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Accepted Paper:

Humans and Others in Amazonia  
Cecilia McCallum (UFBA - Universidade Federal da Bahia)

Paper short abstract:

Explores how the Cashinahua notion 'huni' (human) is rendered analytical in relational practice in response to historical contingency, thereby reconsidering so-called ‘ontological’ analyses of Amerindian conceptualization of humanity and difference

Paper long abstract:

Cashinahua people of Brazilian and Peruvian Amazonia strive to 'live well' as Huni Kuin, 'real humans'. To do this, they both transact with and draw apart from non-indians, the Nawa (often seen as less than human) and with yuxin (spirits) who embody non-humanness. In practical deployment 'huni' and 'nawa' or 'huni' and 'yuxin' are irreducible to conceptual binarisms. The former, which evokes the image of an anthropomorphic body, also applies to species such as wild pigs or maize and to invisible beings or 'yuxin'. 'Nawa' refers to strangers and enemies and sometimes to invisible beings that are human in form and appearance. Perspectivism and animism, key components of the 'ontological approach' in Amerindian studies, provide elegant solutions to such apparent ethnographic paradoxes by emphasizing the formal configurations of relations between the conceptual assemblages involved. Identifying the relational constitution of concepts contained in practical and discursive expressions involving humanity and difference, they arrive at the underlying organizational logic to reveal these assemblages as properly philosophical. In doing so, ontological analysis tends to abstract the philosophy in Amerindian living from its lived historicity. The present paper seeks to reintegrate such histories into the analysis, from a Huni Kuin perspective. For them, to be human is to have a particular kind of body that emerges over time out of a complex of fields of relatedness.

Panel P024
History as lived reality and the future of anthropology
  Session 1