Accepted Paper:

The paradoxes of Shuar Christian leadership  


Victor Cova (University of Aarhus)

Paper short abstract:

Attempts by evangelical Shuar church leaders to become political leaders shed light on the paradoxical relationship between Shuar and Christian concepts of power and community

Paper long abstract:

This paper will explore the difficulties Shuar church leaders encounter when they try to become political leaders. For many Shuar in the Macuma region of Morona-Santiago, Ecuador, Christians represent an example of the good life and good christians are considered to be powerful people. However, it seems impossible to be both a church leader and a political leader, because christians are prohibited from participating in parties and are generally hostile to state- or NGO- sponsored development projects. This does not stop Shuar church leaders from also wanting to become political leaders, and political leaders to call upon church leaders in order to better the life of their community, not to mention the political leaders who used to be church leaders and long to return to their previous position.

I will look at the relationship between Shuar and Christian concepts and practices of power, individuality and community as it plays out in three generations of leadership, from before the separation of the political and church federations to present-day attempts at reuniting the two. In particular, I will follow the paths of different Shuar church leaders as they articulate their own history, that of their families and communities in relation to that of missionaries, as well as their political and economic theologies with their attempts to foster churches and communities.

Panel SE31
Chiefs, presidents, shamans and priests: rethinking indigenous forms of leadership, authority, and political action in 21st century lowland South America