Fluent Selves


Fluent Selves

Autobiography, Person, and History in Lowland South America

Edited by Suzanne Oakdale and Magnus Course

336 pages
4 photographs, 1 illustration, 2 maps, 1 table


November 2014


$75.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2014


$75.00 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

November 2014


$75.00 Add to Cart

About the Book

Fluent Selves examines narrative practices throughout lowland South America focusing on indigenous communities in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru, illuminating the social and cultural processes that make the past as important as the present for these peoples. This collection brings together leading scholars in the fields of anthropology and linguistics to examine the intersection of these narratives of the past with the construction of personhood. The volume’s exploration of autobiographical and biographical accounts raises questions about fieldwork, ethical practices, and cultural boundaries in the study of anthropology.

Rather than relying on a simple opposition between the “Western individual” and the non-Western rest, contributors to Fluent Selves explore the complex interplay of both individualizing as well as relational personhood in these practices. Transcending classic debates over the categorization of “myth” and “history,” the autobiographical and biographical narratives in Fluent Selves illustrate the very medium in which several modes of engaging with the past meet, are reconciled, and reemerge. 

Author Bio

Suzanne Oakdale is an associate professor of anthropology at the University of New Mexico. She is the author of I Foresee My Life: The Ritual Performance of Autobiography in an Amazonian Community (Nebraska, 2005). Magnus Course is a senior lecturer in social anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. He is the author of Becoming Mapuche: Person and Ritual in Indigenous Chile.


"Highly recommended for all scholars of South American peoples, and its use cross-culturally is of equal value."—Norman E. Whitten, Jr., Journal of Anthropological Research

"Fluent Selves is undoubtedly an important landmark in the study of biographical and autobiographical narratives in Amazonia."—Juan Luis Rodriguez, Anthropological Linguistics

“[Fluent Selves] is an astonishingly well-written collection of firsthand accounts of particular Native persons’ experiences with ‘colonialism,’ ‘development,’ and ‘civilizing practices.’ It is a major contribution to several fields: the comparative ethnographic and social historical study of lowland South America, postcolonial studies of self/structural interaction, and the psychological study of Native American trauma passed down through generations.”—Kathleen Fine-Dare, coeditor of Border Crossings: Transnational Americanist Anthropology

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations                                                                                                    



Suzanne Oakdale and Magnus Course

Part 1. Neither Myth nor History

1. “Like the Ancient Ones”: The Intercultural Dynamics of Personal Biography in Amazonian Ecuador                                                                                                  

Casey High

2. “This Happened to Me”: Exemplary Personal Experience Narratives among the Piro (Yine) People of Peruvian Amazonia                                                                       

Peter Gow

3. Memories of the Ucayali: The Asháninka Story Line                                          

Hanne Veber

Part 2. Persons within Persons

4. Multiple Biographies: Shamanism and Personhood among the Marubo of Western Amazonia                                                                                                                  

Pedro de Niemeyer Cesarino

5. The End of Me: The Role of Destiny in Mapuche Narratives of the Person       

Magnus Course

Part 3. Creating Sociality across Divides

6. Relieving Apprehension and Limiting Risk: The Rituals of Extraordinary Communicative Contacts                                                                                          

Ellen B. Basso

7. The Lascivious Life of Gabriel Gentil                                                                  

Oscar Calavia Sáez

Part 4. Hybridity, Dissonance, and Reflection

8. An Indigenous Capitão’s Reflections on a Mid-Twentieth-Century Brazilian “Middle Ground”                                                                                                                     

Suzanne Oakdale

9. Fluid Subjectivity: Reflections on Self and Alternative Futures in the Autobiographical Narrative of Hiparidi Top’tiro, a Xavante Transcultural Leader                             

Laura R. Graham

10. Autobiographies of a Memorable Man and Other Memorable Persons (Southern Amazonia, Brazil)                                                                                                     

Bruna Franchetto



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