Accepted paper:

Dogs, guilt and death in Apiao, Chiloé


Giovanna Bacchiddu (Pontificia Universidad Catolica, Chile)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores attitudes towards death, guilt and social conflict through the experience of people and their guilty dogs. People’s attitude towards the death of animals is described, drawing on cases of killer dogs that had to be executed by their owners to prevent them from doing further damage.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Apiao, a small island of the Chiloé archipelago, southern Chile and is devoted to the peculiar relationship between Apiao people and their dogs. Amongst all the animals that are part of everyday life, dogs cover an important role in household life and daily routine, and epitomise the perfect guardians as well as the indispensable companions on dangerous night trips. They are seen as in-between creatures, and occupy a privileged position within the household bestiary. On some occasions, however, dogs allow their beastly nature to overcome the quasi-human aspect of their kind, becoming anti-social beings, verging on the monstrous. The paper addresses issues of death and guilt in relation to people and their animals, and shows how the social nature of dogs ceases when anti-social behaviour produces the impossibility of negotiation. While relationships between fellow islanders are articulated through constant negotiation, guilty dogs represent the possibility of a society where negotiation is impossible, allowing hierarchy to momentarily take the place of egalitarianism.

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Documenting the meanings of life and death in the Americas