"The time of civilization": failed utopias of intercultural imagination in Amazonia
Casey High (University of Edinburgh)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the utopian visions of “civilization” and “community” that emerge at the interface of colonial imagination, evangelical missions and indigenous experiences of social transformation in Amazonian Ecuador.
Paper long abstract:
This paper explores the utopian visions of "civilization" and "community" that emerge at the interface of colonial imagination, evangelical missions and indigenous Amazonian experiences of social transformation. It looks specifically at the process and logic by which Waorani people in Amazonian Ecuador converted to Christianity in the second half of the twentieth century, and how the mission encounter and subsequent interventions of the state have become part of Waorani visions of what it means to be "civilized". Despite the closure of the mission more than thirty years ago and the relative lack of Waorani Christians today, Waorani evoke narratives of past conversion and the "time of civilization" in their efforts to achieve the ideal of "living well" in a community. While Waorani formulations of conversion, civilization and community draw on key tropes of colonial and nationalist imagination, they also point to disjunctures between Amazonian and Western concepts of social transformation and community.
The failed utopia: 'enlightening' the contradictions of christianisation, secularisation and civilisation in the Americas