Amerindian ontology in a concrete jungle?
The case of indigenous people from the Lowland Amazon moving to Bogotà.
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Key words: Colombia, religion, ontology, identity, indigenous, society, ideas, ritual, nature.
The purpose of this report is to assess what happens to so-called animism, as soon as Amerindians find themselves outside of their original environment. Specifically, it focuses on the situation lived by a group of Amerindian people displaced from the Amazon and now settled in Bogotá.
In order to properly assess this situation the report will firstly begin by summarizing some basic concepts of ontology, then continue with an outline of the theoretical framework underpinning this project and finally, provide a more detailed account of Amerindian animism.
As this report is in its early stage, the objective of the following framework is not to provide the reader with an exhaustive analysis, but rather to highlight the particularities and challenges associated with this project. Nonetheless, the paper concludes by outlining some thoughts about the issues encountered so far.
Scholars relevant in this field, including Dr. Gow, Dr. Rival, Dr. Ingold, Dr. Virtanen, Dr. Hugh-Jones, Dr. Arhem and Dr. Holbraad have been contacted and a few have already provided some insight into the matter. Their advice will be used to overcome the issues encountered. Data will be gathered during the coming months and the report is expected to be published in July-August.
1.1 What is ontology
1.2 Western ontology
1.3 Amerindian ontology
1.4 Modes of relation
2. CRITIQUE OF REPRESENTATIONALISM
2.1 Theoretical framework
3. UNDERSTANDING AMERINDIAN ONTOLOGY
3.1 Past humanity of animals
3.3 Perspectivism in context
3.4.2 Shamans: function
3.4.3 Shamans: Knowing
3.4.4 Shamans: Acquiring knowledge
3.7.6 Lay people transformation
4. THOUGHTS AND ISSUES THUS FAR ENCOUNTERED
1.1 What is ontology
Ontology relates to the study of the nature of being, becoming, existence, or reality. It deals with questions concerning what entities exist or may be said to exist, as well as their relation to each other. In his review of Descola’s book Beyond Nature and Culture, Scott (2014) observed that humans perceive themselves as a mixture of interiority and physicality.
This characteristic, intrinsic to all human beings, allows subjects to widen the awareness of their self and others through the comparison of their interiority and physicality with other humans and non-humans. Descola’s insights have led to the conceptualization of four main ontologies: animism, totemism, naturalism, and analogism.
Scott (2014) said, “if the self posits similarity of interiority but dissimilarity of physicality with the other, then that is the mode of identification Descola calls animism. If the self posits dissimilarity of interiority but similarity of physicality with the other, then that is naturalism.” Consistent with the scope of this report, animism and naturalism are the ontologies to be considered.
1.2 Western ontology
Naturalism has been the most prevalent ontology in the Western world since broadly speaking the rise of Descartes’ dualism in the seventeenth century. Regarding physicality, naturalism perceives every being as constituted by the same matter and therefore equal on these terms. However, Moderns describe human beings’ interiority as a unique “immortal or rational soul, spirit, mind, or self-consciousness” which is complete in and of itself. This view therefore puts human beings on a distinct plane, detached from other beings (Scott, 2014).
The divide between human physicality and interiority is at the root of the great divide between the modern concepts of nature and culture; and between moderns and all other humans who have not purified nature from culture (Latour, 1993). Moderns’ belief of human exceptionalism implies that human’s mere interiority is able to create culture, thus setting apart culture and mankind itself from nature’s influence. In this sense, nature is en external object, subjected to men’s unique capacities.
1.3 Amerindian ontology
From the work of Descola, Scott (2014) outlined that animism is the ontology of “hunting peoples of South and North America, Siberia, and some parts of South-East Asia and Melanesia.” In contrast to Western ontology, in animism beings are bound by a common interiority, despite an ascribed physical difference among all beings. Amerindian myths narrate how beings shared a common humanity, which today persists within the bodies of a variety of beings. This allows people to relate to a range of select beings such as animals, spirits, and sometimes plants and nature in general. “Animists assume that, like themselves, many nonhuman entities are persons, enjoying inner lives replete with self-consciousness, thought, language, and intentionality” (Scott, 2014).
Discontinuity, or difference, is evidenced by physicality. “Indigenously conceptualized as clothing or skins, particular kinds of bodies partition common human interiority, which is both antecedent to and different from humanity as a species” (Scott, 2014). Bodies are the site of differentiation. Made of different substances, different bodies allow for a certain type of behaviour and a set of habits. Yet Viveiros de Castro (2007) has evidenced how, in animism, beings do not have their own distinct form because different bodies are available for use through transformations. (see section “Alterity” for further explanation)
1.4 Modes of relation
According to Scott (2014) in Descola’s work, he states that each ontology has its sets of modes of relation. Modes of relation produce potential patterns of behaviour that can be established between beings.
Gift, predation, and exchange are the names given for forms of possible two-way relationships between a hypothetical subject and an equal. These modes might be said to be asymmetrical or symmetrical, depending on the possibility of return.
When it comes to one-way relations, which involve a hypothetical subject and an object, there are three modes of relation: production, protection, and transmission. These modes of relation place beings in a hierarchy and result in forms of domination.
Despite the fact that these different modes of relation are not equally present in animism, it is clear that two-way modes of relation are compatible with this ontology due to its relational relations, which bind beings sharing the same humanity. (see section “Kin-making” for further explanation)
One-way modes of relation, on the other hand, are compatible with naturalism. Naturalism puts beings on different levels and humans are at the top of this hierarchy. Every “‘other’ appears as something to be seized, known, dominated, and digested.” (Scott, 2013). For example, environmental issues are a by-product of the nature-culture divide characterizing naturalism, and evidence that naturalism itself might be wrong, since humans have never been detached from nature (Latour, 1993).
2. CRITIQUE OF REPRESENTATIONALISM
2.1 Theoretical framework
Anthropological studies conducted in the twentieth century have been influenced by the dualism previously mentioned. Cultural representations were studied as a way to conceptualize the world and nature was seen as the unchanging foundation upon which mankind constructed its representations in a relativist manner. This led to the use of terms such as multi-culturalism because the assumption was that there is only one world, or one nature, but an endless amount of worldviews, or cultures.
Rather than acknowledging “one world, many worldviews,” proponents of the ontological turn recognize multiple worlds or natures. They therefore reject representationalism and embrace multi-naturalism instead of multi-culturalism (Paleček and Risjord, 2012; Viveiros de Castro, 1998). A multiculturalist approach focuses on how cultures conceptualize the world, which is an epistemic concern. In contrast, a multinaturalist approach focuses on what kinds of worlds exist, how they come into being and how they relate to each other, which are ontological concerns.
The notion of many worlds is different from the idea of many worldviews precisely because it acknowledges that man’s representations are not appropriated to understand different worlds. Ontological anthropologists avoid explaining difference through representation, symbolism or belief, since difference has to be understood in the existence of alternative realities. Interpretation of cultural representation can result in the misunderstanding of meaning arising in distinct ontologies.
Viveros de Castro (2012) suggests leaving the notion of relativism for a representationalist framework and thinking of ontological plurality in terms of perspectivism. By getting away from the use of representations, the meaning of a subject is not independent from the object since “concepts and things are one and the same” in a relational tie that overcomes Cartesian dualism (Henare et al., 2007, 13). Perspectivism might be thought of as similar to relativism, but it is relativism without representations. What objects do is described without using the language of belief, since that would reinstate representationalism.
In order to seriously make sense of differences, the ethnographer has to change his own perspective. For example, if someone says that powder is power, the analysis should not focus on why one might think this way. Accepting a different ontology means acknowledging that one might not understand which power he is talking about. “The world in which powder is power is a different world, in which what we take to be powder is actually power” (Henare et al., 2007, 12). The challenge is to reach a point in which such claims do not appear to be absurd anymore because the belief makes sense within a determined world. Thus, the ethnographer must enter this world in order to understand.
3. UNDERSTANDING AMERINDIAN ONTOLOGY
Before considering the fate of animism when Amerindian individuals integrate into modern city life in Bogotá, it is necessary to gain a deeper understanding of the many facets and characteristics of Amerindian ontology in order to have a chance at understanding their worlds. The following sections outline the main components of Amerindian ontology.
3.1 Past humanity of animals
According to many Amazonian groups, at the time of creation, animals shared the same human body as people. Animals are the creator’s first attempt to create real people, or moral people, but their misbehaviour disappointed the creator who decided to transform them into animals and other non-humans (Viveiros de Castro, 1998).Humans are those who continue as they have always been. Animals and other species of beings, on the other hand, continue to be humans behind their everyday appearance, sharing a condition of underlying humanity with people.
An example of this can be seen among the Makuna people, from the Colombian Vaupes region: “Fishes are people [...] In their underwater homes (invisible to the ordinary human eye) fish keep all their assets, tools and instruments such as those people have in their homes [...] Animals game are people. They have their own mind [...] and his own thoughts [...] as men [...] They have their malocas and communities, have their own dances and their own ritual paraphernalia and instruments [...]This is why animals have souls; they have their own mind and thoughts” (Arhem, 1993, pp. 112-113 and 116-117). This exemplifies the common humanity animals share with people.
The relationship between humans and non-humans is central to understanding socialization in the Amazon (Descola, 2001cited in Vilaça, 2005). Despite Descola’s distinction between gift, predation, and exchange modes of relation in animism, this work focuses on the interspecific transformation by means of predatory relations, which Fausto considers to be a vector of sociality and key socio-cosmic fact in all Amazonian contexts (Descola, 1996 cited in Fausto, 2007).
The relationship between living beings is constructed around the idea of “a cosmic food web of eaters and food” (Århem, 1996). For every living being others are either prey or predators. As a result, from the point of view of people, this world is made of: human being’s food, some animals and plants, and man-eaters, those animals which prey upon man (Århem, 1996).
3.3 Perspectivism in context
The universe is inhabited by different beings, humans and non-humans, which have the same type of generic soul and cognitive capacity. This implies that beings see things in the same way, but a difference of perspective originates in the bodily distinction of beings. To clarify, this does not refer to a plurality of views of a single world, but a single view of different worlds.
Animals and spirits see themselves as humans when they are in their own houses and villages and going about their own habits. Jaguars see blood as manioc beer, vultures see maggots in rotting meat as grilled fish, they see their fur, feathers, claws, beaks as body decorations or cultural instruments. They see their food, habits and social system in just the same way that humans do (Viveiros de Castro, 1998). Viveiros de Castro (2004) argues that “the body and its affections is the site and instrument of ontological differentiation and referential disjunction”. Relationality between bodies and their environment is how multiple realities are ‘unlocked’.
By the same token, the disputes arising from the predator-prey relationship underlie and create a range of perspectives constituting Amazonian ontologies. The person has access to two possible perspectives in a relation of predation: predator or prey. The former determines the direction of the predatory relationship. This is exactly what Viveiros de Castro (1998) means by observing that body and soul are perspectival aspects of the person. As subject, the soul manifests its agency through predation; as object, the person is only body and therefore prey (Fausto, 2007). Analogously, this pattern is distributed among every being, and each position in any given relationship is fundamental in defining who retains intention and is therefore able to impose its point of view on another (Fausto, 2007).
In Amerindian perspectivism, subjects can construct objects. Fishness might be thought of as an intrinsic property of fish, needing no perceiving or partnered participant subject to make a fish. Yet Viveiros de Castro (2012) explains that in Amerindian perspectivism, “something would be ‘fish’ only by virtue of someone else whose fish it is.” The subject is bound to the object of knowledge. The relationship is constitutive of the object’s existence and producer of that knowledge. It follows then that the fish as subject constructs its relations with other objects. Viveiros de Castro (2012) argued that this is how we know that an object’s existence is more than just a ‘point of view’ of reality, but a reality in and of itself.
“A shaman is a super-divided being: a federation of invisible agents among the Ikpeng, an anticipated corpse and potential cannibal victim among the Araweté” (Viveiros de Castro, 2007). He is the human that retains primitive characteristics from before the separation between humans and animals. He exemplifies the extended notion of humanity and body as the site of differentiation.
The Baniwa explain the transformation of the shaman into jaguar as “dressing the jaguar’s shirt” (Wright, 1996 cited in Vilaça, 2005). The Desana use animal skins, masks and other similar means to transform the shaman into a determined animal (Reichel-Dolmatoff, 1975 cited in Vilaça, 2005).
These transformations are possible because most beings are equally subjects. Shamans are distinct from lay people just in their degree of capacity to transform. “Everyone who dreams has a bit of shaman,” say a Kagwahiv (Kracke, 1987 cited in Viveiros de Castro, 2007). Transformation can occur to all people at various stages of the life cycle. (see section “Lay people transformation” for further explanation)
3.4.2 Shaman: function
Shamans can adopt the perspective of nonhumans in order to administer the relationships between humans and nonhumans. Being able to see non-humans as they see themselves, shamans are able to take on the role of active interlocutors in transdimentional dialogues and are capable, unlike lay persons, of returning to human form to tell the tale (Viveiros de Castro, 1998).
Shamanism presupposes a mode of knowing, which is to take on the point of view of that which must be known. They identify with beings who are in the subject stance in relationships, such as jaguars, anacondas and raptors. These are natural manifestations of the predatory spirits, and shamans are able to be the human counterparts. These beings mediate and ensure a balanced continuity of the world (Århem, 1996). A bad management of these relationships can be a source of illness to people, and thus, only shamans are known for their healing capacities. (see section “Rituals” for further explanation)
3.4.3 Shaman: Knowing
For the Jıvaro, the forces which cause life and death can be seen only with the aid of hallucinogenic drugs. The truth about what happens in the world can be seen only in the supernatural or “what the Jıvaro view as the real world” (Rubenstein, 2012). It is, therefore, under the effect of the hallucinogenic drug that shamans are capable of seeing from the perspective of non-humans. Depending on which plant a given shaman specializes in, a corresponding term is used to identify shaman expertise. Ayahuasqueros specialize in ayahuasca as a means for interacting with non-humans. Coca is also known for its role as a mediator between different worlds. Other specialists are known as tabaqueros and perfumeros (Espinoza, 2014).
3.4.4 Shaman: Acquiring knowledge
A shaman’s knowledge is acquired through a diet, an initiation process that can last between two to five years. Each shaman specializes in a group of plants, which will become their assistants in their practices (Jaureguia et al., 2011).
The plants consumed in the diet are ordered in accordance with the needs of the apprentice. The tobacco plant, for instance, is used to cleanse the apprentices of negative energies they have accumulated during their lifetime. At the same time, “it offers protection, strengthens, and teaches the initiates through visions and dreams how to use the plant in different healing facets” (Jaureguia et al., 2011). The power and knowledge achieved are related to the length of the diet and the kind of plants ingested.
The human/nonhuman or predator/prey opposition are constitutive of sociality and therefore also gender relations (Vilaça, 2000a). The Wari’ may refer to sexual acts using predation terms as “Did you shoot her? Did you kill her?” (Vilaça, 2005). Such expressions are widespread in the Amazon. Vilaça (2005) remembers an event mentioned by Stephen Hugh-Jones while doing fieldwork among the Barasana. He listened to two brothers talking to one anther in which the first said “I am going to hunt you a tapir”, and the other answered “I am going to hunt you a peccary”. Later, one of them returned with a woman tied up as if she were animal prey and his brother married her.
The male position is constructed in opposition to the female, and the perpetuation of cosmic order requires male predation as well as female fertility (Århem, 1996). It is a hunter’s universe, in which man seduces his prey as if it were a female affine (Taylor, 2000). According to Århem (1996), the analogy encompasses behavioural patterns among potential couples, where men tend to have a tone of aggressivity, while women on the other hand are submissive.
If game are female, the Spirit Owners of the animals are depicted as their Fathers. This is why the shaman relates to the Spirit Owners of the animals in the same way as he would with a male affine, in a relationship that functions much like a male approaching a father who has marriageable daughters. Fathers allocate daughters to suitable husbands just as Spirit Owners cede their animals to men (Århem, 1996).
Due to the common humanity shared by humans and non-humans, they are bound by a pact of reciprocity that gives rise to a set of food restrictions and rules. Animals are treated as essential affines. For every prey obtained, the shamans have to give the Spirit Owner spirit food, namely, coca and snuff. Among the Miran ̃a, coca is kept in a small bag called “the devouring spirit bag” (Karadimas, 1997 cited in Fausto, 2007).
By consuming their prey, the human hunter enables the animals to breed and multiply. Likewise, by killing and consuming humans, gods allow men to reproduce (Århem, 1996). Predation, then, is also a mode of regeneration. From the work of Hugh-Jones among the Barasana, it appears that the number of children a couple has must be limited because animals interpret an excessive number as a call to reduce the number of their own group (S. Hugh-Jones, 1979 cited in Vilaça, 2005). This is yet another example of the importance of reciprocity.
Descola (2012) makes it clear that predation is not a manifestation of ferocity but a tool for the definition of the self through assimilating otherness. “Without the body of this other being, without its identity, without its perspective on me, I should remain incomplete” (Descola, 2012). The Juruna affirm living in a “type of world in which true knowledge is conditioned not by the removal of the subject but by its appropriation of a position among the many existing out there” (Lima, 2002 cited in Vilaça, 2005).
Indeed, since animals are potentially human, Vilaça (2000b) says that the Wari are potential prey. As such, human form is not something inherent but rather, a characteristic for which one should fight. Humans live in a position of constant instability, on the edge of the human and non-human world. Viveiros de Castro stated, “fabrication…of the human body…is based on a negativity: on a negation of the possibilities of the ‘non-human’ body” (Viveiros de Castro, 1987 cited in Vilaça, 2002). The vulnerability generated by alterity is resolved through metaphorical or real cannibalism, but also through rituals constructing the person and mediating with affines. However, these methods do not generate full stability. Viveiros de Castro (1998) suggests that alterity, rather than identity, is the default state in the Amazon.
Making kin converges into food sharing in two separate processes of transformation: one results from eating someone and the other from eating with someone (Fausto, 2007). Indeed, given that some animals maintain an underlying humanity, to eat them raw is a way to appropriate oneself of their qualities and capacities as subjects. It is a dangerous practice since the animal’s humanity could provoke a gradual transformation into the animal form. In contrast, by way of a ritual, the shaman removes the properties from the animal’s underlying humanity in order to eat animals as simple food.
Commensality is an important way to produce kin. Rival (1998) says, “eating the same food and sleeping together ... develops a common physicality, which is far more real than genealogical ties.” This demonstrates that the Amerindians’ social system is based on relationships between bodies related by substance, such as blood, semen, and food (Seeger, 1980 cited in Vilaça, 2002).
In accordance with the practice of commensality, substances create bodies. Every body is related to distinct subjectivities, be those of animals, spirits or people (Viveiros de Castro, 1996). One’s perspective not only affects what one sees and feels, but also what one knows. Habits can be ‘‘worn,’’ as Viveiros de Castro (1996) explains. Indigenous actors switch between different cognitive scripts and structures, including ways of speaking, behaving, eating, and dressing.
Alterity is also considered a risk. A hunter might meet someone in the forest and only later discover that it was not a person, but a disguised animal or spirit who has died. By carefully observing the habits of this person one might understand his true nature, they may “eat worms, claiming they are animal meat, or sleep in trees, claiming they are lying in hammocks, and so on” (Vilaça, 2005).
In non-shamanic contexts, Rubenstein (2012) affirms that all Shuar people consume hallucinogens much like shamans do. Adults consider hallucinogens essential to the welfare of their children who consume them, too. It follows that “shamanic visions are a specific subset of a universal set of practices” (Rubenstein, 2012).
Substances such as coca, chilli peppers and especially tobacco speak through people and are constitutive of their very bodies (Londoño Sulkin, 2005). These plants are used in ritual or non-ritual instances as a way to construct real people. Real people are uniquely human because of their perspective and morals, and they have greater agency (Londoño Sulkin, 2005). The importance of consuming plants is such that if an individual stops consuming plants, it could be an indicator that he or she wants to distance himself from his circle of kin.
Consistent with practices regarding commensality and plant consumption, the genetic notion of kinship is absent in the Amazon. It is substituted with processual relationalism, where individuals are those social actors who constitute their personhood in relation to their communities by sharing the same substances and creating similar bodies (Vilaça, 2005). Community members never become real kin but nonetheless they are important elements of kinship. A woman once told Gow: “These are my kin, the people in this village. You know them all, there are no others” (Gow, 1991 cited in Vilaça, 2005). On the other hand, genealogical kin might be excluded from their kin circle if they live far away. According to Gow, “her statement excluded two siblings, two daughters and many other real kin in other communities, while simultaneously including several people with whom she otherwise counts no close kin connections at all’ (Gow, 1991 cited in Vilaça, 2005).
Likewise, procreation is a continuous act that lasts virtually up until the moment of birth. Among the Wari all those who have sexual relations with the mother during her pregnancy contribute to the making of the baby (Vilaça, 2005). Similarly, the father is the person who raises the child, and an adopted child is equally recognized as consubstantially related. This implies that the body of a person is mutable, permeable, and socially embedded (Vilaça, 2005).
3.7.6 Lay people transformation
Transformation may be caused by other subjects and humans can be tempted to acquire the perspective and thinking of nonhumans. They only succeed in countering this sentiment through the knowledge given by plants and by strengthening the ties with their kin (Londoño Sulkin, 2005). If a layperson sees a nonhuman in human form, he risks being overpowered by its subjectivity and being transformed into that being (Viverios de Castro, 2012). As noted by Vilaça (2002), animals might want to incorporate people into their kin, in this case the shaman must go and negotiate with those animals. Muinane people would probably agree that nonhumans seek the destruction of real people (Londoño Sulkin, 2005). They are motivated by the envy arising from seeing real people’s capacities, which are a result of the agency given by the plants they consume.
Speeches from animals can persuade people to change their perspective, thus producing immoral behaviour. At various stages of the life cycle, especially at birth, during illness, after homicide, and at death, people are vulnerable and subjected to potential mutability, or the loss of their human body (Viveiros de Castro, 1986 cited in Vilaça 2002). For instance, at the moment of birth, the Piro baby is inspected to attest to his humanity. Likewise, in other groups, the baby’s body is moulded with the hands after birth so as to acquire a human form (Gow, 1997 cited in Vilaça, 2002). The Piaroa call their babies ‘the young of animals’ (Gow, 1997 cited in Vilaça, 2002). It is by observing taboos and prohibitions that people avoid this kind of symbiosis of losing their humanity.
Blowing, rubbing, dancing, chanting, and dialoguing with nonhumans are part of shamanic healing practices. In the Northwest Amazon, coca and ayahuasca are conceived as parts of the bodies of ancestors who are themselves predators. The Mawe ́ establish a direct link between their plant-based beverage and felines (Fausto, 2007). According to Harner, snakes and jaguars are the animals most commonly cited by Amerindians when explaining the effects of Ayahuasca (Harner, 1973 cited in Fausto, 2007).
Used in rituals, plants disrupt the perceptions that nonhumans have of themselves as humans. Plants confront animals for attacking real people (Londoño Sulkin, 2005). Ayahuasca is venerated as the grandmother of the plants, but it can be complemented with other plants. Each plant has a feminine and a masculine energy and can take on a motherly or fatherly role to balance the healing energy of the shaman (Espinoza, 2014).
4. THOUGHTS AND ISSUES THUS FAR ENCOUNTERED
I firstly tried to focus on those people coming from the Lowland Amazon whose communities, according to Fausto, have predatory relations as the fundament of their cosmology and sociality. Nonetheless, in the process of meeting people I have noticed that they mainly come to the city individually and in this new setting interact with people from other indigenous groups from the Andean region and the Coast, creating a sort of pan-amerindian community.
Regarding sociality and the production of kin as a way of being for indigenous people, in the situation of those coming independently to Bogotá, they might gradually become considered non-kin if they do not continue to eat or speak with their kin. This begs the question: Should the pan-amerindian community in Bogota be considered kin if they share certain practices which could bind them together? At the same time, I have read that despite the fact that Manchineri produce white bodies by being in the city and coming into contact with white people in the city, they do not turn into non-native humans permanently. They deny social distances between urban and rural dwellers by using various shared and reproduced memories, practices, habits, and representations. What should I conclude if other indigenous people do not think this way and despite being distant from their community deny having lost their kin?
Viveiros de Castro has evidenced the importance of alterity for the Amerindian’s way of being, and other scholars (Lasmar; Vilaça; Virtanen) argue that white people represent a new perspective to adopt. In this sense, adoption of non-native ways of doing and being might not be about turning into non-Indians, but about mastering new knowledge, as shamans do when mediating the community relation with other beings. As such, interethnic relationships might have brought about new social positions within indigenous communities. While this might have interestingly changed power relations in the community and brought the opportunity to have two bodies (Vilança), I would say that in a city people might have limited possibilities to produce further bodies, especially those of animals.
This brought me to question to what extent perspectivism is dependent upon hunting and if it would cease to be relevant in instances where hunting is less important. Furthermore, it seems logical to conclude that food procurement comes before the establishment of perspectivism and its dynamics in the Amazon. In the city, food procurement becomes less difficult and less urgent and so, on pragmatic grounds, in these non-threatening conditions perspectivism could potentially lose importance or fade completely. However, when faced with a threatening condition, such as illness, I noticed indigenous people in the city continue resorting to traditional practices. This may be evidence that perspectivism is only practical and important to them in the face of life-threatening conditions.
Gow has evidenced that some indigenous Amazonian people, while eating "white people's food," affirm that they don't really consider it food because it doesn't really satisfy hunger. A shift to naturalism might be represented by how they treat animals and food. If animals become simple prey and food just a tool to feed oneself, people might become ontologically separated from animals and therefore evidence an ontological change.
However, relying on the modes of relation in order to highlight an ontological change is not straightforward. Production, protection, and transmission can be associated to naturalism, whereby the relationship to other beings is based on a hierarchy and/or one-way relations. But how can I measure the degree to which these people may be embracing individualism? The question is important in such that adopting individualism could be an indicator of a shift towards naturalism. Additionally, since their identity should be relationally determined from an outside perspective, the adoption to some degree of Christianity might be a clearer signal of ontological change. The belief of a perfect and incommensurable inner self might be a movement toward naturalism. One way to solve the problem of finding sharp and coherent evidences might be to take into account the hybrids. In the words of Latour, to the extent Bogotá is not purified from nature, there might be a number of mixed ontologies. Some traits of animism might cohabitate with naturalism, and these can be evidenced in a range of patterns of behavior.
Considering their ontology, even if new social actors overtake the importance of the shaman in interethnic relations, the people I am meeting in Bogota might reasonably say that spirits do not exist since they are part of a dimension that only shamans can perceive. Similarly, shamans in the city could say that the communication with other beings happen only in particular conditions which cannot be evidenced while adopting the white people’s perspective. In similar terms, the shamans might also avoid talking about the ontological characteristics I am interested in understanding because they are not part of my world. This may be the most relevant problem I have confronted so far. How can I understand if they adopted naturalism permanently/ temporarily or if, while concealing what I am looking for, they are simply adopting a white body? All the doubts previously mentioned would be resolved from a different angle if I were sure that they are simply adopting the white perspective while living in the city.
Despite being in the early stage of this report, I believe that it is possible to maintain animistic patterns in a naturalist environment and maintain coherency with the dynamics of perspectivism. However, when considering the basic definition of animism as evidenced by Scott in Descola’s work, I am unsure that, for instance, Amerindians are able to further transdimentional relationships while in a metropolis.
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