Histories and Historicities in Amazonia


Histories and Historicities in Amazonia

Edited by Neil L. Whitehead

236 pages


July 2003


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About the Book

Anthropologist Neil L. Whitehead presents a collection of recent fieldwork and the latest theoretical perspectives that illuminate how a range of Native communities in the Amazon River basin, and those they encounter, use the past to make sense of their world and themselves. In recent decades, scholars have become increasingly aware of the role the past plays in the construction of culture and identity. Not only can the past be represented and codified overtly in various ways and media as a history, it also operates more fundamentally and pervasively in cultures as a mode of consciousness or way of thinking about the world, a historicity.
In addition to examining the particular foundations and significance of history and historicity in such communities as the Guajá, Wapishana, Dekuana, and Patamuna, the contributors to this volume consider more broadly how different natural and cultural features can help shape historical consciousness: landscape and territory; rituals such as feasting; genealogy and kinship; and even the practice of archaeology. Also of interest are activist uses of historicity to promote and legitimize the cultural integrity and political agendas of Native communities, especially in contact situations past and present where multiple and often competing forms of history and historicity play important political roles in articulating relations between colonizers and the colonized.
As this volume makes clear, understanding the powerful cultural role of the past helps scholars better appreciate the inherent dynamic quality of all cultures and recognize a rich resource of agency that can be used both to comprehend and to transform the present

Author Bio

Neil L. Whitehead is a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and the editor of Ethnohistory. He is the author of Dark Shamans: Kanaimá and the Poetics of Violent Death and coeditor (with Laura Rival) of Beyond the Visible and the Material: Retrospect and Prospect in Amazonian Anthropology.

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