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Becoming Mapuche

Person and Ritual in Indigenous Chile

Magnus Course

Publication Year: 2011

Magnus Course blends convincing historical analysis with sophisticated contemporary theory in this superb ethnography of the Mapuche people of southern Chile. Based on many years of ethnographic fieldwork, Becoming Mapuche takes readers to the indigenous reserves where many Mapuche have been forced to live since the beginning of the twentieth century. In addition to accounts of the intimacies of everyday kinship and friendship, Course also offers the first complete ethnographic analyses of the major social events of contemporary rural Mapuche life--eluwün funerals, the ritual sport of palin, and the great ngillatun fertility ritual. The volume includes a glossary of terms in Mapudungun.

Published by: University of Illinois Press

Series: Interpretations of Culture in the New Millennium

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xii

The term yewen in the Mapuche language, Mapudungun, can be translated both as “respect” but also as “shame.” And it is this feeling of yewen, this mixture of respect and shame, that I feel as I write this preface. Respect, because of the profound admiration I have for the wisdom, generosity, and compassion of the rural Mapuche people with whom I lived. ...

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pp. xiii-xiv

Over the twelve years since I started this project I have learned a great deal, only some of which appears in the pages that follow. I am lucky that in the process I have met many people who will be special to me until my final days. My gratitude goes far beyond the words printed here. ...

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pp. 1-22

Marta walked through the small patch of broad beans at the side of the creek with a look of disgust on her face. Just the tall thin stalks remained; the pods were gone. Some had been taken by kamtrü, a bird notorious for raiding gardens. ...

Part One

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1. Che: The Sociality of Exchange

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pp. 25-43

In this chapter, I advance two arguments that are central to my argument as a whole: first, that personhood is necessarily predicated on relations with others, and second, that a privileged mode of these relations with others is that of exchange, what I term the “sociality of exchange.” ...

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2. Küpal: The Sociality of Descent

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pp. 44-67

In this chapter, I explore relations between people sharing küpal, a concept that Mapuche people translate into Spanish as descendencia, “descent.” It should be stated from the outset that küpal is an ambiguous and amorphous concept that means different things in different contexts. ...

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3. Ngillanwen: The Sociality of Affinity

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pp. 68-91

If the relations of friendship and equal exchange that I characterize as the sociality of exchange could be considered “potential affinity” (Viveiros de Castro 2001), I turn in this chapter to explore two aspects of what we could call “actual affinity.” First, I focus on the maternally derived aspect of personhood and the relations to which this gives rise. ...

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4. Eluwün: The End of Sociality

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pp. 92-114

Death for Mapuche people is the absence of life (mongen) where it once was present. It is, in this sense, represented as pure negativity, a lacuna registered in its linguistic formulation, lan, the verbalized form of the suffix -la, a suffix used to negate any other verb. ...

Part Two

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5. Palin: The Construction of Difference

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pp. 117-137

All the men sat and stared in silence at the mud on their boots. All the men, that is, apart from the dead man who lay stretched out in front of us, his eyes and face covered by a ragged felt hat. It fell to José to somehow give meaning to the deceased’s life, a life which according to popular opinion had had no meaning—and he was struggling. ...

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6. Ngillatun: The Construction of Similarity

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pp. 138-160

There are three paths one can take to reach Panku. The eastern path cuts down to the bottom of a gully filled with wild rhubarb, mud, and flies, before rising steadily through a stand of eucalyptus. The southern path follows the bare, open ridge running the length of the high cliffs towering over the Pacific below. ...

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pp. 161-168

One of the key challenges facing rural Mapuche people in all of the contexts described in this book is that of maintaining individual autonomy while entering into various kinds of social relations with others. It is in the very act of creating oneself as che, as a true person, that one runs the greatest risk of losing oneself, ...


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pp. 169-176

Glossary of Terms in Mapudungun

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pp. 177-184


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pp. 185-196


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pp. 197-200

About the Author, Publication Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9780252093500
Print-ISBN-13: 9780252036477

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Interpretations of Culture in the New Millennium