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Accepted Paper:

Being ‘rooted’ and being ‘native’: Mapuche relationships to land through plant metaphors  
Santiago Irribarra Palet (University of Manchester)

Paper Short Abstract:

Drawing on research with urban Mapuche communities in Santiago, Chile, this paper examines Mapuche relationships with urban land, metaphors of ‘rootedness’, and Mapuche understandings of belonging and ‘nativeness’.

Paper Abstract:

‘People-as-plants’ is a common source of metaphors among the Mapuche people of the Southern Cone; most notably, the idea of ancestors as ‘roots’ through which people inherit personal characteristics and affinities for specific lands. These affinities, crucial to Mapuche understandings of self and personhood, are often presented as fixed and necessarily rural, with complicated implications for a Mapuche population that is now majority urban. In this paper I propose to examine the fixity of Mapuche ‘rootedness’ in the urban context of Santiago, Chile, and contrast it with the concept of ‘nativeness’ as applied to plants. Many plant species which have only grown in Chile since the sixteenth century (e.g. apple trees, rosemary) are described by Mapuche interlocutors as ‘native’ species that are fit for growing, consuming, and religious ceremonies. This speaks to a process, hundreds of years in the making, through which certain plant species have been (literally) rerooted in Mapuche territory, then recontextualised and ‘nativised’. I argue that ‘nativeness’ in this context does not refer to a pre-Hispanic origin, but to the capacity for forming part of a balanced, harmonious ecosystem. In exploring how these processes of ‘rerooting’ and ‘making native’ work I interrogate how they may be extensible to human beings: if people are plants through metaphor, are plants metaphorical (perhaps literal) people? To what extent is it possible for Mapuche persons to become ‘rooted’ in the city and therefore ‘native’ to it?

Panel P204
Roots and their undoing: ethnographies of connection and dislocation
  Session 2 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -