Amazonian Cosmopolitans


Amazonian Cosmopolitans

Navigating a Shamanic Cosmos, Shifting Indigenous Policies, and Other Modern Projects

Suzanne Oakdale
Based on the accounts of Prepori and Sabino Kaiabi

262 pages
6 photographs, 1 map, index


February 2022


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eBook (EPUB)
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February 2022


$60.00 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

February 2022


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About the Book

Amazonian Cosmopolitans focuses on the autobiographical accounts of two Brazilian Indigenous leaders, Prepori and Sabino, Kawaiwete men whose lives spanned the twentieth century, when Amazonia increasingly became the context of large-scale state projects. Both give accounts of how they worked in a range of interethnic enterprises from the 1920s to the 1960s in central Brazil. Prepori, a shaman, also gives an account of his relations with spirit beings that populate the Kawaiwete cosmos as he participated in these projects.

Like other Indigenous Amazonians, Kawaiwete value engagement with outsiders, particularly for leaders and shamanic healers. These social engagements encourage a careful watching and learning of others’ habits, customs, and sometimes languages, what could be called a kind of cosmopolitanism or an attitude of openness, leading to an expansion of the boundaries of community. The historical consciousness presented by these narrators centers on how transformations in social relations were experienced in bodily terms—how their bodies changed as new relationships formed. Amazonian Cosmopolitans offers Indigenous perspectives on twentieth-century Brazilian history as well as a way to reimagine lowland peoples as living within vast networks, bridging wide social and cosmological divides.

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) and coeditor, with Magnus Course, of Fluent Selves: Autobiography, Person, and History in Lowland South America (Nebraska, 2014).


"Suzanne Oakdale has produced a book that is a delight to read and also instructive on many levels, thanks in part to her fluid construction of cosmopolitanism."—John McDowell, Journal of Folklore Research Reviews

“Oakdale weaves a magnificent ethnographic-historical tapestry, blending Kawaiwete elders’ life histories with archivally sourced non-Indigenous accounts and national narratives to illuminate Native influence on and understandings of dramatic events in Brazil’s twentieth-century heartland. Amazonian Cosmopolitans brilliantly links Native peoples and the Amazon to larger global historical processes.”—Laura R. Graham, professor of anthropology at the University of Iowa and president-elect of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America

“The guiding concepts of ‘cosmopolitanism’ and ‘cosmopolitans’ (in their various guises) work very well in redefining the whole perspective on how to understand the lives of Amazonian Indigenous persons during the twentieth century. This is a rare achievement in anthropology as a whole and a highly important contribution to Amazonian studies.”—Carlos Fausto, author of Art Effects: Image, Agency, and Ritual in Amazonia

“The subject is very important because it concerns the survival and adaptation decisions and practices of two Amazonian Indians who became related to the Villas-Bôas brothers and the Xingu Indigenous Park and with frontier businessmen and settlers. They make alliances through the sharing of food, the sharing of work, and the appeal to and intervention of non-human actors accessible through shamanic practices. . . . The wider picture reveals the official, changing policies of the Brazilian government over the last century aimed at incorporating the Indians to Brazilian society and to its distinct myths of origin.”—Edgardo C. Krebs, research associate in the Department of Anthropology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
1. Shamanic Cosmopolitanism
2. The Positivist Cosmopolitanism of the Brazilian Interior
3. Labor and Maturity in the Era of Assimilation
4. Becoming the Brazilian “Indian” during the Era of President Vargas, 1930–1945
5. Working on the “March to the West”
6. The Utopian Cosmopolitanism of the Xingu
7. Nostalgia and Disgust

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