Accepted paper:

The angry earth: the Ashaninka pursuit of wellbeing in times of war and extractivist industries (Peruvian Amazonia)


Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

Building on notions of the agential and transformative qualities of land in indigenous Amazonia, this paper posits that some of these groups see land as a living entity but also see a parallel between land and themselves as moral agents that is key to their understanding of wellbeing.

Paper long abstract:

This paper expands on the literature on the agential and relational aspects of land in Amazonia, focusing on how some indigenous Amazonians posit it has memory and a high sense of morality that is key to their understanding of wellbeing. This is especially important in today's context of extractive practices and increased indigenous interest in economic activities which require a more intensive use of the environment. My work amongst Ashaninka people offers a different view into the agency and memory of land. I will show how Ashaninka understanding of the current scarcity of fish and game and the diminished productivity of their gardens is grounded on aipatsite's ('our land/territory/earth') capacity as a moral and memorious agent whose emotions have been affected by the extreme violence of the Peruvian internal war (1980-2000) and of extractivist industries. I propose that not only do Ashaninka people see aipatsite as a living entity they must interact with in socially productive ways, but that they see a parallel between it and themselves as moral agents. Just like the antisocial behaviour of many Ashaninka people in the wake of the war is understood to be fuelled by anger stemmed in 'not being able to forget violence', scarcity is understood as evidence of aipatsite's anger due to this continuous violence. Thus, for a return to their pursuit of wellbeing in the wake of war, people and aipatsite must be reminded of the positive pre-war social relationships in order to eradicate the memory of violence from their bodies.

panel P59
The place of 'place' in wellbeing scholarship