a large indigenous territory in Ecuador, have struggled to enact sovereignty since the late 1960s. Drawing broadly applicable lessons from their experiences of self-rule, Juliet S. Erazo shows how collective titling produces new expectations, obligations, and subjectivities within indigenous territories.
What is considered a good life in contemporary societies? Can we measure well-being and happiness? Reflecting a global interest on the topics of well-being, happiness, and the good life in the face of the multiple failures of millennial capitalism, Images of Public Wealth or the Anatomy of Well-Being in Indigenous Amazonia deliberately appropriates a concept developed by classical economists to understand wealth accumulation in capitalist societies in order to denaturalize it and assess its applicability in non-capitalist kin-based societies.
Mindful of the widespread discontent generated by the ongoing economic crisis in postindustrial societies as well as the renewed attempts by social scientists to measure more effectively what we consider to be “development” and “economic success,” the contributors to this volume contend that the study of public wealth in indigenous Amazonia provides not only an exceptional opportunity to apprehend native notions of wealth, poverty, and the good life, but also to engage in a critical revision of capitalist constructions of living well.
Through ethnographic analysis and thought-provoking new approaches to contemporary and historical cases, the book’s contributors reveal how indigenous views of wealth—based on the abundance of intangibles such as vitality, good health, biopower, and convivial relations—are linked to the creation of strong, productive, and moral individuals and collectivities, differing substantially from those in capitalist societies more inclined toward the avid accumulation and consumption of material goods.
In Darkness and Secrecy brings together ethnographic examinations of Amazonian assault sorcery, witchcraft, and injurious magic, or “dark shamanism.” Anthropological reflections on South American shamanism have tended to emphasize shamans’ healing powers and positive influence. This collection challenges that assumption by showing that dark shamans are, in many Amazonian cultures, quite different from shamanic healers and prophets. Assault sorcery, in particular, involves violence resulting in physical harm or even death. While highlighting the distinctiveness of such practices, In Darkness and Secrecy reveals them as no less relevant to the continuation of culture and society than curing and prophecy. The contributors suggest that the persistence of dark shamanism can be understood as a form of engagement with modernity.
These essays, by leading anthropologists of South American shamanism, consider assault sorcery as it is practiced in parts of Brazil, Guyana, Venezuela, and Peru. They analyze the social and political dynamics of witchcraft and sorcery and their relation to cosmology, mythology, ritual, and other forms of symbolic violence and aggression in each society studied. They also discuss the relations of witchcraft and sorcery to interethnic contact and the ways that shamanic power may be co-opted by the state. In Darkness and Secrecy includes reflections on the ethical and practical implications of ethnographic investigation of violent cultural practices.
Contributors. Dominique Buchillet, Carlos Fausto, Michael Heckenberger, Elsje Lagrou, E. Jean Langdon, George Mentore, Donald Pollock, Fernando Santos-Granero, Pamela J. Stewart, Andrew Strathern, Márnio Teixeira-Pinto, Silvia Vidal, Neil L. Whitehead, Johannes Wilbert, Robin Wright
Chronicling the dramatic history of the Brazilian Amazon during the Second World War, Seth Garfield provides fresh perspectives on contemporary environmental debates. His multifaceted analysis explains how the Amazon became the object of geopolitical rivalries, state planning, media coverage, popular fascination, and social conflict. In need of rubber, a vital war material, the United States spent millions of dollars to revive the Amazon's rubber trade. In the name of development and national security, Brazilian officials implemented public programs to engineer the hinterland's transformation. Migrants from Brazil's drought-stricken Northeast flocked to the Amazon in search of work. In defense of traditional ways of life, longtime Amazon residents sought to temper outside intervention. Garfield's environmental history offers an integrated analysis of the struggles among distinct social groups over resources and power in the Amazon, as well as the repercussions of those wartime conflicts in the decades to come.
Prior to 1735, South America was terra incognita to many Europeans. But that year, the Paris Academy of Sciences sent a mission to the Spanish American province of Quito (in present-day Ecuador) to study the curvature of the earth at the Equator. Equipped with quadrants and telescopes, the mission’s participants referred to the transfer of scientific knowledge from Europe to the Andes as a “sacred fire” passing mysteriously through European astronomical instruments to observers in South America.
By taking an innovative interdisciplinary look at the traces of this expedition, Measuring the New World examines the transatlantic flow of knowledge from West to East. Through ephemeral monuments and geographical maps, this book explores how the social and cultural worlds of South America contributed to the production of European scientific knowledge during the Enlightenment. Neil Safier uses the notebooks of traveling philosophers, as well as specimens from the expedition, to place this particular scientific endeavor in the larger context of early modern print culture and the emerging intellectual category of scientist as author.
Native peoples of the Amazon view objects, especially human artifacts, as the first cosmic creations and the building blocks from which the natural world has been shaped. In these constructional cosmologies, spears became the stings of wasps, hammocks became spiderwebs, stools became the buttocks of human beings.
A view so antithetical to Western thought offers a refreshing perspective on the place and role of objects in human social life—one that has remained under-studied in Amazonian anthropology. In this book, ten scholars re-introduce objects to contemporary studies of animism in order to explore how various peoples envision the lives of material objects: the occult, or extraordinary, lives of “things,” whose personas are normally not visible to lay people.
Combining linguistic, ethnological, and historical perspectives, the contributors draw on a wealth of information gathered from ten Amerindian peoples belonging to seven different linguistic families to identify the basic tenets of what might be called a native Amazonian theory of materiality and personhood. They consider which objects have subjective dimensions and how they are manifested, focusing on three domains regarding Amazonian conceptions of things: the subjective life of objects, considering which things have a subjective dimension; the social life of things, seeing the diverse ways in which human beings and things relate as subjectivities; and the historical life of things, recognizing the fact that some things have value as ritual objects or heirlooms.
These chapters demonstrate how native Amazonian peoples view animals, plants, and things as “subjectivities” possessing agency, intentionality, and consciousness, as well as a composite anatomy. They also show how materiality is intimately linked to notions of personhood, with artifacts classified as natural or divine creations and living beings viewed as cultural or constructed. The Occult Life of Things offers original insights into these elaborate native ontologies as it breaks new ground in Amazonian studies.
The fortunes of the late nineteenth century’s imperial and industrial powers depended on a single raw material—rubber—with only one source: the Amazon basin. And so began the scramble for the Amazon—a decades-long conflict that found Britain, France, Belgium, and the United States fighting with and against the new nations of Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil for the forest’s riches. In the midst of this struggle, Euclides da Cunha, engineer, journalist, geographer, political theorist, and one of Brazil’s most celebrated writers, led a survey expedition to the farthest reaches of the river, among the world’s most valuable, dangerous, and little-known landscapes.
The Scramble for the Amazon tells the story of da Cunha’s terrifying journey, the unfinished novel born from it, and the global strife that formed the backdrop for both. Haunted by his broken marriage, da Cunha trekked through a beautiful region thrown into chaos by guerrilla warfare, starving migrants, and native slavery. All the while, he worked on his masterpiece, a nationalist synthesis of geography, philosophy, biology, and journalism he named the Lost Paradise. Da Cunha intended his epic to unveil the Amazon’s explorers, spies, natives, and brutal geopolitics, but, as Susanna B. Hecht recounts, he never completed it—his wife’s lover shot him dead upon his return.
At once the biography of an extraordinary writer, a masterly chronicle of the social, political, and environmental history of the Amazon, and a superb translation of the remaining pieces of da Cunha’s project, The Scramble for the Amazon is a work of thrilling intellectual ambition.
In this well-written, comprehensive, reasonable yet passionate volume, Emilio Moran introduces us to the range of human and ecological diversity in the Amazon Basin. By describing the complex heterogeneity on the Amazon's ecological mosaic and its indigenous populations' conscious adaptations to this diversity, he leads us to realize that there are strategies of resource use which do not destroy the structure and function of ecosystems. Finally, and most important, he examines ways in which we might benefit from the study of human ecology to design and implement a balance between conservation and use.
Underdeveloping the Amazon shows how different extractive economies have periodically enriched various dominant classes but progressively impoverished the entire region by disrupting both the Amazon Basin's ecology and human communities. Contending that traditional models of development based almost exclusively on the European and American experience of industrial production cannot apply to a regional economy founded on extraction, Stephen G. Bunker proposes a new model based on the use and depletion of energy values in natural resources as the key to understanding the disruptive forces at work in the Basin.