Accepted Paper:

Thinking about primates and with primates in Amazon rainforest  


Paride Bollettin (Masaryk University and Federal University of Bahia)

Paper short abstract:

The paper aims to compare natives and primatologists views of primates in Amazon rainforest. Both of them present primates as social, cognitive and cultural agents. Understanding the meaning of the concepts utilized is the key to open a dialogue between different types of knowledge.

Paper long abstract:

In recent years, the theme of humans/animals relations returned at the core of anthropological reflections. Due to the emergence of new theoretical proposals, such as the animism, the perspectivism and the anthropology of science, the hegemonic assumption of the separation between the two spheres become more ambiguous. Ethnographic cases from my fieldwork with the Mebengokré in the Brazilian Amazon offer a panorama in which humans and primates develop close interrelations between symmetrical agents. In mythology, primates develop central roles in producing the contemporary world, such as they offer cultural tools to humans. In daily life, they interact with humans in the forest and in the village, they are food, friends, pets and enemy, and in any case they are described as proper agents. Also primatologists studying Amazonian primates describe them as social, cognitive and cultural agents but a separation from the humans seems to continue. The theme of sociality is clasps in genetic or environmental determinism, cognitive life is described as a forerunner of human one, and the use of the idea of culture is even more controversial. Some authors, however, reflect a more or less declared intention to cross such frontier recognizing specific idea for primates behaviours. The paper will compare the different meaning of these ideas in order to elucidate what are their basic assumptions. The thesis is that, despite the proclaimed separation between scientific and local knowledge, both of them reflect on humans/primates continuities, so that this field represent a fertile possibility of dialogue and reciprocal hybridization.

Panel P071
Legacies and futures of animism in the anthropocene