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The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador

Michael Uzendoski

Publication Year: 2005

Based upon historical and archival research, as well as the author's years of fieldwork in indigenous communities, Michael Uzendoski's theoretically informed work analyzes value from the perspective of the Napo Runa people of the Amazonian Ecuador. _x000B_Written in a clear and readable style, The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador presents theoretical issues of value, poetics, and kinship as linked to the author's intersubjective experiences in Napo Runa culture. Drawing on insights from the theory of gift and value, Uzendoski argues that Napo Runa culture personifies value by transforming things into people through a process of subordinating them to human relationships. While many traditional exchange models treat the production of things as inconsequential, the Napo Runa understand production to involve a relationship with natural beings (plants, animals, spirits of the forest), which are considered to be subjects that share spiritual substance, or samai. Throughout the book, value is revealed as the outcome of a complicated poetics of transformation by which things and persons are woven into kinship forms that define daily social and ritual life. _x000B_

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Interpretations of Culture in the New Millennium


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Title Page

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p. iii

Copyright Page

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p. iv

Table of Contents

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p. v

List of Illustrations

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p. vii

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pp. ix-x

This book, written in the humanistic tradition, addresses the interrelated problems of value, kinship, and historicity among the Napo Runa. In my struggle to convey these multifaceted anthropological problems, I have drawn on the work of the late Quechua writer, poet, and anthropologist José María Arguedas. Indigenous characters in Arguedas’s works define themselves as...

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pp. xi-xii

Fieldwork for this project was supported by grants from the Fulbright Institute for International Education (1994), the Research Enablement Program (OSMC) under the Pew Charitable Trusts (1996–97), and the University of Virginia (1999) and by a teaching and research position with the Dirección Bilingüe Intercultural de Napo (1996–97). Subsequent trips to Ecuador were...

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Introduction: Value and Ethnographic Translation

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pp. 1-23

I remember standing with a group of Napo Runa men in a long, motorized dugout canoe at the edge of a wide, slow-moving river. The luscious, tall trees bent toward us, blocking out the rays of the newly risen morning sun.1 Birds flew overhead, looping and singing, while insects buzzed and chirped. A fresh rain the night before had left the river dark, and intermittent clumps...

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1. Sinzhi Runa: The Birth Process and the Development of the Will

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pp. 40-49

I begin by thinking through the tropes of “strengthening” (sinzhiyachina) and “straightening” (dirichuyachina) children. I heard these terms constantly in talk about children and their growth and states of social maturity. I later realized that they were linked to a greater philosophy of life involving relationships among internal and external states of personhood, cosmology, and...

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2. The Poetics of Social Form

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pp. 50-83

According to the Amazonian Quichua, mythical space-time (unai) is centered within human awareness and inhabits the body. Unai is a source of both knowledge (yachai) and power (ushai). Quichua people experience unai through dreams, storytelling, music, ritual, sickness, curing, and many other contexts. As Whitten and Whitten write, “Unai is always with us. It exists in...

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3. Ritual Marriage and Making Kin

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pp. 69-94

Before my wedding, during the “dry” months of 1994, I and those associated with my adoptive family in Yacu Llacta spent months preparing for the arrival of the warmi parti, or “woman’s side.” On the day the warmi parti was due, I was particularly exhausted from having stayed up all the previous night, participating in the fiesta for the cari parti, or “man’s side.” We had...

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4. The Transformation of Affinity into Consanguinity

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pp. 95-132

In this chapter I move away from the ritual transformations of the bura to discuss various forms of affinal relationships: masha/cachun incorporation, compadrazgo (coparenthood), alliance, and adoption.1 These kinship forms all exhibit a common theme: the transformation of affinity into consanguinity. They are modeled on the idea of consanguineal relations and the sharing of...

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5. Meat, Manioc Brew, and Desire

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pp. 119-158

The Runa say that people must become food producers before they can become life producers. This chapter addresses the relation between these two practices, food production and life production. Discussing this issue requires returning to issues covered in earlier chapters, but doing so in relation to a larger discussion about personhood, marriage, and value. ...

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6. The Return of Jumandy: Value and the Indigenous Uprising of 2001

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pp. 144-181

In this chapter I will discuss how the ritual and kinship forms presented in earlier chapters structure views of past and future epochs and events. Instead of looking at the ethnographic present, I turn to the millennial nature of the Runa system of value (see Whitten 2003; Brown and Fernández 1991; Wright 1998; Hill 1988, 1996) to show more broadly why systems of value...

Glossary of Quichua Terms

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pp. 167-169


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pp. 171-180


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pp. 181-192


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pp. 193-198

E-ISBN-13: 9780252092695
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252030079

Page Count: 216
Publication Year: 2005

Series Title: Interpretations of Culture in the New Millennium
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OCLC Number: 815477965
MUSE Marc Record: Download for The Napo Runa of Amazonian Ecuador

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Quechua Indians -- Napo River Valley (Ecuador and Peru) -- Social life and customs.
  • Quechua Indians -- Napo River Valley (Ecuador and Peru) -- Government relations.
  • Indians, Treatment of -- Napo River Valley (Ecuador and Peru).
  • Napo River Valley (Ecuador and Peru) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Napo River Valley (Ecuador and Peru) -- Social life and customs.
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