Accepted Paper:

Leadership and Power in an Amahuaca Community in the Peruvian Amazon  

Author:

Christopher Hewlett (University of Sussex)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how Amahuaca people in the Amazon negotiate forms of knowledge, productive capacities and institutionalized leadership based in shifting relations with the capitalist economy and Peruvian government. Discourses concerning power reveal a tension between a desire for strong leadership, and a fear of its potential abuse.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines how Amahuaca people in the Peruvian Amazon negotiate forms of knowledge, productive capacities and institutionalized leadership based in shifting relations with the capitalist economy and Peruvian government. Peruvian law requires indigenous people to establish a permanent community on a given plot of land with political representation defined by the election of a president. The president is granted extensive powers through the community charter, or "Acta", which is understood as stemming from relations with the government and loggers. Discourses concerning this power reveal a tension within the community between a desire to create a better social life expressed in terms of the need for strong leadership, and a fear of this same authority and its potential abuse. This tension is present in almost every domain of Amahuaca life, but takes on varying forms depending on the types of activities and relations involved. The power of the Acta is manifested in different ways during community meetings, work parties, soccer tournaments, and in community negotiations with outsiders such as loggers. The paper will discuss Amahuaca discourses and practices regarding how different relations of power are negotiated in the processes of community life.

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