Accepted paper:

The angry earth: Ashaninka relations with Aipatsite in times of war and extractivist industries (Peruvian Amazonia)


Juan Pablo Sarmiento Barletti (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

Building on notions of the agential and transformative qualities of land in the literature on indigenous Amazonia, this paper posits that some of these groups see land as a living entity but also see a parallel between land and themselves as moral agents whose memory is inscribed in their bodies.

Paper long abstract:

The literature on indigenous Amazonia highlights that places and landscapes, like bodies, are transformable and filled with agency. This paper expands on the agential and relational aspects of land, focusing on how some indigenous Amazonians posit it has memory and a high sense of morality. This is especially important in today's context of extractive practices and increased indigenous interest in economic activities which require a more intensive use of the environment. My work amongst Ashaninka people offers a different view into the agency and memory of land. I will show how Ashaninka understanding of the current scarcity of fish and game and the diminished productivity of their gardens is grounded on aipatsite's ('our land/territory/earth') capacity as a moral and memorious agent whose emotions have been affected by the extreme violence of the Peruvian internal war (1980-2000) and of extractivist industries. I propose that not only do Ashaninka people see aipatsite as a living entity they must interact with in socially productive ways, but that they see a parallel between it and themselves as moral agents whose memory is inscribed in their bodies. Just like the antisocial behavior of many Ashaninka people in the wake of the war is understood to be fuelled by anger felt from them 'not being able to forget violence', scarcity is understood as evidence of aipatsite's anger due to this continuous violence. Thus, people and aipatsite must be reminded of the positive pre-war social relationships in order to eradicate the memory of violence from their bodies.

panel LD24
Documenting the meanings of life and death in the Americas