Accepted Paper:

Inter-ontological encounter: when Amerindian gods meet the Whitemen  


Guilherme Orlandini (Museu Nacional/Rio de Janeiro)

Paper short abstract:

Amerindian ethnology has focused on sociocultural transformations that have ocurred among indigenous peoples. For example, "becoming White" has been an important theme for anthropologists working with Amerindians. Although, what happens when Amerindian gods meet the Whitemen?

Paper long abstract:

When the first long-time fieldwork ethnographies appeared - during the 70s - Amerindian ethnology turned the acculturation theme upside down and Indian-White relations started to be thought of as indigenous processes of (re)signification. "Becoming white", then, became a way of talking about contextual forms of transformation instead of historical processes of acculturation. Recently, works such as Viveiros de Castro (1992)'s on Tupinambá inconstancy on accepting Christianity have helped comprehend those trasnformations. For now, these works have focused on human cultural transformations. What happens, though, when Amerindian gods meet the Whitemen?

After fieldwork among the Araweté, in eastern Amazonia, we aim to delineate an answer to the question above. Describing Araweté shamanic rites, we intend to take Indian-White relations to a place that we could call an inter-ontological encounter. Canoes and motors were not a part of Araweté cosmology before they met the Whitemen and, with that in mind, we can ask: how does this process come about? What kind of shift has Araweté cosmology undergone in the past thirty years?

Singing songs brought by the deceased, Araweté shamans tell the living about the divine landscape: canoes, motors and, right by God's town, a White city. Conversely, the living have to send a bunch of material goods acquired from the Whitemen in the Brazilian town of Altamira, Pará to the heavens. Sacrifying goods, Araweté help their gods in this process of encountering the Whitemen

Panel W053
Shifting ontologies and contingent agencies