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Marc Brightman

Amerindian Leadership in Guianese Amazonia

Submitted for the Degree of PhD

St. Johns College & Department of Social Anthropology University of Cambridge June 2007

Cover photograph: Kapitein Mosesi, dressed in city clothes, distributes industrially produced bread during New Year celebrations in Tpu.

This dissertation is the result of my own work and includes nothing which is the outcome of work done in collaboration except where specifically indicated in the text.

This dissertation does not exceed the maximum length of 80,000 words or 350 pages.



Amerindian Leadership in Guianese Amazonia.

In this thesis I consider leadership, a longstanding concern of political anthropology and political philosophy, in a part of Amazonia traditionally known for minimalist social organisation, and question the assumptions implicit in such characterisations which associate the lack of formal institutions with simple, egalitarian politics. To this end, I demonstrate how political action operates through a series of themes: communication, property, the house, music and collective identity. The thesis is based upon field research principally conducted in two Amerindian villages on either side of the border between Suriname and French Guiana comprising Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo ethnic identities. Although they have a long history of trade with Maroons (descendents of escaped African slaves), the more recent interventions of missionaries, the state and NGOs have led to dramatic material and social changes, especially through the establishment of permanent villages around health and education posts. This has important implications for leadership, which is conventionally constituted by the foundation of a village; leaders are now officially sanctioned by the state, from which they receive a salary. White people, who have founded certain villages, sometimes act as leaders in their own right, either as missionaries or, in one case, as a naturalised Wayana. Comparing data from the different field sites, I consider how Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo represent relations between persons, objects and events, how leadership actively transforms extraneous novelty into social renewal, the importance of personal qualities, such as skills of various kinds and knowledge, the role of kinship, and the ways in which group identity is constituted. The methodological approach engages recent anthropological theories of social networks and hybrids with Lvi-Straussian ideas of hierarchy and classic themes in Lowland South American ethnography such as exchange and alliance and indirect leadership, producing an analysis which directly addresses current anthropological debates on politics, kinship, property, space, material culture, myth and history. At the centre of the argument, on a level which does not take for granted the role of the state or any other institution, this thesis offers a new approach to fundamental political questions about the basis of collective action and the organisation of social groups.


Contents Abstract....................................................................................................................... Lists of maps, tables and illustrations......................................................................... List of acronyms and abbreviations............................................................................ Acknowledgements..................................................................................................... A note on Trio and Wayana orthography................................................................... INTRODUCTION.......................................................................................................... Political geography of Guianese Amazonia............................................................... The Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo.................................................................................. Field sites and historical background of villages........................................................ Fieldwork and its limitations...................................................................................... Themes and research questions.................................................................................. Previous literature on the Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo................................................ Methods...................................................................................................................... Structure of the thesis................................................................................................. CHAPTER 1. COMMUNICATION AND POLITICAL POWER.......................................... Introduction................................................................................................................. Communication in the Guianas.................................................................................. Exchange and trade..................................................................................................... Money......................................................................................................................... Movement................................................................................................................... Hunting and hierarchy................................................................................................ Visiting....................................................................................................................... The politics of air travel.............................................................................................. Gesture, touch and verbal communication................................................................. iii viii x xi xiii 1 5 6 7 10 14 24 27 28 31 31 35 36 41 44 46 49 51 58 iv

Literacy....................................................................................................................... Metaphysical communication..................................................................................... Bible economy............................................................................................................ Feasts and knots.......................................................................................................... Conclusion.................................................................................................................. CHAPTER 2. PROPERTY.............................................................................................. Introduction................................................................................................................. Possession................................................................................................................... Moveable property...................................................................................................... Space........................................................................................................................... Magic and territoriality............................................................................................... Village foundation, names and places........................................................................ Parc amazonien de Guyane........................................................................................ Conclusion..................................................................................................................

65 66 69 71 73 75 75 82 86 89 93 94 99 100

CHAPTER 3. THE HOUSE............................................................................................ 104 Introduction................................................................................................................. 104 Leadership, inequality and the house.......................................................................... 106 Domestic houses......................................................................................................... Ceremonial house....................................................................................................... 110 113

The household............................................................................................................. 123 Consanguinity, affinity and the atom of politics...................................................... 126 Extralocal relations..................................................................................................... Bride-capture, slavery and affinity............................................................................. Marriage with sisters daughter.................................................................................. Gender hierarchy and women as property.................................................................. Conclusion.................................................................................................................. CHAPTER 4. MUSIC, RITUAL AND TRANSFORMATION.......................................... 127 129 133 136 145 155

Introduction................................................................................................................. 155 v

Music and continuity.................................................................................................. Deer bone flute: sacred and profane........................................................................... Tortoiseshell pipes: individual and collective............................................................ Bamboo flutes and hummingbirds: death and fertility............................................... Rattles and shamanism: percussion and harmony...................................................... The music of the other................................................................................................

157 161 166 170 175 179

Types of music............................................................................................................ 160

Power, blowing and song. .......................................................................................... 177 Speech as music.......................................................................................................... 182 Ceremonial dialogue................................................................................................... 184 Music and leadership.................................................................................................. Heterophony............................................................................................................... Conclusion.................................................................................................................. 189 191 193

CHAPTER 5. CONTINUITY AND IDENTITY.................................................................. 195 Introduction................................................................................................................. 195 Continuity and place................................................................................................... 196 A theory of continuity................................................................................................. 197 Substance and filiation................................................................................................ 199 Exchange, exogamy and appellation.......................................................................... Property and inheritance............................................................................................. The Trio as a group.................................................................................................. Contemporary change and a regional pattern............................................................. Sedentarisation of the Akuriyo................................................................................... 201 206 210 215 217 Name and history........................................................................................................ 202 Time............................................................................................................................ 208 Ethnogenesis and alterity............................................................................................ 212 Ethnicity and identity: between trade and negative reciprocity.................................. 216 Interethnic relations and hierarchy as markers of identity.......................................... 220 Alliance and integration.............................................................................................. 223 Succession and ownership of authority...................................................................... 225 vi

Strategic ethnicity....................................................................................................... Conclusion.................................................................................................................. CONCLUSION..............................................................................................................

229 233 236

Symbolic ecology, animism and categories of group................................................. 231

Appendices................................................................................................................. 246 Appendix 1: The Marake: clarinets and bodily techniques........................................ Appendix 2: The domestic house and related structures............................................ Appendix 4: Trio relationship terminology................................................................ Appendix 5: Story of Jaguar and Deer....................................................................... Appendix 6: Story of Aturai....................................................................................... Appendix 7: Land and territory.................................................................................. 246 250 262 265 269 271

Appendix 3: Story of Mulokot.................................................................................... 256

Appendix 8: Additional maps..................................................................................... 277 Bibliography.............................................................................................................. 281


Maps, Tables and Illustrations

Maps Map 1. The Guiana Shield.......................................................................................... Map 2. Suriname......................................................................................................... Map 3. French Guiana................................................................................................ Map 4. Population centres on the Maroni................................................................... Map 5. Tpu................................................................................................................ Map 6. Distribution of households in Tpu............................................................... Map 7. Parc amazonien de Guyane............................................................................ xv xvi xvii xviii 277 278 280

Tables Table 1. Ceremonial dialogue....................................................................................... 186 Table 2. Musical continua............................................................................................. 190

Figures Figure 1. Structure of the basic domestic house........................................................... 109 Figure 2. Plan of Ksis house in Tpu.......................................................................... 112 Figure 3. Plan of the Tukusipan in Tpu....................................................................... 116


Diagrams Diagram 1: Ksis household......................................................................................... 125 Diagram 2: Perpetual marriage with sisters daughter.................................................. 133 Diagram 3: Bilateral cross-cousin marriage (male/ patrilineal perspective)................. 135 Diagram 4: Trio relationship terminology.................................................................... 262

Plates Plate 1: soro plays the ruwe during New Year celebrations....................................... 149 Plate 2: The tukusipan in Tpu...................................................................................... 150 Plate 3: The tukusipan in Antecume Pata..................................................................... 150 Plate 4: Leaders behind the table in the tukusipan........................................................ 151 Plate 5: The maluwana in the tukusipan in Antecume Pata.......................................... 151 Plate 6: The last real maluwana.................................................................................. 152 Plate 7: Various types of flute....................................................................................... 152 Plate 8: Tiwimo, Aranta and Nupi play ruwe and dance.............................................. 153 Plate 9: Men tug at baskets brought to the dance by sons-in-law.............................. 153 Plate 10: Pisife leads the dance..................................................................................... 154 Plate 11: Mosesi addresses the village.......................................................................... 154 Plate 12: Waitakala clarinet orchestra........................................................................... 247


Acronyms and abbreviations


Amazon Conservation Team Amerindian Peoples Association Bestuursopzichter Conservation International Coordenadora de las Organizaciones Indigenas de la Cuenca Amazonica Dutch Reformed Church Door To Life Mission Fdration des Organisations Autochtones de Guyane Fundao Nacional do ndio International Working Group for Indigenous Peoples Mission Aviation Fellowship Medizep/ Medisches Zending Oxford English Dictionary Organisatie van Inheemsen in Suriname Revenu Minimum dInsertion Sranan Tongo (Surinamese Creole) Trio Terra Indgena Unevangelized Fields Mission United Nations High Commission for Human Rights Wayana West Indies Mission

Acknowledgements I am grateful to the ESRC for financing my research, as well as to St. Johns College, the Ling Roth Fund, the Smuts Memorial Fund and the Crowther Beynon fund for various smaller grants. It is difficult to give enough credit and gratitude to everyone who has helped to make it possible for me to write this thesis. Firstly, I must thank those who inspired my initial interest and continued enthusiasm for the anthropology of Lowland South America, Peter Rivire (who since initiating me in the subject has also continued to help me with invaluable advice and rare material on the Trio), and Stephen Hugh-Jones, whose depth of knowledge, thoroughness, and encouragement to think freely, have provided the best kind of guidance. Many fellow students, academics and friends have helped along the way with advice and discussion, both formal and informal: Marilyn Strathern, Sian Lazar, Christine HughJones, James Leach, Piers Vitebsky, Eithne Carlin, Audrey Butt Colson, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, Henry Stobart, Jevan Berrange, Grard Collomb, Jean-Pierre and Bonnie Chaumeil, Damien Davy, members of the Nuclo de Histria Indgena e do Indigenismo of the University of So Paolo (especially Dominique Gallois, Gabriel Barbosa and Denise Grupioni), George and Laura Mentore, Jos Antonio Kelly, German Freire, Morgan Clarke, Casey and Mette High, Olga Ulturgasheva, and others. Thanks also to my college tutor, Mare N Mhaonaigh, for her practical help and support. The kindness of those who offered help to strangers in the field, creating new friendships, deserves special acknowledgement: Gilbert Luitjes of Medisches Zending, for vital introductions and logistical help; Otto Dunker, for flying beyond the call of duty, for vegetables and eclectic tales; Cees and Ineke Koelewijn, for their generous hospitality and their unique insights and anecdotes as embedded actors and foreign observers; Carline Schlter and Edmund Ellensburg for hospitality in Paramaribo; Hillary de Bruin and the staff of Cultuurstudies in Paramaribo for approving and supporting my research; xi

Mme Georges of the Prfecture de Police in Cayenne for helping me to obtain permission to enter the restricted southern area of Guyane; Suraiya Ismail for opening her house to me in Georgetown and for her matchless dhal, and her son Terry for putting us in contact; Gillian Hewitt and Andaiye also for looking after me in Georgetown; Jennifer Wishart and the members of the Amerindian Research Unit for all their help and advice; Adrian Gomes and his family, Ekupa and the people of Erepoimo, the James family and the Foo family for hospitality in the Rupununi. The Tiouka family especially Alexis deserve special thanks for their hospitality and lively conversation in Awala. Many others were kind enough to grant me interviews, including Brigitte Wyngaarde (Lokono chef coutumire, Balat), Jean-Auberic Charles (Kalina chef coutumier, Kourou), Philippe Aquila and Guillaume Kouyouri (editors of Oka Mag), Beverley de Vries and Bruce Hoffman of ACT, and Annette Tjon Sie Fat of CI. I am deeply grateful to all of the people who welcomed me in Tpu and Antecume Pata: to Captains Pikumi, Mosesi and Antecume; to my friends and commensals Nauku, Kosani, Kamenio, Rosina, Marcel, Tiwimo, Manase, Rosi, Mati, Tupi, Tiki, Ercilio and Sintia; and to my friends and neighbours Pirou, Sara, Jan, Aina, Josipa, Thomas, Peti, Nupi, Tupiro, Kulitune, Wakimai, Tapiro, Supipi, Airi, Rime, soro, Pesoro, Sarake, Itap, Deny, Nowa, Api, Mimisiku, Tapinkili, Aiku and Tompouce. Of those in the field who helped gradually to make it feel like a home from home, my warmest thanks go above all to Demas, Ksi, Tumali, Kulitaik, Pakli and the rest of the household, who became my second family. Thank you especially to my first and real family for their support and encouragement: my parents Tony and Betty, my sisters Maddie and Philippa and my brother Ed. And finally, most of all, thanks to Vanessa, to whom this thesis is dedicated.


A note on Trio and Wayana language and orthography Trio and Wayana are both Carib languages, and I use the orthography first introduced by missionaries from the Summer Institute of Linguistics in the 1950s, and adapted by various parties thereafter; my usage corresponds to the most current conventions taught in primary schools. Both languages have a seven vowel system: i e a is a high central vowel pronounced with the tongue high in the mouth and with spread lips. is a mid central vowel and pronounced like a in about, but with spread rather than rounded lips (Carlin 2002). The other vowels are pronounced roughly as /i:/, /u:/, /e/, /o/, /a:/. The principal differences between Trio and Wayana orthography are with the palatal glide phoneme /j/, which is written j in Trio and y in Wayana, and the flap /r/, written r in Trio and l in Wayana (Carlin 2004). A number of proper names have their own conventional spellings independent of these orthographic conventions, e.g. Akuriyo. When it is not clear from context which language is being used, terms in the text are marked T or W to indicate whether they are Trio or Wayana. Except for proper names, non-English words are italicized. u o


Map 1: The Guiana Shield (Collins World Atlas 2002: 147).


Map 2: Suriname, showing locations of principal Amerindian villages and languages (from Carlin & Arends 2002: 36).


Map 3: French Guiana, showing the locations of the officially recognised ethnic groups (from Martres & Larrieu 1993: 7).


Paramaribo St. Laurent du Maroni Maroni Corentyne

Awala -Yalimapo Kourou



Tapanahoni Maripasoula Anapaik Twenke Palumeu Tampok Kayode Antecume Pata



Pidima Litani Marouini

Kwamalasamutu Sipaliwini

Tumuc-Humac Misso


Amerindian villages

Towns and villages

Map 4: Population centres on the Maroni and its major tributaries.



This is a study of political leadership in Amazonia and of how it shapes society through space and time. Although all societies are political, the ethnography of Amazonia, and especially of the Guianas, has sometimes treated the region as an exception to this rule, even in the context of recent theoretical expansions of ideas of the political. Some have portrayed Amazonian societies as harmonious entities in accounts which sometimes confuse indigenous ideals with ordinary life. Others have substituted the language of predation to discuss the political, reflecting indigenous equations between human and non-human others, but often obscuring the other side of the coin: that relationships with nature are locally understood in political terms. There is therefore a need in Amazonianist anthropology to consider the problematic and real, as well as the ideal, in human relations, but in doing so to speak of things as they are; that is to say, to use the language of the political to discuss relationships with alterity, whether human or nonhuman. This should be done not through increasingly refined abstraction, but through the examination of political action: the actions of leaders may be based on particular sets of ideals, but they never express such ideals in the abstract, and ultimately it is only possible to speculate as to what they might be; actions, on the other hand, can be observed. This observation of concrete events and practices can lead to further understanding of historical processes and spatial configurations: leadership acts at the conjunction of individual and society, continuity and change, structure and process, ideal and contingent. Amazonian anthropologys continued interest in such binary oppositions arguably results from their empirical salience in indigenous approaches to the world. But what is of greater significance is how difference is transformed and mediated in order to serve particular ends. In the chapters that follow, I will show that this transformation and mediation of difference is the task of the leader. 1

Beyond Amazonian ethnography, this thesis also addresses omissions in the mainstream political anthropology of recent years.1 The subdiscipline has developed its theoretical tools by focusing on case studies that seem to represent an almost uniform modern condition, because it has explored themes such as power, hegemony, violence, and colonialism through the prism of the modern state or in terms of linear relations between economic centre and periphery. In more recent years, it has reacted against this tendency by emphasizing social and political phenomena that transcend the State, by exploring the concepts of globalization, transnationalism and cosmopolitanism. This has led to often shallow accounts of the political perspectives of those social groups known in international legal discourse as indigenous peoples, who were once political anthropologys main object of study.2 Although such peoples are now all affected by state-related and globalization-related issues, many of them retain political features which are not necessarily characteristic or derivative of these larger contexts; indeed such features often produce distinctive ways of reacting to modern or postmodern phenomena. There is nevertheless an overwhelming tendency for political studies to reduce indigenous peoples to their role in issues of obvious global relevance. Although the recognition of the political aspects of almost every form and expression of human relations is a welcome achievement of recent political anthropology, it has led to a neglect of spheres of overtly political activity those where institutions or quasiinstitutions engage particular individuals in activities which would be easily recognisable according to classical or modernist expectations of political roles. Neither of these are by any means unique innovations of Western history but the overtly political has too often been treated as though it were. This trend has its counterpart in the Rousseauesque tendency in many strains of Amazonian anthropology to treat Amerindian society as though the dirty business of politics, whether in the form of Machiavellian strategies or of inequalities embedded in social organisation, had no place there. This image of harmonious egalitarianism has perhaps had greatest influence in the anthropology of the Guianas. One other problem in political anthropology in general, and in Amazonia in particular,

1 2

For attempts to represent the subdisciplines development, see Vincent 2002; Nugent & Vincent 2004. E.g. Balandier 1972.

is an often unreflective tendency to equate coercion, power and hierarchy. There is an assumption underlying certain critiques of structuralist anthropology that hierarchical relationships between categories imply power relationships between them.3 There is, in turn, a tendency to assume that such power relationships must necessarily be coercive. Such critics would, however, be hard pressed to deny that indigenous classificatory systems do exist and that the distinctions they make between categories are hierarchical in the sense proposed by Dumont.4 Power, in Russells useful sense of the ability to produce intended effects (2004: 23), may be possessed in unequal quantities as a result of such hierarchical differentiations, but hierarchy does not necessarily give rise to inequality in power. It is worth noting that it can also give rise to different orders of power. Meanwhile, these observations should make clear that power need not necessarily be based upon coercion. It is necessary to unpack from the outset these assumptions based on political anthropologys long history of drawing its theoretical apparatus from the study of state power which, it was agreed until relatively recently, is based upon coercion.5 When I speak of power, therefore, I do not presuppose coercion, and I use the word power interchangeably with influence, which fortunately lacks such connotations. Similarly, when I speak of hierarchy I do not imply the existence of power relations. In this thesis I consider the importance of leadership in organising relationships between persons, groups, objects and places among the Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo. I show that an individuals ability to maintain privileged access to or control over these things, constitutes a source of power. This is the power to influence, to organise and to promote the integrity and living well of the collectivity the good life that has been emphasised by more angelic ethnography.6 Such power is based upon networks of relationships of various kinds. This basis could be regarded in cognitive terms: the simultaneous stimulation of many systems of inference causes importance to be
3 4

E.g. Overing & Passes 2000. As Dumont observed, following Parsons, social action is only possible through evaluation, which necessarily involves a rank ordering of elements (Dumont 1980: 19). 5 It is all the more surprising that these assumptions should have remained widespread when re-evaluations of state power as based upon care and control of the body clearly pose a challenge to them from another quarter: they show power and hierarchy in the absence of coercion (e.g. Foucault 1975). 6 See especially Overing and Passes 2000, and for criticism of the surprisingly angelic approach of English (read St. Andrews) Amazonianists see Taylor 1996: 206.

attached to the collective source of stimulation, a phenomenon which has already been used to explain religion (Boyer 2001);7 according to such a view, this attribution of importance gives rise to hierarchical, collective representations which distinguish between different kinds of subject and relationship. But as Durkheim and Mauss (1968) argued, collective representations cannot be reduced to the senses or even to human consciousness, let alone to a vague notion of human nature. On a social, rather than a cognitive, level, it is useful to think in terms of hybridity: for instance, we can observe that shamans association with jaguars, and church elders (as well as certain other individuals) association with the world of White people, makes them social hybrids (Latour 1997). Both draw their power from access to origins (Helms 1998): access to the primordial, extrasocietal realm. This is associated in Amerindian myth with the power of transformation, and the synchronic analogue of transformation is hybridity. Society, though constantly changing, has a perceivable form at any given time, and therefore may be described as being in perpetual disequilibrium (Lvi-Strauss 1991: 316): change may be regarded as being due to the fact that the elements of the whole are in disequilibrium, even when their immediate relationships towards each other appear stable. By the same logic, we can regard disequilibrium and hybridity as the structural conditions of leadership. Indeed, as I show in this thesis, leadership as a form of action thrives on hybridity, and it can be defined as the management of social disequilibrium. By thus regarding contextualised, everyday practices which are focused on making society, I demonstrate that structural and aesthetic ethnographic approaches need not be incompatible.8

7 8

I give quotations from French, Spanish and Portuguese texts in my own translation throughout. There has long been such a need to reconcile structural and hermeneutic methods: it is necessary to integrate the study of how symbols are logically connected with the study of how they are formulated and performed in cultural experience (Feld 1982: 15).

Political geography of Guianese Amazonia The geographer Emmanuel Lzy has called the Guianas9 a continental island and, among the many suggested origins of its name which he lists, it is worth retaining the most widely accepted: land of [many] waters (2000: 10). The Guiana shield is bordered by the Amazon, Negro and Orinoco rivers, and by the Atlantic; the urban centres (Paramaribo, Cayenne, Macap, Belm, Manaus, Ciudad Bolvar, Ciudad Guayana, Georgetown) are to be found at the edge of the region (with the exception of Boa Vista), and the sparse Amerindian populations live in the interior. The population centres are all situated on the coast or riverbanks, and the size of each population is roughly proportional to the volume of water next to it. Control of goods and state political power are consequently concentrated on the physical periphery of the island, the inhabitants of which see the hinterland as both the location of natural resources to be exploited, and as dangerously wild. Legal ownership of land is correspondingly more secure and less disputed in the more populated edges of the island,10 and this view is echoed on the level of national sovereignty: the borders near the coastline between countries are agreed,11 whereas those in the interior are still disputed, viz. the area between the Tapanahoni and the upper Maroni in the case of French Guiana and Suriname, and between the Sipaliwini and the New River in the case of Guyana and Suriname; meanwhile Venezuela claims all of Guyana west of the Essequibo. On this great scale of inter-state relations, and regarding space in these terms defined by zones or boundaries, the political geography of the region is a reversal of that of the Amerindian village. Nature is at the centre of the region, with culture at the periphery.12 However, this apparent reversal of the conventional view only exists from a cartographic perspective; if we look at the political geography of the region more closely from the point of view of coastal dwellers, a more

I use the terms Guianese Amazonia and the Guianas interchangeably. The introduction of the former is intended to express the fact that the region in question is a distinctive part of Amazonia. 10 There are important exceptions such as coastal Kalina and Lokono Amerindian land claims. 11 With the exception of the Venezuela-Guyana dispute see below. 12 In this section the terms centre and periphery are not intended to refer to world systems theory (Wallerstein 1974), although if they were then their sense would of course constitute an inversion of the normal usage.

complex picture emerges. In Paramaribo, for example, coastal French Guiana is often regarded as a beacon of civilisation because of its greater wealth and relative lack of political corruption. Meanwhile political power follows economic lines. The most soughtafter resources are concentrated in the urban centres on the regions periphery (even if, like gold, they are brought there from the interior), and those who control these resources have a monopoly on political power. Things appear quite differently from the point of view of the Amerindian populations, particularly the relatively autonomous groups living in the interior, with whom this thesis is primarily concerned. The Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo live in remote locations, far beyond any roads, accessible by river only from short distances because of the shallow water and numerous dangerous rapids. Their villages are surrounded by forest, which they see as a rich but treacherous resource, and they regard the city, with which they have contact by air, in similar terms. The power of the city, both economic and spiritual, is clear to them, but because of its alterity they do not see themselves as being dominated by it. Instead, as with the forest, they value as a personal quality the ability to interact with and profit from such power, much as they value the skill of a successful hunter. The city and the forest, and the actors associated with them, belong to the realm of affinity, and it is on this basis that all political action with them is undertaken.

The Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo I try as far as possible to avoid giving the impression that the subject of this thesis is the Trio, the Wayana or the Akuriyo, and part of the overall argument is a deconstruction of these categories.13 However, as the Trio and Wayana, and, to a lesser extent, the Akuriyo, have become officially recognised as tribes or ethnic groups by nation states, they have become increasingly real, and the traceability of their historical construction makes them no less significant. Both the Trio and the Wayana are composed of many previously distinct groups which came together through the sedentarisation process, and the Akuriyo are also named after one of several intermarrying groups amalgamated

This is specifically addressed in chapter 5.

through sedentarisation. Those who speak Trio (Tarno ijomi) call themselves Tirio when addressing outsiders, but further layers of identity appear under other circumstances. Bearing in mind these qualifications as to their identity, the Trio comprise about 2,300 people.14 In Suriname, they live on the upper Tapanahoni and the Sipaliwini rivers, and in Brazil they live on the Paru de Oeste and Cuxar, in the Terra Indgena (TI) Parque de Tumucumaque. The Wayana are about 1,600 in number.15 In Suriname and French Guiana, they live on the upper Tapanahoni and on the Maroni and its affluents the Tampok, the Marouini and the Litani. In Brazil, they live on the Paru dEste river in TI Parque de Tumucumaque and TI Rio Paru dEste. The Trio and Wayana alike live primarily from swidden horticulture, their principal crop being bitter manioc, and hunting and fishing. They have a dravidianate relationship terminology (cf. Henley 1996), an important feature of which is the practical emphasis on the distinction between kin and affines from the point of view of ego, rather than from that of a descent group.

Field sites and historical background of villages I carried out most of my fieldwork in one principal and one secondary location: the village of Tpu on the upper Tapanahoni river in Suriname, and the village of Antecume Pata at the confluence of the Litani and Marouini rivers in French Guiana. In addition to this, I gathered information from a variety of other sites: in Guyana, I briefly visited various Wapishana villages in the Rupununi, and the mixed Waiwai and Wapishana village of Erepoimo on the Kuyuwini river. In French Guiana I visited the Kalina village of Awala-Yalimapo, on the coast at the mouth of the Maroni. I also visited Trio who were visiting or living in Paramaribo, Lokono residents of St. Laurent, and Kalina in Kourou,

1,400 in Suriname and 939 in Brazil (http://www.socioambiental.org/pib/epi/tiriyo/tiriyo.shtm); the latter figure includes the Kaxuyana, who continue to identify themselves as distinct despite much intermarriage. 15 400 in Suriname, 800 in French Guiana and 415 in Brazil, (http://www.socioambiental.org/ pib/epi/aparai/aparai.shtm); these figures include the Apalai, with whom the Wayana have intermarried extensively although both groups have maintained distinct identities; this maintenance of ethnic identity despite coresidence and intermarriage is an interesting exception to the rule expounded below in chapter 5, but unfortunately lies beyond the scope of the thesis. The Akuriyo case, which is discussed here, bears superficial resemblances, but belongs to a different order because although they co-reside with the Trio, they scarcely intermarry, a fact which I attribute to the Akuriyos former status as nomadic foragers who lacked knowledge of bitter manioc cultivation.

and I met a Kalina delegate to the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, where I observed debates in the Working Groups on Indigenous Populations and on the Draft Declaration for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. For the sake of brevity, I shall describe here only the villages of Tpu and Antecume Pata, especially the former, where I carried out the majority of my fieldwork. Tpu, like all of the officially recognised Surinamese and Brazilian Trio villages, was created as a mission station. The Protestant evangelical mission Door to Life, which was soon taken over by West Indies Mission (WIM),16 created the first missions among the Trio of Suriname from 1960 following Operation Grasshopper, a military operation to cut airstrips. This was initiated by the government as a step towards the opening up of the interior to economic exploitation, following the missionaries suggestion and their assurance that they would take up the next stage of the process: sedentarising and civilising the Amerindians. The first principal Trio mission station on the Tapanahoni was Palumeu, situated at the mouth of the Palumeu river, a major tributary of the Tapanahoni, and in the late 1960s a faction of Trio who were discontent with life there founded the village of Tpu several hours upstream by motorised canoe. This move was organised by Claude Leavitt of Unevangelised Fields Mission (UFM),17 who was on loan to WIM because of his field skills (Conley 2000: 389), and who is said by some elderly residents to have been the real founder of Tpu. The foundation of the village appears to be linked to Leavitts leadership around the same time of the expeditions to sedentarise the Akuriyo, whose eventual settlement took place in Tpu itself.18 The airstrip was cut in 1971, and a health post was created by the Christian medical mission Medisches Zending (MZ) and run by missionary nurses from the Dutch Reformed Church (DRC). Education was at first also provided by volunteers from the DRC, Cees and Ineke Koelewijn, who continue to visit the village regularly and who were present some of the time while I conducted fieldwork. A state school was later created using funding from the Margreet Kauffman Foundation. Another important actor in the village is the US-based conservation NGO Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), which supports the local

16 17

Now known as World Team. Recently renamed as CrossWorld Foundation. 18 These expeditions and their consequences are described in chapter 5.

apprenticeship of plant medicine and has sponsored cultural mapping projects among the Trio and Wayana in Suriname and in Brazil. There is a certain amount of rivalry between missionary and secular organisations, each of which regards itself as having the most suitable programme for developing the Amerindians; these different programmes and the relationships between them are an important topic of research in their own right, but in this thesis, which focuses on indigenous perspectives, they form part of the everpresent background. Tpu has a population of about 330 people, comprising a slight majority of Trio, many Wayana, and most of the surviving Akuriyo. The population has remained roughly stable since the 1970s except for the period during and immediately after the civil war. President Desi Bouterse violently suppressed the 1986 uprising of the Jungle Commando,19 leading to the war of the interior, which brought fighting even to the remote Sipaliwini district where the Trio live. Government recruiting agents tried to attract Amerindians as soldiers, possibly by force, causing many Trio to flee to Brazil, especially to the Catholic mission station village of Misso on the Paru de Oeste. This led to several marriages, as a result of which, when people began to go back to Tpu after the war, some stayed in Misso and others returned with their local spouses. This migration to Misso followed existing paths people had moved around and across the region for as long as memories and records can attest, and visitors still frequently make the journey (see chapter 1). However, while people travel long distances by river (with outboard motors) and by air, it is more difficult than in the past to travel on foot because there are fewer villages along the way due to the concentration of populations around mission stations. Antecume Pata was founded by Andr Cognat (known in Wayana as Antecume), a Frenchman from near Lyon who was adopted by a Wayana family in the early 1960s after they saved him from drowning in rapids during a solitary expedition up the Maroni. The village is situated on an island among the rapids at the confluence of the Litani and Marouini rivers on the border between Suriname and French Guiana. As well as Wayana from Litani, its inhabitants include families of Wayana and Apalai who fled gold miners and skin hunters on the Jari and Paru dEste river in Brazil during the late 1960s and 70s.

Launched from Maroon villages, led by Ronnie Brunswijk, and backed by the Netherlands and France.

Antecume Pata is located in a protected area under the arrt prfectoral of 1970 which covers the southern section of French Guiana. This gives it legal protection from placer mining,20 missionaries and disease, although the villages proximity to the Surinamese border (which the river itself constitutes) greatly reduces the regulations effect. It is highly significant that this village was not created by missionaries, but by a local leader, and this is a direct result of the presence of the French state. It is also of considerable interest that this leader is a white Frenchman who adopted Wayana culture and married a Wayana woman.21

Fieldwork and its limitations When I embarked upon my field research, I wanted to look for what lay behind and cut across the bold, publicly recognised political entities such as ethnic groups and nation states, as well as to address the theoretical points discussed above. I conceived my project as a study of politics and leadership in the Guianas, using multi-sited fieldwork among different peoples in different countries. In the end I realised this aim more fully than I intended: whereas I originally wished to visit two countries and two groups (Guyana and Suriname), I ended up working principally among three groups (Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo) in two countries (Suriname and French Guiana) but also with peripheral research visits to other groups and countries (Kalina and Lokono in French Guiana, Waiwai and Wapishana in Guyana). Working in such remote and widely dispersed locations posed considerable logistical difficulties. The time spent in different places and the choice of locations themselves were difficult to plan, and resulted in large part from opportunity and chance. I first intended to go to Kwamalasamutu while waiting for permits to work in southern Guyana, but I was advised by Gilbert Luitjes, an MZ nurse with extensive experience of working among the Trio, to go to Tpu instead because it


Goldmining is an important issue with political dimensions beyond the scope of this thesis. For Suriname see Heemskerk (2001) and Veiga (1997); for the Wayana of French Guiana see Meunier (2004: 71ff); for the Amazon region as a whole see Cleary (1990) and MacMillan (1995); for general discussion of extractive industry in Amazonia see Brightman et al. 2007. 21 These points are discussed in chapters 2 and 5.


was not getting its fair share of projects. It was Gilbert who consequently arranged for me to meet Pikumi, one of two Kapiteins of Tpu, in Paramaribo, and to ask for his permission to go the village.22 To go to Tpu without waiting for an indefinite period for space on an existing charter, it is necessary to charter ones own aircraft which weighs heavily on a student budget. While I waited, I spent my time meeting visiting Trio and conservation workers in Paramaribo; the flight was repeatedly postponed for financial reasons,23 and I thus discovered the difficulties Trio people have in leaving the city once they have got there. When I organised my own charter on another occasion, I brought some Trio and Wayana people with me, and the credit that this brought me led to many revelations about the operations of exchange, debt and gossip. In Tpu, the other village leader, Mosesi, at first gave me a cook and a translator.24 Although the former was initially indispensable, my unusual desire to share family meals eventually made her role unnecessary. Meanwhile, the latter, Demas, gradually became my most important informant.25 Demass father, Kulitaik, though the son of a Waipi, was adopted at a young age by Wayana in Antecume Pata, and his wife is a Trio from Tpu. This has led the family to migrate several times between the two villages. As a result of her upbringing and several years of school in Antecume Pata, Demas speaks fluent Wayana and good French, as well as Trio. This was important in an extremely multilingual environment. There were a few Portuguese speakers, but their knowledge of Portuguese was much less extensive than Demas knowledge of French; communication in Dutch or Sranan Tongo with those who knew either language was problematic because the level of knowledge was limited both on my part and on that of my interlocutor. Demass French education also gave her a level of literacy considerably higher than most of her contemporaries in Tpu, which aided the translation of concepts as well as giving


This was a matter of courtesy rather than regulation, for Amerindian villages in Suriname are not protected by official access restrictions, unlike in neighbouring countries. 23 Nowa, a man from Tpu who has a government post as a Trio representative in Paramaribo, was waiting for his long overdue salary. 24 This was how Mosesi presented the transaction, which he gave the appearance of a manifestation of his authority. It was in fact the product of much persuasion and negotiation on his part, but it nevertheless highlights some of the problems with portrayals of egalitarian and individualist Guianese society. 25 My cook was clearly as reluctant in her role as I was to encourage such an incongruous relationship. Demas, in contrast, obviously relished her duties, which shows the different prestige and interest attached to different activities. It is significant that both are female, for Guianese individual autonomy, such as it exists, is in fact to a degree a male privilege (contrary to the claims of Overing and Passes 2000).


her unparalleled skills as a field assistant. I was fortunate to be able to benefit from her abilities: her gender would have been an obstacle to our interaction were it not for the fact that I was accompanied by my partner, Vanessa Grotti. Due to Demas conventional female modesty, for some time I could scarcely communicate directly with her, and had to do so through Vanessa. Even after Demas began to address Vanessa as her elder sister, this placed me in the position of affine to her and her family, and it was only the intimacy of sharing a household and food that led to my also being treated by them as though I were kin. This brought corresponding obligations: my lack of skill in hunting and fishing meant that I had to provide for the family in other ways, by bringing objects and cash. I came to depend on Demas and her family particularly her father, Kulitaik, and her Trio grandfather, Ksi, for food as well as information, and I spent most of my days with them, although as I grew more confident and knowledgeable I gradually became able to interact with people from other households, and went about on visits of my own. A few months after I began my fieldwork, Kulitaik told me of his intention to bring his wife and his unmarried daughters to Antecume Pata, although it was some time before the move was finally organised. His main reason for wanting to go there was that he missed his relatives, and this was especially acute because his sister (by adoption) was quite seriously ill.26 In addition, by returning to Antecume Pata, he hoped to get better schooling for his children. He would also secure French nationality for his next child, and try to obtain French papers for himself, in order to have access to social security and good quality healthcare. Following her fathers suggestion, Demas travelled separately with Vanessa and me via Paramaribo, which gave her, on what was her first visit there, the opportunity to obtain a Surinamese identity card, allowing her access to various Surinamese benefits (she was born in Tpu). This also allowed her to take a scheduled flight to Benzdorp, next to Maripasoula, which helped to reduce the overall cost of migration. These mundane practicalities helped to illuminate some of the themes of my research: the importance and advantages of travel in the contemporary world; the tensions between state benefits and brideservice; mens control over their daughters; the consumerist


She quickly recovered after his arrival, which appeared quite normal: separation from relatives and illness are considered to be closely related.


elation of going to the city for the first time: all these things and many more became apparent through ordinary events as well as through ceremonial activities or the daily round. The way in which I conducted my research brought some disadvantages, however: working with Trio and Wayana made it more difficult to master either language; the extensive travel put strain on budget and personal relationships; relying on local food meant suffering cycles of abundance and scarcity to which my body never became accustomed; I was not tied to any Surinamese or French institutions, and therefore had no infrastructure to support me; even being part of a couple in the field had the disadvantage of encouraging the assumption that we were self sufficient and thus making it seem less natural for us to eat with others, let alone be adopted. But all of these problems were balanced by advantages: although language ability can never be too good, by not focusing on language learning I distinguished my role from that of linguists who had worked in the same villages in the past, and reduced preconceptions about what sort of knowledge I was seeking; I was also able to mitigate the problem by focusing on learning Trio, at which I became reasonably proficient, and which many Wayana, even in Antecume Pata, understand. Working in several sites enabled me to study how kinship, trade and various forms of communication link people across space, state borders and identity groups. Through my reliance on local food I shared substance with local people and reinforced our relationships. Because of my independence from any institutions I avoided inviting prejudice because of any associations that these institutions have for local people. Finally, as a couple we were able to collect more data between us, and we each had indirect access to the social perspectives of the opposite sex. There was one other limitation, which could have no corresponding benefit: the amount of time available. Eighteen months is not long enough to bring a satisfying feeling of having exhausted a subject of research. Having said this, it is also the case that each further revelation and insight brings with it a whole host of further unanswered questions in an unending mise en abme. The artificial limits of circumstances and fields of inquiry must therefore be regarded as framing devices, like the structure of this thesis itself, allowing the expression of meaning through form.


Themes and research questions i) Guianese leadership The Trio word for thumb is jeinja itamu, which literally means leader (or grandfather) of the hand. This illustrates the fact that leadership and hierarchy are implicated in indigenous ways of classifying the world, and shows how they are replicated on different scales, from below that of the individual (as parts of the body) through the nuclear family to the village and, perhaps, beyond.27 Throughout this dissertation, leadership will be shown to be a quality which can be manifested in various ways, but which follows patterns defining the hierarchical nature of social organisation. As mentioned above, this presents a challenge to the conventional view of Guianese society as egalitarian. Various authors have referred to egalitarianism as an ideal or an ethos of Amazonian society (e.g. Overing & Passes 2000: 17), but as I will show, this is not the case.28 Hierarchy and difference are in fact taken for granted by Guianese Amerindians as fundamental aspects of social and cosmological order. However, hierarchical relationships in the Guianas are in many cases not absolute; they shift with time and are perspective and scale dependent. This gives rise to an aggregate impression of overall equality, and it is this serendipitous result of multiple hierarchies and inequalities that has been misinterpreted by previous ethnographers. According to Rivire, a Trio leader is expected to lead by example and to be a competent organiser, a good speaker, generous, and knowledgeable (Rivire 1984: 73). In a political economy of people not of goods, a leader lacks any formal means of control other than his personal influence and competence (op. cit.: 93, 94). The roles of a head


This should not be mistaken for an organic model for society. If anything, the Guianese body is a reflection of society rather than the reverse. For a similar use of scale, see Strathern 2000. 28 Thomas (1982) gives a more nuanced and appropriate definition of Guianese egalitarianism, which he identifies not as an ideal but as the equal access of individuals to resources (op. cit.: 1). However, he also claims that hierarchy is absent only beyond the domestic sphere (op. cit.: 6) (cf. Lorrain 2000, who shows that Kulina men and women have unequal access to resources). My argument will demonstrate that even Thomas claims are inaccurate, despite their relative truth in comparison with many other societies.


of family and leader of a village are identical (Rivire 1969a: 234). His duty, although he can be seen as standing between or mediating the inside and the outside of the community, if anythingis to strengthen the inside which he owns and symbolizes. (op. cit.: 268). As symbol of the community, he is the social incarnation of the network of relations he represents. I would add to Rivires characterisation the complementary observation that the hierarchical relationship between a man and his dependents (wife, daughters, sons-in-law) is one node in a network of such miniature hierarchical formations, composing what may be termed a heterarchy, which is further differentiated by the prominence of some men and their families over others. Despite my broad agreement with Rivires characterisation of leadership, certain aspects of it are in need of revision. His argument is largely based upon a reconstruction of Trio society with the elements and effects of contact with missionaries removed. To acquire a fuller understanding of Trio leadership and Guianese society in general it is necessary to see how they function in relation to contemporary circumstances and to consider this in the light of earlier situations. For example, Rivires distinction between people and goods may benefit from taking into account the ways in which goods may represent or even embody people (Grotti 2007; Van Velthem 2003).29 Sedentarisation has also had important effects on political economy, allowing accumulation of wealth and creating greater needs for other scarce resources - fuel, salt, metal goods, etc. Because of the ways in which these goods are obtained, that is to say, through the control of networks of people, they remain implicated in those networks through their biographies (Hoskins 1998). The point to retain here is that things can take on greater importance as a result of their associations with persons; in this sense, they are better regarded as gifts, although the term restricts them to the field of exchange transactions (things can include houses, for example30). In addition to these considerations, by taking leadership and politics as the central focus of the thesis I am able to address some important wider omissions, issues and debates in the anthropology of Amazonia.


I discuss in chapter 3 whether people rather than goods (or commodities) are the scarce, and therefore important, resource. 30 See chapter 3.


ii) Political anthropology in Lowland South America Because of Amazonian societies supposed egalitarianism, their minimal division of labour and emphasis of kinship ties, Menget has noted that their political dimension has been subsumed under familial and social organisation in the anthropological literature (1993: 60). When it has been addressed directly, this has been mainly through functional or structural models and in terms of individual and social psychology, and even within the terms of these approaches themselves there are questions which remain unresolved, particularly in light of the many variations across Amazonia in space and time that are ever more apparent as ethnographic and archaeological data increase (Descola 1988 passim). The debate over leadership in Amazonia begun by Lvi-Strauss (1944a) remains inconclusive. It has centred on the question of whether Amazonian society is indeed egalitarian and democratic as a rule just as it has since Montaignes essay on cannibals (1969); and if so, whence chiefs derive the little power and authority they do have. Lvi-Strauss tentatively described a mechanism of reciprocity among the Nambikuara whereby the chief provides goods, oratory and mediation of disputes in an exchange with the rest of the group for multiple wives. He identified consent [as] the basic attribute of leadership (Lvi-Strauss 1944a: 29). For Lvi-Strauss, the prestation of women on the part of the group allows the foundation of the State, conceived as a security system: the granting of polygamous privilege to the chief means that the group has exchanged individual elements of security resulting from the monogamous rule for collective security provided by leadership (op. cit.: 30). Clastres (1974) reversed Lvi-Strauss scheme, seeing it as a non-exchange, and turned it into a pan-Amazonian ideology, whereby society prevented the development of coercive authority which for him characterises the foundation of the State. Instead of a relationship of reciprocity, Clastres model proposes a kind of stand-off: through women, society keeps the chiefs power in check. There is no reciprocity for Clastres, because like is not exchanged for like. Lvi-Strausss argument is less idealised and therefore more plausible, but the difference between the models is not greatly significant; what Clastres effectively did was to claim the Nambikuara model as representative of all 16

Amazonia, and with certain Central and Northwestern Amazonian exceptions, he seems to be broadly correct in this respect. There is an important problem with both models, however, in their assumption that the leader and the group are somehow separate entities. Leaders, as I will make clear in the chapters below, are part of the group, linked to it through their actions and through kinship. Meanwhile, the group can only be defined through the actions of its leader, whose role is to create and maintain a sense of collectivity, and because of this there is an important sense in which the leader is the group; according to such a view, the idea of exchange as used by Lvi-Strauss and Clastres would need to be revised. There is a role for exchange, however, but as I will show, the leader primarily exchanges on behalf of the group, and this is one of the ways in which he makes the group itself. In this context, the study of politics, as concerned with the polis or body of citizens (the collectivity), therefore properly takes leadership as its focus. As I will show in chapters 2 and 3, the exchange of women is important in the constitution of the group and the articulation of qualities of leadership, although not in the way proposed by Lvi-Strauss and Clastres. Polygamy is now relatively rare, begging the question: what, then, is the leaders privilege? I argue that the answer to this must be sought in the relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law. Where uxorilocality is the norm, the leaders daughters occupy the structural position of the Nambikuara leaders secondary wives. He benefits from their labour and company as well as those of their husbands. Leadership, at least in the Guianas, is a matter of degree rather than of kind, and the more a man can attract people to remain with him in his house or in his village, the more he benefits from their presence. Lack of formal authority has long been considered common in Lowland South American society, and Clastres chief without power (1974) can be seen as the extreme point of a general trend. In order to understand the political organisation that could operate in the absence of such authority, Lvi-Strauss suggested that more attention should be paid to the concept of natural leadership (1944a: 32). Maybury-Lewis (1967) and especially Kracke (1978) have explored this idea, bringing to the fore the related concepts of prestige and persuasion. Kracke uses de Jouvenals terms, Rex and Dux, referring to the commotive and adjustive functions of the leader (i.e. inspiring co17

operative action and maintaining harmony respectively, op. cit.: 84). According to Maybury-Lewis, among the Shavante self-assertiveness, oratorical skill, athletic prowess and ceremonial expertise are all necessary to obtain prestige; ceremonial expertise is least important, and the other qualities tend to go together, each reinforcing the other (1967: 198). Santos-Granero (1986) has suggested that Maybury-Lewis underestimated the importance of religion,31 and has himself emphasised the importance of knowledge, and the mystical means of reproduction (loc. cit.). It is worth adding that hierarchy and social structure tend to be reflections of religious or cosmological ideals; indeed it is this that makes them acceptable and sustainable (Dumont 1980). However, even in the relatively hierarchical and organised context of Akw-Shavante society Maybury-Lewis found great emphasis placed upon personal ability. It is thus useful to think of leadership throughout Amazonia as a quality, which persons may possess to different degrees, rather than a formal role (Henley 2001: 214). This raises another question: to what extent can this informal, situational type of leadership endure in the face of sometimes radical social change? States have created official leadership roles, and so have missionary churches in the form of church elders. These roles are more robust because of their setting in permanent, sedentarised villages. Does this mean that leaders become crystallised in their positions, and if so does it constitute a fundamental alteration of the nature of leadership? iii) War leaders On this last point, I will argue that it does not, and the logic of my argument will also address what may be the most conspicuous omission in this thesis, viz. that of a detailed discussion of war chiefs.32 Whereas Lvi-Strauss (1943) suggested that war and trade were transformations of each other, recalled in Sahlins balanced and negative reciprocity (1972), Clastres (1997) insisted that war was a basic structure of primitive society, and that exchange merely served to create alliances in order better to succeed in war.

He may have done so because he did not realise how much it was implicated in the rest of social life, and hence in the rest of the chiefly qualities. However, hierarchy and village structure are of much more obvious importance among the Shavante than among the Amuesha, and the corresponding presence of clans and factions inevitably reduces the relative importance of other bases for leadership. 32 For descriptions and discussions of Amazonian war chiefs see Descola 1988: 822; Descola 1993; Dreyfus 1980-1, 1982; Sztutman 2006: 282-9; Verswijver 1992.


Curiously, Clastres does not discuss war in terms of leadership, instead following an abstract approach which allows him to distinguish radically between the internal harmony of the autonomous primitive community with the warfare which he claims is necessary for the survival of its autonomy.33 Clastres misrepresents Lvi-Strauss as characterising warfare as the failure of trade, and (opposing him to Hobbes) accuses him of prioritising the latter as the exchange of all with all. In fact, the relationship between warfare and trade, for Lvi-Strauss, is that they are structurally equivalent alternative potentialities of inter-group relations,34 and the study of leadership suggests that this is a far more accurate portrayal of Amazonian society. I do not address war leadership because I did not witness it in the field35 a fact which in itself undermines Clastres case, all the more so as I show that the essential character of leadership has not changed since sedentarisation. Moreover, I am convinced that an examination of the evidence of Guianese war leadership would show that it is indeed a transformation of peaceful leadership, and that it belongs to the same order. A step in this direction has already been taken by Perrone (2006), who argues that the allied Wayana nations presided over by a great chief witnessed by Patris in the 18th century (Tony 1842, in Perrone op. cit.), can be explained in terms of realisable and alternately realised sociopolitical possibilities (op. cit.: 8). Thus, leadership is equally important in dealing with alterity, whether the groups relationship with it is peaceful or hostile. Contemporary circumstances have not fundamentally changed the nature of leadership because, while the character of alterity may change, its structural position remains the same; the Other may take the form of enemies, forest dwellers or white people from the city.

33 34

Cf. Chagnon 1974. This structural equivalence is clear in the original article: ...war and trade are activities that it is impossible to study separately. Commercial exchanges represent potential wars that have been peacefully resolved, and wars are the result of unfortunate transactions (1943: 136). 35 However, contemporary tensions and occasional skirmishes with placer miners do give rise to some features of war, such as greater and higher-level group solidarity.


iv) Shamanism, nature and society, and natural leadership Shamanism, like leadership, is more of a quality than a role, especially in the Guianas (cf. Campbell 1989), where the two are often brought together in one person.36 In Western philosophy and in Amerindian ontology, it has been said that nature is appropriated through the performance of political processes. Machiavelli observed that a prince must sometimes become like a beast, either cunning like a fox or terrifying like a lion (1994: 76-7). Both of these qualities are attributed to the jaguar in Amazonia, and the shamans special ability to put on a jaguars clothes and see like a jaguar, should be seen as reflecting political as well as magical skill. The distinction between nature and society often made in Amazonian ethnography may well be misleading because of the shifting nature of relationships between actors which means that the difference between humans and non-humans is a matter of perspective (Viveiros de Castro 1998; Descola 2005). If we substitute more subjectively constituted categories of alterity such as non-human or affinal, then these, like nature, are likewise understood as socially inferior,37 yet at the same time as sources of power, and the leaders dealings with outsiders in trade and other negotiations therefore bring him further power and prestige. The expression natural leadership thus has a fortuitous double meaning for the context of my argument: the natural (or affinal) leader may be better characterised as one capable of dealing with the dangers of nature, in order to profit from its benefits on behalf of society. This, therefore, is the place of shamanism in my thesis, and it builds on arguments formulated by Chaumeil (1983: 250) and Descola (1988: 825) that power in Amazonian societies is founded on religion. Religion, or cosmology, classifies the world, and this gives religious specialists great power a power that is based upon knowledge.

36 37

As they are elsewhere in Amazonia; cf. Santos-Granero 1986; Menget 1993: 70. In many Amazonian myths, animals and humans are the same in primordial times, and animals present ontological state is presented as a missed opportunity (S. Hugh-Jones pers. comm.); on the other hand Amerindian myths also frequently represent a missed opportunity to obtain White peoples knowledge and material culture.


v) Knowledge and power If the foundation of authority in Amazonia is the ability to persuade others (Kracke 1978), it is likely that the ability to persuade is founded upon knowledge (Brown 1993: 309). However, from the point of view of the follower, it is hard to say which comes first: knowledge or authority. Does a reputation for possessing knowledge give someone the authority to persuade, or does the ability to persuade prove superior knowledge? In Chaumeils formulation in Voir, Savoir, Pouvoir (1983), sight is the necessary precursor to the knowledge that gives power. He refers to shamanic sight of the spirit world, but I suggest that the principle can apply more generally. He who sees things that others do not, who travels, trades and goes far (Dowdy 1963), also gains power (cf. Helms 1988). Access to esoteric knowledge is the privilege of the leader, as well as a source of his power. Knowledge networks follow the same patterns as networks of goods and people, and for this reason the politics of knowledge can be seen as part of political economy. The power-knowledge equation is closely associated with Foucault,38 but not in the context of pre-modern society, which he assumed (e.g.1975) to be based on the threat of death which bolsters the authority of kingship, whereas modern society for him is based on the States protection of life.39 But a key feature of Amerindian leadership which has frequently puzzled Western authors is that it contains no threat of force, and it can be added that Amerindian leaders act directly for the well-being of their followers.40 Although they do not carry out statistical measurements to achieve this, it has been remarked that they use other forms of control, albeit based on kinship rather than scientific technology. For example, leaders in their speeches frequently emphasise the domestic values that bring people together as kin. But by doing so in a public forum, they extend these kin relations and create a wider sense of community; their action thus serves to expand feelings of kinship and, in perspectivist terms, to maximise the field of

See Fardon (1982) for studies of the relationship between power and knowledge in various forms and settings. With reference to his discussion (p.16), I should note that my use of the word knowledge is not restricted to truth or ideology, and includes such things as knowledge of techniques and persons. 39 See High (2006: 261) for a robust critique of attempts to analyse Amazonian society in terms of tradition and modernity. 40 Cf. Grotti 2007 who illustrates how nurture can be used as an instrument of power.


subjectivity or the number of people who share the same perspective.41 vi) Political economy of people The precarity of Amazonian leaders hold on power has been described as largely due to the fact that the only scarce resources, the control of which is their main role, consist of labour in the form of women: this is only possible in an environment where food resources are not scarce and the basic economic unit is the conjugal pair (Rivire 1983-4). Of course, this logical minimum is rarely reflected in actual practice, because few people are content with mere subsistence. However, its importance lies in the consequent ability of domestic units to break off and live independently. It may seem logical to suggest that, when a more stable form of wealth is present, particularly in the case of land, people become less mobile and therefore leadership roles and hierarchies also become more stable. It is therefore of great interest to ask, what have been the effects of sedentarisation, evangelisation, increases in village size and changes in trading patterns upon Amerindian politics? Have indigenous political factors influenced or guided these changes in distinctive ways? This thesis shows that by considering these questions we can come to conclusions about Amerindian leadership which transcend historical contingency, and that it is not necessary to salvage elements of social life untarnished by Western contact in order to do so; on the contrary, a far more authentic description of Guianese sociality results from grounding the account of it in contemporary reality. vii) Hierarchy Clastres criticised the ethnocentrism of those who thought of political power in terms of hierarchical and authoritarian relations of command and obeisance (1974: 15). But politics is not only about power, and hierarchies are not necessarily stratified power relations. Some forms of hierarchy undoubtedly exist in Amazonia, and have received insufficient scholarly attention (Descola, in Knight & Rival 1992: 13). They include cosmological hierarchies as well as relations between genders, between generations, and

I am grateful to J.A. Kelly (pers. comm.) for suggesting this formulation.


between affines, although they do not necessarily involve coercion. The complexity of political relations can be understood only if it is frozen and divided up into its constituent elements, as Rivire observed, social groupings are only visible if we stop time, but their illusory nature becomes apparent once the clock starts again (Rivire 1984: 99). To develop a sense of how these elements operate together in practice, it is necessary to set the clock in motion once more. This is what I try to do by suggesting a view of contingencies of people, places and objects, systems and events, ideal and accident as networks of history. This should not be taken as implying the absence of form or differentiation. Whereas Clastres argued that it was impossible to imagine society without power (1974: 19), I suggest in addition that it is impossible to imagine society without hierarchy. Amazonian hierarchies differ according to where one stands. As Amerindian society has more contact with government, NGOs and other external bodies, from the point of view of national or international politics its position is increasingly at the bottom of a hierarchical order defined by property and education. Thomas notes that the gradual entrance of Amerindians into the cash economy inevitably leads to such a development: Money, as we know it, is inseparable from a hierarchy of persons measured by it (1982: 241). Indeed, the Amerindians of Guyana are routinely told by representatives of the national government that they are the poorest of the poor. However, from the point of view of the social groups themselves, they may reinterpret events to suit their vision of the cosmos, and place themselves continually at the centre; thus outsiders must by definition be relegated to a lower hierarchical position (cf. Gow 2001). Hierarchical relationships must thus be understood as perspectival and vice versa. Whereas other authors have contrasted strongly hierarchical indigenous representations of the spirit world with the egalitarianism of the real world (Overing 1993), I will show that the separation between these dimensions is far from clear, and esoteric hierarchies of the invisible world may be projections of the concealed social differentiation in ordinary life.


Previous literature on the Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo i) Ethnographic studies Although few studies have been made of the Trio, they were the subject of one of the classic monographs of Amazonianist ethnography, Rivires Marriage among the Trio (1969a). Consequently, part of the interest of this thesis lies in its reappraisal of the facts and observations published by Rivire in this and his subsequent works, notably Individual and Society in Guiana (1984). The thorough study of Trio society in the first of these monographs, and especially its analysis of Trio kinship and marriage, proved a valuable foundation for my research, and the description of the patterns of social formation as constitutive of a regional system in the second monograph inspired my own interpretations of the wider picture of the Guianas, particularly as presented in the final chapter of the thesis. No other systematic ethnographic studies of the Trio of Suriname have since been conducted, but Frikel, a Catholic missionary and ethnographer, published some studies of the Brazilian Trio, among whom he lived for many years (1971; 1973). His work contains much of interest as a meticulous and detailed collection of data, but is somewhat lacking in methodological rigour and analytical sophistication. More recently, the anthropologist Grupioni has carried out ethnographic study among the Brazilian Trio ([n.d.]; 2002; 2005). She focuses on kinship and argues that the Trio give greater importance to filiation than Rivire allowed. Wayana society was studied systematically in French Guiana by the geographer Hurault (1968), who provides a thorough if concise description, although his analysis of the kinship system is marred by its reliance on Africanist terminology. Schoepf has published analyses of Wayana material culture and sociability (1972, 1979, 1998, 1999). The medical doctor and ethnographer Chapuis has conducted two more recent studies of note: the first focuses on the body (1998) and the second is a collection of myths and oral history narratives (Chapuis & Rivire 2003). Both works constitute very valuable and detailed collections of information, although there is unfortunately little accompanying analysis. The second of these works was produced in collaboration with the 24

ethnomusicologist Herv Rivire, who also produced a study of Wayana musical instruments (1994). Among the Brazilian Wayana, Lapointe (1970) conducted a study following a cultural ecology approach, rightly showing the central importance of residence patterns, although he underestimates the importance of political factors in relation to environmental ones in determining residence. Van Velthem has published two detailed monographs (1998, 2003) on material culture which shed important new light upon Wayana relationships with craft objects. Barbosa (2002) has studied exchange and trade giving due attention to contemporary practices and circumstances. Most recently, Boven (2006) has published a monograph focusing on the Wayanas ethnogenesis and their historical self-determination. The only studies of the Akuriyo made by anthropologists have been Kloos (1977a and b) and Jara (1990). Klooss work includes some useful demographic data, but its analysis is based on assumptions about the Akuriyos material adaptations which are difficult to sustain, and he casts surprisingly unscientific moral aspersions upon them based upon hearsay from missionaries involved in the sedentarisation operation: briefly, he claims that their material poverty caused them to lack emotional attachment to each other.42 Jaras work is a piece of salvage ethnography based on accounts collected in the 1980s from elderly informants which contains useful but inevitably patchy information about myth, ritual and kinship. This thesis should be read as a companion to that of my partner (Grotti 2007), as both were written based on data collected simultaneously in the same field sites. In order to produce separate and autonomous pieces of work, each of us chose to focus on distinct topics reflecting our respective interests: her thesis focuses on the body and the importance of nurture in the making of personhood. Despite our separate interests, there is inevitably some overlap between certain aspects of our work because of the holistic nature of social phenomena. The practices contributing to the making of the human body and the social body have political dimensions and leadership is involved with them. But I have chosen not to focus on these things, and where I could have developed them as aspects of my argument I instead refer the reader to Vanessas thesis. The happy result of this is that I have been able to develop more profoundly my own approach and my own

See Grotti 2007 for a fuller discussion of this.


argument, in the knowledge that important aspects that I have not covered have been addressed elsewhere. There is a wider comparative dimension to this thesis, which brings to bear examples from other parts of the Guianas and from elsewhere in Amazonia. There are two existing comparative works on the Guianas: Rivire (1984), a detailed study of processes of social fission and fusion; and Gallois et al. (2005), a collection of articles by Gallois students which emphasises historical contingency and relationships between communities. As well as these, I will make references to other ethnographies of the region and from further afield. The region itself has no fixed borders as regards populations, which frequently cross the physical boundaries of the continental island. I take both physical proximity and thematic relevance as criteria for inclusion, and the choice between them is a matter of emphasis; to take two examples, Overings work (e.g. 1975) on the Piaroa, who sit just within the boundaries of the region, has primarily thematic interest; meanwhile, Howards work (2001) on the Trios western neighbours, the Waiwai, is also connected to the Trio through certain historical events and relationships which it describes. ii) Other textual sources I use a variety of other sources at various points in the thesis, most valuable of which has been Carlins Trio grammar (2004), although unfortunately this was not available until I had completed half of my field research. I refer to a number of travellers accounts and historical texts, but rather than using these to trace a linear history of contact or demography, as other authors have done (e.g. Lapointe 1970; Rivire 1969a), I use the descriptive information in them to illustrate my argument and give it historical depth. In view of the scarcity and inconsistency of data in such texts, this approach seems more appropriate. The writings of explorers such as Schomburgk (1845), Crevaux (1993) and Coudreau (1887a) are worthy of particular mention because of their richness of detail. There are other more recent works of various types which I have used in similar ways: Cognats accounts (1987; Cognat & Massot 1977) of his life among the Wayana are rich personal descriptions of indigenous life full of emotional and personal detail. The missionary accounts of the expeditions to capture the Akuriyo (Yohner 1970a, b, c; 26

Shoen [n.d.], 1971; Schoen & Crocker [n.d.]) are important and fascinating documents of the relationships between the missionaries and the Amerindians as well as of the expeditions themselves.43 Koelewijns collection of Trio myths (1984) and the selected English translation (Koelewijn & Rivire 1987) are invaluable resources, and his transcription of a Trio shamans detailed account of his life history (2003) will continue to provide rich material for further study.

Methods It is well known that methodology in social anthropology tends in practice to be developed on an ad hoc basis, and this piece of research is no exception, as will be clearly apparent from my description of the conditions of fieldwork above. However, from the outset I recognised that the idea of the network should underpin my apprehensions and observations. Conventional social network analysis is aimed at establishing the pattern of linkages among actors given the specific content of relationships (Clyde 1984: 267, original emphasis). The heterarchy which characterises Guianese patterns of leadership and social organisation calls for an approach which examines such patterns while also taking an interest in particular relationships and their content. Seeing potential in the idea of the network,44 Strathern (1996) suggested combining conventional social network analysis with the actor network theory developed by Latour and others, amounting to a more rigorous version of Latours symmetrical anthropology (Latour 1997). With this synthetic methodology, the field of actor network analysis is artificially limited in order better to be apprehended. Participant observation in close association with a particular family provided an initial way of limiting the field, but as later chapters will show, thinking through networks as ways of understanding property and belonging gave rise to many further insights.

43 44

I am grateful to Peter Rivire for giving me access to these and other material on the Akuriyo. A network is an apt image for describing the way one can link or enumerate disparate entities without making assumptions about level or hierarchy (Strathern 1996: 522). Precisely because it does not require assumptions to be made about hierarchy, I have found that this method can reveal types of hierarchy not previously suspected.


I was further persuaded of the aptness of this methodology because I regarded it as analogous to the argument of the Mythologiques, in which Lvi-Strauss introduced the idea of Amerindian culture as a network of transformations, where historical connections are represented across space and time in transformable and transposable manifestations (1964, 1971, 1991). Adapting Lvi-Strausss methodology to a field setting, Gow (2001) argued that, in order to retain the scale of their lives, Piro people in their historical narratives actively expel initiatory agency outwards from themselves (op. cit.: 311). However, Gow does not give a satisfying analysis of the political dimensions of his important observation. If he shows how political concerns motivate the transformation of historical relationships into kinship-expressed hierarchies, he gives little attention to politics as the means of achieving this transformation because his emphasis is on mythic representations. Although Gow would correctly argue that these representations constitute one form of political action in their own right, this thesis is devoted to exploring others; in fact in a sense it turns Gows argument on its head, by showing that political action can also represent mythic structures. Lvi-Strauss showed in the Mythologiques the existence of subjective hierarchies, in which history is mythologised in such a way as to make its narrator share the protagonists point of view. In a similar way, Amerindian leaders use both narrative and kinship to impose a desired polarity on a given set of relations, and the wider ramifications of this can be understood by using the approach to networks suggested by Strathern.

Structure of the thesis The theme of the first chapter is communication, particularly speech and movement, oratory and mediation with outsiders, including trade, these being important forms of action expected of a leader. In this chapter I make the case for the essentially mediatory role of the leader, and it is shown that the role can be played out in different ways. The exploration of the various forms of communication also shows how they create, articulate and perpetuate social difference, and thus demonstrates that the hierarchical relationships


of which leadership is the primary manifestation exist on different scales and planes in society. The movement of persons and objects raises questions about the relationships between them. In chapter 2, I consider these as a form of property relations: relationships between people can be seen in terms of property and belonging, and, following Strathern (1996) I explore how property articulates networks of relationships. I argue that relationships of belonging between persons are more important than those between persons and objects, and that the latter are regarded in terms of the former. These questions are considered in terms of relationships with land, and territoriality and kinship are brought together in a discussion of the importance of village foundation for the establishment of leadership. In the next chapter I focus on housebuilding as analogous to village foundation and as a crystallisation of kin relationships. The foundation of a village begins with the clearing of land and building of a house, but there is a scale distinction to be made between the domestic house and the collectivity of the village. By exploring this distinction, I show that both units are created and maintained following the same logic and through the agency of a leader: a leader proper on the village level, and a household head on the level of the domestic house. This leads to a discussion of political dimensions of kin relations and marriage. In the following chapter I return to the collectivity, to show how the exchange of persons occurs ritually and symbolically on a group level, and I consider the importance of leadership in achieving this. I show that ritual and musical celebration, which are used to manipulate affinal relations, are a way of incorporating outside influence, in the form of persons, things and knowledge, recalling the discussion of communication in the first chapter: with leaders taking the role of protagonists, society is constantly renewed by the repetition of various forms of this process, whether the outside is represented by the worlds of other Amerindians, Maroons, White people, animals or spirits. In the final chapter I bring to bear the conclusions of the previous chapters upon representations of sociopolitical identity. Here I assess the merits of recent arguments in Guianese ethnography about group identity and spatio-temporal organisation, through an analysis juxtaposing life histories, myths and historical sources. I argue that by understanding the importance of leadership in creating groups and group identity in given 29

locations, we can understand the patterns of ethnic identity of the Guianas region as a network of continual change; or rather, a network of transformations, as contingent events are transposed through political agency to fit the conventional structures of imagined social organisation. The thesis concludes with a summary of the argument, a discussion of its wider implications, and reflections on possibilities for future research.



Introduction When I first arrived in Tpu, I was shown to the guest house by a group of mature men, some of whom carried my belongings, and when I entered the surprisingly imposing building, I found a stern-looking man in a dark shirt seated waiting at a desk. This was Mosesi, the village Kapitein. He addressed me seriously and confidently, using a mixture of languages including Sranan Tongo, English, Dutch and Trio, and asked me who I was, whether I was in good health, whether I was a Baptist, what I wanted to do in the village, and what I would give to him in return.45 He told me that he knew Paramaribo and many other cities, and he had been to America. He talked at length, with much repetition, while others waited patiently. His long speech seemed typical of the Amazonian chiefly dialogue I had read about, but one thing that I had not expected was its often bizarre eclecticism. It brought together the evils of tobacco and alcohol with the relative benefits of different Christian churches, the love of languages and the problems of goldmining in the area; subjects which are all connected in this region, but their juxtaposition in the speech seemed to me as random as the passage from one language to another. I later found that Mosesi fluttered from one thing to another as energetically in his daily life as in his speeches, and that his activities were just as studiously eclectic. He travelled constantly, met every person who passed and interrogated them with a directness uncharacteristic of ordinary Trio, as well as hunting, fishing and clearing gardens. Here was an Amerindian leader who more than fulfilled his role as it had been described by Montaigne, Lvi-Strauss and Clastres. While he no longer had to lead his men into battle,


Cf. chapter 4 for a discussion of hard talk.


he still had to expose himself to the greatest dangers by being the first to interact with strangers; but rather than this being to gamble his prestige, it seemed to me that his very prestige depended on this communicative aspect of his role. Moreover I soon learned that the emphasis he placed on communication was not motivated simply by prestige, but rather by an idea of good living and a sense of responsibility to mediate the necessities of good living to local people. This chapter describes everyday forms of communication, whether verbal, physical or metaphysical, and discusses them in terms of their political dimensions. Previous authors have underplayed the importance of many forms of communication (such as movement, travel, the exchange of objects, and music), and confined others to specialized discussion (such as trade and formal dialogue), but I wish to show that the neglect and isolation of these different forms have led to vast and fundamental aspects of social life being overlooked; this may be said not only of the Guiana region and of Amazonia, but also of anthropology as a whole. As a methodology, such an integrated approach to communication has advantages: it exposes the hybridity of persons and objects by demonstrating that their existence and significance depends upon the communicative action of other persons and objects (cf. Latour 1997). On an abstract level, various authors have pointed out the importance of relations as opposed to things (Dumont 1983; Latour 1997; Leach 1966; Lvi-Strauss 1963b; Graeber 2006; Russell 1998), and it is clear that any social unit can be defined as the sum of the relations between its members. Many anthropologists have focused on communication, especially in linguistic anthropology, following Gumpertz and Hymes (1972), but in most cases verbal communication has been privileged over other forms.46 Discourse, in the sense defined by Foucault (1971), has been presented in many recent ethnographies as the major locus of power47 (although this tendency has been less marked in Amazonian ethnography than in other regions). In these discourse-centred studies, the emphasis tends to be upon knowledge usually Western forms of knowledge as power. Such approaches are arguably less in need of emphasis today than linguistic approaches to discourse, focusing on form, as Monod and Erikson have pointed out (2000: 24). In this

46 47

A notable exception is Hendry & Watson 2001. E.g. Escobar 1995; Ferguson 1994.


chapter I consider principally everyday rather than ritual forms of dialogue, leaving ceremonial dialogue and other formal types of discourse (in the linguistic sense) to chapter 4,48 but in my presentation of discourse I try to keep it in its proper social context, avoiding the error of discourse-centred approaches of both types which give disproportionate emphasis to verbal communication. Of the forms of communication that have been neglected by anthropologists, the physical have surely fared the worst due to the pervading emphasis on the spoken word, and almost the only exceptions are specialised studies.49 By physical communication I mean gesture, exchange, dance and travel. Gesture, which in practice accompanies most speech and is arguably at least as expressive and communicative, is rarely mentioned.50 Exchange is exceptional in that it has received a great deal of attention in anthropology since Mauss showed its importance (1990), and has often been discussed in terms of a distinction between gift and commodity (Gregory 1982) which I argue is not helpful in this instance. Dance, like music from which it is difficult to separate is increasingly left to specialists such as ethnomusicologists, or separated from ordinary sociality as performance,51 with the result that often some of the most important areas of social life have even been left out of purportedly holistic ethnographic accounts.52 Travel, too, other than studies of migration related to shifting cultivation, has been either overlooked, mainly due to the tradition of focusing on a single field site, or taken in isolation, with the notable exception of Rivals monograph on Huaorani trekking (2002). It has most often been considered as the means by which trade is conducted, and various authors have written on trade in the Guianas53 but they have failed to integrate it into a more general social analysis, although it is obvious that human relations rely on physical movement over great and small distances.54 More generally, it is worth noting that these different forms of communication often occur together, although they have been treated separately;

This separation of everyday and ceremonial forms corresponds to the scale distinctions discussed in later chapters, especially in chapter 3. 49 E.g. Basso 2000; Erikson 2000; Hendry & Watson 2001. 50 Basso 2000 is a notable exception. 51 Spencer et al (1985) have shown that this is not cross-culturally universal and that dance may therefore better be studied as a form of ritual. 52 Exceptions include S. Hugh-Jones 1979; Spencer (ed.) 1985 and Beaudet 1999; I discuss dance in chapter 4. 53 See below. 54 See Gallois 2005; Helms 1988; Munn 1986; Rival 2002.


for example, exchange has been extensively discussed without reference to the physical movements which allow it to take place. As Rival argues, the Anne Sociologique tradition has long held that movement through space has a social and ritual value in itself quite apart from whatever economicoenvironmental or politico-historical benefits may be derived from it (2002: xx). However, it is very difficult to separate the social and ritual from the political and the historical; indeed it is the Foucauldian tradition of recent decades, which derives so much from structuralism, and in turn from Durkheim and Mauss, that has established this fact across the social sciences. In this chapter, I show how leadership and political networks in the Guianas are underpinned by communication in its everyday forms. What follows may be regarded as an expos of certain dimensions of dwelling, as we explore more aspects of the sociopolitical and physical environment of indigenous Guiana. For as Ingold shows (2000), the house (or dwelling object) is but one aspect of the whole phenomenon of being in an environment. The problem of social continuity and political identity cannot be solved without taking this into consideration; that is to say, without beginning to think of speech, motion, transaction, creativity and the manipulation of the physical world as ways of dwelling. Being-in-the-environment involves first and foremost interactions between the inhabitants of that environment. The Amazonian rainforest is in biological terms perhaps a more living environment that any other (Kricher 1998) nearly all of the risks and benefits of life there depend upon other living creatures. Moreover many of its non-human inhabitants are attributed human-like agency and intentionality by local people (Descola 1996; Viveiros de Castro 1998). The manipulation of the environment and its visible and invisible inhabitants therefore itself constitutes a form of communication between living actors; an obvious example is the mimicry that is widely used as a hunting technique. Communication and dwelling in this environment are inseparable,55 and follow the same rules and modes of interaction as the economy of regional trade, centred upon the relationships of jipawana (T trading partner). A network of communication should therefore be envisaged which cuts across categories of person and object, human and non-human, visible and invisible. Control of these networks lies at the foundation of political power in the region. This observation

This theme will be developed further in chapter 3


solves the problem Clastres posed by asserting that in primitive society the economy is not political (1974: 170): Clastres error lay in equating politics with the State; in Guianese Amazonia, as this chapter will show, the sphere of the political is in fact the sphere of communication.

Communication in the Guianas. Communication, in the general sense of to make common to many, share, impart, divide (OED) is a key part of the good life in the Guianas; it may involve eating or drinking together, or exchange of various kinds, or travelling from place to place. I use this concept instead of the related noun, community, to emphasise the active nature of both to transmit and to make common in practice what is shared and transferred when people communicate is humanity, for the more people are together (Rivire 2000) the more they are human; when there is no communication at all, each is the others enemy. But here it is worth asking what impels this communication, and what motivates people to be together. It is often noted that the Guianese conjugal unit is, ultimately, economically self-sufficient (Lapointe 1971: 63 in Barbosa 2002: 126; Rivire 1984: 11-12). The division of labour between men and women is the only one in traditional Guianese society, with the exception of the role of the shaman. It has been suggested that the only reason for people to live in villages larger than the nuclear family is the need for cooperative labour to cut new gardens (Hurault 1968: 5, Barbosa 2002: 127) but, as Rivire suggests (1984: 25), social factors may be more important. Indeed it can be argued that the role of gardens is to create a need for cooperative labour in the interest of social cohesion, an argument supported by the convivial nature of manioc beer drinking (Schoepf 1999). Rivire (1984) showed that people in the Guianas could be seen as resources with a value determined by their relative scarcity and their tendency to disperse. The security of intermarriage with co-residents, and the political (as well as economic) benefits for a man of having his sons-in-law live with him are factors that correspond more closely to indigenous ideals, which are often expressed in terms of living together, and maximising the number of social relationships. 35

Gallois et al (2005) have interpreted the emphasis that Rivire and Overing both place upon such ideals as presenting Guianese societies as atomised and closed, but in fact what they show is precisely the main reason for Guianese societies need, and sometimes even enthusiasm, for communication between localities. There is merely an appearance of atomism derived from the necessity of transforming outsiders into fully sociable human beings. As some contributors to Gallois volume argue (Barbosa; Sztutman in op. cit.), and as this and later chapters will confirm, there are many forms of regional communication, and the most important communicative institution is the amphitryonic feast. Relationships between individuals are not primarily motivated by economics, despite the importance of trade, and even allowing for a political economy of people, which has more value as an external model than as a representation of indigenous intentionality. The nuclear family may be the atom of economic self-sufficiency, but it represents a logical minimum unit of subsistence, and certainly not an ideal social world. Feeding close kin is given priority, but the good life is symbolised by the multifarious social effervescence of ritual feasts, which maximise sociability and in which leadership plays a fundamental role. However, there has been a tendency in the ethnographic literature to discuss trade and external relations and convivial, local sociability separately, and this needs to be addressed, for the true importance of both lies in the relationships between the two.

Exchange and trade Trio and Wayana men often travel great distances, as I discuss below, but the ethnographic literature has most frequently addressed travel in the form of trade. Several authors have described the trading networks that extended across Amazonia in previous centuries,56 but as Hugh-Jones (1992) has noted, few of them have given due prominence to the fact that the goods travelling along these networks have included manufactured


Butt Colson 1973, 1985; Dreyfus 1982, 1992; Mansutti 1986; Thomas 1972; Whitehead 1988.


items, especially those of metal, since the earliest days of colonization.57 Trade and the exchange of knowledge follow the same routes (Butt Colson 1985), and the close practical association between trade and knowledge has important implications: most of all, it ensures that whenever trade is specialised, its practitioners are attributed special powers, either as a result or as a prerequisite of their activities. I argue that they are both, and that this is true on a regional level. The existing literature on trade has given little attention to its underlying motivations, but these are important. It is not simply driven by the desire to obtain objects coveted for their own sake, but more for the social relations which they represent;58 this makes it a political activity, for by cultivating social networks individuals can increase their influence; meanwhile, and no less importantly, they thus maximise their sphere of familiarity and conviviality, which promotes their well-being and that of their kin. The Trio and Wayana see a direct link between trade, leadership and ritual specialization: leaders access to trade and to means of transport and communication complements and consolidates their role as leaders, and the same can be said of both shamans and church elders.59 Only a few individuals are able to travel to trade, because of the risk associated with people and places distant from ones kin and place of residence. The wild, asocial environment outside the familiar world of the village is associated with hostile peoples, disease and dangerous animals and spirits. Yet certain resources, in the form of people, goods and knowledge, can only be brought from this perilous outside world. The Trio and Wayana thus rely on individuals strong and skilful enough to travel in order to obtain them. These individuals are also those who receive travellers from other places, and such travellers form special relationships with their trading partners, whom they call in Trio jipawana. This relationship is characterised by delayed reciprocity, although it may also involve a


The things which the Indians desire from us by way of trade in exchange for the above named commodities, (whereby we hold society and commerce with them) are Axes, Hatchets, Bil-hookes. Kniues, all kinde of Edge tooles, Nailes, great Fishhookes, Harping-irons [harpoon/grappling iron], Iewes Trumps [Jews harp], looking-glasses, blew, and White Beades, Christall Beades, Hats, Pinnes, Needles, Salt, Shirts, Bands, linnen and wollen Cloathes, Swords, Muskets, Calliuers [light muskets], Powder, and Shot (Harcourt 1928: 105-6). 58 Cf. Chagnon 1968, who notes how Yanomamo sometimes suppress their knowledge of a product such as pottery, preferring to obtain it by trade. 59 As I will discuss below, all three roles frequently overlap.


certain amount of chicanery, e.g. passing off poor hunting dogs as good ones (P. Rivire pers. comm.). Santos-Granero (2007) has recently discussed jipawana and similar relationships as types of friendship, which he argues Amerindians seek as an alternative to relationships of kinship and affinity. He highlights the attraction of trust and security which they represent, but although he correctly sees their importance as enlarging an individuals sphere of safe relations (2007: 15), and that they may have played a key role in the establishment of ancient Amerindian macropolitics (loc. cit.), he does not discuss leadership and understates the full political implications, which I suspect the term friendship may be too weak to convey. The -ipawana relationship is of great importance today, but it was most clearly expressed in the trade relationships with Maroons.60 These were more important than other Amerindian trading partners for two significant reasons: firstly, because they were of greater economic importance, since they had a monopoly on metal and other manufactured goods before the arrival of missionaries, and secondly, because they constitute a pure form of trade relations since marriage between Amerindian and Maroon was considered impossible,61 relations with them being artificially facilitated through fictional, processual kinship rather than by ordinary affinal mediation. This was not because the Maroons were not considered human; a myth told to me by Ksi62 describes how a Maroon spirit was saved by a Trio who pierced a hole in his bottom to give him an anus, thus making him into a tube, and so able to process food like a human,63 and commensality is a marked feature of Trio-Maroon relations.64 Another myth emphasises the ambiguous nature of Maroons, and raises the complex question of substitution.65 Here, a Trio woman called Matukuwara initiates trade relations with some Maroons while the Trio men hide in the forest. She and a Maroon drink some


The Maroons themselves travelled to trade with numerous Amerindian groups, going at least as far as the Paru de Leste in Brazil to do so (Barbosa 2002: 217). Trade with the Maroons diminished considerably during the course of the 20th century, with the arrival of Brazilian traders looking for rubber, brazil nuts, animal skins and gold, and later of government agencies, south of the Tumucumaque, and of missionaries on the northern side. However the Wayana of the Lawa and Litani have never stopped trading with the Maroons, although the latter have lost their monopoly on industrial goods. 61 There have been exceptions to this, one of which is discussed in chapter 2. 62 There is also a version of this myth in Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 265-6. 63 See chapter 4 for further discussion of tubes. 64 Cf. Brightman 2007a for discussion of different non-Amerindian trade partners. 65 Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 267-70.


of each others blood to share substance and become allies. The Maroons are very demanding, and want Trio children in exchange for trade goods. The Trio give them children at first, but finally refuse, saying children are not like things, they are not trade goods. Lets just trade goods, because they are not irreplaceable. Because the alliance with the Maroons is initiated by a woman in this case, sister exchange and intermarriage cannot take place. This device thus expresses the fact that exchange of people for people does not occur between Trio and Maroon; meanwhile, the refusal to exchange people for things marks a division between trade and intermarriage, and between human and nonhuman, which has been observed in many parts of Amazonia (Descola 2001).66 However, a caveat should be added to this formula, that it depends on a perspectivally variable definition of humanity. Matukuwara refuses to exchange her own children because they are her kin and therefore from her point of view they are human. This allows us to understand how an exchange of slaves could take place in various parts of the Guiana region in the past (Whitehead 1988: 57): at the moment of exchange they were not regarded by either of the exchanging parties as kin, but they were classified as sons-in-law and this allowed them to be integrated into the kinship system.67 Despite the perils of travel, when relations were established between trading partners they seem to have lacked the ambiguity characterising relations between affines.68 My adopted grandfather Ksi spoke with affection about his Mekoro trading partner, and compared his relationship with him to his relationship with me: like me, the Mekoro would come to stay in his house, where he was fed and looked after, but this never led to any suggestion of marriage alliance. These friendly relations between trading partners have been noted among the Piaroa by both Mansutti (1986) and Overing; the latter shows that to be a kinsman (chuwaruwang) is to be a friend, and that trading partners are classified as kin rather than as affines (1975: 71). Viveiros de Castro has referred to categories such as this which transcend the distinctions between kinship and affinity as the terceiro incluido, having the quality of thirdness (1992, 2002; cf. Rivire 1993).


Although Hugh-Jones has suggested that in some Amazonian cases persons are in fact exchanged for things (n.d.). 67 See chapter 3 for discussion of pito, sons-in-law, subordination and soceral authority. 68 These affinal relations, characterised by varying levels of mistrust and avoidance, will reappear frequently in later chapters.


This fictional kinship, however, remains a strategy for minimising risk. It is the denial of affinity to facilitate relationships, but remains conducted in the language of consanguinity and affinity. It has been argued that trade of European goods led to the evolution of new aboriginal economic institutions (Gasson 2000), but it seems more likely that European goods were simply absorbed into existing institutions and trade networks, leading to quantitative rather than qualitative changes. It is difficult to imagine that the same principle of trade specialisation described above did not apply to craft goods (gold, green stone pendants, etc.) in pre-contact times (Whitehead 1988; S. Hugh-Jones, pers. comm.; cf. Helms 1993); indeed, many of the products traded by the Piaroa and the Waiwai even in relatively recent years were indigenous artefacts or forest products which were peculiar to certain geographical locations or ethnic groups (Fock 1963, Mansutti 1986), and today certain forest products such as Brazil nuts are still sent between villages because they can only be found in certain areas. Changes in trading practices have increased in pace over the last five decades. Such was the trading power of the missionaries, that not only did the abundance of goods at their stations attract people to settle there, but Apalai and Wayana from the Paru de Leste travelling on the other side of the Tumucumaque watershed in 1970 showed a strong preference for visiting the villages on the Tapanahoni and Palumeu rivers rather than those on the Maroni and Litani, because of the presence of West Indies missions in the former (Schoepf 1972: 55, in Barbosa 2002: 220). Control of White goods69 is now a pervasive feature of leadership throughout Amazonia (cf. Freire 2002), and the introduction of air travel has increased its intensity enormously but it is clear that the relationship between trade and leadership is not a recent development. Trade goods and the knowledge obtained from trading partners reinforce the prestige of the few individuals who can obtain them. Today it is arguably no longer only personal charisma and skill that is required, but also greater access to urban contacts and to sources of cash; although this remains partly a matter of skill, I will show that it is affected by a variety of


These even include White goods in the sense current in consumerist jargon: refrigerators in particular are now used by some Amerindians to allow the storage and sometimes long-distance transport and trade of game and fish.


heterogeneous elements, including personal history, personal charisma, kin relations and sheer luck. Such specialism is somewhat mitigated by the fact that it is now possible for relatives to remain in contact with each other over long distances by radio and letter. People who go to live in the city are able to trade forest products and traditional artefacts, and to use the cash raised to purchase manufactured goods, which they send back to their relatives. Although a certain level of education and the correct social contacts are necessary to live in the city, this activity is open to more people than was that of the specialized regional trader; also, significantly, it constitutes a new form of activity in that these individuals act on behalf of their close kin at a long distance, often over a long term period something that only new forms of communication (radio and air travel) permit. One important element, which can be regarded as a form of communication in its own right, and which makes visits to the city both possible and more attractive, is money.

Money Guiana Caribs have been aware of the existence and use of money since the earliest days of colonisation, even if the cash economy took a far longer time to penetrate to the interior than that of trade objects. Harcourt was given ornaments by Carib (probably Kalina) Indians, one of which is a moon (presumably crescent) shape, which he estimated were made from gold and copper in a ratio of one to two; All which things they assured mee were made in the high Countrey of Guiana, which they said did abound with Images of Gold, by them called Carrecoory (Harcourt 1928: 108). Although there is a hint of the myth of El Dorado in this account, karakuri is the word that the Trio use today for money, the source of which remains to them mysterious and quintessentially White. Here a European claims that karakuri/carrecoory comes from the Indian interior of the Guianas, showing that both European and Amerindian situate the object of value in the territory of the Other; in the case of the Guianese Amerindian this can be seen as a manifestation of a general principle of social life, according to which perspective defines all, as later chapters will show. This also underlines that objects of trade are seen as potent, even when they may appear to be mere tokens with no inherent practical use. 41

Money has now established itself in Tpu and Antecume Pata as a token of exchange, even between coresidents. However, it is generally used only to purchase industrially produced goods originally introduced from the coast: petrol, tinned or dried foods, metal goods, etc. It is almost never used within the village to purchase meat, and never to purchase garden products. Money regularly changes hands for the sale and purchase of manufactured goods, by and from chinesi (shopkeepers), but indirect exchange and delayed reciprocity are the norm: the fewer and more distant the ties of kinship between individuals, the more likely it is that money will be used to allow immediate reciprocity. Conversely, closer kin practise more delayed reciprocity and, in the intimate social relations of a household, sharing is the prevailing mode. The differentiation of exchange relationships according to social distance can be clearly seen in the contemporary villages in which there are frequent interactions between people who are genealogically only distantly related if at all. Wayana traders on the Paru de Leste operating a barter system to allow local people to exchange craftworks for industrially manufactured goods (a cash equivalent value being given to each item) vary their profit margin in each exchange according to their social relationship to the other party (Barbosa 2002: 88). According to circumstances, the same items, even industrially produced goods, may be given as gifts, sold for money, exchanged for other industrially produced goods, or exchanged for craftworks (op. cit.: 111). In Antecume Pata, the main reason for the large amount of cash circulating is the Revenu Minimum dInsertion (RMI),70 but there are also a few paid posts in the school and clinic, and some men earn money by occasional paid work. In Tpu, there are also some regular paid posts, but there are fewer opportunities for occasional work. Paid jobs tend to be distributed along family lines, and certain families71 have therefore monopolised access to cash. In almost all cases, these are the families of village leaders and ritual specialists (shamans or church elders). Entrepreneurs72 in Tpu have in all cases begun with some kind of paid post such as schoolteaching, which has provided them with

A monthly benefit available to French citizens aged 25 and above, on condition that they are not students and that they are registered as unemployed. 71 By families I mean a loosely defined cluster of kin, who tend to reside in the same part of the village (see chapter 3). 72 Individuals who buy goods from the coast to sell in the village, and obtain quantities of game to sell on the coast.


initial capital and some knowledge of city life. All of this amounts to a clear pattern of emerging economic inequality, whereby those who have closest ties to the families of village leaders and ritual specialists, especially church elders, have increasing access to cash and industrially produced goods, at a rate much faster than their less well-connected co-residents; this is complicated by the RMI in French Guiana, which has led to a rush to obtain French citizenship, to obtain which it is necessary to have good relations with those in charge of administration and local records. In the past the possibility of social fission and relocation restrained economic inequality and the acquisition of wealth in the long term, because a village leader, who had greatest access to resources, was obliged to give them away to maintain the loyalty of his coresidents. Although this Clastrean generosity can still be seen in some of todays leaders, the relative permanence of village location has changed the balance between social fission and the circulation of goods, ensuring that money and material wealth can be accumulated. Money plays an important role in this change of balance because it can be used in transactions between fairly distant affines (who now live in the same village), thanks to its ease of transaction and its association with instant reciprocity. However, the changes that the use of money has brought about, while they may be radical in material terms, do not constitute fundamental qualitative alterations of Trio or Wayana society. The same patterns and structures, and the same motivations and relationships, persist;73 it is not appropriate in this context to draw a sharp distinction between short-term exchanges for the fulfilment of immediate needs (in which money is used) and long-term exchanges involved in reproducing the social and cosmic order (Parry & Bloch 1989); different forms of exchange are instead intricately bound up with each other, and trade is but one sphere in which sociopolitical relations are enacted and manifested. Indeed money today performs a facilitating role in social relations mediated through exchange, much as Holbraad has argued: the multiplicity of money renders it supremely suited as a medium of exchange, where medium' is understood as a synonym of environment as well as object (2005: 232). However, it seems to me that a more apt characterisation of medium than object or environment would be as a communication facilitator, and this would certainly describe the role of money. In this respect it is subordinate to the

Cf. Gordon 2006.


greatest and most concrete facilitator of communication, which is physical movement.

Movement Although trade clearly involves movement from one place to another, it is useful to consider the importance of movement itself. Physical movement has primarily been discussed by previous authors in terms of migration, and as Rival points out, discussions of mobility in Amazonia are few, and these tend to focus on the Indian populations of central Brazil (2002: 15). However, the studies of mobility that do exist identify a number of themes relevant to Guianese ethnography, notably those of kinship and politics. Turner (1979a, in Rival op. cit.) shows that the soceral relationship (DH-WF) and uxorilocal postmarital residence play a key role in influencing migrations among the Kayap. Although in their case this is largely played out in terms of conflict between lineages and the establishment of authority over sons-in-law, the basic observation of a link between seasonal movement and uxorilocal residence resonates clearly with the Guianese case. The way in which it does so is partly anticipated by Verswijver (1992, in Rival loc. cit.), who emphasises the part played by migration in the Kayap male life cycle: young, unmarried men are the most mobile for ceremonial purposes as well as those of hunting and warfare, and along with Bamberger (1979, in Rival loc. cit.) shows the connection between high mobility and factional disputes. Rival herself presents Huaorani trekking as a way of life and the fundamental axis articulating time, space and social organization (op. cit.: 188).74 Although they are manifested in different ways, the same correlations clearly apply to mobility in the Guianas. Rivire (1984) showed the importance of movement in the form of relocation as an articulation of factional disputes, but the intricacies of the relationship between the male life cycle, uxorilocal residence and mobility have received less attention, perhaps surprisingly considering the large number of studies of marriage in the region (especially Rivire 1969a; this subject is implicitly covered in Rivire 1984). This gap in the Guianese literature, between politics (factionalisation and fission) and marriage (social aggregation and continuity) may well

As such, Huaorani trekking is a mode of dwelling (Ingold: 2000) see above; cf. below chapter 3.


account for the recent readings of the classic accounts of Guianese society which accuse them (unfairly) of atomism (especially Gallois et al. 2005).75 In fact, Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo men frequently travel and their movements are clearly influenced by age and marital status as well as by season. As among the Kayap, unmarried men travel the most widely and frequently. Trio and Wayana largely travel by canoe and by air, and their visits are said to be motivated by a desire for new experiences, as well as to trade or to search for a wife. The Akuriyo, on the other hand, being unable to travel by canoe and by air,76 tend to trek through the forest, for its own sake as well as to hunt and gather. In their case too, unmarried men spend the most time trekking. After marriage, movement is reduced by the pressure to carry out tasks for a father-in-law, and the new responsibilities of married life make indulgence of curiosity and in the pleasure of travel more difficult, as well as obviating the search for a wife. After marriage, particularly when a man and his wife originate in different villages, a new pattern of movement emerges which is linked to the tension between the duties of brideservice and the desire for autonomy. Married men travel whenever possible back to their villages of origin, bringing all or part of their family if possible, for several months at a time. Eventually, they may relocate fully to this second home, perhaps leaving behind any married children of their own; this was the case of my host family, when Kulitaik brought his wife and unmarried daughters from Tpu, his father-in-laws village, back to Antecume Pata. Movement in its various forms has political implications, both because of the ways in which it is available to certain people and not to others, and because of its importance as a foundation of leadership. To illustrate this and explore some of its finer nuances, I now present mobility in its various forms and discuss its significance on different scales and levels.

75 76

See chapter 5 for thorough discussion of these issues. For the reasons for this, see below.


Hunting and hierarchy Walking in the forest, whether for hunting or gathering, is a skill in itself, and the ability to walk quietly and discreetly, but quickly, is a key attribute of the successful hunter. Walking in the village and between villages, except for mundane practical purposes, also takes place for the purpose of visiting. Both have political importance: the former, because any skill can contribute to individual prestige although as I will show, the prestige value of hunting has diminished in recent years; and the latter, because of the political value of cultivating wide-ranging social relations. The ways in which different people walk are telling. Apart from differences which express the characters of particular individuals, the most proud, confident and noisy walkers tend to be Wayana, whereas the Trio tend to be quieter and more discreet in gait (cf. Rivire 2000); the Akuriyo move so quietly as to be scarcely noticeable.77 Outsiders are clumsy and noisy walkers by Amerindian standards, whether they be Maroon or White. Kalina also tend to be noisier and more confident in their movements, although not to the same extent as Whites or Maroons. These ethnic distinctions are appropriate, as I discuss in chapter 5, because they are made locally, but also because they are sharply observable. Individuals also mimic people from other groups: a Trio, for example, walks in a cringing, self-effacing way to parody the Akuriyo. The Akuriyo do indeed move in a very distinctive way, gliding along with bent elbows and knees, loose wrists, their shoulders hunched up, as though trying to avoid being noticed. I suspect this is as much a reflection of their relationship to the other groups in the village as a result of practiced venatorial stealth.78 As well as to hunt or to gather forest products, people frequently go to walk in the forest simply in order to see; like the Huaorani, they simply walk, observing with evident pleasure and interest animal movements, the progress of fruit maturation, or vegetable growth (Rival 2002: 1). The skill, knowledge, sensitivity and physical fitness required

I was occasionally surprised to find an Akuriyo man had appeared out of nowhere and was sitting beside me. 78 The Akuriyos silence is part of their ambiguous ontological nature; it is a quality of a warrior as well as one of a hunter.


for orientation and safe, efficient movement through the forest, especially on a hunting expedition, are only possessed by men in their prime and by some of them more than by others, and so these qualities contribute to differentiating individual prestige.79 In Tpu, Akuriyo men are outstandingly able hunters. There are two main reasons for this: their origins as forest people, and their relationship with the Trio and Wayana. Unlike contemporary Trio or Wayana, the Akuriyo were brought up by forest people, primarily forest trekkers rather than forest cultivators, who were more foragers than gardeners (Rival 2002: xiv; Freire 2002: 1); the Akuriyo adult males in the village today were either small children when they were brought to the village, or else they were born in the village, but their parents generation grew up as forest nomads, relying exclusively on forest products;80 crucially, they lacked manioc cultivation, a fact of great social importance for reasons which I will develop below and in later chapters. Despite growing up in Tpu, the Akuriyo have not learned to build canoes (see below), and one may speculate as to whether the Trio may have deliberately avoided teaching them to do so, since they have gone out of their way to teach them to do other things such as managing gardens or making bread and beer. It is said that Akuriyo are afraid of the large rivers and cannot swim; those over the age of about 30 rarely go to the river even to wash, preferring to use small creeks. The Akuriyo, having no kinship ties to powerful or influential men, have limited access to cash and goods, which means that they have no access to other modes of transport. Not only do they not make canoes, but their lack of canoes is perpetuated by the fact that brideservice does not appear to operate when a Trio or Wayana marries an Akuriyo woman, so an Akuriyo is not able to influence his son-inlaw to make him a canoe, as is the custom among Trio and Wayana.81 Ownership of canoes is important: making a canoe involves considerable work, and collective labour. In order to possess a canoe, an individual must have a certain amount of social influence, and in this respect the Akuriyos lack of canoes highlights an important

Although women also gather forest and river products, there is possibly less prestige attached to their abilities to do so (cf. Collier & Rosaldo 1991). 80 In the light of research in historical ecology it would be useful to investigate how wild this food is; Huaorani practice has caused Rival to question the boundary between wild plant foods and cultivated crops or between gathering and cultivating (2002: 2). 81 I am aware of characterising the Akuriyo in negative terms, but unfortunately this is coherent with the way in which they characterise themselves, because their relationship with the Trio plays such a dominant part in their lives.


characteristic of their position in the village. In order to muster enough labour to make a canoe, a man must be able to host a drinking party. This necessitates a productive garden, and sufficient female labour to process the manioc into beer;82 Akuriyo are poor gardeners, possess little female labour, and are dependent on Trio households for cooking and food processing facilities, making it impossible for them to host such parties. Every canoe, whether traded or given, may therefore be seen as representing a converging web of social relations, a node in the network of reciprocity that binds individuals together, in a coalescence of marital ties, trade relations, affinal exchange and, in the case of the Akuriyo, master-servant relations. Even when it is obtained by purchase it represents the continuing trade links that have maintained peace with the Maroons for many years. It is now barely possible to hunt with success in the immediate environs of the village. Although Akuriyo men hunt on foot, they often go several days walk away to find game, or their favourite luxury, honey, and if Trio and Wayana hunters did likewise, there would be little game to share between them. Hunting expeditions usually take the following form: a man who owns an outboard motor and who has bought some fuel brings several other men and some dogs with him up- or down-river. On the way he may drop people off at their gardens or to fish. Then he drops smaller hunting parties of two or three people at different locations, and they go their separate ways. If possible, an Akuriyo is brought as a member of at least one of the parties. At the end of the day, the game is divided up following various lines of obligation defined at once by participation in the hunt, kin ties, and previous prestations; game animals killed by the Akuriyo on such an expedition tend to be divided up by the leader of the expedition. For the present purposes, the important factor is the set of obligations created by the owner of the outboard motor his passengers owe him something for the privilege of travelling with him. Again this shows why the ability to go far, and to take other people far, is a vitally important quality for obtaining and maintaining prestige.83 Walking is therefore the only way for Akuriyo men to get sufficiently far from the village to find game independently; even then, they try to return as surreptitiously as

82 83

See chapter 3 for discussion of collective labour. Cf. the importance given by the Waiwai to going far, shown to underlie part of the prestige value of mission expeditions (Howard 2001; Dowdy 1963).


possible, and often creep into the village in the middle of the night to try to escape the demands made on them by Trio. Such demands are justified by the latter on the basis of prestations such as passage in their motorised canoes to go on group hunting expeditions as described above, which constitute the only other means for Akuriyo to reach good hunting ground. The Akuriyos confinement to walking as their sole independent form of mobility means that they must profit from it as well as possible. Such prestige as their skill brings them (cf. Helms 1993), is mitigated by the fact that they are specialised hunters by default, and it is only by default that the forest remains their privileged domain.84 This situation exposes the hierarchical relationship of certain activities in contemporary Tpu: walking is inferior to other modes of transport (motors, aeroplanes) or forms of knowledge (how to make canoes). Hunting, once an important index of prestige, has reduced in importance because there are other resources which can only be accessed through these socially exclusive means. But this partial division of labour is not just the result of the increased population intensity in permanent villages (Durkheim 1902); it results from specific historical events and particular cultural associations, viz. the missionary-instigated settlement of forest trekkers by manioc cultivators.85 The Akuriyos prior isolation meant that they were considerably limited in their participation in another form of movement with considerable political importance: that of visiting.

Visiting Walking about (T. koirime, or urakana, to stroll around, go for a walk (Carlin 2004: 28)) involves paying visits on friends and relatives; indeed the latter term derives from the words for to say and I have arrived (a visitors greeting), giving the sense, one who says I have arrived (loc. cit.). The same words are used to refer to displacements within the village and between villages or to coastal urban centres, whenever they are


Similarly, the Mak of Northwest Amazonia are dependent on the Tukanoans for trade goods, cultivated food and tobacco, which they trade for meat and labour (Silverwood-Cope 1972: 196). 85 This will be discussed in chapter 5.


made for no obvious purpose other than to see people and places. Unrelated men more commonly visit each other when they want to ask for something in particular, which may take the form of an object or a favour. It is during such interactions that all kinds of matters are discussed, and they constitute the principal means by which information is transmitted within the village. Although information is also passed on by women and children, they interact less than men with more distantly related people; the information that they share is therefore generally of a more intimate nature and often of less public or political interest.86 In the past, when villages were smaller, they were also closer together, at least in the case of those which were grouped in agglomerations (Rivire 1969a).87 They were also situated along small creeks rather than on the main rivers. It was usual to walk between villages within an agglomeration. It is hard to know how much direct contact existed between agglomerations, but any movement between them must have taken place on foot and by river. People still walk the longer distances that now separate villages when they wish to, particularly the Trio, who live high up on the Guiana watershed, and whose villages are situated on different river systems. Travelling long distances is common in this area, and individual men or even entire nuclear families go as often as once a year from Tpu to visit their relatives in Brazil; visitors from Brazil are also common in Tpu and may stay for several months. The main way of travelling between villages situated on the same river system is by motorised canoe. Possession of a motor and access to fuel therefore greatly increases the number of people to whom one has access. Visiting relatives in different villages is extremely common, and villagers often travel to neighbouring villages for drinking parties which, in their various forms, are institutions of the utmost social and political importance.88 Anyone wishing to travel to another village, if they do not possess a motor, must become indebted to somebody who does; ownership of a motor thus once again strengthens ones position in society.

This distinction between public and domestic affairs has been criticised by Overing and Passes (2001), but it is of clear relevance to gender roles and should be taken to have classificatory rather than moral significance. 87 Or further apart: the large villages of today are in fact clusters of smaller villages composed of several satellites, and may be better described as compressed agglomerations; see chapters 3 and 5. 88 See below and chapter 4.


Wayana from French Guiana and Suriname used regularly to visit their Brazilian relatives on the Paru dEste in order to renew their knowledge about traditional practices, myths, painting, hunting and food preparation, which they say is diluted or compromised by their greater proximity to the Bonis89 and the civiliss.90 Now that access to cash and traded protein sources is making hunting less and less important as a subsistence activity, these journeys in themselves (which take at least a week) help to renew knowledge of the forest. However, the relative value of Wayana traditional knowledge and White peoples knowledge has changed, and the latter is now more highly prized. It has therefore become more common for people to travel to the coastal cities to obtain knowledge in various ways, and this practice has largely replaced the earlier expeditions to Brazil; moreover, among Trio and Wayana alike, it has become something of a rite of passage for young men who have the means to do so to go to visit the city or to work for White people.91 These tendencies show that, if the conviviality of visiting relatives is an important motivation for travel, it is also often an excuse or even a means to realise the more political and prestige-oriented objectives of exposing oneself to powerful forms of knowledge.

The politics of air travel Ercilio, a Kaxuyana married to the daughter of my host Ksis son Eneri, who lives in Misso, came to Tpu on foot to visit his wifes grandparents, bringing his wife and daughter. He said that he intended to see the coast, particularly Cayenne. He gave no reason for wanting to do this except just to see. His plan was to return to Misso and catch some songbirds on the savannah some twa twa and some pikolet.92 Then he

89 90

Xenonym for Aluku Maroons. French Wayana refer to palasisi (W) as les blancs or les civiliss interchangeably. 91 Hugh-Jones (1992) and Gow (1987, in Hugh-Jones 1992) have also noted that, among the Barasana and Piro, spending time with White people has become an informal marker of young mens coming of age because of the useful knowledge and experience they acquire in doing so. 92 Larger-billed seed-finch, Oryzoborus crassirostris, and Lesser seed finch, Oryzoborus angolensis are popular pets and fashion accessories, among Creole men on the coast. Many young men in Tpu also keep them and take them everywhere in the village even placing the cage on a rock by the river when they go there to wash (it is said that letting these birds see new surroundings and hear new sounds enhances their


intended to travel to Maripasoula and sell his birds there or on the coast, and to travel along the coast as far as Macap, from where he would fly to Misso. In this way, long distance travel to visit relatives, particularly when it involves crossing between river systems, is done increasingly by air instead of by canoe and on foot. People in Antecume Pata who told me that they intended to go to the Jari to see relatives said that they would not go on foot. Instead, like Ercilio, they would go to St. Laurent or, preferably, by air to Cayenne, travel along the coast by road or air to Macap, and from there take a FUNAI flight. Flight is in some ways seen as a more powerful version of river travel; the word for an aeroplane is kanawaim, great canoe and, like canoes, aeroplanes permit access to worlds that are distant both geographically and socially. The attractions of flying are manifold. They are primarily practical and economic: being able to transport goods or people by air, because of the great distances that can be covered in short spaces of time, enables places to be visited and goods to be obtained which have greater value than those that can be produced in or otherwise obtained from the forest or river. The cost of obtaining them is such that they remain scarce, and gives importance to a few individuals with access to flights; having said this, it is worth asking to what extent the goods are sought after for their own sake, and to what extent their value is determined by the rarity and power of the social relations they represent. i) Missionaries and air travel The aeroplane has played a vast role in the remote central areas of the Guianas. The Brazilian Trio were given one of the first trinmios or frontier Indian stations93 combining protection of strategic national frontiers with the civilization of the Amerindian inhabitants (Frikel 1971: 109, Hemming 2003: 390-1). Meanwhile in

singing ability). A pet shopkeeper and birdsong trainer in Paramaribo told me that males that sing very well can fetch prices in excess of !5000. 93 The concept of the FAB-Missionary-Indian trinmio presupposes the intimate embedment of the patient and hard work of the Missionaries in the acculturation of the forest people of the frontier area, with the FAB [Brazilian air force] whose participation will involve the permanent presence of communication facilities and the occasional presence of technicians or specialised workers (from the Declaration of the Ministry of Aeronautics, in Frikel 1971: 109).


Suriname, airstrips were cut for mission stations in strategic locations near international borders and at the intersection of the large Palumeu and Tapanahoni rivers (see Introduction). The creation of these missionary stations marked the beginning of a period of rapid change. Airstrips allowed the stocking of medical posts and shops. Taking advantage of the Trio and Wayanas existing dependence on metal goods obtained from the Maroons along trade networks following the rivers, missionaries took over the Maroons market by offering better goods for a fraction of the price or as a reward for loyalty. The missionaries nurtured the association of the newly available goods and healthcare with the church, and encouraged the Trio and Wayana to believe that medicine was effective only by the grace of God and therefore that churchgoing and prayer were necessary for the maintenance of good health (Cognat & Massot 1977; Rivire 1981). Today, the aeroplane has become a part of everyday life, and it is common in dry season for more than one flight a week to come to Tpu bringing health workers and medicine, fuel, government delegations, NGO workers, researchers, and many kinds of manufactured object, as well as providing a way for people to travel to and from coastal urban centres. Unlike in Brazil, where FUNAI provides free flights to the city, flying is expensive for Amerindians in Suriname and in French Guiana. In the remote southern Surinamese villages of Tpu and Kwamalasamutu, certain individuals benefit strikingly from their privileged access to flights. Those who have strong links to the government or to missionary organisations frequently enjoy flights at low rates or free of charge. Church elders are sometimes able to influence missionaries into giving them free flights, and some have a lenient credit system with MAF.94 This means that personal connections are crucial for access to the networks of trade and travel, persons and objects that air travel represents.


MAF is the Mission Aviation Fellowship, a worldwide organisation entirely staffed by evangelical Christians. It provides the infrastructure necessary to install and maintain missions in remote locations, creating in each one a channel of communication through which many kinds of relationship can flourish.


ii) The city, prestige and mobility Many Trio and Wayana choose to fly to the city using the connections described above, and when they return to the village, the motivation for enduring the hardship of city life becomes clear: they wear their prestige like a badge. For example, Suntu, my assistants MB and part of my hosts household, lived in Paramaribo for a long period, where he was being trained as an electrician by the government. When he returned to Tpu, he immediately assumed the prestigious role of mahto entu, or generator owner. He did little else, spending entire days lying in his hammock, being served food by his elderly parents, and only going fishing or hunting once every few weeks most of his meat and fish was brought by an Akuriyo. When he did go, it was for prestigious major expeditions to bring back large quantities, which he could afford to participate in easily, being the owner of a large motor, and having access to cash, and therefore to fuel, through his paid work and his various connections. He could often be heard explaining to other people how life worked in the city, the prices of things and where to obtain them, particularly to his parents, whose attention and interest suggested respect his knowledge was apparently ample compensation for relinquishing the more traditional responsibilities of a Trio man.95 Although Suntu has many of the social attributes favouring leadership, he lacks the personal qualities of a leader. However, his case illustrates the fact that air travel and the consequent increase in cosmopolitanism has paradoxically reduced peoples mobility rather than increased it in an important sense: because of it, people travel much less in the forest. The trade expeditions mentioned above show that at least some individuals were able to travel long distances in the forest, but the division of labour between the Akuriyo and the Trio and Wayana shows that the fine-grained knowledge of the forest and its infinite paths trodden by different kinds of creature (game animals and others) is diminishing among the latter, who freely admit the Akuriyos superiority in this domain


Suntus inactivity can also be explained by the fact that his wife died some 15 years before of cervical cancer as did the wife of Tiwimo. Both deaths were regarded as spiritual retribution for the two mens excessive hunting for the bush meat trade. As a result Suntu had less pressure to hunt no longer having a father-in-law and may also have been reluctant to do so for fear of further angering the spirits.


(and in no other). In fact, this change began with the advent of dugout canoes,96 and the shift from interfluvial to riperine habitat: with this the acquisitive and imaginative gaze of the Trio and Wayana gradually began to point downstream to the source of manufactured goods instead of into the forest and below the surface of the water. Air transport has come to encompass other forms of mobility in Tpu. Travel on foot and by boat between villages has been superseded whenever possible by air travel. Fuel and motors are always brought by air. Notes are sent by air between literate residents and coastal-dwelling relatives. So it can be said that air travel is the mode of transport par excellence in the Guianas, its consequences reach into every aspect of village life, and anyone aspiring to a role of leadership must ensure access to it. This may seem to favour the emergence of powerful economic basis for political power. However, a closer look at emerging forms of entrepreneurship show that this is by no means necessarily the case. iii) Air economy and entrepreneurship If trade does not necessarily make a leader, it is nevertheless important for leaders to have access to trade. Networks of objects and persons are now more implicated in air transport than in any other form of mobility, and these networks are highly valued for social and material reasons. Highly prized items such as corrugated zinc sheets, fuel, motors, and industrially produced cotton must all come from the city. Various indigenous products are traded for the tourist market,97 but more lucrative trade items are bush meat and exotic animal species. Certain food items are sent to urban-dwelling relatives, particularly manioc bread and dried game or fish. This is important as a means of preserving over a great distance the bonds of nurture characterising relationships between kin (see Grotti 2007). But when the logic of economic gain takes over from the logic of conviviality, trade can diminish a persons influence. W has been the most successful among the residents of Tpu in obtaining the favour of


The Trio and Wayana first obtained dugout canoes from the Maroons, only making their own from 1952, and previously only used bark canoes, which are more suitable for the small creeks (Frikel 1973: 41; Lapointe 1972: 11). 97 These are also sent to the village of Palumeu downstream for sale to ecotourists


M, the representative of Socialezaken98 with responsibility for the villages of the hinterland. Shortly before one of Ms flights is due to arrive, W sends not only Akuriyo but also other Trio to shoot the favourite game and catch the favourite fish of coastal consumers: usually kurimao (paca99) and aijmara (aimara100) respectively. For these he pays a tiny fraction of the price they fetch on the coast. He stores them in his large, top loading refrigerator, the only one in the village. On one occasion he sent 30 aimara, each weighing about 10 kilos, to the coast. He paid the fishermen 4 SRD per kilo, and in Paramaribo aimara sells for at least 20 SRD101 per kilo (in Maripasoula it is worth !5 per kilo, and in coastal French Guiana the price is higher still). Because the flight is paid for by the government, he has very few costs. He benefits in a similar way from the transportation of goods from the coast to the village. They come on government flights, free of charge, but he sells them for prices the same as, or even higher than, his competitors. He can charge higher prices than them because he has a more consistent and plentiful supply the other chinesi Jan and Weji need to pay for the transportation of the goods they sell. For example, he sells flip-flops worth 2 SRD in Paramaribo for 6 SRD; Weji sells the same items for 4 SRD102 but rarely has them in stock. As a result of this attitude to trade, W is unpopular among many people in Tpu, who see him as stingy; his stinginess with goods and money manifest a social parsimony a lack of conviviality. This suggests an exception to the correlation between leadership and access to economic relations: if such access is not accompanied by generosity and the other classic personal qualities of leadership, then it does not make a leader. However, the case of another entrepreneur, who specialises in the trade in exotic animals, shows how economic initiative can combine powerfully with leadership qualities. Ys103 contact in Paramaribo orders particular species for clients, which are transported by air.104 Most commonly, Y sends emerald tree boa,105 dyeing poison

98 99

The Ministry of Social Affairs. Agouti paca. 100 Hoplias aimara. 101 About 0.80 and 4 respectively. 102 About 0.40, 1.20 and 0.80 respectively 103 I do not give his name because of the sensitive nature of this trade. 104 The survival rate for these creatures is already poor for the journey by air and would be prohibitively small by river. 105 Corallus caninus.


frog,106 and cock of the rock,107 for which he receives 84 SRD, 6 SRD and 350 SRD respectively.108 He told me that he would be prepared to catch any animal he was asked for, including (in theory) jaguars and king vultures.109 The high value of the most rare and difficult to obtain species is unsurprising in economic terms. However, it illustrates that the relationship between distance and prestige is not confined to the village, and its importance even for a client in another continent has repercussions for the villagers. As with the bushmeat trade, there is a division of labour involved in obtaining live animals. Akuriyo have a particular talent for trapping as well as hunting, and they have few alternative sources of cash. Y told me that he pays them, for example, 5 SRD for a humming-bird and 75 SRD110 for a toucan.111 The discrepancies in local and international prices, not to mention the total mutual incomprehension evident in the relationship between local people and non-embedded conservation organisations, highlight an incipient economic hierarchy extending far beyond the village, with the Akuriyo at the bottom and buyers knowingly flouting international regulations on endangered species at the top. Within Tpu, however, Ys activities bring him wealth and prestige befitting his position as Basya.112 Ys adaptability to a demand shows something of the perspectival transformability which I will develop in later chapters as an important leadership quality; although catching pets is by no means a practice alien to the Trio, Y often catches species which would never be considered pets by the Trio themselves (e.g. reptiles). Ys case offers an interesting comparison to that of W. In both cases a new form of trade is taken up in response to the demand of White people, and in both cases the familiar division of labour appears with the exploitation of Akuriyo and their hunting skills. However, Y has more
106 107

Dendrobates tinctorius. Rupicola rupicola. These nearly all die before reaching the coast and are extremely rare. Y took me on one occasion to see their lek, the males famous competitive dance, but in the spot where, he insisted, there were usually large numbers at that time, there was nothing at all. 108 About 17, 1 and 70 respectively in 2004. Specimens of dyeing poison frog bred in captivity marketed as Surinam Cobalt are sold online by Patrick Nabors at http://www.saurian.net for US$55, but a wild specimen would be worth a great deal more. 109 Panthera onca and Sarcoramphus papa, the creatures traditionally most feared and associated with shamanic power. Any concern over possible spiritual repercussions may be dissipated by the knowledge that the animals would end up far away, in America or Holland. 110 About 1 and 15 respectively. 111 Ramphastos sp. 112 A basya (SR. overseer) is a minor local official, like a deputy.


of the qualities of a leader. In contrast to W, he is popular; he frequently visits a wide range of people all over the village with his calm, friendly demeanour; he is generous; he plays the guitar in the church and leads the singing of hymns (see chapter 4); altogether, he has the qualities of a leader which seem merely to be confirmed by his appointment as Basya. All of this begins to show that the foundations of leadership are much more than material.

Gesture, touch and verbal communication Some of the most valued forms of communication, that is to say, those associated with the convivial relationships characterising ideal social life, are neither material (in the sense of involving objects) nor verbal. In the most intimate relationships between close kin, often scarcely perceptible tactile gestures manifest, but also perpetuate the ties of kinship. An obvious example of this is the activity of delousing which takes place between close kin at quiet times of the day; another is feeding and the sharing of food (see Grotti 2007). Through these gestures, sociability is maintained, childrens sociality and humanity (two sides of the same coin) are moulded, and through the same gestures these qualities are actively sustained throughout life. On the other hand, the speeches of leaders tend to emphasise and promote these often nonverbal, convivial forms of communication. The verbalisation of convivial communication can thus be seen as a political strategy to promote the common feelings of domestic kinship among the wider local population and thus to encourage a sense of collectivity and community. Non-verbal communication can also take place in a negative form: the practice of ignoring the presence of others is characteristic of many Amazonian societies response to outsiders, and even to their own kin who return from a period of absence. The muted nature of greetings has been noted by Erikson (2000), who convincingly attributes it to doubt as to the ontological status of a newly arrived person. Communication is often not initiated or resumed until there is behavioural evidence of the sociality and humanity of the latter. This tends to take verbal form, among kin and affines alike, with a phrase such as I have come (T. wep). Verbalisation of ones apparent presence confirms that one is 58

indeed who one seems to be. This mistrust of visitors and caution in communicating with them will appear again in chapter 4, in which I discuss the use by leaders of special dialogues. Communication between people outside the domestic circle frequently takes place in the form of gossip.113 Gossip can break as well as strengthen social networks, and the exclusions of persons from and through gossip are just as important as the interactions it constitutes: it can act as a form of sanction for unacceptable behaviour, and in its most negative form among the Trio and Wayana, it becomes an accusation of sorcery. This rarely occurs within the sphere of the village, perhaps by definition, because an accusation of sorcery in a village could lead to its division, or, conversely, an accusation may follow a political division and lead to physical separation;114 sorcery accusations can thus be co-opted into the machinations of rival factions.115 In serious instances, dissenting individuals or groups relocate, thus breaking the network of social relations and the cycle of reciprocity among co-residents (cf. Rivire 1969a: 231). For example, R left the village of Tpu for many years after he was accused of the drowning of an Akuriyo boy.116 Gossip is therefore a way of defining the group and sanctioning behaviour that can function without a leader. However, it depends on the same social networks as leaders, and if leaders have a privileged position in these social networks, then they also have greater influence over these informal mechanisms. Clearly, non-verbal communication is more important in the intimate domestic setting, whereas verbal communication such as gossip plays a greater role in communication between affines, whose ontological status is less familiar and certain from their mutual perspectives. This verbal communication has many recognised forms, which are regarded as skills in their own right. Both in the domestic setting and beyond, particular forms of speech are used for storytelling, for public discourse and during drinking parties. I will now discuss some of these forms and consider their importance for leadership.


The process of informally communicating value-laden information about members of a social setting (Noon & Delbridge 1993). 114 Violence is rare as a sanction, although I heard from several sources that missionaries in their heyday encouraged it by taking it upon themselves to beat unfaithful Trio wives. This is also mentioned by Frikel (1973). 115 Cf. Menget 1993: 70; Rivire 1970. 116 He is now married to an Akuriyo woman, perhaps as a result of his weakened bonds with other Trio.


i) Oral narratives The techniques such as repetition and the use of sound-symbols, as well as the use of bodily gestures used in telling Trio and Wayana stories or myths are familiar from existing studies of oral narratives (e.g. Basso 1995).117 A man who knows stories, and who tells them well, is generally well-respected. It may be asked whether his ability earns him respect, or whether storytelling is merely a skill expected of a man respected in society by virtue of kinship ties, ownership of property, access to trade networks, etc., but in either case, it is certain that there is a correlation. Oral history and myth can be seen as representing or manifesting social continuity, which is a matter of great political importance attested to throughout Amazonia (Heckenberger 2005).118 After all, stories may often be of great antiquity and have been passed down from one generation to the next. However, genealogies are not emphasised in the Guianas, and stories are not dated; the time of myth, into which history eventually dissolves, is transcendent; it is treated as a separate dimension from everyday life, and it is only in ritual feasts that the two dimensions merge.119 Storytelling would take place in the centre of the village, in the anna, or in the tukusipan,120 in the evening around a fire, and stories are usually told by elderly men. This, at least, was a regular occurrence until the last decade. During some periods, it would occur every evening. Nowadays it occurs on a smaller scale, less frequently, in the domestic setting. This is an important transition because in the past storytelling was a quintessentially collective activity. It was the only activity that regularly united people from all parts of a village, apart from the much less frequent ceremonial feasts. Where two or more historically separate groups of people have come to live together, as has occurred on a radical scale in contemporary villages, knowledge is transmitted between them and is part of the process of merging of identity discussed in chapter 5.


See CD tracks 1 and 2 for examples of oral narratives; see Carlin 2004:410ff for discussion of sound symbolism in Trio. 118 This issue is further discussed in chapter 5. 119 See chapter 4. 120 See chapter 3 for discussion of these collective spaces.


This should not be seen as the result of elements with a common origin branching out through time, so much as the result of a constant pattern of interaction and exchange, alliance and dispersal, between regional groups over time: a heterarchical, network model of history. Amazonian myth compresses history, and like music, immobilises time, as Lvi-Strauss remarked (1964: 24), and the history of myth follows the same pattern. The narratives that can be heard from Guianese Amerindians are the manifestations of a network of histories, that results from these patterns of interaction. Knowledge of myths is very unevenly distributed among different people, and is best seen in terms of mythtelling as a skill. Although most people may have a passive knowledge of myths, the majority claim ignorance of them under normal circumstances, and refer to particular individuals who are said to have greater knowledge; in fact, this means that they are skilled and confident in the telling of myths and willing to do so. These tend to be mature or elderly men, who are not necessarily shamans or important leaders, but who have other qualities of leadership and are well respected. ii) Public speaking These qualities include the rhetorical skill used in public speaking, which is related to myth-telling, but distinct from it. Speeches are made for various purposes, but tend to emphasise and encourage collective harmony (sasame121) and to make reference to the conviviality characteristic of everyday life. They thus tend to follow the strategy of extending the latter to the wider collective audience, expanding the subjective sphere and encouraging all the listeners to share the same ontological perspective. In light of this, as I mentioned in the Introduction, it is difficult to agree with the classic models proposed by Clastres and Lvi-Strauss whereby the leaders words would be exchanged for, or counterbalanced by, some other prestation on the part of the community, for the leaders main objective is to generate solidarity with the rest of the community which he himself represents. 122 The charisma required for making public speeches is the same quality as that

121 122

For further discussion of this see chapter 4. Cf. Durkheim on the public orator: he is a group incarnate and personified (2001: 158).


demonstrated in the ability to tell stories well. In addition, in contemporary Tpu it is clear that only individuals who have certain official roles ever make public speeches. The most important among these are the roles of Church Elder and of Kapitein, but those of Basya and B.O. (bestuursopzichter) (both minor, government-appointed administrative posts) are also relevant. These roles tend to be given to people who already show leadership qualities. They are important in that as state or church posts in an officially recognised village they give their holders the pretext for public speaking and the fostering of community beyond the smaller units of traditional villages. In most cases, public speaking involves a long harangue, with a great deal of repetition and rambling, and sometimes with the aid of a megaphone. In chapter 5 I show that it is primarily the form, rather than the content, of these speeches that is significant, and the form highlights their esoteric nature, resulting from the speakers access to a specialised form of knowledge; once again, the official roles contribute to this sense. This esoteric or religious nature of public speaking is the reason for the phenomenon that Clastres suspected when he wrote that in the discourse of prophets lies perhaps the germ of the discourse of power (1974: 186); however, Clastres definition of the religious was too narrow, and should include other outside sources of power and knowledge. I will limit the discussion of public speaking here to the everyday roles of the two village captains in Tpu, reserving special forms of speech for chapter 4. The head Kapitein, Pikumi, does not speak publicly as much as Mosesi, and when he does so it is more often in church, i.e. in the religious, rather than in the secular domain. The relationship between his role and that of Mosesi may be compared to those of horizontal and vertical shamans (Hugh-Jones 1994) in other parts of Amazonia: the former are younger, more charismatic, and tend to transform themselves and be involved in shamanic warfare and spirit attacks, whereas the latter are older, less dynamic, but very knowledgeable: they are the repositories of myth and other forms of cultural knowledge.123 The younger captain, Mosesi, emphasises through his speeches his social, horizontal connections with the human world as well as mundane forms of esoteric knowledge such as foreign languages; this and his tendency to travel a great deal


This also recalls de Jouvenals distinction between dux and rex, taken up in an Amazonian context by Kracke (1978).


demonstrate an ability to transform himself. The older captain is less mobile, and uses his authority in a less dynamic way, taking a conservative approach to decision making; by speaking in church he emphasises his vertical connections with the spirit world and his esoteric knowledge of the world of myth into which Christianity has become incorporated. The contrast between the two leaders highlights that the life cycle of the leader, like that of ordinary men (see above), is significantly manifested in terms of communication networks: the younger leader specialises in visible and material networks, whereas the older has a monopoly on knowledge and invisible, spiritual networks.124 This echoes the observations made above about myth-telling and about visiting: the latter is primarily a young mans activity, whereas myth-telling is an older mans skill. In terms of communication, younger men can thus be said to communicate with the visible and material world and older men with the invisible and spiritual world. Put in more abstract terms, younger men communicate through space and older men through time as they converse with the invisible world of mythic time. The latter tends to be privileged and considered more powerful, and this shows how age hierarchy is understood and how this translates into the realm of leadership. iii) Radio Another special form of speech has developed since the arrival of missionaries, who brought short wave radios with them as one of their principal tools. There is a particular way of speaking on the radio: in any language, it is necessary to know and observe the etiquette of radio communication, particularly when trying to make contact with another transmitter/receiver. Certain words such as come in, over, etc. are required, and the correct type of repetition is necessary to establish a connection. The type of speech used on the radio is stronger, clearer, more abrupt than the usually quiet patterns of the Trio language in this respect it recalls the strong talk no kato used in the past for trade and other forms of negotiation between villages.125 However, despite this element of


Mosesi also speaks in church, but his speeches are more dynamic and focused upon promoting sasame (see chapter 4); for instance he frequently leads hymns. 125 See chapter 4.


resemblance to the talk of leaders, in principle anybody can use the radio, including women, and there is frequently an atmosphere of conviviality around the radio post, for the loudspeaker makes it possible for people to gather round to listen to conversations, bringing the intra-and inter-village levels of gossip together. On the other hand, use of the radio is by no means evenly distributed, even if it is not confined to leaders. Indeed, use of the radio makes for a revealing index of participation in and influence upon networks of relations beyond the village. Those who use the radio most and with greatest confidence are those who have close kin who live in the city, or in other villages. In this way, the use of the radio is linked to the various forms of migration discussed earlier in this chapter, and therefore the same factors apply: the kin of men who trade, who marry women in other villages, or who live in the city thus have better access to networks of communication and information. Naturally, leaders are more frequent and confident users of the radio than anyone else.126 The converse of this can be seen most clearly, once again, in the case of the Akuriyo. Because of their limited ability to travel (see above), and because few Akuriyo live anywhere but in Tpu, Akuriyo have few if any contacts in other villages. They vaguely know other Akuriyo who were settled in Kwamalasamutu and Anapak, but they rarely have any opportunity to see them, their ability to travel by river or air being so limited. Moreover, Akuriyos extreme social reserve would make speaking on the radio almost unthinkable their awkward and timid way of speaking is often mocked by the Trio, and for them to adopt the strong radio talk would require momentous effort and courage. The use of the radio thus brings together some of the themes I have been discussing in this chapter. It is an extremely powerful form of communication, and although it does not directly involve leadership as such, it shows how differences in personal influence are related to forms of movement and communication including speech techniques, trade and travel, conviviality and gossip. I now develop this further by looking at literacy, which is also a relatively new communication technique, but which is more esoteric and specialised.


It is worth distinguishing here between the levels of importance of radio protocol in conversations with officials and other non-relatives, and in those between kin, which are a physically extended form of gossip.


Literacy Many elderly people are illiterate, but the generations that went to school in the 1960s and 1970s have rudimentary literacy skills, and a handful can read and write well. Most of these have obtained posts as teachers, pastors or radio operators. Those who were too young to go to school until the 1980s missed many years of education because of the disturbances caused by the civil war, but most people can read and write at least a few words (the Akuriyo are a notable exception to this: few can make out more than a few letters of the alphabet). Although a small library was inaugurated in Tpu by Cees Koelewijn during my fieldwork, the principal reading material remains the Bible,127 and a copy is usually carried to church even by those who cannot read. The church elders are chosen partly for their ability as readers, an important element of their role being to read aloud from the Bible. As most church elders are leaders (either official or unofficial) and vice versa, as well as a church elder being in itself a form of leadership, the ability to read well thus has great importance. In this regard, it is worth noting the correlation between the readings chosen and the leaders speeches described above: in both cases, the emphasis is placed upon living well and on domestic and social harmony and conviviality; in short, on peace. The Bible is thus used to produce the traditional rhetoric of leadership, in a social absorption of history through a structural transformation, recalling the logic of myth (Lvi-Strauss 1971; Gow 2001). Ordinary Trio and Wayana have become far more than passive consumers of the written word. They use writing in a huge variety of ways: During celebrations, people write festive messages such as sasame (happy, harmonious), or 1 Januari (for New Year) on pieces of paper which they attach to themselves on pieces of string. Most Trio adults have words tattooed on their bodies, usually the names of themselves and their closest kin, abbreviated to a few letters so as not to endanger themselves by communicating the entire name even if only their Christian names or nicknames, and not their secret shamanic names, are used; one man has his Brazilian nickname, Ferrinho, tattooed on his forehead. Writing is partly a mode of adornment, part of the beauty and

Claude Leavitts translation of the New Testament, recently reprinted (Leavitt 2004).


goodness which are equated in the word kurano (T). Names written on the body also communicate an individuals position in the social network, being a part of which is essential to making her/him human it is thus an inscription and reiteration of humanity, and a way of asserting ones own perspective, similar to the reiteration of I in strong talk and in some shamanic dialogue.128 Writing among the Trio and Wayana has thus become more than a symbol of Whiteness or Christianity, and has been transformed into a tool to facilitate indigenous processes. Kelly has suggested that literacy enables people to manage the transformational axis of relations with White people (2003: 110), and if this is true then it is in this sense of transforming the uses of writing. However, this means that by adopting White methods such as writing, Trio and Wayana people do not necessarily place themselves in the social position of White people quite as Kelly suggests that Yanomami do. Chapuis (1998) mentions that a Wayana shaman told him that White peoples spirit darts take the form of pencils, showing that while seeing the power of literacy, the Trio and Wayana understand it in their own terms. Although in the hands of a White person the pen is still symbolic of White practice, in the hands of a Trio or Wayana person today it can become an indigenous instrument of sociality. For this reason, there is no axis or continuum between White people and Wild people. Both are others and the Trio and Wayana transform the power of both for their own ends. This use of difference has important political dimensions, and I have already given some indications of how this is so: the power of trade and of esoteric knowledge from beyond the familiar world of the village is manifested and augmented through travel and other forms of communication.

Metaphysical communication Nothing is more esoteric and ontologically different than the spirit world, relationships with which are characterised by transformation of external attributes and shifting perspectives. Control of these processes of perspectival transformation is an important

See Grotti 2007 for further discussion of bodily adornment.


aspect of leadership and explains why many authors have found Amazonian leadership and shamanism to be closely related, but it also shows that there is more to the relationship than control over the mystical means of reproduction (Santos-Granero 1986, 1991, 1993). For instance, Trio and Wayana shamans do not simply control game animals, but must enter into complex processes of communication with them, and although shamans have special abilities to participate in these processes, they should be seen in more than economic terms. In an article on predation and reciprocity in Amazonian relations with nature and the outside, Rivire (2001: 42ff.) analyses three Trio myths, which describe knowledge being obtained from three different kinds of animal: the tapir, the spider monkey and the peccary. With the first two, only predatory relations are able to operate because of the demands of secrecy placed upon the shaman who first meets the animals; after he returns home, beer makes the shaman break his promise of secrecy by loosening his tongue, and tapirs, monkeys and shamans are eventually killed in a cycle of predation and revenge. It is only with the peccary that a relationship of reciprocity is established, following a long ceremonial dialogue between the shaman and the peccarys leader; the peccary are regarded as more social animals (they travel and eat in large herds), and it is because of their superior sociality that it is possible to communicate with them: communication makes relations of reciprocity possible, whereas lack of communication means that only predatory relations can exist. It is also important to note the importance of beer as a socialising facilitator of communication. The secrecy imposed by the tapir and spider monkey is the denial of reciprocity, but communication has already been established, and beer causes the shaman to share the secrets with his fellows, which precipitates the negative, socially inferior form of communication that is predation. The shaman who visits the peccary also sees that they drink beer, which is a sign of their sociability and ability to communicate. This distinction between more and less sociable animals and their corresponding levels of communication shows that creatures are hierarchically categorised according to these criteria. I suggest that communication should be included on a hierarchical scale or continuum corresponding to that of sociality: as I have shown throughout this chapter, different forms of interaction correspond to different levels of sociability and influence. Among humans, the clearest division is between ordinary Trio or Wayana and the 67

Akuriyo (who lacked beer until the Trio gave it to them), while leaders constantly act to expand their field of sociability and influence. This hierarchical order extends beyond humanity to the world of animals and spirits. Predatory relations are also a form of communication, but they are inferior to the more social, verbal forms; indeed Rivire himself seems to propose a similar interpretation when he argues later in the same article that reciprocity and predation are often combined, and under certain circumstances Sahlins idea of negative reciprocity (1972) applies well to Amazonian relationships with alterity. The ability to communicate negatively, or to overcome an adversary in a relationship of negative reciprocity, is highly valued and respected among the Trio and Wayana, and this ability and power is admired in a shaman as much as his knowledge (indeed the two are not separable), because it enables him to protect the village from spirit attacks. Spells or spirit songs (lemi) can be cast by people who are not shamans. Some are used to precipitate sexual encounters, and others to attract game. The Trios reputation for powerful remi still extends great distances: an old Kalina man in Awala told me that even there the Trio are still known as irresistible seducers and powerful hunters because of their reputedly powerful knowledge of love and hunting spells. The power to influence another human or non-human person by metaphysical means exists through song (remi), through blowing smoke or air (usually part of the role of the shaman, although I once saw an ordinary Akuriyo blowing on a rag before surreptitiously shaking it against the neck of a drunken Trio who had maligned him129), or through water (singing into a gourd of water before giving it to the patient to drink), but in all cases it involves blowing, if we include the controlled passage of air from the mouth in song and speech as forms of blowing.130 The use of metaphysical arrows by shamans to fire at enemies further illustrates that hunting and spirit attacks are closely related, even if the prestige accorded to the outstanding hunter differs somewhat from the fear inspired by the shamans power. Both shamans and hunters are associated with the outside of the village, with the forest the


Frikel (1973) notes that only shamans can cause illness or other effects in other persons without touching them either directly or indirectly. 130 The importance of blowing is discussed in chapter 4.


unknown realm where bodily transformations are more often possible, and where what you see is not what you get (Rivire 1994). In addition, shamans are said to be able to transform themselves into other creatures by entering the spirit world, and this enables them metaphysically to transport themselves through space to faraway locations. The more powerful the shaman, the further away he can exert his influence. There is a qualitative difference between ordinary people, who can cast contagious spells, and shamans, who can travel metaphysically and send invisible arrows great distances, although as among the Waipi (Campbell 1989), shamanism (like leadership itself) can better be seen as a quality rather than a role. This corresponds to a quantitative difference between shamans according to how far they can exert their influence. Thus, once again, people are differentiated by the amount of power and influence they can exert, in this case by virtue of communication with the spirit world, and this further contributes to the complex interplay of qualities underpinning the personal influence which constitutes leadership.

Bible economy An equivalent kind of metaphysical displacement can be seen in church elders and missionaries. Although their discourses and their rituals differ from those of shamans, their social role is a direct continuation of that of the traditional ritual specialists. We have already seen that their access to air transport and links to churches and other religious organisations such as MAF permits them to access far off places more easily. Their travels and their knowledge of the scriptures, their ability to see the stories of Jesus, are, in terms of the pre-Christian foundations of their cosmology, modes of communication with the spirit world a world with which ordinary people can at best communicate to a limited extent. Evangelical contact expeditions form a pattern across the region. The Trio were originally evangelized with the help of the neighbouring Waiwai,131 and Trio missionaries have been active among the Apalai and Wayana of the Paru de Leste, where

Dowdy 1963; Frikel 1971; Howard 2001.


they have been denouncing traditional practices and promoting Christian belief, and causing antagonism between believers and unbelievers (Barbosa 2002: 136). The fostering of negative attitudes towards traditional beliefs was begun by the Protestant missionaries of the Unevangelised Fields Missions in Suriname and Guyana, and strongly contrasts with the gentler approach to evangelisation taken by the Franciscan missionaries of Misso Paru de Oeste, but the training and deployment of Amerindian missionaries and their constant travelling from village to village ensures that there is much exchange of belief and practice across the international borders.132 Wayana and Apalai from Brazil participate in the annual Bible conferences that take place in Suriname, usually in Palumeu or Kwamalasamutu. Joel Isaacs, the Wapishana pastor who accompanied me to the Waiwai village of Erepoimo in Guyana told me excitedly about the bible conference that took place in Mapuera in Brazil every year. For him, he told me, it is very much a Christian event; for Ekupa, the village captain of Erepoimo, however, the purpose of the pilgrimage to Mapuera is primarily to visit relatives; in either case the importance of communication is paramount, whether with the most senior messengers of the word or with kin who are otherwise only contacted by radio. These conferences have taken on a somewhat inflated importance for people who live sufficiently far away for information about them to be distorted. The Apalai and Wayana of the Paru de Leste seem to have told Barbosa that the conferences take place in Tpu, but in fact this has never been the case; although it was the planned location for 2004, Palumeu was eventually chosen because it is better equipped to receive large numbers of visitors. They also told him that Arawaks (Lokono) participate, and that people come from as far away as Venezuela to the conference (Barbosa 2002: 218). This may or may not be true, but it is likely that the information was given to Barbosa to impress upon him the prestige value of the event, as it is able to draw people from so far away. My Wayana and Trio informants in Tpu were more keen to inform me of the presence of missionaries from America and Holland at the conference, with the same intended


Frikel attests to this when he refers to the Messengers of the Word Indians, of Trio and Waiwai origin, principally coming from the American mission of Araraparu (1971: 6). The ethnobotanist Damien Davy told me that he met a group of three Trio evangelists carrying guitar, piano and accordion in a Waipi village on the upper Oiapoque in 2005. The use of such musical instruments is discussed in chapter 4.


effect.133 Such conferences have more value for the visitors than for the hosts: although there is much to be gained from having an excuse to welcome visitors, guests who are uninvited, unknown or too great in number would not necessarily be desirable. The bible economy of the Guianas is perhaps the most far-reaching network of social relations and of invisible spirit power in the region. Kapitein Mosesi was taken by American missionaries to the USA for training, as he delighted in telling me, which illustrates how direct relations with faraway lands and peoples are deliberately used to nurture the prestige of key individuals.

Feasts and knots The idea of the bible conference is also a strategy of the missionaries based on their knowledge of the form and function of traditional ceremonial feasts, which were, and in modified forms remain, the principal collective mode of communication between villages. Guianese Carib groups in the past used knotted and dyed palm strings to communicate an invitation to a feast, the knots and colours corresponding to the time needed for different stages of preparation and travel (Farabee 1924: 162-3). This presents us with an image of groups of villages almost literally drawn together by a net strings were knotted with meaning and distributed in order to organise ceremonial feasts of drinking, music and dancing, which efface the social distance between hosts and visitors, allowing society to renew itself through marriage and the incorporation of knowledge.134 Chaumeil (2005) has divided the uses of knotted string aides-mmoire across Amazonia into three categories: the measurement of time (each knot representing one of a number of days or months before an event); the record of a route or a technique (a knot represents a feature of the landscape, an event in a particular place on a journey); and memorisation of the phases or sequences of rituals (a knot represents a song or sequence). All of these uses involve specialist knowledge and relations with the outside even the first type of

On the other hand their excitement was not sufficient to motivate them to build the extra accommodation necessary to host the occasion, which is one reason why it did not take place in their village. 134 Cf. Biet, in Silberstein 2002: 146, who describes the same practice among the Kalina before cannibal feasts.


use, which tends to be related to preparations for a feast, as described above. Knowledge consists of the memory of time, space and ritual action or songs relating to events of mythic time or the historical past. When the Yagua make knotted strings (loc. cit.), the process itself involves singing, showing that the creation of the aide-mmoire is itself a special skill; indeed it is one of the many skills at which leaders need to excel. The knotted string places things in order, structuring time and space, and this articulation of time and space is an important feature of leadership: it is a form of knowledge and action of and upon cosmological order, and thus a form of mediation between the community (a community of communication) and the invisible world. Although knotted strings have been replaced by radios, and despite the efforts of missionaries to forbid them, drinking parties are still as important as ever in the Guianas for the reproduction of Amerindian society. They bring people and things from distant places to a village, where they can interact with the inhabitants. The very fact that something comes from a socially distant source gives it value, often independent from whatever practical use it may have, and the further away it comes from the better (cf. Howard 2001: 98). The same phenomenon has been shown by Helms (1988) to be common to many political economies throughout the world. Missionaries are considered powerful by the Trio, Wayana and Waiwai partly because they are from so far away although the logic can also be reversed: they are imagined as coming from very far away because they possess such powerful medicines and such exotic goods and knowledge. In this way they recall the logic of attitudes towards trade discussed above. Yet like Brazilians, though to a lesser extent, they are considered somewhat barbaric, and a little backward, and some of the habits of both are cited as evidence of this, such as the stinginess of missionaries and the sexual incontinence of Brazilians: missionaries are regarded with mild amusement for their curious washing and cooking habits such as bathing only once a day and eating strange food. Thus, outsiders are seen as somehow socially inferior, while relations with them are simultaneously highly valued as a source of power.


Conclusion In this chapter I have explored how and why the ability to access and control people, knowledge and objects from far away is of prime political importance, and the utmost concern for the aspiring leader. This control of communication involves the mediation of affinity, and allows the management of social reproduction. The ability to communicate in any way, whether by physical displacement, through sound (verbally and musically), or metaphysically (by shamanic transformation and the transmigration of souls) is therefore fundamental to leadership as a quality rather than as a binary relationship between a leader and his coresident followers: there are degrees of leadership, which together form complex and shifting hierarchies based on lines of kinship and economics, but leadership itself is based on communication. This is what brings about the eclecticism that struck me when I first arrived in Tpu: the leader must cultivate eclecticism to be able to communicate widely and to show that he can do so. It brings him prestige, but prestige is not an end in itself; instead, it serves to maintain the position of an able communicator who is primarily motivated to foster the well-being of the community and to maintain its existence, by constantly expanding the field of conviviality and subjectivity, while mediating between it and the outside world. This eclecticism which is necessary for the renewal of the collectivity, as I will show in later chapters, is embodied in the leader; in this way, through networks of communication, the collectivity is a hybrid and the leader the hybrid par excellence, who centres difference in himself and transforms it into the good life of the community. It is clear from this chapter that it matters little whether the outside world of difference or alterity is that of spirits, animals, enemies or White people; the principle remains the same. It is tempting to see leadership in terms of control of the means of production (cf. Mentore 1984; Santos-Granero 1986), although it would be more appropriate to speak of the means of communication. However, such a formula would be too static, and would not convey the importance of constantly maintaining communicative relations with all of these outside worlds and of actively expanding the field of convivial relations (cf. SantosGranero 2000). More than this, control of the means of communication is inseparable 73

from having a privileged position in the network of human relationships that exists through and is nurtured by them. This in turn is conditioned by the ways in which persons belong to each other, and by their relationship towards space. In the next chapter, I will discuss the relationships of possession and property between persons, and between people and things, which underlie the articulation of space and the communication of persons and objects.



Introduction In the previous chapter I discussed the importance of communication, and showed the political importance of communication facilitators, which transcend the social difference between separate entities, whether they are persons, things or places. This chapter will consider what it is that makes these entities different in the first place. The modes of communication presented in the last chapter together amount to networks, both in the sense of social networks (networks of people) and of actor networks (which include nonhuman actants (Latour 1997)). These networks are not amorphous because, as I have already shown, they are articulated by the positions of particular actants in the network. They are also further articulated by deliberate strategies on behalf of these actants. Strathern (1996) has suggested that property cuts and defines networks, giving them form, and the purpose of this chapter is to explore this suggestion. Property has received scarce treatment in the anthropology of Lowland South America. Discourses about land rights employ an entirely Western notion of property without considering how these might appear from an Amerindian perspective. In the ethnographic literature, property has been given piecemeal attention, but it has never been placed at the centre of analysis, with the exception of de Vienne and Allards (2005) account of regimes of ownership of intellectual property among the Trumai. The first instances of notions of property that spring to mind from Amazonian material may be those of the ownership of names or narratives in central Amazonia (Lea 1995; Heckenberger 2005), or of flutes or feather ornaments in Northwest Amazonia (S. Hugh-Jones 1979).135 In the


See Hugh-Jones 2002 for a comparison of these themes in both regions


Guianas, social formations have been described as lacking in the complexity, in both the material and the immaterial worlds, found in these other regions: villages are impermanent and people do not derive their identity from a common ancestor; wealth tends not to be accumulated. These features of lack would appear to suggest that property is unlikely to be an important notion in the region, but in fact what they represent is the long-standing tendency in Amazonian anthropology to swing between Rousseauesque idyll and Hobbesian anarchy. This tendency partly comes from observers insufficient questioning of their own assumptions; in the case of property, they did not find in Amazonia something corresponding to the jural private property of their own society. Instead, Amazonian property relations need to be translated using something like what Viveiros de Castro has called controlled equivocation (Viveiros de Castro 2004): if Western property exists in a world measured by the objective universality of nature, then what kind of property must exist in a world measured by the subjective universality of society?136 Freire has begun to address this subject, showing that for the Piaroa the notion of private property is more concerned with transformation and continuity in the natural environment than with the land or natural resources themselves (2002: 218). Taking a similar perspective, I will use the term property to mean a number of things. As Hann has observed, it is evident that the ways in which people relate to the objects in their environment play a vital role in forming their social identities (Hann 1998: 2). I would add that the ways in which people relate to each other, and to their environment itself, play the same role, and that it is the histories and biographies of these relationships that matter. The political importance of this is manifest identity, whether social, cultural or personal, is, after all, political to its core because it establishes what distinguishes one entity (ethnic group, culture group, person) from another. The establishment or acknowledgement of a relationship with people, which Carsten (2000) has called relatedness, can also be observed in relationships with land or objects. Relatedness is expressed differently in different cultural contexts, but is recognisable as expressing some form of belonging and peculiarity, based upon shared experience of events, and the


Hence, in Amazonia as in Melanesia, there is much which can be translated as ownership (Strathern 2001: 13).


accumulation of shared narratives. If we consider belonging as a form of property relation more universal than the narrow jural sense of private property, and understand kinship and property in terms of each other, it is clear that it can no longer be appropriate to describe property as thing-centred, whether as things, as relations of persons to things, as person-person relations mediated through things, [or] as a bundle of abstract rights (Verdery & Humphrey 2004: 1). If we accept that people may themselves be regarded as property, it becomes possible to understand that property may be a mutual relationship, in the same way as belonging people may belong to each other. Mutual belonging is logically prior to a marked, unequal relationship of ownership. I argue that relationships of belonging between persons, sometimes marked by the control or influence of one party over another, are an important part of the foundations of political organisation in the Guianas, as much as real property is at the foundation of political organisation in Western society, and it is to draw attention to this political implication of belonging in social relations that I continue to refer to these as property relations. In view of the recent influence of actor network theory upon anthropology, it is surprising that such a broad definition of property should appear radical, but so it does. Two recent collections of essays on property (Verdery & Humphrey 2004; Hirsch & Strathern 2004), for all their declared aims to go beyond the standard anthropological view of property as social relations among persons by means of things (Verdery & Humphrey 2004: 14), actually take a quite orthodox modernist view of property, because they take European-derived legal definitions as their starting point. Verdery and Humphrey characterize the social processes accompanying property as the processes of individualization, commodification, the narrowing of property to mean ownership (2004: 11). While these processes converge on jural type property (in fact they bring it into being), the phrase suggests a necessary evolution towards private ownership and European-style legal property rights, and squeezes out whatever other kinds of property existed previously. Our modern legal system is, therefore, somewhat limited as a central point of reference for the comparative and historical study of property. The contributors to Hirsch and Strathern (2004) pay more attention to other (in this case Melanesian) forms of property, but many of them rely for analytical purchase upon a radical distinction between Euro-American, legalistic, abstract, private property rights in 77

things (res) and various exotic Melanesian forms of property. As this suggests, other kinds of property do not necessarily disappear; they are merely relegated to an existence solely validated in terms of European legal forms. This unintended effect results above all from the authors taking Euro-American property forms as their analytical point of departure. I propose here to attempt to reverse this trend, and instead to start with indigenous forms and practices of property; these can then, when appropriate, shed light on the indigenous point of view with regard to conventional, jural property. Instead of suggesting ways in which embedded forms of property (a concept emphasized by contributors to Hann (1998)), both private and communal, may be included within modern legal property regimes, I present these less formal modes and practices of ownership and belonging as property prior to any jural qualification of them as such. Laws are, after all, subject to historical and political circumstances of their own. I propose that, far from there being a great divide between embedded forms of property and Euro-American, property rights, the latter share the formers dependence upon narrative, biography and history.137 The history of the term property, now hard to dissociate from Liberal ideologies and their Marxist antitheses, is in agreement with my usage: it came to us via Middle English and Old French from the Latin proprius, meaning lasting, permanent, ones own, special (OED). It is therefore quite appropriate to use the term to refer to feelings of attachment and belonging as well as to abstract legal or quasi-legal definitions of rights. The abstract idea of property is not necessary for the practice of ownership to exist for example, Aristotle wrote about things that belong to the household head (oikos), the obtaining of possessions (ktesis), and things used, or goods, or money (kremata), without having any abstract concept of property as an institution (Long, in Verdery & Humphrey 2004: 22n). The history behind classical and modern Europes construction of property as an institution need not be discussed in detail here, but it should be borne in mind, particularly as I propose that we borrow or reclaim the term, in order to use it for

Barros has used the concept of distributional reputation to put Mixe and Mexican property regimes on an equal footing: ...personal, kindred and pueblo networks of names and alliances help us to follow the vectorial speed and territorial endurance of Jaltepecs territorial memory and proprietorial evidence through time at least as much as the law, text and formal representational politics did: they have different reputations (Barros 2002: 296); also see Moutu 2003, who notes that time is necessarily constitutive of ownership (2003: 1, original emphasis).


the discussion of other ownership practices, in cultural contexts in which property is not necessarily a formal institution.138 As Moutu has noted, it is a basic anthropological insight that ownership is a function of relationships, and that ownership is bound up with particular forms of sociality, personhood...and temporality (2003: 1). It is possible to make a distinction for analytical purposes between tacit practices of belonging and ownership, and overt practices of property rights. This distinction in concepts of property is mirrored in politics, as I have mentioned: practices that are tacitly property oriented are often connected to submerged, embedded politics and power relations, and the institutionalised forms of property rights are more often involved in overt forms of political activity. Tacit forms of politics and property find expression in everyday practice, as well as in rituals and marriage practices. Overt forms of politics and property rights are institutionalized, overtly recognized as distinct, and may be, but are not necessarily, enshrined in some form of law. Although there are many ways in which these types of property overlap and become difficult to distinguish, this characterization is a useful tool. There is also a cross-cutting distinction to be made, which has been the subject of sometimes heated debate for centuries: the distinction between private and common property. This accompanied the early anthropological debates about natural law and primitive or original society (Engels 1972; Hobbes 1996; Locke 1988; Rousseau 1992). As always, however, the empirical reality is far more complex than the rhetorical simplifications of philosophical discourse suggest. Legally, although the idea of private property is at the foundation of the State system in the Guianas, provision is also made for common property in certain cases. Meanwhile, indigenous ownership practices can blur distinctions between individual and collectivity, as we shall see. In the Guianas a sense of collectivity is the transient product of ritual, and is not represented in lineages or moieties unlike in other parts of Amazonia. But the collectivity must also be involved in property relations in order to exist and narratives evoking the ownership of language, people, land and other things show that this is so. Indeed, it will become clear that the


Extra-institutional property practices are by no means unfamiliar to European culture or to those it has influenced. In all sorts of contexts familiarity gives rise to proprietorial feelings for example a treasured stone once found on a beach, or a favourite chair in a room.


very thing that we describe as the group a political entity, in other words is only recognisable as such because of its members shared narratives of ownership of various things, both material and non-material, including belonging to place, albeit temporarily. Finally, one more distinction should be mentioned, which is distinctively Amazonian in its intellectual history but which, I feel, can be applied far beyond the region: this has been expressed as the opposition between nature and culture, nature and society, wild and tame, and in many other ways besides.139 It is also a distinction whose validity its many critics have found themselves reinforcing even as they tried to find alternatives to it. The inside: outside dichotomy is, after all, central to the cosmologies of cultural harmony portrayed by Overing and McCallum among others, and although the predator: prey dichotomy has been subverted by Rival, it has not really been challenged.140 However, it has been most interestingly rethought by Vilaa (2007), who has described the Wari shamans ability to see the dual nature of persons as a translucid superimposition of bodies recalling Gows description (2001) of the Piro shamans perspectival oscillation between the spirit and human worlds. The most accurate way of expressing this dichotomy is to put it in terms of affinity and consanguinity, because to do so allows for the many different levels and scales upon which it can manifest itself. What I mean by this will become clearer as I describe Guianese space and kinship in detail. Broadly speaking, consanguinity can be defined in various ways, but biological kinship alone is insufficient (though far from irrelevant): it must always be maintained, through coresidence and commensality. Affinity is an ambiguous relationship between exchange partners of any kind, and can potentially be made into a consanguineal relationship or a relationship of enmity. This kinship idiom is best suited to a cosmology that is all-pervading in Guianese social and political life. This chapter will show that politics and property, in their various forms, are the key tools for control and the imposition of order which forge the distinction between our consanguine cultural domain and the wild chaos of the unknown and affinity. In Trio
139 140

Viveiros de Castro (1998); Descola (2005). Rival argues that the Huaorani regard themselves as prey, and are proud of their marginal status which they characterize in this way (1998; cf. High 2006). However, she maintains the distinction between predator and prey, without noting that these may be variable according to the relative positions of actors. Moreover, other groups also see themselves as prey in relation to enemy shamans and jaguars, and the Huaorani do not see themselves as prey in relation to the animals they hunt or people they might kill.


and Wayana spatial terms, the distinction between itu, the forest, and pata, place or village, is of fundamental importance.141 Itu represents a category that cannot be owned as such.142 The artificial, the made, and the social are, on the other hand, owned in some way or other almost by definition.143 Cultivated land becomes somebodys garden; a basket becomes the property of its maker or a person to whom he gives it, until it begins to rot or fall apart, and it is left to the wrphtao (T), the liminal fringe of the village where rubbish is thrown to return to the forest. The consanguinity : affinity opposition is therefore the key to understanding how property can be dependent on perspective: one persons affine is anothers kin; ownership of land is a way of seeing the cultivation of land, which is the expression of the historical relationship of a person or groups relationship to that land. This distinction between inside and outside has political dimensions which Menget has made clear by showing that it constitutes the very definition of a polity (1993: 60). There are echoes in this argument of the enclosure of the commons in European history, and of the legal justification for colonialism that only cultivated land constituted owned land, making clearing, ploughing and sowing tantamount to a legitimate claim (cf. Locke 1988; Smith 1978; Rousseau 1992). This underlines the common element to all forms of property that is, narrative, or history. It is events, and the history of a relationship, that make people belong to each other, and things or land belong to people, and the narratives of those events can turn them into property. To take possession of something can create ownership. In French Guiana today it is still possible to stake a claim to a piece of land in this way.144 However, the Western practice of staking claims illustrates the important difference between this cornerstone of world political history (which underpins much of


Cf. Rivire 1969a. Such socioterritorial dichotomies are common not only in Lowland South America (Helms 1988: 22). 142 For this reason attempts to create national parks out of forest areas inhabited by Amerindians such as the Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo give rise to confusion. 143 Itupon, people/animals of the forest, have the same characteristics each from their own perspective. An armadillo or an agouti, for example, has its own pata. 144 In Colombia, as in the Guianas, tierra balda can become the property of anyone who clears it. In addition, if it is alienated from him, the alienator must compensate him for his improvements (S. HughJones pers. comm.). This highlights still further that land or space can be occupied, but only its artificial transformations can be owned.


colonialism) and the apparent idiosyncrasies of indigenous Amazonian culture.145 This is the fact that ambiguity and change or impermanence, leading to the need for constant renewal, are vital parts of Amerindian property relations, whereas Western property relations strive to eliminate ambiguity and achieve permanence. With this in mind, I now turn to the relationship between property narratives and politics among the Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo.

Possession Before examining property relations directly, it is useful to consider how possession itself is expressed.146 Carlin (2004: 459-476) describes the different types of possession found in Trio. There are three principal types, defined, not by alienability/ inalienability (a distinction of importance in many languages), but rather along temporal parameters, which Carlin characterizes as: immediate possession, (as in, karakuri nai jiweinje, I have money on me), temporary controlled possession, (as in, maja entume wae, I have a knife [that I can give away]), and permanent possession, (as in, tpapake nai, he has a father). The first type, as it deals with immediate possession, may not seem to be relevant to the notion of property, because if, for example, one does not have money on ones person, but in another place, then it is used in the negative. However, this impression may be due merely to a narrower definition of property than any we are used to. Adam Smith, while contributing to founding modern notions of property, conjectured that among hunters, because of their nomadic lifestyle, the notion of property seemsto have been confined to what was about ones person (Smith 1978: 485). Whether or not it is universal among nomadic hunting societies for immediate possession to be the primary notion of property,

Cf. Goody (2005), who argues that capitalism, democracy, realistic art, agriculture and other elements of civilization did not evolve uniquely in Europe; the same may be said for property. 146 Although linguistic evidence can be misleading, because it can lead to oversimplification, partly due to the fact that many of the subtler aspects of a language are invisible to someone who has not spent their entire life immersed in it, and partly due to the fact that many things are simply not expressed or distinguished verbally, it is nevertheless useful to begin the discussion in this way because it will bring out some important peculiarities of Guianese thought. I limit the discussion of this to the Trio language, the only relevant language of which there exists a sufficiently detailed linguistic study.


the suggestion does carry some resonance in the Guianas, and Akuriyo such as Kuritune do tend to carry their most treasured possessions on their persons. More interestingly, Smith noted the very reproachfull association of avarice (loc. cit.) in such societies, an observation evoking the typical Guianese disapproval of stinginess. In view of this, however, we may wonder how it is that people are able to maintain possession of the highly valuable prestige goods that they often acquire through todays economy. The answer to this could be that if the asker were to be granted, for example, an outboard motor, he would be sure to find himself subjected before long to equally taxing demands. More likely, the consideration does not need to extend this far, as it is obvious that the owner of such a valuable and prestigious item would be very unwilling to part with it. It is also likely that because of the very high prestige value of such items they become so strongly associated with their owners that to part with them would be virtually unthinkable. The result of valuable goods not being requested by others is that possessors of many valuable goods such as W, (see below), are often spoken of in resentful terms. It is also significant that his influence in the village is not proportional to his wealth. Kapitein Mosesi, on the other hand, finds himself giving vast quantities of goods to his father-inlaw (Nupi), and to other close relatives of his. He is also constantly in financial debt. As a village leader, he must be less resistant to the demands of others, in order to maintain his influence. Lvi-Strauss called the leaders need to give in response to the demands of his followers the first instrumental force of the chiefs power, and he added, generosity is the string constantly struck which makes the general consent to ones leadership sound clear or out of tune (1944a: 24). I would only add that the leader also has to accumulate more in order to sustain this generosity, necessitating and facilitating his greater social connectedness. As for temporary controlled possession: The word entu has no direct equivalent in English, but it carries the sense of both owner and boss. The Portuguese dono or Spanish dueo would be closer translations. It also means trunk of tree and foot of mountain. The leader or founder of a village is known as the pata entu, literally the


place entu,147 and persons in charge of particular tasks, such as running the generator or the radio, are known as the montoru entu and the radio entu respectively. This is despite the fact that in legal terms the radio in Tpu belongs to the telecommunications company, Telesur, and the generator belongs to the government Ministry of Social Affairs. The common factor uniting these examples of entu is the practical element of being in charge of, being responsible for, and carrying out or delegating tasks related to the village, radio or generator. The suffix me, here meaning being in a state of, gives entume. Entume wae means I have it, usually with a sense of control: it can be used of objects that can be exchanged (bateri entume wae, I have batteries [to give away]; malaja entume manan?, do you have a machete [for me]?). Carlin does not comment on the fact that this expression may also be used to refer to features of ones own body: soro, for example, once used it to point out to me that he had a pierced septum (see plate 1), in contrast with another person who did not. Once again, this is because of the element of control but also because of the transient nature of the body according to indigenous cosmology; although soro cannot unpierce his septum or give it away, and the piercing seems to be permanent, it is part of his body and therefore under his control; moreover, the humanity of the body must be constantly maintained by artificial means. A possessor in this type of construction must be animate, and X entume wae means I own/ control X. The question, karakuri entume manan?, do you have money, implies a request for money, because it includes the suggestion, do you have enough money, or money to spare, or do you have control of the money [such that you can give me some]? Exchange, or giving, and control are united in this linguistic feature, and this should be borne in mind as we discuss types of property. They are both transient, and subject to relationships, but imply the ability or power to change: a village leaders position is subject to his maintaining certain relationships with his pito (subordinates/ sons-in-law) or villagers, who may desert him at any time; yet he has control of the village and represents it (in ways discussed below and in other chapters). Permanent possession may be inherent, or acquired, and the examples that Carlin gives are telling: as in I have a father [tpapake wae], a sister, or I have a house [tpakoroke


In the Xing, effective leaders are also masters of the village ground (Menget 1993: 71; cf. Heckenberger 2005).


wae] (2004: 459). This type of construction describes a state, in these examples roughly corresponding to being be-fathered, be-sistered, or housed, and it does not imply any transaction. A permanent possessor does not have to be animate, and so features of objects or places can be described in this way. With regard to things as opposed to persons, whether they are described in terms of permanent or temporary possession depends upon context. In the case of hammock, the noun itself changes from hke (permanent) to weitapi (temporary) to emphasize this distinction: thkeke manan? do you have a hammock (lit. are you be-hammocked); weitapi entume manan? do you have a [spare] hammock [that I can use/ buy]?. The animate or inanimate nature of the subject in possessive constructions is significant. Temporary controlled possession must have an animate subject. This supports my suggestion that it is action or practice artifice, so to speak that makes property. Some kind of action either through exchange or through the manipulation of natural or cultivated materials must be taken in order to have a temporary controlled possessed object, and this requires an animate subject. In more general terms, whereas temporary possession is concerned with the thing possessed, permanent possession is concerned with a status or an identity, although both modes concern relations of one kind or another. A village leader owes his position not to an innate status, but to his foundation of a village and his actions and speeches; it is these relationships and actions themselves that are described in terms of permanent possession. Although practice is a more reliable form of evidence than language, from this linguistic data it can already be seen that it is inappropriate to begin with assumptions about ownership and possession from more familiar property regimes. The distinction between alienable and inalienable property that has long been a feature of European legal and anthropological debates about property (the difference, for example, between common and civil law with regard to land), has little place here. What we can learn from these possessive constructions is that possession is described in a subjective way, depending upon context. The distinction between merely having an item and having it at ones disposal (and being ready and able to act upon it) is given considerable weight. Also, the distinction between being in direct and indirect possession (having an item on ones person or at home), is emphasized. This corresponds to the Trios emphasis in their 85

language upon distinguishing the seen from the unseen, and the certain from the uncertain. One may be the owner of an item, but this is not the same as having it in ones pocket. Experience, relationship and intention are all thus mobilized even in the most everyday possessive constructions. This makes it difficult and inappropriate to discuss property in absolute terms. As we shall see, types of space also have implications for property and possession the transformation of space being one way in which property is created, and once again these types of space are constituted through their histories, the narratives surrounding them, as well as their visible features.

Moveable property The strong disapproval of meanness, referred to at the beginning of the previous section, characterizes most of all the attitude towards movable property. Possession and property amount almost to the same thing, however, and it is common for people who borrow items to be slow to return them. Having said this, the use of money and the increasing presence of long-lasting manufactured items are giving rise to an increasing tendency for people to lock their houses and secretly hoard objects. This is in contrast to the ostentatious way in which certain prestige items are displayed, such as comparatively expensive clothes, watches and other paraphernalia. These appear not to be transferable, and may be regarded as permanent extensions of the person who wears or carries them. Some objects are clearly gendered, as everywhere in Amazonia: most obviously, hunting paraphernalia and fishing tackle belong to men and cooking utensils to women. More interestingly, men vigorously maintain their monopoly on any items which involve interactions between non-kin. A good illustration of this is the case of the petrol-powered manioc grater that was brought to Tpu and first put into use while I was there. Manioc grating is womens work, but men (led by Jan who had charge of the machine) maintained control of the machine, which was made easier for them by their ownership of the petrol tanks. Whenever a group of women wanted to use the machine, they would ask Jans permission, and he would set the machine in motion. The women who paid a small fee could then unload their katari of manioc into the machine. 86

The overriding factor in the appreciation and value of ordinary material objects tends to be age and usefulness. Things which are old are generally regarded as useless, and newness, beauty and desirability are expressed together in the word kurano. The vast majority of everyday objects are utilitarian: cooking utensils, manioc squeezers, hunting and fishing equipment and it makes sense that the newer they are, the better condition they are in, and therefore the more valuable. The same pattern partly applies to ritual and ornamental objects, whose value may also in a sense be regarded as utilitarian, in terms of their functions such as protection against spirit attacks, or invigoration of the body. The exceptions to this are bead necklaces, feather headdresses, panti waist adornments, keweiju bead aprons, and flutes (or parts of flutes) made of bone or claw. These, although considered more beautiful when they are new, have greater value precisely because of their durability, and hardness (T. karime) is a highly prized quality.148 Glass beads are preferred to seeds not just because they are more difficult to procure, or because they require less work (seeds must be toasted, pierced and dyed), but primarily because of their far greater durability. The history of the beads themselves is given no importance, and good quality glass beads can be recycled when a particular ornament begins to become unstrung; women are forever requesting the particular colours they need for the design they have in mind. More elaborate feather ornaments are kept, for as long as possible,149 and, along with other highly valued items, may be inherited.150 However, old objects are not necessarily valued even when they are hard. During the course of a conversation about hunting techniques before the arrival of firearms, Ksi remembered some old hardwood spears he had, and showed them to me. The spears were old and half-forgotten when one of them was extracted from the mass of objects

148 149

See chapters 3 and 4 on hardness. Chapuis comments that feathers for the Wayana are lexically and conceptually not differentiated from hair (umhe (W), ime (T)). Hair is regarded as the seat of a power which also links them to the person; so, cut, it must be treated correctly or risk harming its wearer; one can make the hypothesis that the same is true of the bird feathers/hairs which, maintaining some of the power of their previous owners, bring them to their new wearer; they create a new identity (Chapuis 1998: 374n). In addition to their beauty, then, it is the vital power of the feathers that makes them valuable. 150 I was unable to obtain consistent information on this point, but if so, this would be consistent with the practice in other areas, such as Northwest Amazonia, where headdresses are among the highly valued heirlooms passed on from father to son (S. Hugh-Jones pers. comm.). According to Darbois (1956: 51), beads and feather headdresses are buried, along with weapons, with the dead. But D. Davy (pers. comm.) informs me that Wayana feather headdresses are indeed inherited patrilineally.


gathering dust on the beams under the house by Ksi to illustrate the weapons of war of his youth, I asked for one like it, but Ksi insisted on giving me the original along with two others that soon appeared. To my dismay, Ksi proceeded to shave the patina off the surface of the wood, to make the objects as good as new. It was a long way to go to find the right kind of tree to make spears, but since these ones were useless anyway (there being no need for spears any more), they could simply be recycled. On another occasion, Rime (see chapter 4) gave me a Trio five-hole notch flute,151 which he described as very old. He considered it worthless because it no longer made a sound, and gave it to me. In exchange I gave him a recorder, which he was delighted with not only was it in perfect working condition, but being made of plastic, it was likely to last a long time. Old utilitarian objects are considered worthless, potentially to the point of embarrassment. Even flutes are utilitarian, and they deteriorate with age. Many ritual objects are also quite disposable. The clarinets associated with the Marake initiation ceremony are made especially for the occasion and are discarded afterwards, not because of pollution, but because they have fulfilled their purpose and will no longer be new or attractive (kurano) by the next ceremony.152 Today, the value of ceremonial artefacts, particularly the maluwana (see chapter 3), is sometimes measured by their exchange value as barter for industrially produced goods (Barbosa 2002: 107), or their cash value.153 This suggests that the property value of an object is not intrinsic to the type of object, but to the purpose for which it is made. A maluwana is the permanent property of a collectivity, when it is designed for its usual purpose, as a ritual ornament for the communal meeting house (tukusipan).154 When it is made for trade, however, it is the temporary controlled property of the maker.

151 152

Quena of luwe bamboo, Guadua sp.. See appendix 1 for description of the marake. 153 In Paramaribo, a maluwana is sold for !3 per cm diameter. A small maluwana 43cm in diameter can therefore be sold for !129, a considerable sum of money in Tpu. Rimes flute, and both of the maluwana described in chapter 3, were donated to the Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. 154 See chapter 3.


Space Writing about anthropological notions of space, landscape, territory and property, Strathern (n.d.) uses Melanesian examples to argue that land can usefully be understood as both a tangible and an intangible resource. Following Corsn-Jimnez (2003), she suggests regarding land in various ways in terms of space rather than representation. People in Melanesia can be said to belong to the land, as much if not more than it belongs to them, and the creations of the land can be seen as creations in ways similar to the intangible resources of intellectual property: The lands creations are consumable or transferable extensions of land that itself, the source of creativity, is non-consumable and non-transferable. The guarantee of both possibilities conserving the land and exploiting the fruits of the land lie in the social relationships that are evidence of the way land owns people and people own land. The nexus of relationships between people, land and produce gives us the rules of exclusion (n.d.: 12). What people value in the land is not so much its capacity for production, as its capacity for relationships. To see how this is reflected in the Guianas, it is helpful to have an idea of the spatial categories that exist in Trio and Wayana languages. Again, I give Trio examples, but Wayana is sufficiently similar for this discussion to apply to it as well. Location must be expressed by suffix in one of five ways, distinguishing open space (pata-po, in the village), enclosed space (itu-tao, in the forest), in liquid (tuna-hkao, in the water/ river), in fire (mahto-renao), or in contact (itu-p, on the branch) (Carlin 2004: 172). The qualitative difference between types of space is most important between the village and the forest, space being subjectively experienced, either from within the forest or at a place or village. Rivire has rightly drawn attention to the strong distinction between itu and pata, the latter meaning village or place, and itu meaning forest or without a place. Describing the subjective, lived nature of the Trio experience and activity of spatial orientation in the forest, he writes: concepts of distance and direction lose meaning away from this world [i.e. of the pata], and the Trio rely on the fund of common experience, unintelligible to the stranger, in giving directions (1969a: vii). Indeed, anyone who has walked in this type of forest can appreciate the distortions in distance 89

and direction that confound the novice, who does not share in the fund of common experience, the local network of histories: if place corresponds to a network of histories, then itu is the holes in the net. Rather than call it without a place, it is useful to think of the forest as non-place, to highlight its character of alterity and non-identity. Strathern and Corsn-Jimnez suggest that it may be inappropriate to employ the concept of landscape to space. But space or place is given meaning by the Akuriyo, Trio and Wayana when it is narrated (Rivires fund of common experience), and through situated narratives belonging of one sort or another is expressed. Itu may be represented, much as the realm of myth and spirit is, whereas pata and tpit (the garden) are transformed. Landscape, as the representation of space, is therefore far from irrelevant. There are also important differences with Stratherns Melanesian scenario. In the Guianas, because of the radically differentiated spatial categories that define the relationship with the environment, the general concept of land is almost meaningless (see below). The primary distinction for Amerindians remains that between the forest on the one hand, and the village and the garden on the other. The distinction is between cultivated and natural, consanguineal and affinal. In Melanesia, fields belong to lineages and are associated with particular ancestors. They can be left fallow, and they retain the name of the group, clan or lineage. In the Guianas, a garden, and even a village, only remains associated with its owner/ creator until it is time to abandon it and create anew. Social space cannot be taken for granted. Places are historical, and people belong to places only insofar as they belong to their creators through kinship. For this reason, it is impossible to say of the Guianas what Strathern says of Melanesia that territory produces people and social groups. Territory in the Guianas, in so far as there is such a thing, is defined by the people that hunt, fish and cultivate on it. People produce territory, and not the other way around.155


There is, however, some indication in this region of the existence of ancestral place and of territorial emergence sites. The mountain called Tukusipan can be regarded as an archetype of the Wayana house, and Paiman, the Trio word for a large communal house, is also the name of a mountain (see chapter on the House). The Trio also associate their ancestry with the savannah area called Samuwaka. Nevertheless this has little impact on the practicalities of residence or cultivation. Houses of transformation and archetypal houses have greater importance in some other areas of Amazonia (e.g. Northwest Amazonia (Hugh-Jones pers. comm.)), where territory may be said also to produce people, but even in such cases the relationship between people and territory is not necessarily privileged in this sense. Freire gives the intermediate case of


Strathern contrasts Melanesian notions with the Western notion according to which the justification for property rights lies in the persons investment of labour, because in Melanesia value is placed primarily upon the clan and upon social relationships. In the Guianas, however, it is the transformation of forest into land for cultivation or habitation that makes it into place and property, and in this context culture, as opposed to nature, should therefore be understood with its root meaning (L. cultus, cultivation, labour, tillingcultivated landcare, training, education (Langenscheidt 1966)). Guianese practice is remarkably reminiscent of the European notion of terra nullius, except that here land claims can be repeated over and over again, because of the impermanence of property relations. In practical terms, with regard to contemporary land claims, in Melanesia knowledge of human relationships is as important as the memory of who has occupied which places. In the Guianas, it is only with the emerging possibility (and necessity) of formal, statelegislated land claims that the notion of entitlement has become relevant. Notions of ancestry, descent and lineage, which ordinarily play little role in indigenous kinship and almost no role in the relationship towards the land, become mobilized as part of strategies to retain land under pressure.156 There is a key general point to be made from this: property rights, as exclusive ownership, are only necessary where there is competition. As Hume argued, property rights only make sense when they are in the interests of society (1975). I suggest that the notion of creativity, which Strathern employs to show how land ownership can be similar to intellectual property, is even more important in the Guianas, because not even the groups relationship towards the land can be taken for granted. Only social relationships exist a priori, and gardens themselves, which can belong to individuals, must be created from the forest, which by definition does not belong to anyone.157 The forest is associated with the spiritual realm, which does belong to shamans in the
the Piaroa, for whom the little interest...for personal genealogies contrasts with their careful account of land genealogies (2002: 218). 156 See Brightman 2007b for further discussion of this. 157 Although areas of the forest can loosely be said to belong to the spheres of influence of particular villages, they are not property in the sense that I have been discussing. Moreover, a distinction can be made between the forest as a category and situational relationships to locations in the forest, because paths and locations where a known event has taken place such as cutting down a tree, killing an animal or gathering are partially socialised by the human activity that has taken place there.


sense that it is their sphere of influence, and it is proper to them: ordinary people claim ignorance of it, and shamans have spirit familiars which are exclusive to them, although, as with other forms of property, they must be actively maintained by feeding with tobacco smoke. The spatial organisation of spirits is also a form of belonging, and it is expressed in the narrative articulation of the forest. This spatial dimension of the spirit world has important implications for perspectivist theory, which tends to focus on abstract relations, and does not take into account the effects of time on the spatial organisation of humanity and alterity.158 Spirits belong to particular places (or the places belong to them), whether because they are the homes of the masters of animals, or because they are old villages, as a result of the histories of those places. Evangelical missionaries regarded this as a central problem when they were attempting to convince the Trio and Wayana of the superiority of their religion, and mounted expeditions to go to the big jaguars village or the big deers village to demonstrate that there was no danger in going there. A place of historical and spiritual importance is one in which an important transformation has taken place, or in which a highly transformable being dwells, and part of the danger of such places is that further transformations, beyond the control of Trio and Wayana people, may take place there in the future. The masters of animal species, such as the big jaguar and deer mentioned above, are those which can transform themselves into humans, and which control the provision of game animals, but old villages are also avoided because of the presence of dead people, who, lacking bodies, and therefore lacking human perspectives, will try to usurp the bodies of those who come near. It is probably for this reason that shamans are not cremated, although other people are: their bodies are left intact for as long as possible because their spirits are unusually adept at perspectival transformation. In the case of these spirit places, which are given names although they exist in the forest, naming marks them as non-human property, and serves to exclude them from the artificial processes (clearing and building or planting) that would appropriate them as human property. There is no terra nullius in this context, then; the forest is not empty, but is the space of alterity. The transformation that takes place when creating a village or garden is the transformation of alterity into kinship: clearing and burning send the spirits away, and

See Viveiros de Castro 1998, 2002.


they are replaced by manioc clones in the garden, which, nurtured as though they were kin, are truly domestic plants; this echoes the planting of kin in the village, and leadership and collective labour permit this creative appropriation of social space.

Magic and territoriality The danger of entering a place inhabited by the spirits of the dead, such as an abandoned village, or trespassing in the place of the master of a species of animal, is echoed in certain territorial practices. While the idea of territory is by no means formalized in indigenous Guiana, certain places are associated with ancestors or named groups, because the memory of formerly inhabited or cultivated locations lingers on. Stories of hunting and gathering escapades haunt the creeks and rocks, and any journey on foot or by canoe with Wayana or Trio men is punctuated with such anecdotes. It is therefore not surprising that when two very different peoples, such as the Boni (Aluku) maroons and the Wayana, competed for control of the Maroni and fought each other, the only possible resolution was some form of territorial agreement. After the war between the Boni and the Wayana, the latter, having come out of it worse, had to submit to the superior authority of the Boni Granman, and the respective leaders drank some of each others blood to seal the alliance.159 According to Tapinkili, there is an obeah, or Boni spell, upstream of Antecume Pata, which prevents any Boni from fishing there. It is said that if a Boni breaks the obeah, he will die. Demas told me that the Boni shaman married a Wayana, who was a member of her family this explains why he was motivated to cast a spell benefiting the Wayana rather than his own people perhaps as a form of brideservice. There is a woman in Antecume Pata called Pesitp, whose husband had obtained an obeah that made him unbreakable from a Boni shaman, and she suffers from osteoporosis. The local explanation for her breaking bones is that now that her husband is dead, the obeah no longer protects her. It is said that in order to put the spell on the river, the Boni shaman drank the blood of an Amerindian, and that once, a Boni did go fishing on the Litani, with a Wayana, and on the way back, he died.

Intermarriage being considered impossible between such different peoples see chapter 1.


This information echoes the stories recounted by Hurault: he was informed by his Boni guides that the Litani was recognised by the Boni and Ndyuka as sole property of the Wayana; however, he adds that the Boni, allies of the Wayana, go up the Litani in season to fish in the creeks, whereas their rivals the Ndyuka are not permitted to do so (Hurault 1949: 39-40). It is difficult to distinguish the mythical and the real in these accounts. Possibly the original prohibition, as Hurault suggests, only applied to the Ndyuka, and later, since Huraults expedition, a Boni extended it to his own people as a gesture of alliance. What is certain, however, is that stories such as these, familiar to ordinary Wayana such as Tapinkili and Demas, help to maintain the boundaries between Wayana and Boni territory (cf. chapter 1).

Village foundation, names and places As I have mentioned, villages are named after, and belong to their founders or owners (entu).160 In more general terms, it may be said that places belong to, or are owned by, their makers; to create is to own and control. This is often reflected in naming practices, and the contrast between indigenous naming practices and those of external actors is informative. Village foundation is thus of great importance as a political activity, as it is in the Xing (Menget 1993: 69; Heckenberger 2005 passim). A man wishing to assert his independence and his leadership qualities founds a village or a section of a village today as in the past. This involves the organization of labour to clear and build, which creates a relationship of authority (where one does not already exist) between a founder and his followers. In most cases, village foundation involves the division of a previously existing local group, and therefore constitutes the creation of a new polity. For these reasons, it can be regarded as the political act par excellence. This is in agreement with LviStrausss observation among the Nambikuara that the leader appears as the cause of the groups willingness to aggregate (1944a: 22): the group comes together (in a particular

Founder is a very appropriate word to use, as another meaning of entu is the base [or foundation] of a mountain (Carlin 2004: 461). As Rivire puts it, the term entu can be glossed as owner but its semantic range is wider than that. It also has the sense of origin or root, something from which a thing has sprung (1995: 197).


place) around a leader (who chooses that place). Villages, like houses, are usually named after their builder/founders, and are inalienable from them. The village itself may therefore be said to be a biographical entity.161 It is worth making a brief comment on personal names. The resonance of a name can only be understood in light of the fact that, among the Trio and Wayana as among the Iatmul, names contain relationships which people own Moutu (2003: 108). Names do not have the same exclusive value for the Trio and Wayana as for the Iatmul, and property does not tend to be disputed; such conflicts are preferably avoided. However, almost every individual has a unique name, and new names are enthusiastically adopted from outsiders. Although I was unable to obtain a clear explanation of this, it is coherent with the tendency to bring in persons and things from outside to renew and nourish the inside. If names are somehow equivalent to souls, and if there is a finite number of them, then such appropriation can be understood as a form of predation.162 However, at the same time, each name reflects its source, and names are often adopted with the permission of their original holder: parents of a newborn child sometimes ask a nonAmerindian outsider if they can name the baby after them. The name thereafter contains the relationship. Naming a village thus leads to the encapsulation of all the network of relationships comprising the future residents of the village in the name of its founder. Villages in the past were smaller than they are now, and many contemporary villages, like Tpu, were not founded by Amerindians; largely because of the attractions they present such as a school, health post and airstrip, they have lasted more than a generation and grown to unprecedented proportions this new development is what I refer to as sedentarisation. However, sections of the village in Tpu (which are in some cases spatially quite distinct and separate) are themselves referred to as pata. They are named, as all villages were in the past, after people rather than features of the landscape, and as though they were separate villages: Pikumis pata and Mosesis pata are at opposite ends

Cf. Rivire: A settlement, in a certain sense, belongs to its leader. Throughout the region there are various ways in which settlements are referred to. They are commonly known by a particular geographical or other feature in their vicinity; the name of a rapids, an oddly shaped rock, or the occurrence of a certain botanical species, for example. But they are equally known by the name of the person who founded the settlement, and who, in turn, is automatically its leader (1995: 197). 162 This appears more likely in view of the fact that the Trio and Wayana share with the Jivaroans the tendency not to give the same name to more than one living Amerindian (non-Wtoto (Indians) are not included), but dead Amerindians names can be reused to name a newborn (cf. Taylor 1993: 659).


of the village, and Thomass pata is on the other side of the river. Linguistically, there is a situational segmentary logic to the representation of space: when in Paramaribo, jipata refers to Tpu as a whole, but when in Tpu, jipata refers to the speakers section of the village. But the pattern of abandonment and foundation of sections is the same as that of villages in the past. The larger village, such as Tpu, taken as a whole, corresponds more closely to the cluster of villages that Rivire (1984) calls an agglomeration. There is a tendency for villages founded by missionaries to be named after features of localities, whereas villages founded by local people, and the small, shifting sections of large, missionary-founded villages (also known as pata), are referred to as so-and-sos village, after the local leader or founder163. Take, for example, the two principal villages in which I carried out fieldwork: Prru Tpu and Antecume Pata. Prru Tpu, frog rock (usually known simply as Tpu), which the residents themselves often call a white peoples village, because it was founded by missionaries, was named after a frogshaped rock forming part of the river bank, whereas Antecume Pata means Antecumes village, Antecume being Andr Cognat. Similarly, the founder of Twenke village was Twenke, and that of Pilima village was its current leader, Pilima. This difference in naming practices reflects an important difference in relationships to land. Settlement solidarity revolves around the founder of a village or village section, and is based upon his authority over his daughters and sons-in-law. The practice of destroying the possessions and often the house of the deceased was extended to the entire settlement in the event of the death of its leader. This was the occasion for the migration of all the remaining residents and often their simultaneous dispersal as rival new leaders founded separate new settlements. Today, numerous sites on riverbanks are spoken of as abandoned settlements where a pata entu died. Such places are said to be infested with spirits, and unsuitable for settlement or cultivation. They can be known as Xs old place

Schoepf (1998: 113) cites numerous toponyms, including names of villages, as place of [local geographical feature]: Kulumulihpan (kulumuli bamboo place), Keyawokhpan (place of the keyawok manioc ants), etc.. He does not give precise details, however, and it is possible that these village names are merely broadly used to refer to physical locations in which one pata , or more in a cluster, have been founded. All of the village names given by Hurault, with much more detail, correspond to the pattern I propose: Ilikwa, Elah, Pileik, Anapaik, Touank, Aloik, Tiliw, Tipiti, Malavat, Nanou, Yaloukana. Hurault gives an alternative lieu-dit for each village, corresponding to geographical features, however (1968: 4), which seems to confirm the reason I have suggested for Schoepfs misleading assertion. Schoepfs villages may also be abandoned: old villages are often referred to using toponyms because of the dangers of pronouncing the names of the dead.


or using toponyms (see footnote above). Today, within the larger, more permanent village, houses and even whole sections may be abandoned at times for the same reasons, but relocation may take place within the larger village. The missionaries naming of villages after features of the landscape represents part of a strategy to create permanent settlements. By giving neutral names, rock (Tpu) or Lawa (the name of a river), and installing a church, a medical centre, an airstrip and a school, they create a permanent centre of attraction, a nexus of spiritual and material resources, around which smaller, kin-based villages (founded in more or less the usual way) cluster.164 The French Guianese situation, where villages are smaller and more numerous, and named after their indigenous founders, appears closer to pre-sedentary practice. The only factor ensuring the stability of village location is the permanent existence of schools and medical centres. Although this factor is a powerful one, it does not prevent relocation from occurring when desired by residents. In Antecume Pata, social tension and personal ambition as a leader led Tapinkili (Mimisikus S) to found a new village on the French bank of the Maroni (Antecume Pata is located on an island). It is still within easy reach of the school and medical centre, but seems to be sufficiently far away to ease social tension. Although usually referred to as Tapinkilis place, it is also jokingly referred to as St. Laurent, after the main town on the French bank at the mouth of the Maroni. This joke has its roots in another strategic reason for the founding of the village by Tapinkili. A highly talented and intelligent young man, he manages to combine traditional Wayana skills with an exceptionally high level of white peoples education. Highly literate by local standards, he has been employed on numerous occasions on

Sedentarisation and civilization are closely related etymologically as well as historically: L. civis, citizen (the opposite of which is peregrinus, strange or exotic, from pereger, who is abroad, or on a journey) comes from the Greek to lie, abide (Lewis 1980). In western Europe and in many other areas of the world, civilization, or cultural superiority, has been associated with sedentary or semi-sedentary communities, and nomadic peoples have been treated with disdain. Throughout Amazonia the same pattern can be found. The Mak, for instance, have long been clients of the Tukanoans in the Vaupes: For the Tukanoans, the Mak represent a category of being which is either the lowest order of human ranking or else not human at all but closer to the category of animals, (Silverwood-Cope 1972: 195) because they say they live in the forest, they do not build proper houses (the Barasana say they lack houses (S. Hugh-Jones pers. comm. see following chapter), they lack ornaments and ritual objects, they are incestuous and all mixed-up (referring to the multi-clan and bi-lateral composition of Mak regional and local groups) (op. cit.: 196). As discussed in later chapters, the Akuriyo today have a similar relationship with the Trio and Wayana in Tpu.


governmental and non-governmental projects. Conscious of his skills, he claims to feel a sense of responsibility for the future of the village, and has different ideas from Andr Cognat (who is more conservative) he is full of entrepreneurial projects, and even applied for EU funding to start a chicken farm. His location of the new village firmly on French soil expresses his awareness and willingness to exploit the fact that state resources are more plentiful in France than in Surinam, and to make the point clearly, he flies a small tricolour over the frame of his house which is under construction. Flying the tricolour is highly symbolic of loyalty to the French state, all the more so as Andr Cognat has always refused to do the same, despite being put under considerable pressure by the French authorities. Tapinkilis use of French identity can be seen as a deliberate inversion of the strategic ethnicity described in chapter 4 below: he transforms himself into a Frenchman in order to seduce a French state which refuses to make cultural exceptions. The village of Tpu is often referred to as a white peoples village (Pananakiri ipata (T)), because it was founded by American and Dutch missionaries.165 White peoples villages tend to grow bigger and last longer than traditionally founded ones. This is because of the desirable external resources that the white people themselves bring, including metal goods at first, and later schools and clinics, but it is also likely to be because of the diminished need for relocation, because the white founders are less likely to die in the village. There is a clear relationship between village permanence and its foundation by an White outsider. Most permanent villages appear to have been founded by outsiders: Tpu, Kwamalasamutu, Palumeu, and Apala. Apart from the fact that outsiders often create attractions that outlast their own presence (clinics, etc.) because they represent larger organizations, I suggest that it is also significant that missionaries and other outsiders rarely die in the field, and when they do their remains are quickly removed. The form of village leadership or ownership that they represent is different from that of the Indians themselves in many respects, but the spiritual danger that their death would bring to a village has never to my knowledge needed to be considered. A large part of the danger of the spirits of the dead stems from their desire to


Similarly, on the Paru de Leste, the villages of Apala and Maxipurimo were founded by rubber tappers and by the German traveller Manfred Rauschert respectively (Barbosa 2002: 124).


rejoin the social world of their former kin; outsiders, however long they remain in a village, do not usually become socialised in the same way, and rarely marry local people. Missionaries in particular deliberately maintain a certain aloof distance. There is therefore no danger in living in Tpu, for example, as Claude Leavitt, the main founder, left long ago. Although he is still alive, when news of his death reaches Tpu, as one day it will, it is highly unlikely that people will take any action as a result.

Parc amazonien de Guyane In practical terms, potentially the most significant Guianese case both testing and transforming different property practices at the present moment is that of the National Park project in French Guiana. Most of all, it affects the Wayana of the Lawa and Litani rivers. During the time of fieldwork, although the Mission of the project sent delegations to consult Wayana villagers about how best to implement it, and had designated local individuals as its representatives, who were to be informed of any progress, most Wayana claimed to know little about the project, and were sceptical partly for this reason. The two main debates were about how far hunting rights should extend around each village, and to what extent, if any, goldmining should be allowed in the park, by whom, and using which methods. To the minds of those Wayana who had seen the draft maps of the proposed park, the defining effect of the project would not be to ensure that they had the clear right of use of an agreed territory, but to prohibit their use of land beyond the limits drawn. To quantify land in this way is a practice quite alien to them, as they experience land from the surface of the river and within the forest; it is their activity that makes land their own, and even then only temporarily. To reverse this practice and make ownership166 the prerequisite for activity is difficult to comprehend. Furthermore, because the gold industry lobby is so powerful that it had ensured that any national park would have some allowance for goldmining, the Wayana leaders saw the park as a threat, because it was likely to allow goldmining to take place upstream of the sections of river and creek where they fish, causing further mercury poisoning, as well as increasing the

More precisely, in this case, ownership of the right of use, constituting a further degree of abstraction.


social problems that are brought by garimpeiros such as prostitution, alcoholism, drug abuse, gambling, theft and violence. Andr Cognat told me that some parties (presumably mining lobbyists) are arguing for the Wayana to have a zone defined around each village, in which they would be allowed to hunt, but their hunting would be restricted to certain animals. He himself was arguing for the Wayana territory to extend to the source of all rivers and an equivalent distance downstream, although he had only proposed this orally, not in writing. The opaque, hierarchical structure of the Mission, and its mysterious objectives and procedures, seemed to give Wayana people a feeling of powerlessness. The Parc amazonien de Guyane was created on the 27th February 2007,167 and has confirmed the fears that I heard expressed. It retains zones of collective right of use for the Wayana, but Wayana territory is not included as part of the national natural reserve, which covers only the headwaters of the rivers affecting the Wayana, i.e. the Litani, the Marouini, the Tampok and the Waki. There is therefore no additional protection against gold prospecting, which is therefore likely to continue to be an increasing cause of conflict. With cases such as this, the redefinition of land as property, or the compartmentalization of the environment, slowly emerging from the process of political wrangling, inevitably further confirms and reinforces the Amerindians position at the bottom of national society. But this is only the case for those Wayana, such as Andr Cognat and Tapinkili, who are able to adopt a White persons perspective. For those who are less skilled at doing so, and from a Wayana perspective, these changes are adapted to and absorbed into a Wayana vision of the universe.

Conclusion The history of indigenous Guiana bears much resemblance to the histories of the Amerindian inhabitants of other parts of Amazonia, yet direct comparison in terms of property is difficult because few studies have directly addressed the topic. Until recently, property was generally taken for granted as an unproblematic concept, and as something

Decree no. 2007-266 of the Ministry of Ecology and Sustainable Development. See map 7.


that Amerindians lacked in any meaningful sense (Heckenberger 2005: 18). Rivire outlines the differences between mens and womens property: most of a mans or womans possessions are related to their respective roles in the economy; he lists items such as hunting equipment and domestic utensils, and notes that towards such items property concepts are poorly developed; an informant pointed to the reason for this as lying in the ease of acquisition of materials, saying, when asked if his bow and arrows had ever been stolen, Why should anyone take mine? They can make their own (1969a: 40-41). He does, however, make an important distinction corresponding to one between possessions in an unmarked sense and property in a more marked sense with the political implications that we have been discussing here. The well developed form of ownership for him is that of women (op. cit.: 41), and the importance and validity of this observation will be discussed in full in the next chapter. He places in between these poorly and well developed concepts of property certain items such as dogs, exotic manufactured goods, and certain cultivated plants (op. cit.: 42), that is, property, other than women, which has an intrinsic value, and cannot be replaced by any member of the society out of the resources of the environment. The economic and political importance of these items has greatly increased with expanding trade since Rivires study. McCallum has suggested almost the exact opposite way of understanding property relations in Amazonia, although it is important to note that she uses the term ownership rather than property, which may account for her relatively narrow definition. Properly owned items are aspects of the person who owns them. By this I mean that possessions are closely identified with their owners. Therefore food and things may be owned absolutely, and everything else (land, hunting territories, lakes, gardens) may have connotations of ownership but that is all. Something of this attitude spills over into the relation between parents and children; but relations between people are in no way comparable to relations between persons and things (McCallum 2001: 92). As the discussion earlier in this chapter shows, such categorical assertions could not be made about the Trio and Wayana. Types of property relations are more nuanced than a simple distinction between the alienable and the inalienable. According to McCallums scheme, it would be difficult to account for exchange without accepting that people can in some sense also be property, because she asserts that the thing is the person (op. cit.: 93). 101

As Miller (2005: 39n) has pointed out, in societies in which objects are treated as persons, we should expect to find that persons are also treated as objects. However, as I showed in chapter 1, Trio and Wayana persons are not directly exchangeable for objects.168 People are exchanged as one form of property, and objects are exchanged as another; the difference is that the exchange of people causes a proliferation of ties of property and belonging, because it creates kinship. Heckenberger (2005), although he does not specifically emphasize the importance of property, recognises the importance of names and types of speech as property in Xinguano society. Chiefly names and chiefly discourse are the property of primary chiefs (op. cit.: 246), and Heckenberger refers to these names as symbolic property and inalienable possessions (op. cit.: 272). History itself is regarded as the exclusive property of the most senior chiefs, whose privilege it is to tell the stories of the eight great chiefs (op. cit.: 286). Village foundation is also given the importance it deserves by Heckenberger. Because of the importance given by the Xinguanos to ancestry, ancient plazas constitute a kind of founders property, the first-in-lines of ancestral estate (op. cit.: 290). He calls the act of inscribing social memory on the landscape place-making (op. cit.: 242ff.) a process which is of the utmost importance for leadership in the Guianas as I have shown. Another Xinguano feature shared by the Guianas is the exclusivity of certain property relations: in deciding to create or foster certain relationships, a person often breaks or neglects others, and the creation of new villages and new leaders through place-making is often the flip-side of a split in another village. This is the separation and definition of new entities referred to in the introduction of this chapter, and the following chapter will show that the same processes take place on a smaller scale, within the kin-based village itself. In this chapter I have shown property relations cut and define social networks. In order to see this, it has been necessary to rethink what we understand by property. Overing claimed that the Piaroas renunciation of property was at the foundation of their egalitarianism: In the Piaroa view, they have eradicated coercion as a social or political force within their society by refusing the possibility of the human ownership of material


Cf. Descola 2001, who argues that there is a general rule in Amazonia of homosubstitution, whereby persons are not substituted or exchanged for things.


resources (1986: 151). It is clear that it would be overly simplistic to say the same of the Trio and Wayana. Inequality is not necessarily founded upon coercion, and as the case of the Akuriyo outlined in the previous chapter shows, both can be said to be present in Tpu. Property relations as practised in indigenous Amerindian society are founded upon relationships, upon historical contingency and the narratives that this creates. They constantly change and have no aspiration to permanence with certain exceptions, manifested in lasting material objects such as bone flutes, feathers and beads.169 Because relationships are emphasized, rather than things themselves, social networks are of fundamental importance. Such a system can of course only function when land pressure is low, but it means that the accumulation of material wealth is not a priority; indeed, the very notion of material wealth is of questionable importance when it is relations rather than things that matter. However, in the contemporary context of the introduction and adoption of structures and property regimes aspiring to abstract objectivity and permanence that gives rise to the emphasis of the accumulation of material wealth, it may be expected that greater social and economic inequalities will emerge. These developments, which are transformations in emphasis rather than fundamental changes, and involve the continuity of long-standing forms of property, can be observed and described to great advantage through the study of village and house foundation, and it is to these that I now turn.


See chapter 4.



Introduction In the previous chapter I discussed what can be defined as property in the Guianese context, and considered the central importance of the creation of social space. Other forms of property were distinguished as moveable property and persons. This chapter will focus on how social space and interpersonal relationships (between kin as well as between affines) converge in the house either the family house or the village meeting house. The term house societies was coined by Lvi-Strauss (1983: 186; 1987: 151ff.) to refer to societies that have hereditary ranking but without rigidly defined classes, territories, or property rights (i.e. the bureaucratic state) (Heckenberger 2005: 64). This strict definition, which is appropriate for certain Northwest Amazonian and Central Brazilian groups (Hugh-Jones 1995; Lea 1995) does not apply in a strong sense to Guianese society, as Rivire has argued (1995). He allows that insofar as there are invisible elements of continuity to the otherwise transitory house in the Guianas, Guianese societies are house societies, but suggests that this places them at the weakest end of the spectrum (op. cit.: 203), where only the type of grouping, but not their variable content or their always brief duration, remains constant (Lvi-Strauss 1987, in Rivire op. cit.: 202-3). However, Guianese society does preserve an estate of mixed principles, like canonical house societies, and the real difference lies in the formers lack of hereditary ranking. Even this does not necessarily matter, as there is much ambiguity in Lvi-Strausss own writings on the house, and much debate among other authors, as to the significance of stratification as a defining attribute of house societies; such things as the tension between alliance and descent (Lvi-Strauss 1987 in Waterson 1995: 50) or the 104

centrality of monogamous marriage in both the symbolism and the organization of kinship (Bloch 1995) may be more significant than the distinction between differentiated and undifferentiated societies (Howell 1995: 151). As I will now show, the centrality of village foundation discussed in the previous chapter is based upon housebuilding, and thus, as in Langkawi (Carsten 1995), the house can be seen as a model for society, despite, or rather perhaps because of, its characteristic transience. The concept of house societies was conceived in order to understand societies made up of units which cannot be defined either as families or as clans or lineages (LviStrauss 1987: 151), in other words to address a problem also posed by Guianese ethnography. It is interesting to consider what we may find if we start with the ethnography of the house in the Guianas. Despite his pessimistic general conclusions about comparitivism, Rivire shows that it is a useful exercise and understates the importance of his own observation that as a building, group or category the visible Guiana house is a contingent entity dependent on its invisible counterpart (1995: 204). This succinctly expresses in a concrete manner something fundamental to Guianese social organization. Political leadership and social organization are very closely linked to village foundation, the essence of which is housebuilding, and in the invisible archetype of the house we can see something of the cosmological reflection of concrete practice. If we start from Guianese ethnography, using the house as a heuristic device, much insight can be gained into Guianese society, and comparative value may follow. In the previous chapter I showed that the artificial processes that create villages and objects are the very processes that permit the existence of property. It is creativity that gives rise to ownership and belonging. In this chapter, I explore one manifestation of this process: housebuilding. If the clearing of land and the building of a house are assertions of leadership qualities, as I hope to show they are, then the house itself can surely tell us a great deal about the politics of family and village life. Indeed, just as a leader is creator and owner (entu) of the village, so a man is the builder and owner of his house, and this allows for the most powerful form of political expression because in the Guianas, as I have mentioned, people vote with their feet: they do not hesitate to relocate when they are discontent with their situation. The relationship between marriage and the house is also of great practical and symbolic 105

importance, because of the practice of uxorilocality, and a detailed examination of the implications of this leads to a much deeper understanding of Guianese kinship. Kinship, village foundation, housebuilding and property relations closely mirror each other and can be explained in terms of each other. In this chapter I show that these things are in fact transformations of one another on differing scales. Strathern (2000: 53) has contrasted two ways in which anthropologists conceive of culture: one, referring to human activity, to the organization of life and livelihood, is scale sensitive: this corresponds to the different spheres of the domestic house, the ceremonial house, the techniques of the body, and so on. The other view of culture, glossed ... as world view, ethos, or webs of significance, she derives the concept of the extensibility of the imagination, and finds that here peoples imaginings observe no scales. They are scale-insensitive. Although the Trio and Wayana might not recognise such a strong, Cartesian distinction between imagination and physical activity, it provides a clue as to how their different scales are related and yet kept separate. These scales are most clearly distinguished in the two principal types of house: the domestic and the ceremonial.

Leadership, inequality and the house I have shown that in the central Guianas the transformation of space from forest (itu) into place, whether village (pata) or garden (tpit) is the defining act of appropriation that creates ownership and belonging. It is most of all through enacting such transformations that leadership emerges, and this can be seen very clearly on a domestic scale, that is to say, in housebuilding. As property, houses are inextricably associated with the individuals who have sponsored their construction. Ownership of a house is not expressed using temporary controlled possessive constructions (X entume wae), but using permanent possessive constructions (t pakoroke wae). Houses are not exchanged, but instead when one is no longer wanted it is abandoned. However, the material of the house does express a certain level of continuity and of economic wealth. It is common to salvage whatever materials can be reused, such as hardwood houseposts, upon relocation. Because of the labour that is required to build any kind of house, and nowadays, the cost 106

of materials, the houses that people live in or are associated with are clear indicators of their position and wealth. The most obvious and visible are the signs of material wealth that is, objects that require cash to acquire them. These include corrugated zinc and sawn planks the latter because of the petrol that is needed to operate the chainsaw in order to cut them. People often express the desire to improve their dwellings in various ways, and speak admiringly of such improvements, and disparagingly of old or poor quality materials. The more durable the materials that are used, the more likely they are to be reused, and therefore such wealth visibly accumulates among those who have access to it, accompanied by prestige. A house may be said to express social organization in two ways: firstly, any house is the material expression of its builders position as head of household. Secondly, the particular features and dimensions of a given house express economic wealth, the scale of labour that the builder could muster, and thus his prestige position relative to other housebuilders. As mentioned in the previous chapter, village foundation is a political activity of profound importance. This has been little acknowledged in Amazonian ethnography: Neither Clastres (1974) nor Kracke (1978), in the two most ambitious attempts to describe Amazonian leadership, recognize the significance of it; even Rivire, in arguing for the political foundations of settlement patterns in the Guianas (1984), despite his arguments emphasis of spatial organization, focused on the negative part of the process, when co-residents split into rival groups until one relocates. This may be because village foundation is not always an easy practice to observe it can take on the initial appearance of the simple building of a house in a newly cleared location. Tapinkilis foundation of a new village, mentioned in the previous chapter, was an exceptionally candid political act because of its proximity to the village from which he came. Housebuilding is, however, on any scale a declaration of political autonomy. Building a house signifies an assertion of independence on the part of a man who previously, in most cases, lived in the house of his wifes father (see below). Leadership qualities are not only expressed in the act of relocation itself. Building usually involves a small amount of communal labour, although this is not an absolute requirement. When I went to collect strong saplings for rafters with Ksi, my friend and grandfather, for example, my efforts as a beast of burden, however meagre, constituted 107

more help than he would usually have had. The part of building that is most conducive to communal work is thatching. I tried to lend a hand at this, and for a beginner the intricate process of twisting fresh green bifurcated leaves of wai (T)170 is a slow but interesting novelty. But each new leaf adds only half an inch of progress along the batten and the process of making an entire roof is a long one. The more men (for it is always men) perched among the rafters, the better. Labour is obtained not through the payment of cash, but by means of a complex mechanism of reciprocity. The workers appear to treat the day of work almost as a social event, and are provided with drink and sometimes food by the sponsor. Rather than constituting payment for the work, these refreshments can arguably be described as a token of reciprocity, of the fact that similar work will be carried out at some time in the future, or has been at some time in the past, by the sponsor for each worker when they in turn should require it. Nevertheless, the work is not explicitly regarded as being carried out in return for other work. The attitude of the workers is that a pleasant atmosphere of sasame (harmony, euphoria) is created, by the sharing of tnisen (T) (beer), which is conducive to helping others (especially the provider of the drink or rather, her husband). In order to muster workers, it is therefore important to have a good garden, producing plenty of manioc, and a wife who makes good beer. It is also important to have good social relations with other men, and for ones own skills, especially those as a housebuilder, to be valued. A good hunter may also find it easier to summon a workforce because a person who earns his favour is likely to be sent a few choice pieces of meat, if he is also reasonably closely related.


Arecacea, Geonoma sp.


Figure 1: Structure of the basic domestic house

It would be wrong to think of the process of organizing labour solely in terms of direct or indirect exchange, generalized reciprocity, submission to charismatic leadership or to authority, or communal labour, but all of these play some role. It is useful to consider the relationships between housebuilders and their helpers: close kin often help, but usually only when they have a direct interest in the new building: son and nephews, for example. Otherwise, helpers tend to be affines who are in some kind of junior relationship towards the housebuilder; the most obvious of these is the daughters husband. Indeed, Ksi and his son-in-law Kulitaik, my friends and hosts, often worked together on the formers house, with the latter doing the hardest tasks. It is now also very common for Akuriyo to help with building. As well as relationship status, inequalities in the village are revealed though housebuilding because of the importance of charisma and the resources required for generating a workforce. Men with less personal charisma, or less productive gardens, and younger men without subordinates (pito (T)), tend to have more difficulty in mustering workers, and it is therefore common to find young mens houses in protracted states of partial construction. These differences in personal influence are also reflected in residence practices, as more influential men often have others living in their houses while


less influential men often live in the house of another. They also partly explain the marked differences between the poorest Akuriyo house and the richest Trio house, as I will discuss after introducing the domestic house in general.

Domestic houses When a man marries, he lives in his father-in-laws house for a variable period of time. At some point, because of a dispute or the death of his father-in-law, or because the family has grown too large,171 and when he is strong and responsible enough, and sufficiently skilled in hunting, fishing and other masculine activities, he may relocate and build a house. This occurs according to exactly the same pattern as village foundation. Indeed, we should not find this surprising, as it was precisely in the developmental cycle of the family that Fortes and others found the intersection of the family and the political spheres in many types of society (Goody 1958). Building and the necessary organization of work parties are assertions of leadership on variable scales. On the most equitable level and smallest scale, two men of similar standing may work for each other on different occasions, each submitting to the other on the others territory. In this sense, the domestic house is a microcosm of the village. Even local visitors to a domestic house are offered drink when it is available, and they bring conversation and animation exchanging knowledge for drink. Sometimes they will bring meat. Thus the male visitor/dancer : female host/provider of drink dichotomy, as we shall see with regard to the tukusipan (below) and flute rituals (in chapter 4), exists on the domestic scale as well as on that of the collectivity as a whole. However, this dimension of housebuilding manifests itself in different ways, which highlight the differences between individuals. There is another discrepancy between housebuilding and leadership: a village leader is openly regarded as temporary whereas a housebuilder/ owner is permanently so. This is expressed linguistically in the distinct forms of possessive construction used: temporary in the former instance (pata entu,


Cf. Lepri 2005, who writes that an Ese Eja man builds his own house after the birth of his second child. The same is broadly true of the Trio and Wayana, but it is not an explicitly stated rule.


village leader/ owner), and permanent in the latter (t pakoroke wae, I have a house/ am with-house). This difference is moreover at odds with real events: villages may outlast houses, and in contemporary circumstances usually do. Village leadership has also become more durable and secure with sedentarisation, an important point which will be discussed in later chapters. The most likely explanation is a simple one: pata refers not only to place (village), but also to the people within it, and the relationship between a leader and his followers is constantly reaffirmed and potentially contested. This is consistent with Lvi-Strauss (1943) reciprocal model of leadership. This explanation has implications for the role of leader itself, which pose a challenge to Clastres (1974): if there is a distinction between the roles of leadership and that of the household head, then the possibility arises that leadership can be treated as an institution, the public sphere may be said to be locally recognized, and so, for what it is worth, Amerindian society may have a state (defined as the public sphere as distinct from the private) after all. However, it is worth remembering that in the past villages were often single domestic units, and this highlights that the leader and the housebuilder are structurally equivalent; the distinction between the terms refers to the distinct activities of placemaking and representing the people who dwell in that place. There are many elements of consistency shared by the village and the house, and the purpose of this chapter is to focus upon the political significance of the latter, whether expressed in the dynamics of certain relationships between kin or affines, or in the foundation and maintenance of status. This has great significance for politics on larger spatial scales, as the following chapters will demonstrate.


4 1 2 A 1 C B

2 D 3

Figure 2: Plan of Ksis house in Tpu. Key: A Cookhouse. B Manioc-processing house. C Courtyard/ household anna. D Beer-cooking house. E House (sleeping house). 1 Mango tree. 2 Kitchen plants. 3 Coconut tree. 4 Tortoise pen. 5 Sugar cane, toilet.


In view of the permanent association between houses and their builder-sponsors, and the fact that consequently a house is generally abandoned following its builders death, we can see and explain many observable differences in contemporary building, which tell us much about Trio and Wayana society today.172 Differences between domestic dwellings reflect not only differences between individuals ability to organize labour, but also their access to cash and other transferable resources. The manner of construction of foreign agents building projects reflects their differing relationships with local people and highlights the economic influence they exert. Meanwhile the international comparison underlines the differences between the clientilism of the Surinamese government representative, who cultivates individual relationships, and the interventionist, egalitarian173 French state, whose anonymous influence alienates people from projects. However these state related factors are less pronounced in a type of building that I have not so far considered: the visitors house. Perhaps because of its collective nature, and because it is felt to express cultural continuity, it includes fewer manufactured materials than domestic houses, reflecting the fact that trade, by which manufactured materials are obtained, is primarily an individual activity (see chapter 1).

Ceremonial house The Tukusipan (T,W) is a large, circular, domed house in the centre of the village (see plates 2 and 3). It is used for collective occasions, and rituals which invariably involve and revolve around the coming of visitors. Leaders occasionally summon the entire village there to make speeches. Outsiders without kin in the village are always taken to the tukusipan when they arrive, and when government representatives or other officials come they are entertained there. The building is also used for their official business, such as distributing pensions. In various ways, therefore, it can be regarded as the architectural expression of the importance given to relationships with other people from outside the village, as well as of the collectivity of local coresidents it is by far the most impressive

172 173

See appendix 2 for detailed description. Egalitarian in principle, i.e. it refuses to make exceptions for cultural minorities.


building in the village and, before there were schools and health centres, it was the only public building. The big house in Tpu is alternatively referred to as paiman and as okoropag; although there was some disagreement between interlocutors as to the correctness of these terms, the former means a lozenge shaped construction with a pitched roof, like the domestic house design described above, and the latter is a large round house, with a conical or domed roof. Although the Tpu communal house is not a true dome, but has a short ridge making it technically a paiman, residents tend to call it tukusipan, this term referring to the function rather than to the structure of the building. The tukusipan is situated in the centre of the village, and is a large domed structure with a central pole piercing the top of the dome through the centre of a maluwana.174 Two concentric circles of hardwood posts support lintels from which spring slightly flexible rafters to the central post, allowing the thatch to take a domed, rather than a conical, form, the shape of the curve being fixed by the length of the battens. On larger structures an additional, inner ring of longer posts gives additional support. Both paiman and tukusipan are also the names of mountains or the large tepui type rock formations characteristic of the region. As Rivire suggested (1995, see above), the invisible house or rock archetype of the house found among many groups, notably the Yecuana (Guss 1989) does seem to exist among the Trio in some form, and the same is true of the Wayana. Visitors from other villages are traditionally lodged in the tukusipan. Its name means place of the humming-birds, expressing the association between visitors and humming-birds (see chapter 4) (Schoepf 1998: 115)175. The collective labour and expertise required to build it is enormous compared to the building of an ordinary domestic house. All the able-bodied men in the village take part in its construction. The tukusipan structure, for the Trio, seems to have been adopted from the Waiwai mim, although in Tpu the structure is not a perfect dome, but a variation of the domestic house (paiman, pakoro) with increased overall proportions, a

174 175

See discussion (below) of the maluwana; for this word, I use the Wayana spelling throughout. According to Schoepf, tukusipan, literally meaning that which is full of hummingbirds (being composed of tukui (hummingbird) + the particles pe (adj.) and n (nom.)), signifies visitors/ dancers house in the following languages: Makushi, Trio, Wayana, Arekuna, Taulipang, Apalai, Kalina and Akawaio. It is unclear what his sources are for this information, however.


very high roof with a short ridge and a rounded lintel. The Wayana seem also to have used both types of structure - the imperfect or false dome is shown in SchultzKampfhenkel (1940), whereas the true dome can be found today in Antecume Pata on the Litani. The Trio of Tpu had a team of Waiwai to supervise and lead the building of their first tukusipan in 1974 (which, for the Trio - who at the time were the overwhelming majority in the village relative to the Wayana - was their first, and seems to have been a perfect cone structure, as was the case in Kwamalasamutu). This is significant because the Waiwai were acting as missionary helpers to Claude Leavitt, and with their knowledge of building they brought knowledge of the Bible. The Waiwai are still revered by the Trio today, who say that they are highly knowledgeable and have enormous gardens; although they joke about the fact that they do not drink beer. The sides of the tukusipan in Tpu are walled with spaced planks, with about a planks space between each one, giving some shade on the sides exposed to the sun early and late in the day. There are two openings with hinged doors, one of which is at the nearest point to the river (north), and the other on the opposite side (south) (see figure 3). Near the latter is a small shelter, which serves as a cookhouse for collective meals. On the north side there is a table (see plate 4), behind which sit figures of prestige, such as leaders and visiting officials, on collective occasions: the bureaucrats desk has thus been firmly adopted as a symbol of authority. When visitors arrive, or men return from collective hunting or fishing expeditions, as part of the celebrations following the cutting and burning of gardens towards the end of the dry season, they dance anticlockwise around the tukusipan in single file before entering it through the north door, carrying what they have caught. The game or fish is displayed to all, and placed in the centre of the house, from where it is taken by the women, who dance, again anticlockwise, carrying it, around the inside of the house for some time, and then out through the south door to prepare it for cooking.


Figure 3: Plan of the Tukusipan in Tpu. Key: A Table for Captains and other persons of prestige. B River side door. C Cookhouse side door. D Cross beams. E Bench along edge of entire wall.


The doors are not explicitly divided into a mens door and womens door, but in practice there is a differentiation during these rituals, corresponding to the masculinity of guests and the femininity of hosts (see chapters 5 and 6 below).176 However, when visitors arrive by air from the city, the other door is used as an entrance door, and I once even saw it formalised with the creation of a gallery of palm fronds. Although there is a practical reason for this the south door is nearer the airstrip it also constitutes an inversion of usual ritual practice, which underlines the fact that guests from the city do not have the same ritual associations. Most importantly, they lack the element of fertility discussed below in chapter 4. The central pole has a symbolic significance, which is emphasized by the fact that, as Yde observed, many round houses of the region have had the central supporting pole removed after construction and replaced with a shorter pole piercing the centre of the roof (and the maluwana when it is present) but not reaching to the ground, and therefore serving no structural purpose. It is often decorated with painting and adornment, and extends vertically high above the top of the dome; immediately above the point at which it pierces the dome there is often placed a ceramic object resembling a large upside-down pot, which is also pierced by the pole this feature is present on the tukusipan in Antecume Pata and on a miniature tukusipan in one of the smaller sub-villages on the north side of the river in Tpu. Yde speculates that the rectangular domestic houses of the Guianas developed from the type of round house with a central supporting pole the presence of such a pole in rectangular houses indeed supports his hypothesis (see figure 1) (Yde 1965: 154-7). The central pole has been interpreted in other parts of Amazonia as an axis mundi177 or a phallic axis of fertilization, and the Waiwai material supports such a hypothesis: young men from outside the village dance with the new central pole before putting it in place (Fock 1963: 169; Rivire 1984: 85), and this practice is consistent with the Trio and Wayana rituals in which male dancers and musicians come


Yde notes a tendency among the Waiwai to use the door nearest the river as a guest door (1965: 152). Cf. the highly organised and cosmologically charged Barasana house described by S. Hugh-Jones, in which space is explicitly gendered (1979, 1995). As Rivire has noted, not all communal roundhouses have more than one door, but where they do the main door at the front is usually associated with men and male guests, and the other door or doors with women (Rivire 1995: 193). 177 A means of communication, a connecting link between the earth and other cosmic levels (McEwan 2001: 184).


from outside (see below and chapter 5). The pole piercing the pot above the roof can also be seen as a symbol of fertility pottery is a quintessentially feminine product and pots are frequently used as metaphors for women. The ritual importance of the communal house is materially expressed in the maluwana, a painted wooden disc made from a section of the kumaka,178 and coloured with earth dyes or enamel paints (see plate 5). Although only previously known as a Wayana and Apalai artefact, it has been adopted in Tpu, a primarily Trio village. It is designed to be attached to the centre of the domed roof of the communal house, tukusipan, with the houses central pole transfixing the disc through its centre. The design in an example I acquired in the field represents water spirit-monsters (mulokot) and caterpillars (of two types, the especially powerful kuluwayak, and luk), which are said to be the most powerful and dangerous types of spirit.179 These are surrounded by a jagged ring representing silk-cotton tree spines, and another smaller ring of spines surrounds the inner hole through which the house pole is passed with obvious phallic symbolism. This is given further significance when the vagina dentata motif, associated in Guianese myth with culture heros relationship with anaconda is taken into account (see below and Mentore 1993): the phallic house pole passing through the ring of kumaka spines surrounded by kuluwayak and luk is, in this light, a very dense image indeed.180 The water spirit mulokot is said to have created the Wayana, and caterpillars are revered and feared as perfect symbols of the outward transformations and deceptive appearances

178 179

Silk-cotton tree, Ceiba pentandra. The design also includes smaller images of tortoises and fish, which, some disapproving older Wayana told me, are a recent innovation of young artesans to decorate trade objects. However, I have observed similar decorations on old maluwana clearly made only for ceremonial purposes, including one in Antecume Pata made by Kuliyaman, suggesting that the real cause for disapproval may be the profane context of the production of maluwana for trade (in both cases these secondary images are just for decoration). As well as the usual mulokot, kuluwayak and luk, a maluwana pictured in Darbois (1956) depicts many different animals such as frogs, monkeys, deer, herons and the giant anteater. An Apalai maluwana pictured in Schultz-Kampfhenkel (1940), almost identical in style to the Wayana equivalent, has the mulokot, kuluwayak and luk, and white herons. In all maluwana I have seen, however, there is an inner and an outer ring of wedges representing kumaka spines, enclosing the spirits and other creatures images. 180 The image of the male principle at the centre and the female principle outside it may seem to contradict the ritual roles of women at the centre feeding visiting males, which accords with uxorilocal marriage practice. But the tukusipan, like the leader represents the collectivity, and leaders, by their creation of a village, place themselves at its centre; while this represents affinity at the centre (cf. Viveiros de Castro 2001), it also represents a reversal of roles from another perspective: women thus come to represent affinity and the outside; cf. Grotti 2007 who shows how women can become ritual predators.


characteristic of the spirit world. The mulokot and anaconda are often mentioned almost interchangeably in daily discourse, the former being the master or spirit archetype of the latter and, as I showed in the previous chapter, regional variations of myths of the origin of cultural attributes give either anaconda or kuluwayak the role of archetypal Other from whom these attributes come.181 The anaconda also shares the significant attribute of transformability with the caterpillar, and this transformability takes the form of a shedding of skin. Skin, clothes or outward appearance are frequently associated in Amazonia with change of perspective (Rivire 1994; Viveiros de Castro 1998), which is exactly what occurs when people become human in acquiring human attributes: they begin to see like human beings. Another association is made in Amazonia between the shedding of skin (particularly that of snakes) and immortality (Gow 2001), and as I will show, immortality, in the sense of social continuity, is a key purpose of the use of the tukusipan; this continuity takes place through another transformation: that of others into kin. There are other elements to the maluwanas attributed powers. Kulitaik and other Wayana told me that it serves the village as protection against spirit attacks. Rituals such as the marake ceremony182 are conducted beneath it, in the tukusipan. A real maluwana (i.e. made for this purpose) must be made in isolation, particularly from women, by a shaman; work is only carried out on it in secrecy, while chanting specific lemi (spirit songs), at times when the village was at low levels of risk from spirit attacks, and would have to stop, for example, when a woman gave birth to a child, only to resume when the child was strong enough. Real maluwana are now rare. They can be as large as 1m80 in diameter the size of the object in plate 6, which was made by Kuliyaman, the last man highly respected as a maker of maluwana in French Guyana and Suriname, who died in 2001. Only in the Wayana communities living on the other side of the Tumuc-Humac mountain range in Brazil are there said to remain men knowledgeable enough to make real maluwana.183


Mulokot is also associated with the primordial flood in a myth which emphasises that the water spirit is greatly to be feared: see appendix 3 and CD track 1. 182 See appendix 1. 183 Maluwana have become quite commonly available in tourist souvenir shops on the coast, and are usually made by Wayana who have migrated to the city, or by residents of the Trio village of Tpu who


The isolation of the maker of the maluwana, described to me by several different interlocutors on different occasions, contrasts with that given to Rivire by Colson (Rivire 1995: 196n.). According to her, all the senior men are involved in painting the maluwana, suggesting that the object is an expression of the collectivity. Rivire speculates that it is made of hard wood, and that it is transported to a new village when an old one is abandoned, thus symbolizing continuity as well as collectivity. Although kumaka is in fact a soft wood, and I have seen no evidence of a maluwana being brought to a new village, I suspect that Rivire is correct about its symbolism. According to Schultz-Kampfhenkel (1940: 168-9), the Apalai maluwana was painted with human hair hair, like feathers, bone and beads, is associated with durability and protection from spirits. Certainly, the knowledge of the cosmos that is represented by the maluwana is one of the few, and most important, elements of continuity in a society little interested in genealogy. The question of whether the maluwana is made in secret by a shaman or collectively by senior men as Colson suggests, does not affect the conclusion that it is associated with the collectivity; I suspect that in the past a small group of senior men with sufficient esoteric knowledge may have made the object collectively, but in isolation from the rest of their relatives for the safety of more vulnerable individuals. However, the shamans position as affine to the rest of the collectivity (Vilaa 2006), or as oscillating between the perspectives of affine and kin (Gow 2001), does qualify him uniquely as a maker of this object which, like himself, mediates between inside and outside. The position of the maluwana under the centre of the roof in the tukusipan, and the explicit relationship between the transitory wood and thatch communal house and its rock archetype, together with comparative Amazonian evidence (e.g. Guss 1989; Hugh-Jones 1995), support the hypothesis that the tukusipan may be regarded as a microcosm of the universe. The spiritual agency or power given to the images on the real maluwana ensure that the mulokot and the luk are present as the ceremonies take place beneath,

have adopted the craft to trade maluwana as a commodity. I collected another maluwana in Tpu, made at my request by Sarak, a young man of mixed Trio and Wayana parentage who had married a Trio woman. Interestingly, Sarak signed and dated the object, suggesting a quite different role for it as an art object and conveyor of his individual agency.


but safely contained in their circle of kumaka spines.184 As the people reinforce their humanity through dance, blowing and flute playing, and through kunana ritual stinging, the spirits may even be being taunted by the celebration of the cultural attributes that were, according to myth, taken from them in exchange for nothing at all.185 The tukusipan is the focus of all collective festivities, as I have mentioned, and is the place to which visitors/ dancers come bringing knowledge and power, as I will discuss in more detail in chapter 4. It can be regarded as symbolizing the collectivity in a state of openness to the outside. By analogy with the domestic house, since it is made collectively, it is owned collectively. At the physical and social centre of the village, it is also its symbolic entrance space. In Tpu, all new arrivals in the village except close relatives are conducted first to the tukusipan for an audience with one or both Kapitein. There is always a danger that visitors may also turn out to be spirits, and not real people. The tukusipan itself, the maluwana, and the flutes played on ceremonial occasions, all serve to control visitors to the village. As visitors/dancers are structurally or ideally potential husbands to the local women/providers of drink, the tukusipan also constitutes the theatre for the enactment of the first stage in the creation of the most important made relationship of belonging: that between father-in-law and son-in-law. The importance of this for leadership is clear: it is the leader who organizes the construction of the tukusipan, and it therefore represents him and by extension his authority in the village. Its function as the theatre of contact between the villagers and the outside world of both humans and spirits mirrors the role of the leader, as mediator between the village and the outside. The tukusipan may even be regarded as the State in miniature the material manifestation of the public or collective sphere. Within it, overt political processes are performed such as receptions for government representatives, as well as the festivities which restate social and cosmic order.


The serrated border motif elsewhere in Amazonia has been interpreted as serving to mark the threshold between the everyday world and a different order of reality (McEwan 2001: 193). 185 Cf. Beaudet 1997: 143-56, who proposes this function for the almost identical Waypi tule flute ceremony. The Iatmul ceremonial house post presents an intriguing comparison: while being carved it must be hidden from the uninitiated, and it carries an important association with the bandi initiation ceremony candidates: the carving process is analogous to the bandis scarification, and it is painted with the same coloured mud as when a bandi returns form the river after the scarification from the third crocodile (Moutu 2003: 91).


The distinction between the tukusipan and the domestic house is of great importance, recalling Batesons assertion that the distinction between the ceremonial house and the dwelling house was fundamental (1958: 123, in Moutu 2003: 23). The former clearly represents the collectivity and the latter the family unit, but more than this, they represent ritual, or mythic, and everyday time respectively the former will be discussed in chapter 4. The tukusipan can also be said to represent the cosmos on a larger scale, and the domestic house on a smaller scale. Rivire has described this system of microcosms in terms of centre and periphery: Whereas the centre cannot exist without its periphery and vice versa, both centre and periphery stand together as centre to some further periphery (1995: 194). The Trio anna, the open space surrounded by houses, reminiscent in miniature of Xinguano village structure, plays the same symbolic role.186 In this context it should be remembered that many Trio regard themselves as savannah people, and sometimes refer to their semi-mythical origins on the savannahs of Samuwaka. The tukusipan and the paiman both have their stone equivalents in nearby mountains of the same name. As Rivire has pointed out for the Trio, they and the Wayana do not explicitly draw attention to the microcosmic nature of the house, unlike the Yecuana, whose house is modelled on [one] constructed by a culture-hero which is still visible in the form of a mountain; however, they do see rock outcrops, hills and mountains as the houses of spirits and the masters of game animals. (Rivire 1995: 194-6; cf. Guss 1989).187 But if the domestic and ceremonial houses represent family and village life, and everyday and ritual time, respectively, they should also be seen alongside a Trio structure called the mn, a small, enclosed dome shaped house type, of which only one example existed in Tpu at the time of my fieldwork. Rivire notes that the mn is also the name given to the small construction in which a shaman conducts a seance, and to the hide used for shooting birds (1995: 196). He adds that in both the latter cases, this kind of house makes the person inside invisible, and in the case of a shaman he also travels to different layers of the cosmos, and thus becomes part of the invisible world (loc. cit.).


It has been claimed, though with little evidence, that the Trio in the past had communal houses (Bos 1973, in Rivire 1984: 110n2.1); if true, this would be consistent with their ritual practices and with their (re-) adoption of them. 187 In addition, the Trio seem to regard their tukusipan as a pale imitation of a Waiwai original, as it was from the Waiwai that they learned about the structure.


This kind of house can therefore be seen to transcend and invert the logic of the domestic and ceremonial houses: it is an individual house (used by a single shaman or hunter), and thus falls below and inside the level of the domestic house. However, it provides an invisibility that permits travel to other worlds, beyond the sphere of human sociability. This transcendent theme, whereby inside transforms into outside, will appear again in the next chapter.

The household In the Guianas, where kinship is based on the distinction between kinship and alliance, and where this distinction is reiterated in different ways, such as in the spatial distinction between village and forest, it is logical to find links between kinship and architecture, and it is equally logical to find these manifested on different scales. This can be seen physically in the presence of a miniature collective space or anna (T) formed by the circular grouping of the buildings formed by at least one domestic house, its cookhouse and various other outhouses (see figure 2). This can be represented in a diagram as follows: tukusipan : village mini-anna : domestic house The domestic house (pakoro) in many ways expresses the same social relationships as the collective house but on a smaller scale: a house is part of the biography of its builder,188 the former with the biography of the individual man, and the latter with that of the village, and marriage is of central importance to both. Each domestic house contains (with a few exceptions) a builder/founder, his wife, their children (at least their daughters), perhaps one or more sons-in-law, and their children. The house of my host in


In Northwest Amazonia, especially among Witotoan groups, there is a more formalised version of this: ranked housebuilding rituals with corresponding house types enable men to ascend the social hierarchy through their career (S. Hugh-Jones pers. comm.).


Tpu, Ksi, is a perfect example,189 extending to four generations: it contains him, his wife Tumali, their widower son Suntu and daughter Pakri, her husband Kulitaik, their daughters Kosani, Demas, Imanau and Plinalu, their son Jason, Kosanis husband Marcel, and their daughters Kamenio and Rosina. If we consider only the married couples in the household, we have Ksi and his wife Tumali, their daughter Pakri and her husband Kulitaik, and their daughter Kosani and her husband Marcel (see diagram 1). The relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law is neither warm nor cold, but it is restrained. They occasionally engage in activities together, usually to do with housebuilding or maintenance and garden preparation. Although they often eat together, and talk freely to one another, they always remain slightly reserved in one anothers company. The relationship is palpably, if subtly, authoritarian. When Kulitaik is away in his other village, Antecume Pata, his son-in-law in Tpu, Marcel, is noticeably more relaxed and less industrious. Kulitaik himself showed quite different sides to his character when in Antecume Pata, where he is more autonomous and proportionately more relaxed and self-confident, compared to his shy, reserved aspect when in Tpu. For instance, in Tpu in the evening Ksi would often play the role of the knowledgeable head of household, telling stories of the old days, or retelling tales from the Bible. Kulitaik would never do this in Tpu although he did tell some myths which he emphasized were just for fun. However, when I followed him to Antecume Pata, he suddenly started to read the Bible often, and retold Christian stories. Knowledge of the Bible is considered particularly powerful and is an important attribute of a leader. But to share such knowledge is also part of a leaders responsibility, just as a household head feels a responsibility to share such knowledge with his family.


This house was in fact built by Kulitaik, Ksis son-in-law, but it is spoken of as Ksis house; Kulitaik merely built it for him as part of his brideservice.















Diagram 1: Ksis household.190

Whether on the scale of the village in the tukusipan, or on the scale of the domestic group in the pakoro, this relationship between father-in-law and son-in-law, the soceral relationship, is at the core of central Guianese society, but its basis in turn lies in the influence of a man over his daughter, where almost all elements of inequality are present: gender, age and generation. Yet the relationship is nonetheless complementary who will take care of a man without daughters in his old age? The daily intimacy of household activities, through mutual grooming, feeding and nurture, and simply being together, are what constitute the essence of the good life for Trio and Wayana. With one important exception, discussed in the next section, it would be entirely misleading to see these relationships in terms of power or control, once they have been created; the political economy of control (Viveiros de Castro 1996) of Rivire therefore needs to be understood with this qualification. But the differentiation of relationships expressed in kinship terminology constitutes a categorical hierarchy, and this is necessary in order to allow the processes which bring the household into being to take place.


Jason was born after his parents last migration to Antecume Pata, in May 2004, and has therefore not yet been to Tpu.


Consanguinity, affinity, & the atom of politics In the Guianas, as among the Kagwahiv in Krackes account, the father-in-laws dominion, or soceral authority provides an idiom for all authority, and it is here that we can speak of control, albeit based on the loving, intimate relationship between man and daughter, sister or wife. Duties to the father-in-law are often the same as those a follower owes to a headman, but the headman is also conceptualised as a father to the collectivity (1978: 34). The term peito, existing among many Carib speaking peoples, has been given a range of meanings from the potentially equal brother-in-law, through son-in-law, to the totally inferior slave. Rivire (1977: 40-1) identifies it more generally with affinity, and explores the link between affinity and relationships of superiority-inferiority. Among some groups, such as the Trio, the relationship (denoted by pito (T)) is relatively egalitarian, tending towards brother-in-law, but among other groups, such as the Wayana,191 peito (W) takes on the potential connotations of servant or client. I suggest that this has to do with the stronger tendency of the Trio towards group endogamy, but as we shall see there has been some crossover between languages and associated practices, and this historical development highlights more general features of regional power relations. The father-in-law is ideally and terminologically equivalent to the mothers brother, bilateral cross-cousin marriage being the general ideal in the Guianas. It provides the key not only to understanding kinship in the region, but also to understanding political relations, because it is the point at which consanguinity and affinity meet, and at which one man may have authority over another who is not his son. I therefore propose going further than Lvi-Strauss (1963), who called the avunculate the atom of kinship, and suggest that we can also regard it, at least for the Guiana region, as the atom of politics. The power of the soceral relationship has already been stressed by some Amazonianists. Turner argued that it was the structural axis of Central Brazilian social dynamics (Viveiros de Castro 1996). Notwithstanding the Trio example, Rivire suggests


Where according to Rivire (1977) the son-in-laws behaviour is expected to be still more submissive, although in my experience, perhaps because of a long period of intermarriage with the Wayana, the Trio son-in-law is just as submissive.


that in all Carib societies the relationship between affines and specifically between parents-in-law and their children-in-law is always asymmetrical in nature, and this being the case, affinal relationships offer the best idiom for expressing political relationships that involve domination and subordination (1977: 41). The ideal village is composed of a leader and his sons-in-law, who are the subordinate in-marrying husbands of his daughters. Thus, in Guianese society, there exists a hierarchical principle whereby wife-givers are superior to wife-takers.192 I would add that even the relationship between brothers-in-law who have exchanged sisters (an often stated ideal scenario) would be hierarchical, as each party would regard himself as a wife-giver, and the associated feeling of superiority would not necessarily be cancelled out by his having received a wife. Thus in a relationship between objectively equal parties, each considers himself in credit with regard to the other, and from their respective points of view each is superior to the other.193 My argument so far can therefore be summed up as follows: leadership is founded upon a basic hierarchical principle governing all social relations in the Guianas. The key to understanding this principle is the soceral relationship, and the data presented on the house demonstrates how it is expressed upon different scales, from the most intimate domestic sphere to the theatre of external relations.

Extralocal relations Whereas Trio prefer settlement endogamy (although this ideal cannot have been realised over long periods of time, especially in the days when settlements averaged a population of 30 and lasted only a few years), Waiwai are said to prefer to marry outside the


While this is also true of some other language groups, Rivire argues, others show different patterns, particularly patrilineal social formations practising virilocal residence, such as those of Northwest Amazonia: for them affinity cannot express asymmetry, and marital exchanges between the corporate groups tend to be balanced and express alliance. Among the patrilineal Yanomami, affinity is an expression of political friendship (albeit fragile) (1977: 41). 193 Writing about G dual organisation, Lvi-Strauss makes the mirror image of this observation: Even in these relationships of subordination, though, the principle of reciprocity is at work: the moiety that wins primacy on one plane concedes it to the opposite moiety on another (1944b: 268, in Lvi-Strauss 1991: 314).


community (Rivire 1969a: 256n.). These apparently diametrically opposed preferences merely reflect different solutions to the same problem: a shortage of people. To ensure the continuity of the group, marriage partners were necessary, and the Trio created affines by permitting marriage with sisters daughter, whereas the Waiwai favoured actively seeking affines. In addition, the two groups are not isolated cases, and have directly influenced each other. Trio history has also been marked by the incorporation of other groups. The Waiwai, like the Trio, who are composed of numerous jana or previously autonomous sub-groups, in practice incorporate other peoples into the collectivity, and gradually establish marriage alliances, eventually arriving at a situation where a fiction of village endogamy can be constructed, as incomers take on the identity of co-residents, and when they are non-Waiwai, take on the identity of Waiwai. Even then, however, there is a tacit hierarchy of prior tribal origin which comes out in times of conflict and local endogamy only lasts as long as the village. Those who have been in a village longest (i.e. usually the leaders closest kin), are seen as being closest to real Waiwai, and such individuals refer to the submerged original identity of ex-Mawayana or other ethnic groups when they wish to differentiate themselves from them (Howard 2001). Both the spiritual and personal foundations of power and the various forms of intracommunal hierarchy can be seen together in terms of networks of relatedness.194 Among co-residents, political cohesion is ensured by a complex web of reciprocity and reiterated expressions of relatedness. Trio settlements in the 1960s had an average population of about 30 people, who were all related either consanguineally or affinally (or both), so it was inevitable that settlement political organisation reflected the kinship system; an attempt to trace actual biological relationships against classificatory kin terms reveals an extremely complex web of multiple relations between even a small number of coresidents (Rivire 1969a: 229). Rivire argued that the only important form of property or wealth was women, since people, or labour, were the only scarce resource (1983-4). But as Butt Colson (1973) and Dreyfus (1992) have shown, Guianese Amerindian groups have been involved in trading networks since before the European conquest, and Rivire


C.f. Carsten 2000, who shows that the connectedness that kinship brings can take the form of vaguer notions of relatedness and belonging, not necessarily clearly defined in terms of precise relationship terminology.


himself (1969a: 51-5) has shown that the Trio were among them (see chapter 1). Trade goods, especially manufactured metal tools, and the gold and jade of pre-Columbian times, have always been by definition coveted items. Even the voluntarily isolated Akuriyo/Wayalikule were far from indifferent to trade;195 on the contrary, they stole metal goods from Wayana and Boni camps (Cognat & Massot 1977), and there can be little doubt that the prospect of material wealth was a strong motive for their acceptance of sedentarisation (discussed in chapter 5). The account that Mimisiku gave me of his first encounter with the Akuriyo shows that they were not indiscriminate in their desire for goods, however: they only wanted knives, machetes, hooks and matches, thats all. They didnt like sugar or rice, though we brought them a lot of things.196

Bride-capture, slavery and affinity In the past Guianese warfare involved the incorporation of enemies into the group through slave-capture and marriage. The latter was possible because of the hierarchical relationships between husband and wife, and between son-in-law and father-in-law. Cannibalism is still a common theme in Trio and Wayana myths of alterity, including in everyday conversation. Eating the heart and certain other parts of the enemy, and drinking his blood, is said to have given extra vigour to the warrior (cf. Chapuis & Rivire 2003: 431ff.). Ercilio told me that his own grandfather, a Kaxuyana shaman, practised cannibalism during his peoples wars with neighbouring groups. Kuliyamans story of the war between the Upului and the Tlyo197 even contains a cannibalistic comedy of errors, as characters accidentally eat the wrong people and frantically try to cast spells to avoid the consequences (op. cit.: 509 ff.). In the story of Aturai, the eponymous culture-hero and his brother are captured as children by the Okomojana or the Akurijo, according to different versions of the story (Rivire 1969a: 263; Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 253ff). The Okomojana version has it that Aturai learned from the

In Guyanese English, the noun trade itself is often used to refer specifically to the manufactured items particularly desired by Amerindians and other bush people. 196 From an oral account recorded in the field, and transcribed and translated by Demas. 197 Tirio/ Trio proper see next chapter.


Okomojana the practice of having affines, and when he escaped to his own people he taught them to marry women other than their own mothers, sisters and daughters. In the Akurijo version, the Trio practice of slave-capture mirrors the Akurijo practice of cannibalism each appears as equivalent to the other.198 The associations between affinity and warfare, and between cannibalism and the capture of prisoners, are consistent with the idea that warfare is a form of exchange it is negative reciprocity, but reciprocity nonetheless. War,199 according to Lvi-Strausss formula (1943), is structurally equivalent to trade, and this may be regarded as applying to the exchange of women as well as of goods.200 The added dimension of marriage between settlements alluded to above helps us to understand this. Firstly two terms need to be discussed in relation to each other: jipawana and pito. Jipawana can be translated as friend201 or trading partner. As I showed in chapter 1, it denotes a relationship which involves potential danger because of its ambiguity. It corresponds roughly to the category terceiro incluido proposed by Viveiros de Castro (2002: 152ff.202) as transcending the dualism of consanguinity and affinity or kin and strangers, but remaining in the realm of potential affinity (op. cit.: 153). But this potential affinity is only recognised when the jipawana is addressed as pito.203 Ideally, two pito exchange sisters today this still appears to be an ideal for villagers in Tpu: a Trio man in his late 30s or early 40s said to me Ill give you my sister, if you give me your sister on one occasion, as an idiomatic gesture of friendship. The verb used is karam-, give, as used both for objects and for people. Barbosa quotes his interlocutors explanations of sister exchange and daughter exchange in both cases it


It is particularly fascinating to see how the other in this myth has evolved from being the Okomojana in 1963 (when Rivire first heard it) to the Akurijo twenty years later, when Koelewijn heard it: between the two tellings, the Akurijo actually were captured by the Trio and Wayana and brought to live in Tpu, as I describe in chapter 5. 199 I take Hobbess definition of war as distinct from battle: WARRE, consisteth not in Battell onely, or in the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battell is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of Time, is to be considered in the nature of Warrethe nature of War, consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is PEACE. (Hobbes 1996: 88-89) 200 Although, as I have mentioned, women and goods are not exchangeable for each other, they are often exchanged in parallel. 201 Cf. Santos-Granero 2007. 202 See also chapter 1 above. 203 Rivire found that the jipawana was ideally addressed as pito (1969a: 79).


is to reciprocate (retribui-se), emetakame, emetakamko (2002: 227). Even many years ago it is hard to imagine real sister exchange being a very frequent occurrence, but this does not mean that the relationship of pito was unusual: on the contrary, it was the mutual term of address between close friends, expressing a relationship characterised by a great deal of trust; it could (and still can) be used between individuals from different villages. On a logical level, and often, it is likely, on a practical level, it is through sister exchange that the minimum social unit of the house/conjugal unit becomes a village, characterized by the interplay between consanguinity and affinity. It would be misleading to make categorical distinctions between the relationships of pito and jipawana, although, as I argued in the first chapter, Maroons are an exception to this: they are ideal jipawana because they can be maintained at a distance, and with them fictional kinship can be safely instituted because the possibility of them becoming wife-givers or -takers is absent. But in general, the distinction between pito and jipawana is an expression of the degree of trust and reciprocity between persons.204 By the same token, it is difficult to say at exactly which point relations break down between jipawana and descend into war; all the more so because in practice trade tends to take place between individuals, whereas warfare is a group activity mobilising several individuals. It is perhaps more helpful to think of potential affines as being at the same time potential enemies. War in myth and oral history tends to break out as a result of the actions of individuals who have no trade relationship with each other, which amounts to saying they are enemies. In other words, a more trusted trading partner is called pito, which suggests a greater degree of relatedness than jipawana. It is at the point between these two terms that the balance between kin and non-kin can be said to tip.205 Both relationships inevitably imply indebtedness for goods or services, which are founded upon a certain level of trust.206 The association with trade carried by pito must therefore be understood in


Even non-Amerindians can be addressed as pito, confirming Rivires assertion that it is not a kinship term (1969a: 81). 205 Nupi, Kapitein Mosesis father-in-law, who looked after Peter Rivire during the latters visit to Tpu in 1978, described him affectionately as his pito. As for myself, although I was known as jipawana, and addressed as jahko , which denotes an unrelated male, I was addressed by those who fed me as jimuku, son. This appellation, which suggests consanguinity, concurs with the Piaroa practice of using kin terms for non-affines (non-relatives) in other territories, to circumvent the dangers that arise in affinal relationships when the demands of reciprocity are not met (Overing 1983-4: 343). 206 Cf. Santos-Granero 2007, who emphasises the importance of trust in Amazonian friendships.


the context of brideservice and sister exchange.207 In former times, warfare consisted primarily of raids, designed to destroy the enemy group in such a way as to prevent it from reproducing. According to some accounts, as many people were killed as possible, including women because of their reproductive potential (Chapuis & Rivire 2003: 431; Grenand 1982 in op. cit.). But women and children were also captured, and integrated into the group of assailants by means of magic which made them forget their origins (W. hemt). One of the terms used to refer to these prisoners was peito, which Chapuis translates as oblig (person under an obligation). This form of capture thus served the dual purposes of diminishing the enemy collectivity and increasing ones own; Gillin called it a technique of domination and absorption (1948: 850, in Chapuis & Rivire 2003: 431). Dreyfus refers to Navarettes description of the same practice among Arawaks (Lokono) in the 16th century, emphasizing the marrying-in of male and female prisoners (1992: 92n.). Hurault (1968: 74) gives a more general definition of the term, stating that all other men in a village are called peito (which he translates as vassaux (vassals)) in relation to the leader. It is likely that Wayana peito and Trio pito have common origins, as Rivire (1977) has suggested (see above), although the former clearly means something approximating to servant, and the latter is associated with a highly reciprocal form of exchange relationship. However, both words are used by Trio speakers, as well as grammatical extensions of pito(T)208 such as epetoma, working for someone, or X ipetoton, those who work for X. Carlin glosses ranti ipito, for example, as government hisservant (employee), and notes that the term denotes a reciprocal[relationship] with a hierarchical basisGenerally a pito became a brother-in-law to the ruling family. That is, he was given a wife, and thus he and his children could enter the kinship structure. It is in practice a clearly distinct word from pito, which is more usually applied between brothers-in-law, whereas pito refers primarily to employees and Akuriyo. This may help us to understand two things: firstly, the ideal of marriage with sisters daughter

Pace McCallum (2001: 6), who follows Strathern (1985) in arguing that in brideservice societies exchange is based on relationships set up by the transfer of labour, and therefore women in such societies do not become gifts. Women are in fact exchanged in this brideservice society, although they are not exchanged for objects. This may be because, like Cashinahua women, they are not objects to be exchanged (McCallum 2001: 7) instead, they are subjects to be exchanged. 208 The different pronunciation in Trio and Wayana is reflected in the spellings pito and peito.


(Rivire 1969a) (discussed below), and secondly, the non-integration of the Akuriyo (discussed in the next chapter).

Marriage with sisters daughter If we imagine a structure whereby the ideal of marriage with ZD could be constantly fulfilled, we may end up with something resembling Diagram 2.

= c

Diagram 2: Perpetual marriage with sisters daughter.

Represented in this way, it can be seen that, from the male point of view, allowing a man to marry ones sister is a recipe for harmony and reciprocity: even if the wife-taker has no sister to give in exchange, he can eventually give his daughter instead.209 Thus 2 gives his sister b in marriage to their mothers (as) brother, 1. In exchange, 2 marries their daughter, c. From a female point of view, marrying ones mothers brother reduces the


That is to say, it is a means to eliminate bride-service, as Rivire (1969a: 272) puts it, citing Kirchhoff (1932) and Gillin (1936) as early proponents of this view. He notes that the practice of marriage with ZD may also be a method for providing for a widowed sister, as Kirchhoff had also proposed, and of reaffirming existing obligations to the sister in general.


likelihood of relocation, the relationship between brother and sister being especially close.210 Theoretically, marriage with ZD allows the creation of affinity within the consanguineal house, making the domestic house a self-sufficient unit. It reduces the ideal of coresident endogamy to its logical minimum scale. Most importantly, egos WF is his ZH, meaning that the usual authority of a wife-giver (WF) is cancelled out by the fact of his being also a wife-taker (ZH). This helps us to see why pito can refer both to a brother-in-law (ZH) and to a son-in-law (DH, ZS) the two can be, and ideally are, the same person. Lvi-Strauss calls this avuncular privilege, and notes that the double right of the uncle over the niece and of Ego over his cousincan be in conflict in the case of bilateral cross-cousin marriage (Lvi-Strauss 1969: 433-4) this is presumably one reason why marriage with sisters daughter is an ideal, not a norm. Another is that FZD is M, and MBD is ZD, making the system almost equivalent to one of patrilateral crosscousin marriage which, Rivire argues (1969a: 278) following Lvi-Strauss, can only work on a small scale. Indeed, it seems that the practice of marriage with sisters daughter, more common in the small, ideally isolated settlements of the past, has virtually disappeared in todays larger collectivities, in which there is a greater number of potential spouses. Nevertheless, the ideal of marriage with ZD represents the idea that the balanced reciprocity achieved through sister exchange211, may be achieved by other means and perpetuated. Moreover, it cancels out the relationships of superiority inferiority between in-laws, making the WFs authority null, because WF is ZH, or pito i.e. an equal. Marriage with ZD is therefore an egalitarian, harmonious ideal, because MB is ZH. The gift of a sister is likely to reduce or negate the need for brideservice. However, this ideal can be regarded as the obverse of reality. Because in most cases in practice ones wifes father will not have previously received ones sister in marriage, bride-service is justified.


Rivire (1969a) makes much of this: A Trio man finds his female partner in the form of a sister, and although this partnership may be quiescent while the partners are married, it never totally fades. An unmarried mans dependence upon his sister means that in the event of her marriage his loss must be made good by another woman. Trio marriage is the exchange of women, and the transfer of this fundamental property brings in its wake an unending series of prestations and counter-prestations (Rivire 1969a.: 270, my emphasis). His account was confirmed by my own observation of, notably, the close and affectionate relationships between Ksi and his sister Nauku, and between Suntu and his sister Pakri. 211 Although sister exchange is also an ideal scenario, it is likely to have happened more often than marriage with ZD, and as I have mentioned can be used idiomatically as a metaphor for friendship.


So hierarchy, inequality, and the authority of MB prevail. If we consider a minimal structure permitting bilateral cross-cousin marriage we can see that it amounts to the same as continuous sister exchange in the sense that the male cross-cousin is both wife-giver and wife-taker, which justifies the reciprocal and egalitarian nature of the relevant term pito:

3 5

= =

c e

d f

= =

4 6

Diagram 3: Bilateral cross-cousin marriage (male/ patrilineal perspective).212

Hierarchy, by contrast, is here to be found between generations. It is true that WF, as well as being a wife-giver, may be regarded as a wife-taker from Egos lineage, because of his previous marriage to FZ, but this marriage has already been reciprocated by the marriage of F to WFZ. Therefore, even if genealogy were given more importance than it is in Guiana, the son-in-law would still find himself under obligations towards the father-inlaw. Marriage with sisters daughter, compared to bilateral cross-cousin marriage, more efficiently ensures that certain consanguines are potential affines: Affinity among the Trio is only realized by the actual event of marriage (Rivire 1969a: 274). Sister exchange/bilateral cross-cousin marriage caused a problem: that when villages dispersed, it would be necessary to create alliances with other groups in order to find marriage


See appendix 4 for a diagram of relationship terminology following Dumonts illustration of the canonical dravidianate (cf. Henley 1996).


partners something which could potentially be dangerous for spiritual and political reasons. Rivire identified the Trio institution of marriage with sisters daughter as having developed to minimize contact with outsiders, as a solution to this problem.

Gender hierarchy and women as property Although there is undoubtedly more equality of status between men and women in the Guianas than in most parts of the world, the perspectivist principle given above, whereby objectively equal men are each superior to the other according to their own point of view, does not seem to operate between the sexes. As mentioned in the previous chapter, Rivire argued that the concept of ownership is well developed by the Trio with regard to women, because women are intrinsically valuable not only as vital economic partners but because they cannot be made or replaced (1969a: 41). This view of women as property, clearly expressing their inferiority in social status, raises the objection that such a statement is absolutely male-centred, but even one of the leading proponents of such an objection (Strathern 1988: 309-39) would acknowledge that it expresses much truth: Strathern herself previously observed that among the Hageners, unlike a man, a woman has limited contacts; she serves men, and what prestige she has derives from her dependence on males. By herself she is nothing. (Strathern 1972: ix). The first of these three statements could be said about Trio and Wayana women, who generally have far fewer access to people from outside the village and largely depend on men for obtaining trade goods, but the other two statements do not apply in the Guianas. Trio and Wayana women do not rely on men for prestige, as skill in making beer or cotton items such as keweju or hammocks is highly prized, as is the possession of prestige trade goods. A woman by herself is a rare thing in the Guianas, but there are exceptions, such as Sonja, a divorced Wayana woman, who is one of the most influential and prosperous individuals in the village of Tpu. Women do not assert their power or independence in between, unlike in Hagen, because it is precisely as sisters and daughters to be exchanged as wives that they are subordinate to men. However, mature women, such as Aina, who no longer live with their parents, whose husbands have asserted their independence from their 136

fathers-in-law by building their own house, have far greater autonomy and may display more initiative and a more public face. Sonjas independence and autonomy is still greater, because she has been head of her household since she divorced her husband. In this sense, it is above all by themselves that women are the equals of men, and regarded as such by the group, because by themselves they must at least partly assume a male role.213 As wives, sisters and daughters they are property, but it is possible for women to become shamans and even leaders outside these roles.214 Having said this, another important factor is knowledge, particularly White peoples knowledge: Sonja is particularly well educated, having been a bright and keen pupil in the first school in Tpu, and this gives her an important advantage. She had a job as a teacher in the village school when she divorced her husband, and her job seems to have made initiating the separation much easier for her. She is now head of the school, which gives her great autonomy and earns her respect and prestige within the village, but when she went to live in Paramaribo after her divorce, she was constantly pestered by Pikumi, the village Kapitein, to return to Tpu; eventually she submitted. From this we can clearly see that education allows a change in the sexual division of labour which can allow greater equality and autonomy for women. However, it is important to recognize that Sonjas autonomy only truly extends to the boundary of the village. When she leaves, the representative of the village exerts his influence to make her return. Womens influence is thus more locally restricted than that of men, whose travels are discussed in chapter 1. There appears to have been something of a reluctance on the part of anthropologists in recent years to discuss ways in which people, especially women, can be treated as property, despite their burgeoning interest in the idea of property in general. This is almost certainly because of the influence of critiques of functionalist kinship studies which emphasized the exchange of women (Overing 1986; McCallum 2001: 7 etc.). Asch, in an article defending Lvi-Strausss Elementary Structures of Kinship as a classic

It is worth noting that Sonjas daughter, Dineke, is also an important woman, as a schoolteacher and excellent Dutch speaker, but also, perhaps, because she has no father. However, education and literacy provide a new arena for personal abilities to allow women more independence and influence, as the case of Peti shows: she is the highly respected chief nurse at the clinic in Tpu, and oversees most births and many other medical events that were previously the preserve of shamans (who are usually men, or occasionally postmenopausal women). 214 As Grotti (2007) shows, this includes ritual nurturing strategies of women to suck in male affines from outside, an important female dimension of the rituals discussed in chapter 4.


text in political philosophy, strays from his central argument to accuse the latter of androcentrisma mistake of fundamental proportions, though he excuses him by saying that it can be easily corrected by acknowledging that it is marriage partners of both genders and not solely women who are exchanged (2005: 438).215 In an ideal world, I certainly agree that marriage would be a gender-egalitarian form of exchange, but a distinction must be made between the normative and the descriptive, and to say that women are never exchanged as property is to close ones eyes to the weight of ethnographic evidence: Among the Kalina in the late 16th century, John Ley remarked upon the obedience of Common Indians to their Commannders and of wives to their husbands (Lorimer 1994: 209). Rivire notes that obtaining women was one of the prime motives for warfare: War is closely related to marriage and trade, and the object of raids on other villages is only conceivable as an attempt to capture women and dogs. Inversely, strangers who come to a village are regarded as a potential threat to the communitys female resources (Rivire 1969a: 42). Although Rivire qualifies the view of women as property, saying that the Trio do not refer to them using either of the two words they have for property; women belong to the society, but it is a male society (Rivire 1969a: 42). Ksis sister Nauku described herself as having been given to her husband by her father, and I frequently found that when people, both men and women, talk about marriage, they do so in terms of giving and taking women. Rivire also noted that women own far less inheritable wealth (loc. cit.) this is to be expected in view of the fact that men have greater access to trade and travel. Overing describes Piaroa marriage in terms of the political machinations of men, and gives no place to the agency of women in politics (1975: 127-166);216 although here I would go less far, as women do frequently make demands on their husbands on political matters as well as others. However, the most interesting point to make here is that while women can only exert real influence when they are free of husbands and fathers, men present the opposite logic: they can only be influential through women, because they need a wife to produce beer and children, which are the keys to social influence and political action, as I have discussed already this is


Cf. Lvi-Strauss: In human society, it is the men who exchange the women, and not vice versa (1963: 47). This may not be universally true as he claims, but it is certainly true in the Guianas. 216 Cf. Lorrain 2000.


why women as property are so important. McCallum, in an otherwise convincing argument questioning the analytical value of gender relations, asserts that in Amazonian societies capital is not accumulated and social inequality is not institutionalized in economic and political terms (2001: 158) a statement whose parameters seem to lie entirely outside history, as well as being contradicted even by the ethnography of supposedly egalitarian societies such as the Piaroa (Overing 1975). Capital is now being accumulated by people all over Amazonia, and evidence of the accumulation of wealth is to be found throughout this study. Social inequality may only recently be becoming institutionalized through the creation of official positions (Kapiteins are paid by the State, and maintain their position for life), but it is not new; indeed the discovery of pre-Columbian raised fields and mounds and other evidence of complexity suggests that inequality, in the form of chiefdoms and large hierarchical societies, was far greater in the past (Versteeg 2003). Even McCallum herself acknowledges that although I would say that the Cashinahua men and women I lived amongst enjoyed generally non-coercive and cooperative social relationship, to make this expression explicit is not the same as stating that male-female relations in Cashinahua society are egalitarian (op. cit.: 158). I would say the same of Trio and Wayana male-female relations, although the evidence that I have seen of male domestic violence towards women (which is an accepted sanction against laziness) does suggest that there is an element of coercion. Violence is not, however, at the root of the unequal relationship between the sexes. It is merely one expression of a conception of society whereby men are structurally superior to women. Another very obvious expression is the practice of women always to walk behind their husbands, or any other accompanying male.217 Even my female field assistant, Demas, would automatically allow me to walk in front of her, even when she was supposed to be my guide. Indeed, had I not been accompanied by my partner in the field, it would have been impossible for me (as a man) to have a female field assistant. For the first few weeks, she was too timid to raise her eyes to look at me, and she would not speak to me directly, but through my partner. This is how she behaves with all men who are not consanguineal kin, with the exception of Akuriyo. Affinal avoidance does

Although in the city the urban practice of walking side by side is quickly adopted.


not properly apply to the Akuriyo because they are domesticated in a peculiar way which partially denies them real humanity. But at the same time the exception of the Akuriyo also exposes the gendered nature of affinal avoidance: the inferior status of the Akuriyo makes avoidance unnecessary, whereas a woman, particularly an unmarried girl, must practise avoidance with a male affine of equal or superior status. McCallum is correct in problematising the idea that in Amazonian societies men dominate women or that an indigenous form of masculine identity is destined to find resonances with a global hegemonic masculinity (2001: 158), because an excessively dualistic and insufficiently nuanced description of Amazonian male-female relations would be misleading. As Overing argued (1986: 148), women in the Guianas do appear to be in control of their own fertility. Men and women also belong very much to each other, but women belong to men in a stronger sense than men belong to women. Men, as Overing showed (1975), arrange marriages for political purposes political in the primary, overt sense, as opposed to the secondary, embedded sense. Yet it is through the latter that control takes place. Women control themselves in the Guianas, but they are also controlled by men.218 Overing has denied that women play a politically subordinate role; she argues that Piaroa women are equal in daily life, but acknowledges that men, not women, are the great wizards: the shaman-leaders or Ruwang. She suggests, however, that it could be argued that the Piaroa have no political institutions, but rather a religious structure only (1986: 152). In fact, her argument that women are not politically subordinate seems to rest on such a view, but it is clear that politics is heavily bound up with religion in Lowland South America; religion, there as elsewhere, is a reflection of political and social organisation. Lorrain (2000) describes a gender hierarchy among the Kulina partially enforced by actual or tacitly threatened violence, that may be soft and indirect. She argues that womens work is constrained by their dependence at all stages on previous male input, a


This nuanced gender inequality was observed in Collier and Rosaldos conclusions on sexual politics in brideservice societies: women...are not mens equals in terms of life possibilities or opportunities to enforce their wills upon others, but women are not dependent in the manner of unmarried bachelors nor do they appear to be exploited by husbands in ways that occur in certain more complex societies (1981: 318).


structural dependency at the nexus of politics at large: women are almost completely dependent on men for game, for the creation of gardens, and for trade goods, and this allows them to be manipulated such goods are exchanged for sex, for example (Lorrain 2000: 298). Much of what Lorrain writes about the Kulina is also true of the Trio and Wayana, and I would agree with her that interdependence and complementarity between the sexes are not necessarily coterminous with equality. But the economic side of her argument is unconvincing; Descola (2001) presents virtually the opposite scenario for the Jivaro, arguing that Jivaro women can survive without men (perhaps crucially, they can hunt), but men cannot survive without women because they cannot prepare food, garden or gather. One of the Akuriyo groups that were sedentarised in Tpu consisted of a woman and her young children, and the woman used to hunt. I think it is true that men are hierarchically superior to women in Trio and Wayana society because their roles encompass those of women, but this encompassment is to do with a certain view of cosmic order rather than an imbalance of power. Overing has argued, the principle of difference can be just as much a mechanism for creating equality and complementarity as for creating hierarchy. Classifications are valuefree in and of themselves: their meaning is arbitrary (1986). The logical falsehood of these statements constitutes the basic problem underlying her argument against the idea that men control women in some way. It is plainly contradictory to state that difference can create equality, although it is true that difference can permit complementarity. Only by removing difference can sameness be arrived at, as when kin are made out of Others (Vilaa 2002). Moreover, while it is true to say that the meaning of classifications is arbitrary, insofar as it is socially created rather than given in some way, it does not follow that classifications are value-free. Classifications are very real to those who order their lives by them, and they are by definition value-laden, in the sense that there is no classification without hierarchy that is, if we define value as relative and variable quality, rather than as absolute quality as Overing seems to imply. Hierarchy is not the same as, and does not necessarily imply, relations of power or authority, or social stratification; it is merely a way of making sense of the world. In the same way, it would be misleading to say that Trio or Wayana men dominate women. However, in the Guianas men encompass women in the same way as affinity encompasses consanguinity, 141

and there are many ways in which this manifests itself in daily life. As Overing herself correctly states, the symbolism of gender or sexuality may be situated within a complicated network of meanings having to do with the material universe, forces beneath and above the earth, thus worlds beyond society, as well as with relationships between humans with kin and affines, men and women (1986: 142). Many myths are open to interpretation as parables serving to control women. The transformative ambiguous environment is often presented as attractive but dangerous for women, and a great deal of significance is attached to the caterpillar by Trio and Wayana, partly because, as I discussed above, the caterpillar is a symbol of transformation. It is also very obviously phallic, and in some myths it is presented as representing dangerous sexuality sexual relations with the unknown, wild outsider (see chapter 5). But the use of myth does not strike me as being one of social control. Instead, these myths are frequently transformations of one another, and manifest the same principles of social origin and meaning beyond questions of gender. Kulitaik told me a story of a women who saw a beautiful caterpillar in the forest and said to herself that she would like it for a husband. A few days later, a beautiful man appeared in the village and said to her that he had come as she had requested, to be her husband. He lived for some time with her as an excellent husband, but eventually the villagers noticed that his beautiful body paintings were too perfect and did not fade away; the man then returned to the forest and became a caterpillar once more. This myth can be seen as a feminine transformation of the myth of Kuluwayak, according to which the caterpillar spirit gave men the cultural attributes of the Wayana: the perfect body paint of the caterpillar was seen, and therefore learned, by local people. The difference is that the transformation within each myth takes place in the village when the protagonist is female, and in the forest when the protagonist is male. Both men and women can therefore be protagonists in myths in which important events of social generation occur, but the social spheres of men and women, as outside and inside respectively, are taken for granted. Challenges to the common-sense observation that men dominate women in various societies have tended to follow the formula: women do X to assert their independence despite their general subordination. For example, Strathern concludes her Hagen 142

monograph Womens challenge to male dominance lies elsewhere: in assertions of independence over marriage choices, sabotage of the exchange system through divorce; both in claims to be treated as quasi-transactors and manipulation of political subordination to their own advantage (1972: 314). It is clear that in such a situation women are dominated, even controlled, by men; what is proven is merely that such domination or control is not absolute, although it is true that if women do not see themselves as victims then from their own perspectives they are not dominated (Strathern 1988). Everyday relations between men and women among the Trio and Wayana, as among the Hageners, are generally relaxed, informal, and uninhibited by the extreme awareness of difference in status that may be found in some other societies. It is even true that, among the Trio, some women actually display a somewhat proprietorial attitude towards their husbands, and they make many demands on them to hunt certain game, to make things such as baskets, etc.; this relationship of control is frequently expressed in myths where a jaguar, an eagle or some other creature persuades a man to marry his daughter, and it is she who ultimately cajoles the man into doing her fathers will (killing an enemy, for example). Women are thus often portrayed as persistent and nagging. However, the fact that, in practice, women are spoken of as given and received by men is simply due to the dynamics of power relations between the genders, and to marriage practice founded on mens influence over women. Moreover, the foundation of soceral authority is the influence of a man over his daughter, which, albeit characterized more by affection than by coercion, is based on his combined superiority in generation and gender. Overing gives an example of this: during pregnancy, a Piaroa husband must be present for the allnight chanting of the wizard, who includes in his chants the protection for pregnant women. If the father were not present, the mother would die in childbirth, a catastrophe for which the man if he is the cause pays heavily to the father of the woman (1986: 146). She notes that such ethnographic detail makes one sceptical of Meillasouxs stance that kinship is about controlling women. What better way to keep a young father from wandering from his responsibilities than these ritual obligations which bind him to the house of the pregnant girl (op. cit.: 153, n.19). Although it is true that this example shows a way in which a man is controlled by his father-in-law, it also demonstrates that 143

this control is founded upon the fact that a woman is the property of her father, for the damage of which he must be compensated. To address the subject of women as property it is necessary to consider the notion of value. As Verdery and Humphrey note, the economists view of property is that it is a means of regulating access to scarce resources (2004: 3). In the Guianas, as Rivire has argued, people, rather than land, have been the significant scarce resource since studies began, and many aspects of indigenous culture serve to counter the tendency for groups to disperse. The institution of marriage, with uxorilocality and brideservice, is the most important of these. Verdery and Humphrey criticize economists for the assumption that scarcity is a basis of property rights a view presupposing that resources are naturally scarce a priori, rather than being made scarce only within a given system of values and power relations; they therefore suggest that it is necessary to make the relation of property to scarcity a question (2004: 9). I would be very surprised to find an economist arguing that resources are naturally scarce a priori, since it is a central tenet of classical economics that values are constantly changing according to supply and demand although the causal relationship between the two is still a matter of constant debate. Scarcity is, of course, the result of demand exceeding supply, and this may have political causes as well as consequences. An economic argument is therefore by no means inappropriate or inadequate as a contribution to the study of different types of property. What, then, if any, is the relationship between people as property and people as a scarce resource in the Guianas? The answer lies in the relations of consanguinity and affinity, to which we might add some subcategories such as family, potential kinship, potential affinity and potential enmity. Briefly, kinship is a form of belonging, and therefore a form of property; Guianese Amerindians readily declare that one of their principal aims in life is to maximise their family and kin. However, certain forces, sometimes mysterious or magical, mean that people constantly disperse and the kin group is constantly diminishing. In this context, therefore, the scarcity of people is not strictly the reason for their value as property; people are valued for their own sake, but because of a complex of causes including geography or village location, jealousy and disputes, and the conjugal units ultimate self-sufficiency for subsistence, kin disperse; the desire and means to bring them together again can be regarded as political forces. Note that people 144

are not merely valued as a labour force, and in this respect a political economy approach is indeed inadequate, although the ideal situation of having many co-residents does of course result in more opportunities for cooperation in work and trade. As I have shown, even when a man musters a work force he does so by generating a congenial social atmosphere. Clearly people can be valued as property as I have defined it, and women in particular are exchanged as property in this sense. I make this argument in the context of a discussion of the house so that its subtle and nuanced nature can be brought out by its spatial and material background. It is important to remember that when we discuss the hierarchical aspects of politics we are considering relative values, not absolute characteristics. The process of social cohesion is gendered, as men hierarchically encompass women. This is expressed in the practice of uxorilocality, which is ultimately based upon the value of women, and the demands made upon them by their fathers and husbands. Women are not passive and disinterested in this matter: they obtain security from their position at the centre of the soceral relationship. It is also true that women are not necessarily coercively dominated, and they do have a great degree of autonomy in daily life, but the relatively overt and affinal character of male politics, as opposed to the relatively covert and consanguineal character of female politics, means that men exert greater control over women in overtly political terms.

Conclusion Rivire argued that Trio marriage practices could be accounted for by looking at other aspects of their way of life, particularly their emphasis of the inside/outside dichotomy and their preference for settlement endogamy. Today, when shared substance and conviviality are sometimes taken to be the only important expressions of kinship, perhaps there is more need to emphasize the opposite perspective: that the contemporary observable practices and preferences of the Trio require for their explanation an understanding of the marriage preferences represented in their kinship terminology and ideals of marriage. Indeed, when residents of Tpu are asked why they think it is a good 145

thing that the missionaries and other outsiders brought resources, such as a church, school, clinic and innumerable goods, and communication tools such as air travel and radio, the first response is invariably that it has enabled them to live together in peace, in a large group. It may also be suggested that, like marriage with sisters daughter on a partially different level, bilateral cross-cousin marriage may have been a solution to living in very small groups, and to a corresponding need to establish reciprocity with neighbours through sister exchange. A large village, or cluster of villages, allows the creation of larger webs of affinity, of potential kinship, through reciprocal activities such as the frequent drinking parties hosted by different pakoro, as well as the occasional collective ones held in the tukusipan (see chapter 4). The number of potential spouses is thus maximized, and the reproduction of the group ensured. These questions of marriage, leadership and residence are inherent on differing scales in the pakoro domestic house, and in the village or collective tukusipan: husbands (affines) come from outside the house, and outside the village (represented by the tukusipan). It is the role of a leader, and of a father, to negotiate with such affines. The outside, or the forest (itu), as opposed to the village (pata), although it is conceptually the place of the affine, the potential affine or the potential enemy, is nevertheless part of the lived environment of real Wayana or Trio. Ingold (2000) has convincingly criticized the assumptions underlying the conventional differentiations between nature and culture that characterize many explanations of the evolution of human architecture. He shows that dwelling is logically prior to building, and that the latter is merely an expression of mans being in the world. This argument does not impinge upon what I have written about the Trio and Wayanas distinction between itu and pata, because it is a distinction that they themselves make. Moreover, their recognition of the house on different levels or scales, even beyond the pata, suggests that the house is indeed in some way regarded as a manifestation of a larger experience of dwelling closer to Ingolds sense. There are stone houses and game animal houses throughout the forest. The house is built following an idea perceived to be universal, and this invisible idea is regarded as prior. On the overtly political or public level, it is also true that the idea of relocating will precede the action. So, if housebuilding is but one aspect of dwelling in the environment, it seems that the Trio and Wayana have turned 146

Ingolds logic on its head: they regard the social environment, including the human, political environment but also those of game and other animals, and of spirits, as inscribed on the landscape in the form of houses. They domesticate the world by recreating it in their own image.219 The historical changes that have given new scale and form to village and housebuilding materials and created new types of social relationships can be seen to fit into the same dwelling structures that express social continuity. Like myth, therefore, material culture also adapts and absorbs history, preserving the same sets of relationships with different constituent elements. However, just because houses are built following the same ideal model does not prevent them from expressing social hierarchy in a more nuanced way than that of the relationship between the leader and his co-residents. I have shown how among the Trio and Wayana the hierarchical relationships intrinsic to the kinship system are manifested in residence and housebuilding practices. Furthermore, differences in the style and material of houses reflect inequalities in prestige and economic status. This is particularly manifest in the extreme difference between Akuriyo and other houses.220 Political action and change are intrinsic to living in the world for the Trio and Wayana, just as they are for any other humans, and in this chapter I have shown that building is an expression of politics and kinship. By the same logic as that which places dwelling prior to building, therefore, I suggest the sociopolitical house is prior to the physical house, although both constitute architectural reflections of society. Following Lvi-Strauss, we can say that the Guianese house is a fetish in the Marxian sense, the representation of a relationship between allied (wife-giving and wife-taking) houses (1987, in Gillespie 2000: 8), but we need to be more precise. It represents the ideal of local endogamy confronted with the reality of conjugal autonomy, as men marry in to their wifes fathers house and later establish their independence by building their own. It is thus a fetish of the continuing dynamic alternation between consanguinity and affinity, and a crystallisation of the hybrid network of relationships of which it is composed.

Here I emphasize how the house expresses the sociological imagination, rather than following Bachelard in exploring how the house may affect the poetic imagination (1958). 220 As Drucker-Brown has shown for the Mamprusi and Tallensi, although there is a connection and a consistency between political values and conventions about how domestic space is used,social hierarchy need not be expressed in architectural constraints (2001: 684); however in this case what is reflected in architecture is differences of wealth, knowledge and prestige.


The use of the house in studies of society is, as Gillespie has observed, especially concerned with how local life the actions and structural integrations of groups within particular political and economic contexts is intertwined with genealogy, that is, kinship through time (2000: 2). However, in the Guianas it is debatable to what extent, and in what way, houses represent continuity or objectify perpetuity (loc. cit.). On the one hand, they may be concrete manifestations of an ideal invisible house or stone house (see above), the maluwana being a further objectification of the continuity of the collectivity. On the other hand, the house represents and contains the soceral relationship and the conjugal unit, both of which are formed by discontinuities: a newly married man leaves his fathers house, usually forever, and eventually he may build his own house, causing his wife also to leave her parents house. The house can thus be seen as representing the antithesis, or the denial, of genealogy as a foundation for continuity.221 This question, of how social continuity manifests itself and is created and maintained, is explored from different perspectives in the next two chapters.


Note that, as I have shown, even moveable property is either destroyed or preferably passed to affines upon the death of its owner.


Plate 1: soro plays the ruwe during New Year celebrations.


Plate 2: The tukusipan in Tpu a procession is about to enter carrying game for the New Year festivities.

Plate 3: The tukusipan in Antecume Pata, with wood tiled houses in the background.


Plate 4: Leaders behind the table in the tukusipan, from left: Pikumi, Mosesi, Supipi and Pisife.

Plate 5: The maluwana in the tukusipan in Antecume Pata.


Plate 6: The last real maluwana made by Kuliyaman in Antecume Pata. The main designs represent, clockwise from top, mulokot and three kuluwayak.

Plate 7: Various types of flute being played in the collective space in the centre of the village (T. anna) (drawing by Demas).


Plate 8: Tiwimo, Aranta and Nupi play ruwe and dance during New Year celebrations.

Plate 9: Men tug at baskets brought to the dance by sons-in-law, while basya Pitu takes photographs and missionary Cees watches Ercilio and others bring buckets of beer.


Plate 10: Pisife leads the dance

Plate 11: Mosesi addresses the village flanked by the Minister of Social Affairs (left) and ministry official Mantje (right)



Introduction I have shown that the Guianese house embodies many aspects of local ways of being in the world when it is regarded as a dwelling object in Ingolds sense (2000), which have significant political dimensions. The discussion led from a description of village foundation to a consideration of the relationship between kinship and the house, which can be seen as a model for society on different levels. I now return to the political dimensions of different forms of communication and movement, in order to explore how leadership achieves and maintains solidarity on a level beyond the domestic. The various angles from which I have so far examined Guianese leadership and society (communication, property, the house) have consistently led to a focus upon relations (actions, communications) rather than things (objects, persons, etc.); things draw their significance from the relations in which they are implicated. In the case of property, I showed that the object (land, artefact or person) has value only in terms of the relationships between persons whom it represents. The same applies to the house, which is usefully regarded as a material manifestation of the soceral relationship and the nuclear family: a hybrid of social and material relations. In this chapter I shall discuss musical rituals and aspects of the material culture associated with them, as well as certain forms of musical verbal communication. Although Lvi-Strausss observation that the chief must be a good singer and dancer, a merrymaker always ready to cheer up the band and to brighten the dullness of daily life (Lvi-Strauss 1944a: 25) suggests that the political importance of music was observed long ago, this has not subsequently been taken up by many authors, and least of all has it 155

been given due prominence by those focusing on politics and leadership. As Beaudet (1993) has noted, Amazonian music in general has been little studied.222 Amazonianist studies of music are mostly associated with the sacred flute cults of Northwest Amazonia and the Xing.223 Beaudet (1997) is the most significant study of music in the Guianas to date.224 Performance has received more attention in anthropology, and music has sometimes been discussed as a form of performance. However, most approaches to performance consider it for its own sake, as framed behaviour (Bateson 1955) or emphasising qualities such as flow (Turner 1986). Some focus upon the political dimensions of relations as they are expressed or manipulated through performance, for example, studies of political discourse or ceremonial dialogues, which, as remarked in chapter 1, privilege verbal communication (or performance) over other forms (Bourdieu 1982; Rivire 1971; Urban 1986). Others focus on musical performance as a means of constructing and expressing identity (Samuels 2004; Stokes 1994). Perhaps closest to my approach is Askew (2003), who has brought together the aesthetics of musical performance and politics within an anthropological analysis, to show how musical performance contributes to social processes rather than merely reflecting them: in a process somewhat analogous to what I will describe, Swahili musicians appropriate foreign instruments and musical styles into their own aesthetic framework and employ them in the dualistic logic of competition and other forms of indigenous politicking. I consider music as a form of communication (cf. Menezes 1978), bearing in mind that, as I shall show, the boundaries between lexicality and musicality may often be blurred or subverted by various types of sound (Hill 2006).225 When the distinctions between musical and non-musical sound are increasingly unclear, it may be asked whether we should be speaking of music and dance rather than of larger categories of sound and


Indeed, surprisingly few anthropologists focusing on any region give particular attention to music. The neglect of music by anthropology seems to have increased in tandem with the rise of ethnomusicology as a discipline, but disciplinary specialization should not constitute a reason for social anthropology which is of necessity interdisciplinary to neglect such an important field of human activity. 223 E.g. S. Hugh-Jones 1979; Menezes 1978; cf. Brightman [n.d.] for comparison of flute rituals in the Guianas and these regions. Chaumeil (1997) also gives a useful comparative perspective. 224 See also H. Rivire 1994; Bentzon 1963. 225 In support of this approach, recent neurological data shows overlap in the neural networks and modules processing language and music (Mithen 2006).


movement. But if we can establish the existence of a continuum between more and less formal, and thus more and less musical, then it is legitimate to speak of music if we bear in mind that we are referring to a quality rather than to a thing. The musical quality of certain types of communication is the key to their political significance; for example as Menget has pointed out, instrumental music and song are a mode of communication that transcends linguistic differences (1993: 65): they are therefore especially well suited to intertribal feasts. The leader plays the role of mediator, recalling the Xinguano chief, whose ceremonial role is intended to maintain the correct distance between communities, but also to order the abstract frontiers between living and dead, men and women, kin and affines, Xinguano and outsiders (op. cit.: 73).

Music and continuity This ceremonial mediation ensures social continuity and renewal, as I will show. From a material perspective, continuity is symbolized or ensured by the quality of hardness.226 Hard, long-lasting objects such as beads, and bone and feather artefacts, as well as stone (such as the stone houses mentioned in chapter 3), are valued for their durability in the face of decay, but also represent sociability and controlled power. People and objects are praised as karime (T), hard, strong or healthy, or kurano (T), beautiful or desirable qualities which often go together, particularly in objects such as glass beads. Rivire writes of an association between hardness, durability and invisibility, whereby hard artefacts are copies of primordial archetypes: in the manufacture of stools the hard wood used is a substitution made by men for the rock out of which a culture-hero carved the prototype (Rivire 1995: 196). Stools (kororo) are significant for the additional reason that they act (or acted in the past) as symbols of authority, it being the privilege of a leader or shaman to possess and sit upon them. This points to a further general association between hard objects and knowledge.227
226 227

This is a theme common to societies throughout the Guianas and in other parts of Amazonia. External, visible beads worn on the body represent for the Piaroa invisible beads of knowledge within the body, which are received at initiation. Womens beads are referred to as their beads of knowledge of menstruation, while mens beads of knowledge contain their knowledge of hunting and fishing (Overing


At funerals, cremations and burials, it seems that the general rule that all the deceaseds possessions are burned or buried with the corpse of a dead person is more frequently ignored with durable items such as these. For instance, the missionary Art Yohner describes an Akuriyo burial which took place during one of the Akuriyo contact expeditions, at which the son of the deceased kept all of his mothers monkey tooth necklaces, leaving her with one strand of white beads (Yohner 1970a: 8). Such items are kept safe in a vanity basket and only taken out for ceremonial occasions. Even these items do not seem to be particularly old; I was never shown an object which was said to have been made by anyone longer ago than the previous generation however it must be remembered that minimal generational depth is characteristic of Guianese kinship. In view of this fact, it is perhaps unsurprising that these hard items do not usually have personal histories or genealogies attached to them (unlike in Northwestern Amazonia, for example). Occasionally they have mythical associations but these tend only to belong to a type of object (or to its archetype) rather than to one object in particular. In these cases, as in that of the stool, the object is a copy of a mythical original, from which its value is derived analogically. Musical instruments, which in the Guianas are predominantly aerophones of various types, are copies of archetypes in exactly this way.228 It is of particular interest to discuss them in this chapter because they embody all of the aspects of Guianese life that I must discuss at this point. As well as being hard in some cases, Guianese aerophones are used in ritual contexts in which social formations and dynamics are particularly visible. They are highly gendered, and the ability to play well is expected of a leader. As tubes, they both symbolise and provoke transformation, and they are used in rituals which transform and order the knowledge and power of the outside for the benefit of the collectivity.229 Van Velthem (2001) has convincingly argued several forms of artefact are regarded as persons by the Wayana and other central Caribs, especially in ritual contexts, and the
1986: 147). Note also that stools, like central house posts, are seen in some parts of Amazonia as axis mundi, providing access to invisible worlds (McEwan 2001; see chapter 3). 228 I refer throughout to all aerophones as flutes, although standard instrument classification considers panpipes and clarinets to be distinct from flutes (see Izikowitz 1935). This is intended to reflect Trio and Wayana usage, whereby the word for a flute proper (T. ruwe, W. luwe) is also the generic word for all aerophones. 229 Cf. Chaumeil 2001, who shows the creative/transformative power associated with Yagua blowguns, and Erikson (2001: 101), who proposes calling blowguns, total social objects.


flute-as-tube clearly represents the body. Their tubularity is also the negation of their genderedness, as Hugh-Jones has pointed out with regard to myths of gender in Northwest Amazonia: the body as tube can be seen as a reflection on the bodies of men and women, on the congruence between the form of their genitals, and on their respective reproductive capacities (2001: 252). Their role in promoting and embodying continuity lies not just in the material object of the instrument, but also in the music itself: instrument and sound endlessly represent and reproduce archetypal or prototypical forms.230 The ritual occasions on which this takes place bring together otherwise independent family units to form a collectivity, and thus structure collective life. This chapter will show that by examining music we can more clearly see hierarchy and leadership at work, giving order to society, but its scope goes further: in the context of recent discussions of the typologies of Amazonian societies following Descolas definition of two types of animist society, based on principles of reciprocity on the one hand and predation on the other, Rivire claimed that in the Guianas the idea that death involves reciprocity between two worlds that is to say, reciprocity as a mode of regeneration, disguised or not as predation seems absent. In fact, in a certain sense, it could be argued that, for some peoples in the Guianas, death does not exist, or better, is just an illusion. Like birth, it only consists of a passage between two ways of being (2001: 39). While agreeing with this, the material presented in this chapter will clarify the discrepancy between the Guianese way of death and others in Amazonia. The renewal of society which takes place through ceremonial feasts is, in material terms, a reciprocal transaction: men/ fertility come from outside, and are given beer by women from inside. Because there is no differentiation between the world of the dead and the spirit world, and the transformable, ambiguous environment of the outside is the realm of non-humans and distant affines alike, it is logical to conclude that the dead are brought back to life through these ceremonial feasts. But the idealised interpretation of what is occurring collapses the difference between the visitors and hosts, so that the presence of reciprocity is denied. The result of this is that reciprocity does exist as a mode


Cf. Panare male initiation rituals which promote social continuity by reproducing the activities of ancient people; Henley compares the feeling that this produces to the Trio sasame (see below) (Henley 2001: 216).


of predation, but it is disguised as sharing, just as relationships with outsiders exist in daily life despite an ideal of endogamy.

Types of music In this chapter I will present the different kinds of music to be heard in the villages of Tpu and Antecume Pata. This includes the traditional forms of aerophone music and song as well as the recorded Maroon, Creole, Brazilian and evangelical Christian music more frequently heard today. It also includes certain forms of speech, showing there is no clear distinction to be made between song and speech, either in formal or functional terms. I will approach music as structured sound, which gives the additional advantage of minimising ethnocentric bias in the definition of the musical, and in doing so I follow Seeger (1987). As he argued, it is possible to distinguish technically between categories of speech/song by structure of text, phonetics, tempo, pitch and timbre. Whenever temporal and tonal structures are more highly formalised than in everyday speech, the effect is to produce a more musical form of communication: structured time produces rhythm, and structured tone produces melody. The same criteria can apply to dance steps and to instrumental music: dance is structured movement.231 I also wish to emphasise that music is indeed a mode of communication perhaps even the supremely social mode of communication precisely because of its privileging of form over content. The greater the scale of social formation providing the context for a piece of musical communication, the more structured that form of communication appears to be, and in this fact lies the explanation for the importance of music for leadership and political organisation. It is true that the formalisation of language into ritualised speech, intonings or song, and of movement into dance, reduces the amount of rational communication, arguably allowing ritual to act as an instrument of power (Bloch 1989). But if we do not reduce communication to the verbal expression of original thought (which represents a value of Western society), and understand it more broadly as making common by diverse means, and encapsulating such things as human substance and vital

Cf. Gell 1986; Kaeppler 1986, 2000.


energy, then we can arrive at a richer and less conspiratorial understanding of its political dimensions. As I present the different musical forms and place each in its social context, a picture emerges of the overall social body and its modalities on different occasions. It will be seen that this corresponds to ownership and belonging (particular instruments belonging to different people, for example), to spatial organisation (certain types of music belonging to the domestic sphere and others to the collective), and that interethnic relations and social continuity are managed through musical rituals; while these relations change like myth, music transforms with history.

Deer bone flute: sacred and profane The bone flute has important connotations in Northeastern Amazonia. Frikel (1971) mentions that the Trio used to make flutes of human bones, and according to Stedman the Caribees made flutes of the bones of their enemies (1988: 311). Deer bone flutes are common throughout Amazonia. The myth, mentioned in chapter 1, of the spirit who was given an anus by a Trio, has an important elaboration in the version collected in Koelewijn and Rivire (1987): here, the initial piercing of the spirits bottom causes him to die at first. The Trio later returns to make a flute out of his bones, and as he is cutting the bones the spirit comes back to life and thanks the Trio. This episode can be seen as a condensed expression of the significance of bone flutes, and of flutes in general. Maroons themselves represent trade relations in their purest form, as I discussed in chapter 1. The myth itself is about the domestication and humanisation of Maroons, by making them into tubes, and in this sense it expresses the Trios control over their relationships with Maroons, and therefore their control of trade, which is symbolic of the appropriation of things from outside their lived world. The creation of a Maroon bone flute is suggested by the narrative to be equivalent to the creation of Maroons themselves, and the flute is thus shown to be a signifier of the regenerative nature (for both parties) of Trio relations with Maroons. Deer bone flutes are more common than those of human bone, but they can be shown to have similar symbolic connotations. The first time I heard the wkapau jetp, or sar deer 161

bone flute being played was during the New Year celebrations in Tpu.232 The air was thick with dust and the commotion of a loud reggae sound system, mingled with the rhythmic sound of dancers stomping feet, occasional whoops and the fainter hooting of tortoise-shell friction drums of ruwe. Suddenly the clear sound of a flute rose above the clamour it was a quiet sound, but its pitch and clarity carried it so that it could be heard quite easily. The man playing it was old, with long grey hair framing a battered face and bright wistful eyes whose lashes and brows had been studiously plucked like the rest of his facial and body hair; his legs and cheeks were decorated with discrete diagonal smudges of red urucu dye and, like most men over the age of about forty, he was dressed in a red kamisa loincloth. This was Rime, the brother of the head captain Pikumi, and I soon found that he wore this flute on a string around his neck most of the time. Long after the festivities had ended, his music could be heard across the village for a few minutes at a time, always repeating the same melancholy melody with slight variations and with great delicacy.233 I eventually asked Rime if I might record him playing his flute and, in the course of our conversation, it emerged that there was a story behind it. It is the story of a series of encounters between the worlds of jaguar, deer and man.234 A jaguar goes into the forest to hunt, and finds Amatawana, the great deer, probably the master or spirit of deer. The jaguar is wounded trying to kill the deer; significantly, he is wounded by the wood or bone of the antlers, which are also referred to as the deers arrows.235 A man out hunting meets the jaguar (now referred to as the old jaguar), who tells him that the piece of wood hurts him, and persuades the man to come back to his home and marry his daughter. The man hunts several types of game animal while dressed in jaguar clothes given to him by his father-in-law, but the old jaguar is not satisfied because he wants the man to kill the deer who is causing him pain. At last the man and his jaguar wife find the deer bathing in the river, playing the melody that Rime repeats on his flute, interspersed

A three hole notch flute about 14 cm in length, made from the tibia of the red or grey brocket deer (wukapau, Mazama americana, Mazama gouazoupira). 233 See CD track 3. 234 See appendix 5 and CD track 2. 235 A version of this myth told by Tmeta describes Amatawana as having a spear and a hat or crown. In this version, Amatawana undresses before going into the water and being attacked. In the end the man and his brother are both killed by the jaguar, who uses remi plant charms to help him hunt the man (Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 65-70).


with song in an archaic language that my assistant was unable to translate: anhhn, anhahanhan tpitnpik. The jaguars daughter cajoles her new husband to attack, and together they kill Amatawana. This immediately brings an end to the old jaguars pain from the deers arrows, and so he knows that his daughter and her husband have succeeded in killing the deer, even before they bring the carcass to him. The man begins to think of returning to his village, because he does not like to eat the uncooked meat that jaguars prefer. However, each time he tries to return home, his wife follows and he is obliged to go back to the jaguars world with her. Eventually he kills her and hides her body in a hollow tree, before going back to his own village. The old jaguar finds his daughters corpse and goes to seek revenge; he finds the man, who has been persuaded by his coresidents to go to the river to wash, and attacks him before escaping back to the forest. First, some formal aspects of the story236 should be identified: two of the attacks in the story take place in a river: the mans attack on the deer, and the jaguars attack on the man. The other two happen in the forest: the jaguars unsuccessful attack on the deer, and the mans successful attack of his jaguar wife. Two gratuitous attacks (jaguar-deer, manjaguar daughter) are each followed by a revenge attack (man-deer, jaguar-man). Each revenge attack takes place in water. It is significant that the story begins and ends with the jaguar. He initiates the first attack, and transgresses a cosmic boundary in attempting to kill the master of deer, Amatawana. Disabled by Amatawanas arrows, he recruits an agent in the form of a son-in-law to remove the source of his pain. This is clearly not a simple moral fable, however: the jaguar succeeds in killing the deer and emerges unscathed in the end.237 The man is a Candide figure, who moves between worlds as a result of the jaguars manipulations; he is a victim of events, but transgresses seriously in killing Amatawana and suffers subsequently, though not as a direct result of his actions. However, his story takes the form of the shamanic quest, typical of Guianese myth: in the forest, he finds himself forced to enter the world of the jaguar, to see like a jaguar by marrying a jaguar

It appears to be a version of M1 of the Mythologiques, the dnicheur doiseaux (Lvi-Strauss 1964: 43ff). 237 Tmetas version is presented as a just so story explaining why jaguars hate the Trio (Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 70).


and wearing jaguar clothes to hunt. As is usually the case with such transformations, it is his cosmic position (altered by entering the social world of the jaguar) that determines his perspective. Only by reasserting his position as the human enemy of the jaguar by killing his jaguar wife can he once again cross the cosmic boundary to restore his humanity. The deer has shamanic powers which enable him to act at a distance: his arrows cause pain to the jaguar until he is dead. His flute, also made of bone, and also a hard external attribute of the deer, can be seen as representing this power, and the ability of a master of animals to create and transform. The repeated syllables of his strange form of speech (hh, hanhan) recall the extra syllables inserted into turakane, strong (or visitors) speech, discussed below, and emphasize this transformative and creative power. As the master of deer, he is a powerful spirit, and to cause him harm is certain to bring evil consequences; all his assailants ultimately suffer accordingly. At the same time, in the story a cultural attribute of some power is learned as a result of a transgression, as often occurs in Amazonian myth: the flute and its melody belong to Amatawana, and Rime has appropriated them. The deer bone flute, like certain types of bamboo flute (Wayana nose flutes, Trio double notch flutes, and Ruwe tortoise shell and pan pipes (see below)), has been associated with the individual sphere by some authors, in contrast with the orchestral instruments played at collective ceremonies (Beaudet 1997).238 However according to Darbois, who divides Wayana musical instruments into sacred and profane, the deer bone flute is reserved for certain occasions. Deer were hunted for the sole purpose of providing the flute, their meat was not eaten, and only men who had passed the marake239 five times were allowed to hunt deer (Darbois 1956: 51). In fact Darbois is alone in making these claims, and other authors associate individual instruments, particularly the deer bone flute, only with seduction (Beaudet 1997 on the Waypi). Moreover, deer meat is eaten routinely and I have heard no other account of restrictions on its consumption


See plate 7, which shows various supposedly individual flutes being played together in the communal clearing. 239 See appendix 1.


among the Wayana or Trio except for shamans, the ill and parents of new-born babies.240 More generally, as this chapter will demonstrate from a variety of perspectives, there is no clear distinction to be made between sacred and profane activities or objects, any more than there is between musical and non-musical sounds. However, Darbois account is not implausible and nor does it necessarily merely reflect local differences or historical changes. The deer and the flutes made from its bones are undoubtedly considered powerful, as the story above suggests, and Darbois may simply have over-interpreted the evidence of this fact. Indeed, the logic of the role of flutes in general is well exemplified by the traditional practice of playing the deer bone flute before arriving in a village: the clear association between visitors and flutes will be found again in a ritual context as I discuss visitor ceremonies, below. It is possible that on a more mundane level the deers flute playing in the myth represents his mating call; whether or not this is the case, the flute is very likely to represent the deers fertility through a strong and widespread association between music and fertility which is discussed further below.241 As Amatawana represents all deer, being their master, the flute stands for the abundance of deer as game, of which Amatawana has control. To kill him is therefore like killing the proverbial goose that laid golden eggs. Because of the association between the bone flute and fertility, which the equation with seduction also appears to support, there is an important sense in which the melody itself contains this entire story, and expresses it. The master of deer guarantees that there will be deer to hunt; by playing Amatawanas melody on the flute made from the bone of a deer, the player communicates with the world of deer, recalling the upset that was caused by attacking the deer spirit; the musical rendition of the story of the disturbance of the cosmic order thus serves to maintain that order. Social organisation and social cohesion rely upon people remaining on the human side of the cosmic boundaries between human and non-human, and in this fact lies the bone flutes political and collective purpose. Although it is true that in the past men carried

However, hunting restrictions on large animals such as deer are common throughout Amazonia (Ross 1978). 241 Associations between deer and dance and music are common in Amazonia. In Northwest Amazonia, deer bones and skulls are used to make flutes and ocarinas, and the skin may be used as drums. The deer is considered a dancer and portrayed as such in myth. The reasons for this may include physical factors such as the deers delicate anatomy and graceful movement (S. Hugh-Jones pers. comm.).


such flutes on their person at all times in the forest242 to signal their arrival in other villages (Crevaux 1993), and played tunes on them to seduce their lovers, I have often seen and heard them played at collective dances. These occasions will be discussed in further detail below, but it is worth reflecting that the playing of deer bone flutes in the forest may contain a clue as to how to interpret the musical organisation of Guianese society: it shows that these flutes are played both in the most intimate, domestic sphere (at home, outside ritual ceremonial occasions), and beyond the social sphere altogether, in the forest. All other flutes are played on social occasions, that is to say in contexts that lie between the domestic and the wild. It may therefore be inappropriate to attempt to make categorical distinctions between sacred and profane or between individual and collective, when the spirit world is ever present and social order exists in equivalent measure on micro- and macro-cosmic scales. As I shall demonstrate, this is a point of considerable significance to the question of the role of the leader and social order, and thus to the ways in which Guianese Amerindians manage historical change.

Tortoiseshell pipes: individual and collective Although the word ruwe (T.; W. luwe) can signify any kind of bamboo instrument, as well as the bamboo plant itself,243 the Trio of Tpu also use it to refer to the musical instrument composed of a small set of five bamboo pan pipes (ruwe) and a tortoise shell friction drum (sawaru).244 The front edge of the sternum or ventral plate of the tortoise shell is smeared with mani resin245 so that it causes the shell to vibrate when rubbed with the edge of the palm of the hand. The shell and pipes, usually attached loosely to each other with a length of cotton string, are held by clasping the shell to the ribs with the left elbow, holding the pipes in the left hand to leave the right hand free to rub the shell. Once the resin is warm this rhythmic rubbing produces a sound that can be described as

Again, this should be seen as a way of maintaining and asserting humanity in the non-human world of the forest, as is suggested by the fact that a melody was played whenever approaching a village, to warn of the approaching presence of a human being. 243 Guadua sp., probably Guadua angustifolia. 244 Red-footed or yellow-footed tortoise, Chelonoidis carbonaria, Chelonoidis denticulata. 245 From Moronobea coccinea.


something between a hoot and a dull, rasping wooden squeak. The sound of the panpipes is similar to that of Andean panpipes, except that only small pipes are used (the longest rarely exceeding 20cm), and although several players may play together, there are no orchestras playing ruwe with different tonal ranges. Newly cut bamboo is preferably used (particularly for dances), which further accentuates the contrast between the pipes clear timbre and the duller hooting of the tortoise shell. Like the deer bone flute described above, the ruwe has been said to be primarily an individual instrument (Beaudet 1997), but in my experience, although it does not require more than one player, it is used almost exclusively during collective celebrations. Whereas the deer bone flute is sometimes played outside periods of celebration and is rarely played in conjunction with other instruments, I have seen up to three ruwe players playing together using the hocket technique,246 while dancing, on several occasions (see plate 8).247 It thus seems that it has replaced the waitakala type clarinet among the Trio and Wayana of Tpu, since it is used on similar occasions using the same technique.248 Various different melodies, always at roughly the same tempo,249 are played; these are named after animals, such as sawaru (tortoise) and kurairu (chicken).250 The rhythm of the ruwe friction drum is that of the collective dances that take place at Christmas and New Year these are the names now given to the celebrations that take place almost continuously from mid-December to mid-January, giving Christian and international license to festivities that have long taken place at this time of year towards the end of the dry season: a time of abundant fish and game, epitomised by fish poisoning expeditions,251 and a time of respite between the arduous tasks of clearing new gardens and of planting cuttings and seeds in them (which takes place when the rains arrive). A


Hocket: The medieval term for a contrapuntal technique of manipulating silence as a precise mensural value in the 13th and 14th centuries. It occurs in a single voice or, most commonly, in two or more voices, which display the dovetailing of sounds and silences by means of the staggered arrangement of rests; a mutual stop-and-go device (Sanders 2006). 247 This also occurs in Northwest Amazonia (S. Hugh-Jones pers. comm.). 248 See below for a discussion of clarinets and associated rituals. 249 Around 128 bpm. 250 See CD tracks 4 and 5. 251 The liana ineku (T.) (of the genus Lonchocharpus) is beaten to a pulp and placed in a dammed section or pool in the river at low water during the dry season. The water turns milky as the juices of the liana mix with the water, dispersing rotenone which paralyses the breathing apparatus of the fish. This causes them to rise helplessly to the surface, to be speared or scooped up by the waiting fishermen and women.


single, seated ruwe player often signals the beginning of a session of collective dances in the tukusipan, an invitation to people to arrive to drink and dance.252 Schmidt describes a Trio dance festival beginning with bark trumpets being played in the forest near the village (in Rivire 1969a: 246-7), and the association between the flutes and the forest remains today: celebrations begin in earnest when certain products are brought to the village by a group of men. On separate occasions these products were: game animals from the forest, fish from a poisoning expedition, or an assortment of items of basketry.253 It is easy to see that the first two of these products follow the pattern that will by now have become familiar: things or beings from outside the local group (household, village) are brought in to it by domestication or incorporation in the case of meat and fish, this is achieved by cooking the flesh and combining it with the domestic, human food par excellence, manioc bread. However, the basketry products require more explanation. These were brought to the centre of the village by a procession of relatively young men who, before they could reach the tukusipan, were waylaid by older men, grinning and playing the fool, and tugging at the woven objects (see plate 9). There then followed, as with the fish and game on other occasions, a carnivalesque parade in the heavy backwards and forwards dance step (see below), in which baskets were jammed onto heads and other parts of the body and vast amounts of beer were drunk. It was explained to me that this was a brideservice ceremony: young men had made these pieces of basketry for their wives fathers, and by tugging at the objects the older men were performing their role as demanding fathers-in-law.254 This recalls the Xinguano jawari ritual, involving duals between brothers-in-law which Menget interprets as the traditionalist mise-en-scne of the central equivocation of the alliance tie, between predatory violence and reciprocity ruled by the norm (1993: 67); although the Guianese basket dance is less aggressive, both are performances of the political structure of affinity.

Though this is often supplemented with sound systems playing Creole music, particularly later into the evening see below. 253 Game, fish and baskets are the three main objects of ceremonial exchange (usually affinal) in Northwest Amazonia (S. Hugh-Jones pers. comm.), suggesting that the principal difference between the two regions may merely be the degree of formality (in ritual as in social organisation). 254 Crevaux, describing the Wayana toule festival, notes that the dancers (who are outsiders) have woven basketry objects for the women who provide them with beer. A flirtatious game involves the men teasingly withholding the objects, thereby obliging the women to seize them (1993: 322-3).


While it may seem incongruous that a parade of basketry to celebrate marriage follows the same pattern as parades of game that celebrate the social incorporation (by cooking and eating) of wild animals, in fact it makes sense when local forms of alliance are taken into account. Husbands are regarded as coming from outside which is logical when uxorilocality is the norm, as we have seen and they must be domesticated, for example by giving them beer. Their contribution of basketry is significant, not only because weaving is one of the skills defining the male role, but because it stands for both the domesticated male (man as husband), and the powerful or skilful male (man as leader). Weaving is the main male domestic activity, and thus complementary to mens other principal occupations, hunting or fishing, which take place outside the village, but more than this it permits women to carry out their activities: the fire fan (siparu), the manioc squeezer (matapi), the sieve (manare), are all essential for manioc processing and cooking. Weaving is also commonly associated with quasi-magical or shamanic power, and woven designs are regarded as being potentially dangerous, as the spirits represented are said to risk becoming real if the representation is too perfect (P. Rivire 1994; Van Velthem 2001). According to a Wayana myth, the culture hero Kuyuli made the first people out of wama (arouman255) fibre (arouman being perishable, this is said to be why people die) (Chapuis & H. Rivire 2003: 85). What Guss writes of the high value placed on technical and artistic skill, and manifested particularly through basketry, by the Yekuana, could also be said of the Trio and Wayana: As if to acknowledge the close relations between technical and esoteric skills, the Yekuana often speak of the development of manual expertise as analogically indicative of other more intangible qualities. The fact that those who create the most skilfully crafted objects are also the most ritually knowledgeable members of the community is a truism every Yekuana recognises (Guss 1989: 70). Helms (1993) shows that skill in craft in general is an important attribute of leaders in a wide range of societies. Among the Trio and Wayana, making a ruwe, as much as playing it, demonstrates skill and knowledge, and it is necessary to go as far as the Brazilian watershed to find suitable tortoises. Helms also links musical ability to craft,

Ischnosiphon arouma.


and indeed what applies to skill in producing artefacts also applies to skill in playing music: ritual knowledge is highly valued, and the players of the ruwe are among the most respected men in the village. Although they are the players, their relationship towards the dancers is like that of conductors to an orchestra: the organised chaos that celebrates the coming together of affines to merge as a collectivity of shared substance finds coherence in the steady metre of the stroke of the hand on a tortoiseshell.256 Musicianship can thus be seen as a perfect metaphor for leadership, as ritual order emphasises and exaggerates social order, and the musician is to the former as the leader is to the latter. But the relationship between musicianship and leadership is not always only metaphorical and, as we shall see, leaders themselves often carry out their role through music, in ceremonies and through formal dialogue.

Bamboo flutes and hummingbirds: death and fertility As mentioned in chapter 3, the Wayana tukusipan is so called because guests are identified with hummingbirds;257 so, according to Schoepf (1998) the characteristic forwards-and-backwards dance step echoes the in-and-out movement of the hummingbird as it copulates with the flower. In order to understand this symbolism better it is useful to refer to a Wayana myth which explains the origin of the marake ritual: The culture hero Alalikama goes hunting and undergoes a transformation which is described as a kind of death. He sleeps under leaves, and hears the sound of clarinets (referred to as luwe, the generic word for flutes or for bamboo), shouts and cries, and vomiting. A hummingbird appears and says to him, dont go into the bamboo, or my many children will eat the cartilage (()yetp) of your bones, (hummingbird is the master or spirit of bamboo). Alalikama loses his way. He then becomes a spirit, and


Cf. Lvi-Strauss on myth: The myth and the piece of music thus appear as the conductors in an orchestra to whom the listeners are the silent executors (1964: 25). 257 This theme of outsider or affine as bird can be found elsewhere in Amazonia for example cf. the Huaorani, among whom, when a couple symbolically associated with a fruiting tree give an m party, the guests associated with birds who come to gorge themselves during fruiting season (Rival 2002: 133-5), and the Tupinamba, whose captives, like Bororo husbands, were parrots (Viveiros de Castro 1992: 285).


hears the sound of flutes. He sleeps at the village of the yellow-rumped cacique,258 a bird able to imitate human and animal voices, whose nest is protected by aggressive wasps the caciques are described as a kind of master of speech. He does not sleep, for fear of wild animals, and he hears the Kalau male initiation songs. The cacique birds whom Alalikama sees as humans vomit and serve meat stew (tuma) all night. They apply stinging mats. Alalikama learns Malalma, the song in the Kalau cycle that is addressed to candidates, and which teaches them the stages of the ritual. He sees olok (feather headdresses), and the kunana stinging mat, and hears the lemi (spells or charms) for healing (eju) (Chapuis & H. Rivire 2003: 388-9). So following a bodily transformation leading to a change of perspective, and after transgressing the boundary warned of by the hummingbird by entering the bamboo grove, Alalikama learns about flutes and initiations, drinking and vomiting, stinging, and headdresses. It is in the bamboo grove itself that this forbidden, exotic, powerful knowledge is to be found, which explains why bamboo aerophones play such a central role in Wayana ceremonies, and it is significant that this place of tubes is also a place of transformation, as will become clear later. Dance festivals and musical performances are exchanges of knowledge, sound and movement in return for hospitality, women and beer, and in this context Alalikamas transgression can be seen as a theft of knowledge: he went to another village, but took knowledge instead of giving it; this was of necessity because as all knowledge is regarded as being of extraneous origin, the first people had to obtain it in this way, without reciprocity.259 By the same token, in visitors feasts, the roles of man and hummingbird are reversed, and it is the symbolic hummingbirds (the dancers) who come into the human village; only the direction of the transfer of knowledge remains the same, for the dancers bring knowledge instead of taking it. Significantly, it is the masters of speech who are also the masters of ceremonies, in myth and in reality: the cacique birds, and (as discussed below) Trio and Wayana leaders, perform the very same role.


Payakwa , Cacicus cela; capable of mimicry. Another icterid oropendola similar in colouring, the kulima or crested oropendola, Psarocolius decumanus, is the subject of a myth which Kuitaik told me, and its yellow tailfeathers were frequently used in the past for headdresses by the Wayana (Crevaux 1993: 262). 259 This chicanery expresses in Sahlins terms a relationship of negative reciprocity with the spirit world (Sahlins 1972: 195).


The hummingbirds warning, my many children will eat the cartilage of your bones is consistent with the identification of flutes as bones, and of the continuity represented by hard objects, especially bone. The hummingbirds children who eat the cartilage of peoples bones may do so in order to make flutes, in a mirror image of what people now do in order to make their own, transitory flutes: they go and take the hummingbirds children, i.e. bamboo, and strip them to turn them into flutes. This re-enactment of primordial events constitutes a further element of continuity. The association between bone, flutes, continuity and fertility is further expressed in another myth, in which Kuyuli impregnates his sister Salomakan with the sound of his flute (op. cit.: 45). Later Salomakan wanders transformed into a tortoise, until she is devoured by jaguars. Her children avenge her by recovering her bones more precisely her claws before killing the jaguar children. Salomakans bones or claws are the origin of the kuliputp amohawin (tortoise claw) block flute, which is in turn associated with the mlaim amohawin (armadillo claw) block flute, both of which are played using the hocket technique, like the clarinets, during the marake ceremony. In another version of the story of Salomakan, her son Mopo plays a tune on his mothers left claw which causes the wind to blow, and when he blows in her right claw, a strong wind and heavy rain come (op. cit.: 87n.; H. Rivire 1994). It is important to note the allusions to death in the story of Alalikama. There are various signs that he has died following the hummingbirds warning: before hearing the flutes he goes away (tti anumal, op. cit.: 389), and later he says never mind if wild animals eat me Im already dead (op. cit.: 397). The themes of death and fertility, and the motifs of bones and blowing, are recurrent in these stories. Death is portrayed as a transformed state in much the same way as changing clothes in myths mentioned previously. In such transformed states, the stories protagonists meet spirits and learn about culture from them: they learn all the things that make people human, such as body ornaments, songs, flutes and dances. The bone or claw flutes represent the archetypes of all flutes, and flutes may be said to be instruments or agents of transformation, as with the deer bone flutes discussed above. As wind brings rain and productive gardens, blowing a flute can bring people into being. However, as bones, flutes represent the hard centre of the person, the soul; exposed, they thus evoke both death and immortality (cf. P. Rivire 172

1994: 259). It is the action of blowing that causes the flutes power to be realized, and this is coherent with the frequently recurring ideas of blowing as the vehicle of shamanic power, and wind as the carrier of disease. All this can be summarised in the following scheme: Flute : Blowing :: Death : Fertility The flute is both a symbol of death and an instrument of fertility or life: through its power, Kuyuli impregnates his sister.260 The flutes (or claws) blown by Mopo bring wind and then rain, and the connection of this episode with the theme of fertility is supported by certain additional considerations: In the forest environment of the Guianas, every rainstorm is preceded by a cool wind, and such a wind is almost always followed by rain. Moreover most of the celebrations I have been discussing take place during the dry season, the time of clearing in preparation for planting. Throughout January and into February, particularly during the second dry season that I spent among the Trio and Wayana, there was some concern at the lateness of the coming of the rains, because in recent years the gardens have been producing yields far below what would usually be expected. The Wayana or Trio do not believe that their rituals will magically bring the rains; rather, by re-enacting the events of mythic time that gave order to the universe and to society, they reassert their own place in that order.261 The effect of this re-enactment of Alalikamas transgression is a renewal or reassertion of society comparable to the Barasana social renewal explicitly compared to menstruation or to snakes shedding their skin (C. Hugh-Jones 1979 and S. Hugh-Jones 1979 in P. Rivire 1994). But these dance ceremonies are more than mere re-enactments, and their participants are more than performers; there is no audience, and everyone present shares in the production and the effect of the dance. This effect is to suppress the distinction between the present and mythic time, and thus to efface that between the visiting affines and the

They can also be seen in terms of constructing and deconstructing the person (cf. Seeger et al. 1979; Henley 2001). 261 This is also associated with human fertility: according to the Trio myth of Prprwa, the sun was permanently at its zenith until Waraku, the first woman, who gave culture to the Trio, caused night to come as a condition of having sexual intercourse with Prprwa, thus beginning the diurnal cycle (Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 17).


ancestral culture heroes. As Overing has noted (1981), the fusion of similar and dissimilar elements is the essential condition for creativity in Lowland South America, and in the Guianas it is through rituals such as these that similar and dissimilar (present and mythic time; consanguines and affines; hosts and visitors; affines and ancestors) are fused through the transcendence of their difference: as Rivire puts it, ritual does not merely achieve transcendence, but more than this, ritual time itself is transcendence (Rivire 2001: 42). The creativity that this affords is the renewal and reproduction of culture and society. Leaders, once again, show their importance and exercise the skills which make them leaders in these rituals: they lead the clarinet orchestras, recite the kalau and other songs, and direct proceedings; more generally, they lead the process which brings knowledge and power from outside the coresident group to renew and reaffirm society. The dances are owned by those who are the most knowledgeable about them; the makers of the instruments are also their owners. Meanwhile the collective dance takes place in, and emphasises, the collective space of the tukusipan or the anna, and this helps the collective nature of the social group to be renewed and promoted. Finally, in terms of a political economy of people, ceremonies such as these allow social relations to be renewed and created between local groups, often culminating in marriages: the offspring that these marriages produce gives rise to social continuity in its most concrete form. The visitors are at once primordial beings and affines, and in this way allow society to be renewed without compromising its identity. These are the elements of the vital social process which is orchestrated by the individual qualities of the leader. This association of death and fertility in rituals which involve the leader as protagonist, organiser and promoter echoes the kuarap ritual in the upper Xing, at which the death of a chief is mourned and pubescent girls are released from seclusion (Menget 1993: 65-6).262


Cf. Bloch & Parry 1982 for various perspectives on the ritual association of death and the renewal of life.


Rattles and shamanism: percussion and harmony The kind of specialist knowledge that leaders demonstrate in rituals such as those described above brings us into the realm of shamanism, of specialist knowledge of the spirit world, and the characteristic musical instrument of the South American shaman is of course the rattle. Having been told that the last Trio shamans had been convinced by missionaries to throw their rattles, containing stones that were in fact spirits, into the river, I did not expect to find either shamans or rattles during my fieldwork in 2003-5. However, at the most important of the dance ceremonies in Tpu described above, the procession of returning hunters and dancers was led by a man shaking a rattle (maraka).263 Dressed in an large headdress of scarlet macaw feathers mounted on a cloth band featuring the stars and stripes,264 with a thick sash of orange beads across one shoulder, solidly built but old enough to be a great grandfather, his movements were energetic but solemn (see plate 10). He was Pisife, the father of Pitu; Pitu was married to Rora, the daughter of the headcaptain of Tpu, Pikumi. Pisife is also a pastor and leader in his own village, Palumeu. The first time I saw him leading the largest annual celebrations in Tpu I was surprised, but I gradually realized that his role fits into the general pattern whereby knowledge, people and other resources are brought into social space from outside; this was part of a ritual expression of this pattern. As leader and pastor of another village, he was an ideal person to fulfil the role: pastors have most of the same qualities as shamans (specialist knowledge, contact with the spirit world, knowledge of archaic or foreign languages), and most of the important pastors I knew were the sons of shamans. Moreover, by having his own son marry the daughter of Tpus most senior figure, he had given human resources to the village as well as these less tangible ones. Even if his rattle is no longer said to contain spirits, it plays the same symbolic role as the shamans rattle of old. It is partly a sceptre of power, partly a


Of maraka (Lagenaria siceraria) gourd, wood, bound with cotton and sealed with mani resin (see footnote above), and decorated with feathers of knolo , scarlet macaw (Ara macao), mounted on a length of preu arrowcane (Gynerium sagittatum). 264 Trio and Wayana are deeply aware of the importance of Amerika as a source of powerful knowledge and objects.


container of knowledge; but perhaps most of all, it structures time by shaking a beat for dancers to follow. This structuring of time brings people out of the ordinary, prosaic temporality of daily life and into the rhythm of the celebration of collective sociality, which brings affines together (often quite literally, as these festivities are frequently the scene of flirtation and seduction between potential and future spouses). Following the rhythm set by the ruwe of local men or, on the most special occasions, the maraka of the dance leader, is the thump of the heavy step of dancers. In the past this was usually accentuated with a sound board (tpa (T), ehpa (W)) shallowly buried above a pit; although these are rarely used today, the deep bass of the powerful sound systems (discussed below) provides an equivalent effect. According to Rivire the tpa is associated with the village in dance ceremonies concerning the masters of game animals, and were not used at those associated with the masters of cultivated plants (1969a: 252). Rattling seeds (kawai)265 attached to the womens festive bead aprons (keweju, usually decorated with geometric designs representing jaguars or caterpillars), or to dancers legs below the knee, further punctuate the rhythm. The dancers frequently make a loud voiced plosive brr sound through their lips in time with the music. The dance step is always heavy, steady, a quick but lurching march: a heavier, longer step with the forward foot followed by a shorter step with the rear foot. This heavy step is in stark contrast to the light, silent passage of the hunter in the forest, and its heaviness accentuates the humanity of the dancer. The short-long beat alternation gives an effect similar to a swing rhythm (cf. Beaudet 1997: 212). Meanwhile the sound of the kawai, like nut kernels or seashells, produces the jingling of many light, small, hard objects jostling together as they move in a harmonious whole: a fitting metaphor for the social effect of the dance. The sound they produce is described as sasa, and this is said to be the root of the word sasame (like sasa) (Carlin, in Rivire 2000). Sasame refers to the state of harmonious euphoria, of being many people together physically and socially. It is the feeling sought by the participants in collective celebrations of all kinds among the Trio and Wayana. This sasa rhythm is led by the shaman-leader-outsider, who shakes his rattle and leads the dance. As I have shown, musical instruments and leadership are closely associated in a variety of


Thevetia ahouai, said to have alexiteric properties (i.e. to protect against contagion and serve as an antidote to poison) (DeFilipps et al. [n.d.]).


ways: making and playing them show the skill valued in leaders, and the occasions upon which they are used are those upon which leadership qualities come into their own. The same is true of vocal music, as I have shown in the case of the kalau, and as I shall now examine in other forms which do not necessarily involve collective ceremony.

Power, blowing and song Like the rattle, another type of action closely associated with Guianese shamanism is blowing: the shaman typically blows tobacco smoke on the patient, paying particular attention to the affected area of the body. This has obvious parallels in aerophone instruments, whose relationship with fertility I discussed above. As well as with healing and the renewal of life, blowing is also associated with the transmission of shamanic curses. It is closely related to certain types of song, and it is considered to be powerful in similar ways to song, particularly spirit songs; for this reason, it has been described as a form of silent sound (Sullivan 1988: 434); indeed, in shamanic sances, secret chants are often rendered so quietly as to blend into silence, leaving only the sound of breath. Blowing may thus be regarded as a type of highly esoteric song. Spirit songs, known as remi, can be used for various purposes: healing, causing illness, seduction and hunting. Their use is today largely restricted to healing, and there is one powerful practitioner in each of the villages Tpu and Antecume Pata. In Tpu, there is soro, who was a member of the Akuriyo expeditions and, like his brother, Pesoro, who is the main church leader in the village, he is a church elder and son of a powerful shaman. He uses various lianas, and other plant remedies, of which he has such knowledge that his healing powers are famous across hundreds of miles he has occasionally been flown to other villages to treat urgent cases. He typically boils the liana in water, and chants in an archaic or stylized language into the water before administering the liquid to the patient. In Antecume Pata, there is Kutaka, an Apalai who, before he migrated to the village in the 1970s, was feared far and wide as a powerful and dangerous shaman. He does not use lianas, but instead chants into a gourdful of ordinary water before giving it to the patient


to drink.266 I have shown that not all song involves the collectivity, and neither is all singing carried out by men. When women sing, except in the church context (see below), it is in the domestic sphere, and songs tend not to invoke spirits or to be attributed special powers. But women do sing mourning songs, which are part of the process of safely deconstructing the person after death. On one occasion I heard such a song, which Tumali broke into alone immediately upon hearing the news that her sister in another village had died. She sang what was to my ears a beautiful but desperate-sounding, descending melody in Wayana interspersed with heavy, sharp breaths out and in, giving a halting, sobbing rhythm. Her mourning was an entirely individual affair, and her close kin and co-householders behaved as though nothing were amiss, even laughing and joking about other matters.267 Although older women have better knowledge of songs, this does not earn them any particular prestige. In contrast, the powers of men such as soro and Kutaka make them highly respected figures. The content of the songs is incomprehensible to ordinary people, which adds to their mystery. It is also important to note the different uses of these chants, which represent the domains which are seen as important fields of chiefly and manly activity, as well as being metaphors of each other: healing and causing illness; seduction and hunting. As among the Achuar, the hunter can attract his prey using seductive techniques such as odours and sounds (Taylor 2000; cf. Dtienne & Vernant 1974). Shamans are frequently represented as causing and curing illness by interacting with the spirit world as a hunter interacts with his prey. Leadership and shamanic knowledge can thus be said to be as closely intertwined today as they were in the past, despite missionary influence; in fact, although outside influence changes its modes of expression and its outward appearance, it appears to have little real influence on the underlying mechanisms of leadership and politics. The leaders primary role being to communicate and to mediate, by bringing new musical forms and new material culture


He told me that he had to undergo a very long apprenticeship to learn to do this. It must be done in the evening because there is a kind of bird that listens and copies the lemi if it is chanted during the day the role of the bird here can be seen as a malevolent counterpart to that of the outsider-bird discussed above. 267 I will comment on the significance of this individual aspect of mourning song below.


into play and monopolising new forms of esoteric knowledge he is carrying out precisely the same activity as he did before the first missionaries arrived.

The music of the Other It is not only through rituals of more or less traditional appearance such as those described above that the Trio and Wayana pursue the collective euphoria that promotes social cohesion. In the next section I will show that other forms of musical communication are transformations of the types of ritual described above, much as Gow (2001) shows that the Piro fiestas de la Comunidad Nativa are transformations of the kigimawlo girls initiation ritual. Leadership is exercised through music just as much in its newly introduced forms as it is in the marake and other collective ceremonies such as drinking parties for visitors, and in shamanic and other esoteric chanting. Contact with white people, creoles and maroons has brought new musical forms which also bring people together by providing a collective focus and a common rhythm. This produces further occasions for men to demonstrate their skill and knowledge, either separately from other forms or at the same time, in heterophony. i) Church music Cheerful hymns and festive songs accompanied on the guitar, accordion and electric piano are perhaps the most lasting liturgical legacy of the evangelical Christian missionaries whose influence reached its height in Tpu in the 1970s (Antecume Pata was kept resolutely free of missionaries by Andr Cognat, although local people can often be heard listening to cassettes donated by the missionaries in Anapak). Like most Christian evangelical church music, these are always in a major key.268 The more radically inclined among the missionaries deplore indigenous melodies which, although technically in


See CD track 6.


neither major nor minor keys, often sound plaintive.269 For example, a missionary involved in the Akuriyo expeditions makes the following comment in one of his reports: The influence of soro270 living amongst them has had a great impact upon them. Late into the night I hear the Akurijos singing the Gospel songs. Quite a difference from a former expedition when I heard them chant in the minor key from 7 PM until 2 AM (Yohner 1970a: 6). It is clear from the context that the chanting in the minor key refers to the often melancholy character of traditional song, and that the shift from this to the joyful tones of Christian songs of praise symbolises an important breakthrough on the part of the Akuriyo in the eyes of the missionary. Today in Tpu there is usually music in the church every Sunday and sometimes during the week; in addition, evenings of celebration in the tukusipan are sometimes begun with a prayer and a hymn. The men (it is always men) who play the instruments are either among the most influential and important men in the village, or are charismatic and ambitious, and sure to be influential in the future: Y271 plays the guitar, Jan (president of Jaraware stichting (the local cultural association) and brother of Mosesi) plays the accordion and Marcel (son of Sonja and son-in-law of Kulitaik) plays the keyboard. Playing these instruments gives these men another opportunity to cultivate a skill, and this skill constitutes a form of knowledge which encapsulates something of the power of White people and Christianity. The singers sing in a nasal, twanging style which is in stark contrast to the very openthroated clear tone of traditional songs.272 However, the even articulation of the strong beats of the 2/4 metre prescribed by the missionaries in hymns is subtly giving way to a syncopated rhythm, contemporary renditions being influenced by the omnipresent reggae and forro of the Caribbean and Brazil.


See e.g. the deer bone flute sample (CD track 3), which is difficult to categorise either as melancholy or joyful, having elements of both; meanwhile, the ruwe pan pipes are close to a B flat major pentatonic scale (CD tracks 4 and 5), and this may help them to produce melodies which sound more obviously joyful to a Western ear, although it is important to note that sad music can very well be produced in major keys. 270 See above. soro had, of course, already converted by this time and was acting as an indigenous missionary. 271 A successful animal trader see chapter 1. 272 Like Piro Gods songs this may be an imitation of the missionaries US Mid-Western vocal style, as found in country and western music (Gow 2001: 239 n. 17)


ii) Poku sound systems Late in the evenings during periods of celebration, and at various times during the day almost whenever or wherever beer is being drunk, sound systems of various sizes (from small stereos to large, powerful speakers attached to car radios) can be heard playing zouk, reggae or forro hits, styles locally known by the Maroon word for music, poku. These may be relatively local Maroon hits from Maripasoula, or those of international stars such as Sean Paul. The owners of the sound systems remain close to their machine, to control it and display their position as owner of the music. Teenagers, young men and women, and sometimes younger children, dance in Tpu in the relatively subdued style of Surinamese reggae stars in music videos, but in Antecume Pata the influence of erotic ragga dance styles (such as bouk273) has arrived from Maripasoula. Once again, music and dance provide a way of gaining prestige and demonstrating status by showing knowledge of pieces of music and dances from the urban centres, and displaying ownership and control of the sound system.274 As Pesoro told me, in the past the Trio had flute music, and now they have poku, but they serve the same purpose; indeed on one occasion Mimisiku commented to me on the power of poku music. In the cases of both church music and poku, ownership and skill in using instruments mark out individual men as having privileged access to knowledge. Whereas the knowledge of flute music described above comes from the spirit world and from the forest, the knowledge of these types of music comes from exchanges with urban, nonAmerindian others. These types of music may be said to have greater political significance today than indigenous, aerophone-based musics, although the reasons for this are more clearly seen in the light of an understanding of the latter. It is common to hear poku music in heterophony with aerophone music a fact which supports the suggestion that they perform similar social roles.275 Despite this, there has been no


In which the female dancer bends forward, gyrating her hips, while her male partner, standing behind her, grinds his hips against her buttocks. 274 Aleman (2006) has described a similar practice among the Waiwai. 275 Heterophony, the simultaneous production of different (in tone, rhythm or both) musical forms, is also found in celebrations among the Waypi (Beaudet 1997) and in other parts of Amazonia (S. Hugh-Jones pers. comm.). Salivas distinguishes between heterophony and polymusique: in the latter case each of the


perceivable formal influence of any extraneous music upon indigenous music276 this is a phenomenon that Beaudet has called impermeability (tanchit), and which he argues is widespread throughout Amazonia (1997: 166). In the context of my overall argument, this suggests that indigenous symbolic ecology conceives of a simultaneous structural equivalence and ontological distinction between types of extraneous knowledge and resource: while they may be used for the same purposes, they are nevertheless kept separate. The importance of privileged access to different kinds of others or to the outside for leadership and historicity will be discussed in greater detail below, but first I shall consider the importance of speech as an index of sociality, which draws together indigenous and exotic forms of music along with more overt manifestations of leadership roles.

Speech as music. Ethnomusicologists have debated whether certain forms of melodic and/or rhythmic speech should be considered as music, particularly when they are not thought of as such by the cultures which produce them.277 However, as Seeger (1987) has demonstrated, there is much to be gained by classifying speech forms according to their formal characteristics on a continuum with music. I have already considered types of chanting and blowing and shown that there are certain equivalences between these and flute music. But when even some of the most everyday forms, such as a woman urgently telling her child to be careful near the fire, sometimes falls into repeated cadences with an effect approaching that of song, we inevitably wonder where the boundary should lie. Yet even this example can be said to fall into a general pattern whereby hierarchy and the definition of social formation are made apparent through more structured forms of speech. The womans gentle admonishments echo on the most intimate of scales the

musical forms remains autonomous despite being brought together in one time and place with a single intentionality on the part of the participants (Salivas 2002). 276 With the possible exception of the major pentatonic scale being adopted for the ruwe. 277 A well known example is the muezzins call to prayer and recitations from the Koran which are called in Persian reading, not music (Nettl 2005: 22).


leaders harangues to the villagers which are, according to classic definitions (Clastres 1974; Lvi-Strauss 1944a), fundamental and definitive of his role. As Lizot observes for the Yanomami, chiefly harangues and even important conversations among non-chiefs frequently employ the same virtuosity (2000), a rhetorical skill the exercise of which I suggest serves more to draw attention to itself than to the content of the speech. These speeches display tonal and temporal qualities which have a life and a logic of their own, independent of content. On many occasions in Tpu Mosesi spoke to the village, particularly when communal feasts (see above) or official government visits brought almost everyone together in the tukusipan. He would sometimes use a megaphone (see plate 11), but he was skilled in projecting his voice and for longer speeches he would manage without it. These speeches were long harangues, telling everybody to behave themselves for example, not to let children drink too much beer and play near the river, not to fight, and to be careful with their shotguns and ammunition,278 and to be generous in sharing food (notably with visitors, e.g. myself), and above all, to be sasame. They would sometimes last as long as an hour, spoken in monotone, with each phrase ending, ir apo (thats about it) in a lower tone. The audience would sit on benches all around the edge of the tukusipan while Mosesi stood behind the table at the mid point of the longer section of wall between the two doors (see figure 3). The overwhelming impression was of the performance of a role, as much on his part as on that of the villagers. People remained silent or whispered to each other, but few showed real interest in the content of the speech, fidgeting and looking around themselves all the time adults and children alike. Mosesi himself showed surprisingly little interest in what he was saying, but spoke constantly, barely pausing long enough to draw breath. Other leaders or officials in the village would often speak in public, in similar tones, but for much shorter periods. Pikumi, the headcaptain, gave similar speeches from the same position in the tukusipan, but his were far shorter and less frequent. The basyas (see chapter 2), particularly Supipi, would sometimes walk around the village using the megaphone to harangue people repeatedly against drunkenness.279


A boy was killed accidentally in the Trio village of Kwamalasamutu during my stay in Tpu, when his brother played with a carelessly placed shotgun. 279 Ironically, some of the same basyas were themselves particularly liable to drunkenness and fighting.


While the megaphone can obviously be seen as analogous to the aerophones described above, the formal, authoritative style of speaking is itself of greater importance. It calls to mind the yellow-rumped cacique, master of speech, from which Alalikama learned about dance ceremonies and stinging rituals (see above): the ability to speak at length, to adopt the correct tone and timbre expected of a leader, is, like songs and dances, also an esoteric and prestigious form of knowledge. By comparing them with flute music and considering its musical features, we can solve the puzzle of why Amerindian leaders speeches often seem so empty of content.280 Their more obviously political nature helps us to see the political importance of dance ceremonies. Meanwhile the focus of dance ceremonies that is, the mediation of the relationship between inside and outside, consanguinity and affinity, for the sake of social continuity and renewal should lead us to expect that chiefly dialogue is indeed a form of exchange as Clastres and Lvi-Strauss suspected; but not so much between leader and community, as between inside and outside the polity, through the leader.

Ceremonial dialogue I have shown that music is a form of communication. Chiefly dialogues have, however, been portrayed in the past as prestations; both Clastres (1974) and Lvi-Strauss (1944a) have described leaders as giving words and/or things in exchange for women and allegiance, and Lizot notes of the high value placed on rhetorical skill in Amazonia, dialogues are primarily exchanges in the course of which the objects communicated are words (2000: 166). Menget (1993: 68) distinguishes ceremonial dialogue (used between villages and upon intensely dramatic occasions) from political discourse (in which the chief addresses the village), and it is the latter to which Clastres, Lvi-Strauss and Lizot refer. Menget rightly presents ceremonial dialogue as part of a chiefs role in defining the boundaries of the polity (cf. Rivire 1971; Chernela 2001), and points out that political discourse should be seen as part of a leaders range of personal skills (Menget 1993: 68). I suggest in addition that insofar as political discourse is a prestation, it has the effect of

In fact they are not see chapter 1 and Menget 1993.


dissolving the social difference between leader and community, thus creating a shared subjectivity which obviates the need for reciprocity. I include ceremonial dialogue in a chapter on music because the most chiefly kind of speech, the various forms of ceremonial dialogue281 used in the past between potential enemies/ potential affines, is also the most highly stylized: it uses archaic and highly metaphorical language, is highly rhythmical and makes extensive use of tonal and lexical repetition.282 As Urban (1986) and Beier et al. (2002) have shown, similar forms of ceremonial dialogue are found throughout Amazonia. Beier et al. point out that discourse forms and practices cut across genetic linguistic families and intersect, overlap and cooccur with one another in particular genres or in particular discourse settings (op. cit.: 125), showing a history of cultural diffusion by communication and contact across language groups. They note that special languages are commonly used in ceremonial dialogue and other esoteric speech forms, usually involved in political discourse, curing practices, and life-cycle rituals such as puberty rites and funerary rites. Ceremonial dialogue has been associated with interethnic relations of potential hostility, and with the exchange of goods, sharing of communal traditions and balance of powers (Urban 1986). Monod & Erikson (2000) see its role as that of regulator in the domains of space (arrivals of visitors, war), time (evoking the time of origins or death), and relations with the Other the notional domain. Erikson (2000: 131, 133) notes that Amazonian mask rituals often have the visitors incarnating the dead of their hosts, and greetings in general in Amazonia tend to express doubt over the ontological status of the interlocutor, and constitute part of a process of reinsertion into the sphere of the social. This role of regulator in several domains recalls other forms and objects of communication that I have been discussing, such as the house and flutes. Although ceremonial dialogue no longer exists as a set of distinct practices among the Trio, I will show that it is closely related to contemporary forms of dialogue and music,283


A term coined by Fock to describe the Waiwais version of the same practice, the Oho chant. He compares the oho to various forms of ceremonial dialogue from all over Amazonia, with the common characterization of a chanting dialogue with interspersed affirmatives (1963: 216-230). 282 A further perspective linking ceremonial musical performance and ceremonial dialogue is suggested by Henley, who describes formal dialogues between dance owners and chanters, in which the former persuade the latter to take the maraka and lead the dance thereby delegating their responsibility (2001: 213). 283 Urban (1986) draws attention to the musical nature of Kuna ceremonial dialogue.


and it is useful to present these here to clarify the importance of certain features of these current usages. Three forms of ceremonial dialogue have been identified by Rivire (1969a, 1971) and further analysed by Carlin (2004), and their principal features are summarized in the table below.

Type of dialogue: Nokato Occasion or purpose:

Turakane Sipsipman Tesmken Communicate intentions or news, esp. before or after journey. Persuade. Restore relationships. Coresidents, kin ( imoit)

Receive visitors or announce arrival in village Trade Obtaining a wife

Relationship of speakers: Number: Gender: Age: Posture: Position: Word ending phrase: Response to speaker: Language: Strength: Length (time): Other features:

Different agglomerations and groups 2 Male (rarely female) Older Seated on stool

Different agglomerations but same group

2 or more Male (occasionally female) Middle to older Seated or standing Male or female Any adult Seated or standing Any (inc. domestic area)

Anna (centre of village, male space) Kara, tme, taame or karahke As for nokato but less frequent Mm or Irr

Mm (grunt)

Irr (thats it (emph.)), nna Ordinary Low Short Non-competitive

Archaic High Up to 24 hours Competitive

Somewhat archaic Medium Several hours?

Table 1: Ceremonial Dialogue (based on Rivire 1971 passim and Carlin 2004: 20-9).

The two forms of turakane speech, nokato and sipsipman, are broadly similar and differ only in degree of strength and formality, but their existence as distinct forms emphasises that there is a hierarchy of categories of ceremonial dialogue corresponding 186

to the speakers social and geographical distance. Otherwise the main differences are between turakane and tesmken. These can be seen as complementary forms, because turakane is conducted between non-coresidents, one of whom has travelled, and tesmken is conducted between coresidents prior to or following a journey. There are three stages to the turakane dialogues: the visitor presents himself, then negotiates with the host after stating his intentions, and finally, all being well, he is welcomed into the village. The last two stages are almost sung and, as Carlin notes, all the forms of dialogue are highly rhythmical, with the stronger types being chanted or almost sung rather than spoken (2004: 23). The language is archaic and stylized, and semantically opaque (loc. cit.) form takes precedence over content. The words repeated after each phrase have no known meaning, and serve instead for rhyme, rhythm and assonance, as do the repeated responses. The most formal, rhythmical and melodic form is nokato, and the least is tesmken. The fact that, as Fock notes (1963: 220), speakers often do not listen to one another, and if they are of different linguistic stock they each speak their own language, highlights that this privileging of form over content is due to the fact that these speech forms are communication acts par excellence: they are rituals for the establishment of communication, and express communication itself; any further signification is secondary. Even if the Trio do not appear to have used ceremonial dialogue with non-Trio in recent memory, regional patterns of ethnogenesis (discussed in chapter 5), and widespread nature and probable diffusion from a common origin of ceremonial dialogue itself (Beier et al. 2002), show that there must almost certainly have been some such usage in the more distant past. During the negotiation stage of the turakane dialogue, the host disparages what the visitor has to offer and doubts his good intentions and trustworthiness, saying that other visitors have cast spells and caused illness. Good health and strength or hardness are mutually associated, and expressed in one word: karime; also, particularly in the phrase karime ijomi (he has strong speech), this word denotes persuasiveness (Carlin 2004: 21). All of these are qualities expected and required of a leader, and the association between leadership and ceremonial dialogue is further confirmed by the fact that hardness is also a quality of the original stone of which are made the kororo stools upon which the speakers of turakane sit (see above). 187

The rhetorical skill and even the form of ceremonial dialogue are also found in other speech forms, which differ from it in degree rather than in kind. Trio leaders today receive visitors (including non-Trio) in a way which diverges from the ceremonial dialogue format only in that the most distinctive rhyming phrase endings and other musical qualities have become much less pronounced. The content of the dialogue with a visitor is the same. A visitor to a Trio village must always present him or herself to the village leader to be asked whether (s)he has any diseases, and what (s)he wants. This was precisely my experience on first arriving in Tpu: I was summoned to a house, where I sat opposite Mosesi, who, as well as asking the customary questions in Sranan, gave me a long speech in a mixture of languages (see chapter 1). All of the forms of ceremonial dialogue are used as mediation in situations where conflict is likely to arise, and this is also true of both chiefly harangues and the contemporary reception ceremony of visitors that I have just described. This shows an important feature of Trio political action: conflict is always avoided where possible, and it is part of the leaders role to mediate in situations of potential discord. Moreover, it is worth noting that the seeds of local conflict always appear to be sown through gossip, which is the least formal and most everyday of all forms of speech. This presents an interesting paradox: that it is at the most intimate level of communication that the forces for the disintegration of society most commonly operate. The chiefs dual role as social centre and as mediator with the outside, and his mastery of formal and quasi-musical speech modes can be seen as a foil to this paradox, constantly acting to mitigate its effects. Another political corollary to ceremonial dialogue is that of social and political identity. Rivire states that turakane was only used among Trio, and that it can thus be seen as defining political and moral boundaries (Rivire 1971: 306). While this may have been true for these particular forms, however, a more complex picture emerges when we consider ceremonial dialogue in general. Among the Waiwai, the use of the oho chant in preparation for action such as a dance festival or collective work manifests social hierarchy: a yayalitomo leader gives a message using the oho chant to his deputy, who passes it on to an employee, who then brings it by the same means to the yayalitomo of another village (Fock 1963: 208). It has also been suggested that ceremonial dialogue is 188

generally associated with hierarchical, as opposed to egalitarian, organisation (Erikson 2000 in Beier 2002). Although Rivire contrasts the Waiwai usage described by Fock with that of the Trio, among whom such a manifest administrative hierarchy (1971: 307) is absent, it is the case, as I have shown, that Trio leaders do use formal speech to communicate with the village. Leaders punctuate their speeches with ir apo, as they harangue their pito (followers) to motivate action, in a way which bears comparison with the administrative hierarchy of the Waiwai. This comparison blurs the distinction implicitly made by Rivire and Carlin between ceremonial dialogue (with non coresidents) and chiefly speech (to coresident subordinates), and shows that they belong to the same order: both suppress difference, but at different levels. Focks Waiwai example describes the passage of a message down a social hierarchy as it leaves a village (from leader to messenger); the message is then received by the leader of another village. Once again we are reminded of the leaders role as representative of social space or place: as well as being mediator with the outside (and therefore receiver of visitors), he is at the centre of society, and when his word is passed to more junior individuals (in age, prestige and kinship distance), it radiates from the physical and social centre to the periphery.

Music and leadership I mentioned above the paradox that it is the most everyday and intimate form of speech, gossip, that leads to discord and causes social disintegration. The scheme below can help us to understand why this is, and in doing so points to the essence of the leaders role. It is clear from table 2 that if we progress along any of the continua represented, from right to left, we do not move simply from individual to collective, but instead we move first from individual to collective and then back to individual again; or alternatively, from fragmented to cohesive to fragmented. Seen in three dimensions, it would in some respects be possible to connect the extreme left of the table with the extreme right. This is consistent with the idea, found in Guianese indigenous ontology, that each person


contains the universe, or, as a Waiwai man put it, men rule the universe; women contain men (quoted by Williams 2003: 425).284

< .....Less formal/hard...................................More formal/ hard...........Less formal/ hard.....> <...Kalau....marake...visitors or new year feast.......beer party .....daily meal> <..Deer bone flute....claw flute....waitakala clarinet......ruwe pipes......deer bone flute......> <....Church hymns/ guitar, accordion, piano.........Poku/ sound system..........> <.......No katosipsipman..........Chiefly harangue.....tesmken.gossip..> <.....Piai chanting & blowing................mourning song..> <............remi chanting........ remi chanting> <.......Light steps......Heavy (dance) steps....Light steps.......> <Monophony..........Polyphony........... heterophony........monophony> <....Outside/ beyond society..........Collective/ social........Individual/ Inside.....> <........Fragmented..................................................cohesive..............................................Fragmented.......> <.....Masculine......Marriage/Sexual complementarity.......Feminine....> <.....Death.......................................................... Fertility............................................................Life.....> <.....Shamanic knowledge, skill........Leadership...........domestic knowledge, skill.....>

Table 2: Musical continua.

Lvi-Strauss condensed numerous Amerindian myths involving tubes into a formula whereby 1. the heros body enters a tube which contains him. 2. A tube which was contained within the heros body comes out of it. 3. The heros body is a tube either into which something enters, or out of which something comes. From extrinsic at the outset, the tube becomes intrinsic; and the body of the hero passes from the state of contained to

Cf. chapter 3 above, as well as C. Hugh-Jones 1979 and S. Hugh-Jones 1979.


that of container (1985: 216). This is precisely what happens during flute rituals and their various analogues that I have discussed: the marake and other visitors ceremonies, involving different types of flute, the ruwe, and even Creole and evangelical Christian music. If we consider once again that the flute, as the archetypal musical instrument, has as its principal quality the ability to mediate between inside and outside, consanguinity and affinity, then we can see that in relations with the outside whether it be the spirit world, the government, the church or people from other villages they have a vital role to play. In Lvi-Strausss terms, the leader, like the hero, using the flute-tube, transforms the encompassing-outside-affine into encompassed-inside-kin.

Heterophony As discussed above, Beaudet and others (cf. Darbois 1956) have suggested that in the Guianas the deer bone flute and the Ruwe, as well as certain types of bamboo flute, correspond to the individual sphere, and that they are primarily associated with seduction and do not have any ritual or collective functions (Beaudet 1997). It is true that their continued use in villages where missionary influence has been particularly acute, in contrast to the tule clarinets discussed below, shows that they were considered by the missionaries to be sufficiently secular for it not to be necessary to forbid their use. The collective dances and initiation rituals were of a more obviously religious nature in the eyes of the missionaries, and Christian rituals had to be presented as their replacement. However it is clear from what I have described that these individual musics have significance beyond the level of entertainment and indeed beyond that of the individual. As tubes, they share the theme of transformation with all aerophone music; as musical instruments they also serve as vehicles for the projection of skill and knowledge. Beaudet shows that Waypi musical production is not just a product of social structure or economic conditions, but each musical rendition contributes towards the formation and direction of society (1997: 17). As I have shown, musical performance re-establishes social order and values, but it is by no means static in form; as Beaudets words suggest, it has an important historical dimension, which can clearly be seen in action in the mode 191

of adoption of new musical forms (evangelical, Creole) and the transformation of older ones which I have described. All of this could be seen in terms of creativity, and the leaders role at the forefront of the musical process could be understood as that of creator. However, existing anthropological definitions of creativity do not quite fit. For example, Lavie et al. introduce their collection of articles on the subject as follows: Creative processes emerge from specific people, set in their social, cultural and historical circumstances. When distinct visions and traditions come together, expressive cultural forms often become politically charged because different actors have unequal chances to make their voices heard (1993: 6). Leach writes of the distributed creativity of Reite people who see themselves as each the product of relationships with other people (2004: 169). The role played by particular individuals, the juxtaposition or combination of different visions and traditions, the importance of networks of relationships and the political dimension of creativity are clearly recognisable. But in the Guianas it is not cultural creativity that produces music; on the contrary, it is the creative power of music (music which is learned from the non-human environment) that re-produces culture and people. The leader who organises a dance ceremony is not its sole creator, but his relationship to the whole is equivalent to that of the other participants to the various parts. To return once more to the metaphor of an orchestra, he is like a conductor, the participants are like the musicians, and the dances archetype in myth is like the composer. But the result is not musically harmonious; instead, forms of music with different origins are played simultaneously, producing heterophony. This is by no means sonor chaos, but represents an aesthetic of heterogeneity (Salivas 2002), reflecting the convergence of disparate elements in a reproduction of primordial origins: visitors reincarnate ancestors, and otherness becomes the origin of society.285


It is for this reason that, although the simultaneous production of heterogeneous musics is technically called cacophony rather than heterophony (H. Stobart pers. comm.), I prefer to retain the term heterophony which is more in keeping with the social dimensions of the overall phenomenon.


Conclusion All of the musical forms used by the Trio and Wayana manifest a hierarchical relationship between the bringers and the receivers of music, whether it is brought by male visitors from other villages, by culture heroes from the nonhuman inhabitants of the forest, by cosmopolitan youths from the city, or by church leaders from the world of Christian evangelists. This hierarchical relationship is not coercive; instead, it may be regarded as an articulation of societys organising principles, or an expression of cultural or moral values. Guianese societies are frequently referred to as egalitarian, on the basis that their leaders lack of coercive power implies the absence of social hierarchy. But ritual practice demonstrates that hierarchies of social categories are reinforced or reiterated on ceremonial occasions to renew their invisible presence as the underlying ordering values of everyday life: gender roles, the relationship between inside and outside, and particularly relationships with various kinds of other, upon whom society depends for marriage, subsistence and cultural life. Flutes and, by extension, other musical forms, help to mediate these relationships with the outside: flutes are used by men as energy transformers in Rivires phrase (1969b), to convert affines into kin metaphorically if not literally. Insofar as they are regarded as living objects, or bodies, we can identify in the ceremonial flute the terceiro incluido (see chapter 1). As tubes which are both containers and contained, encompassing and encompassed, they are agents which do not fit into either of the opposing categories of consanguinity and affinity or kindred and strangers, and which instead act as mediators between these categories. They are in this sense communicators par excellence, and as such leaders are their human counterparts. Musical action constitutes inter-group and in-group communication and renewal, and reinforces belonging and ownership of space and knowledge. The activity of a leader which most clearly expresses his role at the centre of the mediation of these various elements is ceremonial dialogue, echoing the identification by Lvi-Strauss and Clastres of chiefly dialogue as the supreme expression of Amazonian leadership. As well as being 193

the chiefly activity par excellence, ceremonial dialogue expresses social and cosmic hierarchy: it has different forms corresponding to relations more and less distant, and as a form of esoteric knowledge and skill distinguishes between those who can and those who cannot engage in it; both of these hierarchical elements converge in the degree of strength of the dialogue: the strongest form corresponds to the most distant social and spatial spheres, and is the most difficult; hence the smallest number of people can speak it. Ceremonial dialogue, in its various degrees, and chiefly dialogue in general, mediates disputes, deals with outsiders, and generates and maintains group solidarity: this gives sufficient reason to claim that it is the essence of political action. In the context of historical change, therefore, music can be seen as a means for absorbing difference, both temporal and cultural. While the use of music remains the same, its form changes and multiplies, and it thereby constitutes at once the means and the manifestation of both social stability and historical transformation. Ritual thus creates collectivity and produces continuity, with important implications for group identity. In the next chapter I will show how ethnicity and identity prove upon analysis not to be fixed, but instead are the produced by historical and spatial relationships between people, expressed in constantly changing narratives.



Introduction The discussion of the house in chapter 3 led to a detailed description of kinship and spatial cosmology, which gave a clearer idea of the ways in which kinship and space intersect and inform political organisation. Chapter 4 showed how leadership, through ritual and music, orchestrates the interplay between different spatial and social levels and ensures social continuity by appropriating extraneous influences, both physical and metaphysical. So far, I have concentrated on a limited sphere of experience: that of the house and village, although the previous chapter began to explore how the latter reaches out beyond itself. However, as I showed in chapter 1, the mobility of people in the Guianas is such that social life extends far beyond the village sphere. This is most powerfully expressed in the pattern of village dissolution and reformation. An important question is raised by the fact that people do not necessarily reside in the same place as their parents, and are unlikely to reside in the same place as their grandparents and great grandparents. As previous authors have shown, lineages do not exist as an ordering principle in Guianese society (Rivire 1969a; 1984; Overing 1975). To some extent the previous chapters have shown how social continuity is ensured through the replication of physical units and the ritual transformation of alterity, but the problem remains the same as that encountered by Kroeber when he tried to define a social unit among the Yurok, where a group of kinsmen is not a circumscribed group, as a clan or village community would be. It shades out in all directions, and integrates into innumerable others (in LviStrauss 1983: 172). Sister exchange and related practices show how the exchange of marriage partners is possible and how it is imagined. The practical actions taken to ensure 195

continuity through integration have already been shown in the previous chapter. I have demonstrated that the Guianese pattern of social fusion and fission is founded on housebuilding and consolidated through ritual. In this chapter I will consider the implications of this pattern, asking: what elements of social continuity exist in Guianese society, and how is collective identity constituted and expressed?

Continuity and place Continuity, or an ideology of continuity, in some form or other, may be expected to be necessary for the cohesion of the local group, and the political implications for this are obvious. Yet despite the absence of descent groups or an emphasis on genealogy, the role of embodying continuity does not appear to be played by material culture, not even (unlike in a noble house society) by the house. Although the house is bound up with the biography of its maker, there are elements of it that may survive beyond his lifetime. The maluwana is the most visible example of such an element, but there are also the hard, durable materials such as posts and zinc roofs, which may be recycled when a house is rebuilt.286 Nevertheless, the domestic house is usually built by a man when he has remained for some time in his wifes fathers house, and when he and his wife have produced some children of their own and are ready to have their own garden. A mans decision to build a house is therefore an assertion of his independence and, on a small scale, his potential as a leader, but the house is associated with his individual biography, and not that of his ancestors. The tukusipan, similarly, as I have shown, is representative of the local and (until recently) mobile group, and appears to have no necessary relationship towards a principle of continuity except as materialisation of a mythic archetype. Some researchers have found a relationship between continuity and group identity, as I shall describe. I will show that this is partially correct, but that the continuity is to be


It is also useful to reflect that the house may problematise and symbolize descent simultaneously, as in Northwest Amazonia, where the house is linked with ideas of descent but the houses identity is also bound up with that of its creator (S. Hugh-Jones pers. comm.)


found not so much in these groups themselves, which are constantly shifting and changing, but in the narratives of those groups. These narratives of oral history must be understood in terms of indigenous cosmology, characterised by shifting social relations between human and non-human; it is in the shape of these relations that continuities in discourse and practice coincide. The logic of the transformation of historical groups into narratives of identity which in turn dissolve to give way to others, is the same as that of myth which absorbs history and dissolves time (Lvi-Strauss 1964). These narratives give an illusion of diachronic ethnic identity as they mythologise historical residence groups, while in fact continuity lies in the structure of the narratives themselves, rather than their content.

A theory of continuity The continuity of the cognatic group is only vaguely expressed in the Guianas, and local people do not trace their ancestry to define group identity. However, Grupioni (n.d.) argues that continuity287 is emphasized by Trio men, who regard themselves as preserving their bloodlines through their semen. This is broadly consistent with Chapuis analysis of folk biological models among the Wayana (1998), although there are some important differences, as I will show. Grupioni identifies the various jana or peoples, which she refers to as itp, described in earlier ethnographies (e.g. Frikel 1960, Rivire 1969a) as subgroups, as exogamous, predominantly patrilineal descent groups, identifying themselves with an ancestor, and provides statistical evidence to show that people almost never marry within their own itp. Thus, the different group identities such as Prujana, Aramiso and Prop, still vaguely remembered among my informants (as discussed below), would provide a continuation through time of their founding ancestors identities, and their requirement for exogamy would motivate them to seek alliances with other groups. This, she argues, conveniently provides a centripetal force to balance the centrifugal tendency of Guianese Amerindian groups, the existence of which was established by Rivire (1984).



More central to Grupionis argument is that the itp constitute a diachronic, temporal, masculine principle which is complementary to the synchronic, spatial, feminine principle of village foundation and housebuilding.288 Each itp must somehow be founded, however, and Grupioni suggests that this occurs when a pata entu (village founder/leader) becomes sufficiently successful and revered for his reputation to live on. This presumably means that incipient itp are continually appearing and disappearing, depending on where they lie on the continuum between the transitory (though concrete) pata and the enduring (though abstract) itp. Because itp members are constantly circulating in search of wives and to spread their influence (according to Grupionis model), paths or places (toposiwa) in the landscape become historically recognized as [the area of] origin of the members of a given itp (Grupioni [n.d.]: 7). These toposiwa must be understood as broadly the same as the house-like places of significance found on the landscape, often appearing as house archetypes, as mentioned in the previous chapter. Grupioni thus effectively presents itp as descent groups or lineages, and in so doing follows Frikel (1960). However, Frikel thought that sedentarisation was causing the Trio sibs to disappear, and wrote that from the second generation in the mission station they lost the notion of descent in terms of lineages and sibs, and forgot which groups they belonged to (1971: 34). If these sibs had indeed been exogamous groups, it is unlikely that sedentarisation would dissolve their identity in this way, and I suspect that they would in fact be better characterised as historical groups. I, like Rivire (1969a: 64), never heard the word itp, except as the root of verbs and adjectives (itphte, to marry; itpme, adjacent) and although these can be associated with genealogy, they are also applicable to other fields presumably the latter was also Grupionis experience, as she translates itp as continuity rather than lineage although the latter would correspond more closely to her interpretations. The adjective itpme is a relative term, as Rivire notes, and the same person may be described as itpme in comparison with a more distant individual (genealogically or


It is of course difficult to accept an association with these quintessentially masculine activities with a feminine principle, even it is considered feminine because women remain in one place while men move around to find wives.


spatially), as well as itpmeta (neg.) in comparison with another, closer individual. Much more frequently used to describe genealogical relatives in my experience was the word imoit, which is given by both Rivire and Grupioni as referring primarily to coresidents and coresident relatives; Rivire also finds that it includes individuals who have at some time in the past been coresidents. However, I also heard imoit used to refer to persons whose only relationship to the speaker was genealogical, and can therefore see very little difference in practice between imoit and itpme. There are technical differences: the former is a noun, and is primarily a spatial referent, whereas the latter is an adjective, and primarily refers to genealogical relationships and their analogues. But the fact that the words are otherwise almost interchangeable reflects the fact that space and genealogy are difficult to separate. Moreover, the fact that itp- (notwithstanding Grupionis evidence) does not appear to be used as a noun, reflects the fact that for the Trio and their neighbours genealogy exists only as a practice, and not as an entity; there are no corporate groups: other people are seen in terms of their relationship to ego, and ego does not see him- or herself as a member of an autonomous group such as a lineage. I suspect that one cause of confusion is the conflation of itp- with the term jana (people), which refers to ethnic or identity groups. It is possible that this reflects a difference in the Trio language as spoken in Brazil and Suriname Rivire describes a similar difference between his data and those of Frikel (Rivire 1969a: 64n) and if so it illustrates the perils of relying too heavily on linguistic data for sociological and cultural analysis.

Substance and filiation Although Grupionis model is formally satisfying, and does not directly contradict the evidence or my own experience, it still does not quite ring true, even if we substitute her itp for the jana to which it appears to refer. The model certainly provides clues as to how to understand continuity in this context, and it has the important merit of recognising the need to find principles of continuity at all. But the foundation of a jana has never occurred within living memory, has never been described ethnographically, and must therefore remain on the level of hypothesis. Moreover, while I have heard from my 199

informants of particular areas being associated with particular groups Araraparu with the Prop, for example this may also be attributed to historical territory or areas of influence which, in the longer term may, like the house or village on another scale, be transitory. The association made by Grupioni between jana and tp suggests that she infers a folk theory of descent from folk theories of filiation; but this confusion of descent and filiation is only part of the problem. She emphasises the transmission of the bloodline through the semen, but Chapuiss recent intensive study of the body among the Wayana shows that matters are in fact more complex. 289 A form of spirit matter, omole (W.),290 is indeed said to be carried in the blood via the semen. Most of the omole, however, comes from the moon, which is controlled by Kuyuli, ancestor of all the Wayana, and it is impregnated into the woman after menstruation. The aspect of the person which is associated with an ancestor comes only after the naming of the child (1998: 589ff). One of Rivires informants gives a fairly similar account, according to which an individuals soul (amore) is drawn from a common reservoir created by the ancestor/culture hero Prprwa; spirit and flesh are passed from the man to the woman during sexual intercourse, but the soul of the child is nourished by both parents, and the spiritual connection after birth is said to be strongest between child and mother (a spiritual counterpart to the umbilical cord) (1969a: 63). As this suggests, Guianese notions of filiation are complex, but they are also inconsistent. The degree to which male substance is emphasized appears to vary between peoples and circumstances. According to recent studies, Wayana appear to have a greater tendency to give equal emphasis to male and female substance (Chapuis & Rivire 2003: 629n.) than the Trio, and the Akuriyo appear to give more emphasis to male substance than the Trio (Jara 1990).291 My own investigations suggested that all three groups tend to


Because of the long history of interaction between the groups that came to form what are now known as the Trio and Wayana, the arguments in this chapter apply to both. 290 A type of spiritual energy, life force, or spirit, similar to jolok, whose manifestation or use is known as akuwal. It comes from various sources, and may be internal or external. 291 According to Fock, the Waiwai have bilateral but vaguely matrilineal descent, and the Mouyenna (Mawayana, who, like the Waiwai, are now allied by marriage to the Trio in Kwamalasamutu) have matrilineal descent. However, Fock appears to be in some confusion over matrilineage and uxorilocality. He ventures that traces of matrilineage can be explained by matrilocality which is now only an ideal [having] formerly been a general rule (1963: 203).


regard substance as transmitted from both father and mother, while giving marginally greater emphasis to the inheritance of the identity of the father, but there is no consensus of opinion on the matter even among coresidents of the same ethnic origins, and most people claim to have no knowledge of the matter my findings thus confirm those of Rivire (1969a: 63), and suggest that the Trio, Wayana and Akuriyo attach little importance to it. These vague ideas of filiation are far from providing a clear basis for marriage rules based on exogamic clans.

Exchange, exogamy and appellation To understand Trio and Wayana marriage practice, it is vital to appreciate that they do not have corporate groups, clans or lineages and the primary expression and framework for marriage is to be found in the relationship terminology and on the level of individual relationships a fact that was convincingly established long ago (Hurault 1972; Rivire 1969a; cf. Seeger et al. 1979; Dumont 1983). It seems likely that the appearance of jana exogamy, rather than being a priority, results from the desirability of sister exchange, the objective of which is to create alliances and increase the size of the local group. If marriage partners are chosen according to the principles outlined in chapter 3, of sister exchange, cross-cousin marriage and marriage with sisters daughter, then men will end up marrying women from different genealogical lines of descent from themselves, even if such lines have no cultural significance whatsoever. Jana exogamy, if and when it occurs, is a result and not a cause of actual marriage practices and ideals. In my experience the Trio292 do not seem to consider their identity on the level of itp or jana to be very important. Many people are not sure which jana they belong to, and rather than signifying a line of descent from a particular ancestor, the jana appears to be associated more characteristically with a particular group of people who were living together in the past, and whose individual identities have been forgotten. The mythico-historical narratives in which different jana feature treat them as groups, and there is never any


At least those in Tpu. The Brazilian Trio may be different, but this is unlikely considering the vast amount of regular contact across the border.


mention of a corresponding, eponymous individual who may have founded the group. Moreover, the stories tend to be exogenous (i.e. told from a point of view outside the group concerned), and people more readily speculate about the jana of others than they do about their own, suggesting that the jana may more plausibly be regarded as exogenous appellations.293 It is telling that there is sometimes considerable disparity between the names given to groups by their own members and those given to them by other groups. A good illustration of this is that the Akuriyo used to call the Trio the Lerejana (bat people) and the Wayana the rukujana (caterpillar people). During the early encounters before sedentarisation, they called White people Nreipotap (transformed ones, nre referring to the Trio, suggesting that the White people were transformed Trio) (Yohner 1970a: 7).294 Name and history Jana295 are always spoken of in terms of historical group entities rather than of groups descended from an ancestor. On the other hand, culture heroes such as Kuyuli or Jaraware are spoken of as creators/ ancestors of (real) people, not the creators of jana. However, it seems that through time jana are constantly changing and reforming, and other people who would once have been classified under one jana denomination or another can become real people (Tarno, Wayana, etc.). Marriage does not occur between groups, but between people, and group identities change merely as a result of the aggregate of individual marriages and other events (wars, epidemics). This is demonstrated by the fact that informants tend to say that intermarriage between different groups (in terms of the larger group identities commonly referred to today: Trio, Wayana,


Schomburgk reflects on the disparity between endogenous and exogenous group names: The custom of each tribe of Indians having their own names for the adjacent tribes, as also for their chief rivers and mountains, renders it very difficult to identify the said tribes and rivers &c. (1845: 83). 294 All three denominations associate the groups in question with spirits. Caterpillars which are spiritually and symbolically important for the Wayana, even more than for the Trio (discussed in chapter 1) are considered powerful and malevolent spirits, mainly because of their ability to metamorphose, which is in itself a fundamental attribute of spirits. Akuriyo in Tpu today still frown and mutter kureta, wrp (bad, spirits), when bats flit past in the evening. 295 From now on, I will generally use the term jana instead of itp.


Waiwai, etc., but also of jana) is a new phenomenon, which did not occur in the past. I was told the same thing in Tpu and in Antecume Pata. During a visit to a Waiwai village in 2003, I was also told that the marriages between Waiwai and Wapishana represented a new phenomenon. This seemed especially convincing to me because Wapishana households tended to be separately situated on the periphery of the village. Intermarriage is not empirically new, but it is continually regarded as such.296 Fock was told the very same thing as I was, when he asked his Waiwai informants how long the Waiwai had been intermarrying with the Mawayana and the Wapishana (1963: 202), and he noted that this information contrasted with what he had learned from earlier authors about intermarriage between the Waiwai, the Parukoto,297 the Taruma and the Mawayana (Fock 1963: 7)298. It seems that continuity consists in forgetting past interethnic alliances, rather than institutionalizing them: this enables difference between groups to be maintained, making alliance a continual possibility. Intergroup relations thus operate according to the same logic as settlement endogamy (and indeed the two very often coexist): either difference or sameness is emphasized according to the desired outcome in any given situation (Overing 1975; Lepri 2005). This picture of constancy in change is borne out by Frikel (1960), who interprets the various jana, in terms almost identical to those used by Grupioni, as representing sibs, subdivisible in turn into lineages. According to him, the chief of a sib is called a tamtupe, and while the role of tamtupe is independent and supreme within the sibs, that of pat-entu [village leader see chapters 2 and 3] by its nature, is limited to its local group (op. cit.: 12). This interpretation of the jana as highly organized descent groups is based primarily on the preconceptions of 1950s kinship theory,299 as various facts make clear: Tamutup, in my experience, means old man, and is frequently used in contexts


Although in this case intermarriage has been explicitly encouraged by a Wapishana leader as part of a land claim strategy (G. and L. Mentore, pers. comm.). 297 Jana, like yana, koto, goto, etc. means people. Parukoto may refer to the same group as Parujana, to which Nupi told me that he belonged. If this is the case, it proves the common origin in the relatively recent past of significant elements of the contemporary Trio of Tpu (Nupi has many male consanguine relatives) and the contemporary Waiwai (see below). This possibility was not seen as being of any importance at all by my informants. 298 Cf. Schomburgk 1845: 55-7; Coudreau (1887a: 351); Farabee (1924: 175)). 299 Cf. Kuper 1982.


which could have no connotations whatsoever with descent groups, to refer to outsiders (of the ethnic group, although fictional kinship may exist), such as Cees Koelewijn, for example, but also to total strangers. It connotes authority only insofar as it is an expression of generational or age hierarchy. It is true that the meaning of the term may have shifted, but even in Frikels time matters were far from clear, and his admission of this shows that he had plenty of room for speculation: after conjuring a picture of supreme sib chiefs presiding over local leaders in a sib council, he writes:
But, due to the frequent schisms within sibs and local groups, there has been a certain disintegration of the governmental system ... As a cause of this phenomenon of incipient governmental dissolution, the Trio themselves indicate, generally, the death of the eldest generation and, depending on it, the lack of ancient discipline and of fidelity to the tradition of the ancestors, this lack being caused by the contact and influence of neighbours ... On the one hand one may interpret this as a symptom of disorganization, but on the other, also as a sort of emancipation of the new generation ... This growth of a modern spirit among the youth, however, is regarded with mistrust and discontent by the older people still remaining in the tribe, who formulate their opinion in this way: Eh! Our old tamtupe have all died already. And these young people arent good for anything any more!... (Loc. cit.).

It is, revealingly, only at this point in his account that Frikel begins to refer to local accounts and opinions, which appear to qualify rather than confirm his analysis. Like Focks description of intertribal marriage, the local interpretations heard by Frikel are identical in spirit to those heard by local Trio and Wayana today. The elderly lament the passing of the old ways of life, while the adolescents follow the fashions of Paramaribo and Maripasoula. Meanwhile, the middle generation of men in their prime copes with urban technology and trade, while also managing matters of family and subsistence in just the same manner as previous generations. The elderly of 2005 would have been the youth of Frikels day. But this is more than the familiar story of teenage rebels and the nostalgia of old-age. There is a broader pattern of constant regeneration, made possible by the idea of order rather than by order itself. What Frikel interpreted as a contemporary process of acculturation (op. cit.: 19) was in fact a manifestation of a constant pattern. There is a great deal of evidence for this, whereas there is little direct evidence for the


previous existence of a more fixed and institutionalized form of government.300 Although there are no formal lineages, the immediate and short-term continuation of the we group (real people, kin) is nevertheless certainly considered of paramount importance. This is expressed concretely by the desire to have a large number of children and grandchildren. Interpretations of the means of arranging this sort of continuation have also varied according to the emphasis of the observer. Focks main Waiwai informant told him that it was environment during growth that determined tribal status, and that a child of a Waiwai man and a Mouyenna [Mawayana] woman would be a Waiwai provided he grew up with that tribe. Fock observes that this shows that the Waiwai rank place of residence above descent for the determination of group identity, but also claims that it establishes the rule of bilateralism (he notes that women inherit property from their mothers and men from their fathers), and that descent depends on the current rule of locality (1963: 203). He then enters into vague speculations about matrilineage and matrilocality, and struggles to find a coherent interpretation of the evidence. In fact, his preoccupation with descent was the reason for his confusion. His informant was describing a transitional situation (although it must be remembered that such transitions were quite normal). A child of a Waiwai man would be part Waiwai (particularly if he was a male child), part Mawayana (particularly if (s)he grew up in a Mawayana village). What is more, the child might spend his/her first years in a Mawayana village, as his/her father performed his brideservice, and then move to a Waiwai village. This sort of mixture is referred to explicitly and spontaneously by my informants of mixed parentage, such as Demas, her elder sister, her mother (Trio and Wayana), Kulitaik (Wayana by adoption), and many other residents of Tpu. It is worth noting in this light that the fact that Kulitaik regards himself as a Wayana despite the fact that he was born a Waipi shows that as an adult his metamorphosis of identity is complete.


Although Hurault cites historical sources as evidence of the existence of military hierarchies in the central Guianas until the early or mid 19th century (1973), these were more likely temporary alliances formed under a temporary war chief in the face of threat, following a typically Amazonian pattern (cf. Stedman: when these Indians go to War, they at that time chuse one general Commander (1988: 316, original emphasis).


Property and inheritance The confusion that the theoretical baggage carried by Frikel and Fock caused was avoided by Rivire, although he too expected to find descent groups, being influenced by the assumption that Dravidian type marital exchange must necessarily take place between groups; in fact, he found a system based on an individuals relationships to other individuals, these being articulated in the relationship terminology. His strategy for explaining what he found was to use a political economy approach, which necessarily gave importance to a certain idea of property. He argued that women were the most important form of property, as I have discussed and it is obvious that women cannot directly be inherited.301 Nevertheless, the inheritance of other forms of property can give some indication of the relative emphasis on continuity. Rivire observed in 1963 that although most objects were destroyed at the death of an individual, those that were difficult to replace, that is, trade items, were more often preserved because of the difficulty of replacing them: the greatly increased amounts of wealth in exotic goods which an individual can accumulate through trading has a number of consequences, not least of which is the strengthening of the system of inheritance (1969a: 222). I would add to this the fact that these trade items, especially metal goods and glass beads, are generally more physically long-lasting that forest products, and Trio and Wayana people explicitly value them for this quality. Since Rivires visit such goods have continued to be accumulated, but this does not appear to have led to a correspondingly increased interest in genealogies. He also notes inheritance is sex-linked: men inherit mens property and women inherit womens property, a fact which might be used to support a theory of ambilateral descent, were it not the case that It is said that a man does not inherit his fathers property nor a woman her mothers because in their grief they do not want to see their parents belongings. It is considered that a mans property should pass to his konoka, and a womans to one who called her nosi but who is also her ipaeye, and thus probably refers to the brothers daughter who conventionally belongs the class of sons wife (loc. cit.). This means that property can pass to WB, ZH, FZH, MZH, MH for men, and to BW, HZ, SW, BSW, ZSW, MBW for women according to Rivires

Except perhaps in the form of wifegivers/ takers credit/ debt.


definitions of the terms (op. cit.: 284-5): property, in other words, ideally passes to affines. This is not necessarily always what occurs in practice, but it is intriguing that it has been expressed as a principle, and well worth considering the possible reasons for it. It may be in keeping with the assertion made by Rivire that the relationship between brother and sister is of central importance, and so close as to be consistently reverted to in favour of the marital relationship. Married women also maintain close relationships with their brothers throughout their lives, as I have observed: Ksi maintains a very close relationship with his sister Nauku, a widow, whose house is adjacent to his own. This being the case, it might be suggested that when property passes to the affine in this way, it does so as a result of passing to the cross-sibling by default: property would be given to the cross-sibling, but because it is mens property in the case of a mans death, it passes to his sisters husband, and vice-versa in the case of a womans death. However, this is problematic because the rationale given for not inheriting property from parents is that it would be too distressing. The same would surely apply to the cross-sibling, perhaps with even greater emphasis. A more plausible explanation is this: by passing property to the konoka (a relationship structurally equivalent to pito, discussed below and in the previous chapter), or to the female equivalent, the ipaeye, the transaction is treated as one of exchange between affines. Because of the usual precautions taken in such exchanges (less intimate speech, less sharing of substance through commensality etc.), any spiritual danger is averted. The konoka and ipaeye are wife- or husband- givers and takers, and as such are in an important sense a special form of trading partner, as I discuss in further detail below. Thus in the inheritance of goods we have a further instance of affinity encompassing consanguinity, and in this case the encompassment provides security and emotional relief. I have shown that genealogical continuity is of relatively little importance in Guianese society, and the problems with arguments proposing the opposite, and I have considered some other ways in which a principle of continuity is maintained in such a society. It takes place through interaction between groups, which results in their dispersal and reformation. What have seemed to some observers to be exogamous descent groups have turned out to be the result of exchange relationships on an interpersonal level. Continuity 207

consists in maintaining through exchange the pattern of transformation of potential affines into kin.302 The narratives of these transformations, as well as being a form of continuity in themselves as they are passed down through generations, promote the continuity of the practice. The theme of the transformation of potential affines, which has already proven its importance in the previous chapters, will continue to characterise the following sections, as I consider linguistic expressions of time and the historical relationships between jana.

Time According to the pre-sedentary pattern of Guianese village life, local populations rarely grew larger than about 30 because, as I have shown, conflict was avoided through migration: the settlement303 would break up and disperse to form new settlements when serious tension developed (Rivire 1984). The avoidance of conflict also characterised relationships between different settlements. Because there were, under normal circumstances, no chieftains uniting several settlements, and leadership roles were usually played by village founders, who were often shamans, no clear distinction can be made between locality and ethnicity. The evidence from before sedentarisation suggests a picture of regularly shifting settlement locations, with trade relationships and intermarriage between settlements waxing and waning (despite ideals of settlement endogamy, relationships between settlements appear often to have been sealed through the exchange of women (Chapuis 2003 passim; Koelewijn & Rivire 1987 passim)). We can add to this the numerous janas or peoples that populate the accounts of early explorers,304 maps of 19th century explorers305 and indigenous narratives (e.g. Chapuis &


While I agree broadly with Rivire that an actual affine is assimilated to co-resident cognateswhile a distant cognateis classified as a potential affine (in Lepri 2005: 705), the idea of the cognate may be more inclusive than he appears to suggest. All beings, human or non-human, with whom one has peaceful relations, can be potential affines. Amerindian origin myths, including those of the Guianas, tend to have all peoples and many animals made directly or indirectly by a culture hero of some kind, and by virtue of this all potential affines may in this sense indeed be regarded as cognates. 303 Here I use the term settlement to distinguish the relatively impermanent villages of the past with the large conglomerate villages of today. 304 E.g. Harcourts 1608 account of the Maroni (Harcourt 1928: 118).


Rivire 2003 passim and Koelewijn & Rivire 1987 passim), and the contradictions between the different accounts of their names and the names given by Trio today of their jana (see below). Moreover, central Guianese notions of time appear to be based around this developmental cycle (Goody 1958) rather than a linear scale corresponding to genealogy. Temporal continuity, at least in terms of ordinary events, is perceived as cyclical rather than linear. Carlin shows that the Trio tense form used to describe events in the non-recent past, as opposed to that used to describe those in the immediate past, is scarcely used except by older people. Past events not witnessed by the speaker are described using the non-finite form of the verb. The temporal adverbial, pena, meaning long ago, is used to refer to events that took place from a few hours or minutes ago,306 to the remote primordial or mythic past (Carlin 2004: 291); just how long ago it refers to is indicated by context and emphasis (from pena to pe-e-e-e-na). As Chapuis & Rivire (2003) have noted, the narratives of myth and history can be given a rough order of occurrence by the Wayana, as I believe they can be by the Trio, but, contrary to Chapuis and Rivire, I would suggest that this order appears only on an ad hoc basis when an order of events is elicited, it is drawn out logically by the interlocutor. Myth and history are regarded as serving to explain the current order of things, and are not arranged in a linear progression. Moreover, while historical events are often recalled with often surprising clarity, they tend to be described as very brief statements of fact, such as, there was a war against the Wayana, unless the events were personally experienced by the narrator. The introduction of Christianity and the Gregorian calendar and the teaching of history in schools are in the process of changing this. However, as their own history is not taught to them in schools, and since even the academic world has difficulty in reconstructing and dating their past, it is likely that their narratives will continue to collapse the passage of time to give meaning to historical events in mythical terms.

305 306

E.g. Coudreau (1887b&c). Carlin writes last week as the most recent time referred to by pena, but I also heard it used in phrases like I ate a little while ago, or I have already eaten.


The Trio as a group Insofar as we can imagine the history of ethnogenesis in the central Guianas, all evidence points to the conclusion that there has been a pattern of constant but gradual change in group identity, whether in the form of exogenous appellations or of we groups, and according to this pattern the idea of a fixed notion of tribe, frequently used of Trio, Wayana and other Guianese groups in non-specialist (and some specialist) literature, is shown to be an illusion. It is true that such identities could far outlast the lifespan of presedentary villages, but they were looser and more short-lived than they would have been under the more sedentarised conditions that are becoming established today. Perhaps, because Misso, where Grupioni conducted her fieldwork, has existed for such a long period, diachronic group identity (or lineage) is increasing in importance (which would present the exact opposite to the thesis proposed by Frikel (1960)). The need for the exchange of women to occur without incest creates a requirement for a minimum of two men with different parents, even where marriage with sisters daughter is the ideal (see chapter 3), and the resulting alliances give rise to the seeming existence of exogamous lineages (see above). As the basic Guianese social unit consists of a man, his wife, their daughter and her husband as a minimum, then exogamy on this level is necessary. But the normal practice of frequent relocation and reconstitution of the local or named group means that group solidarity is relatively short-lived, though by no means negligible. In order to see the relationship between named group and kinship, we need to look in more detail at the particular group identities in question. To take one example, Trio is an anglicized term for tirijo, and is now used to refer to the people who call themselves Tarno, or the people here.307 I follow convention in


Schomburgk (1845) refers to the Drio, and Coudreau (1887a) to the Trio and the Chiriou. Frikel was told that the name Tiriy derived from Wtre, to kill using a club, and that this was the Tiriys principal arm (1960: 1). According to Rivire the more easterly group of Trio call themselvesTryo, and this gave rise to the Maroon and Surinamese Trio, and the French and Brazilian Tiriy; only the western group of Trio called themselves Tarno, and the Waiwai called them Yaw (Rivire 1969a: 11). It appears that the situation has now changed, and all the Trio call themselves Tarno, except when speaking foreign languages. They are called Tiliyo by the Wayana.


using the name Trio to refer to all of the self-denominated Tarno. This avoids confusion because in certain circumstances tarno308 is also locally used to refer to Akuriyo and Wayana coresidents. The name Trio may derive from one of the group identities whose temporary nature I demonstrated above.309 Carlin (2004: 14) quotes Tmeta, a former Trio shaman, who claims that the Trjo were a subgroup of the mono eka (big/inclusive name) Prujana.310 The local distinction that Carlin (2004: 14) has identified between mono eka and jana, roughly translatable as inclusive group and subgroup respectively, may appear to suggest the past existence of overarching polities, or at least of wider identity categories. These would correspond to Frikels sibs and lineages (1960: 2ff). On the other hand, mono eka tend to be auto-denominations of we groups, whereas jana appear as exogenous appellations. For example, I learned from Tmetas sons Mosesi and Jan that they, and he, were Prujana themselves. This raises the possibility that at the time of the Prujanas residence at Samuwaka there were several other groups, including the Trjo, who were marrying in, and were therefore treated as pito (subordinates) by the Prujana. From the point of view of a Prujana, in that case, Trjo would be regarded as wife-takers and therefore inferior. Now that all of the Trio are so called shows that the situation has reversed, and Prujana has effectively become a sub-group, of the mono eka Trio/Tirijo. This distinction between mono eka and jana clearly shows that hierarchical relationships between ethnic groups are locally recognized. Despite this, such hierarchies, like those of villages and local groups, were neither permanent nor objective, and a mono eka at one time may have been an ordinary jana at another.


It is difficult to categorise tarno either as a proper name or simply as a noun referring to the people here. I italicise it when the usage seems closer to the latter, and capitalise the first letter when the former seems to be the case. However, this ambiguity is worth noting, because it is also relevant to other ethnonyms, to various degrees. 309 Rivire (1969a: 11) notes this possibility. 310 This information is coherent with Frikels account (1960: 10-11): he was told that the Prujana were composed of the Prujana proper, and the Rg (piki).


Ethnogenesis and alterity Chapuis & Rivire (2003: 1043) list 42 clans mentioned in their collection of Wayana oral history, and claim to have identified over 100 in total for the region. Their translation of Yana (W.) / Jana (T.) as clan reflects their agreement with Frikel (1960) and Grupioni (n.d.) that these names of peoples constitute groups of lineages. This scheme suggests a neatness of organization not reflected in reality, as I have shown. Ideally, and at any given moment, it is true that certain group identities may encompass several others. This does not justify the use of terms such as lineage, clan or tribe, which suggest permanence and fixity where there is movement and flow. In descriptions in narratives or informal conversation, jana may be differentiated by language, dialect or accent, by appearance, or by level of savagery (itupon, forest people are considered more barbaric and dangerous than river or village people, patapon). Meanwhile, their origins and their waxing and waning physical integrity are the product of the strategic location and relocation of individuals. Through the historical contingencies and changing patterns of migrations, alliance, trade, avoidance and warfare over long time periods, identities changed, appeared and disappeared. In times of war, there is evidence in Wayana oral history that subgroups merge through intermarriage when they have been decimated when they are tired of fighting, they arrange a marriage alliance, and in extreme cases this may mean that one group becomes incorporated into another (Kuliyaman, in Chapuis & Rivire 2003: 573). The difficulty that people in Tpu sometimes have in remembering their jana suggests that even in times of peace some identities become absorbed by others. Various individuals told me which jana they belonged to, but most were unable to do so, particularly younger interlocutors. The Aramajana (sweat bee people), and the Aramiso (Pigeon people), were together the most numerous jana in the village. There were also Prujana (Arrow(cane) people), including Mosesi and his brothers and son, and one Okomojana (Wasp people) the latter are said to be the most numerous group in Kwamalasamutu. My informants remembered stories of wars with the Wayana, the Tunajana, the Mawajana, the Apalai and the Kalina. The Kalina, they said, were sent by 212

white people to fight the Trio.311 There is a tendency for more powerful individuals to have a clearer sense of jana identity. Heckenberger shows that even among the Xinguanos, for whom descent plays an important role in the legitimation of leadership, and who have a more linear view of history than Guianese peoples, it is only powerful families who know their ancestry well descent (ambilineal) is important mainly with respect to things having to do with chiefs (2005: 290). There is an interesting parallel to this in Tpu: for example, as mentioned above, Kapitein Mosesi, like his father Tmeta, is able clearly to name his jana (Prujana): they are unusual in this respect, and represent the most influential family in Tpu. Similarly, some of the most important and longstanding residents in Tpu, such as soro, Psoro and Supipi, claim to be Prop, or Chest, which is used as an auto-denomination by those Trio who consider themselves to be the real Trio from the area around Ararapadu. Supipis family claims to have been the first to have come to the Tpu area. soro, when asked his jana, answered with obvious pride. The distinctions between jana can be so subtle that they are the subject of speculation among the Amerindians themselves. What may originally have been one jana may become two, one of which may be less human than the other. The best example of this is the Pianakoto or Pianokoto, about which there has been some ethnographic debate. Frikel betrays a glimmer of acknowledgement of the transformability of group names when he concludes that the Trio probably called either themselves or marginal groups Pianakot in the past (he is somewhat ambiguous as to which) (Frikel 1964: 104). Schomburgk, however, clearly distinguishes the Pianoghottos from the Drios, noting that although they dressed similarly and both painted their bodies with urucu leaving only the face, the Drio was the only group he encountered whose members ornamented their bodies by incisions, (1845: 85). It has generally been assumed that Piana- and Piano-koto were simply spelling variations of the same name. The only exception to this is that Frikel (1960: 2-3), distinguishes the two, writing that the Pianokoto were synonymous with the Kukuyna,312 a group hostile to intertribal contact. However, he later contradicts himself,


This is probably true (cf. Dreyfus 1992). My older Kalina informants also told me that the Trio were fearsome warriors, as well as having powerful spirit songs. 312 Firefly people (Chapuis & Rivire 2003).


claiming that the expressions Pina and Pino correspond to a dialectical difference between the Trio and the tribes of the Trombetas respectively (1964: 97n). Rivire makes no distinction between Pianakoto and Pianokoto, and he found that the Trio had no memory of them (1969a: 19). According to my informants, however, the distinction was very clear, and they had to correct me on a number of occasions when I mistook one for another. They told me that the Pianakoto, the Eagle people, were indeed one of many ethnonyms now subsumed under the category of Tarno. They had been enemies and friends of the Trio at different times, but they are clearly considered people (Wtoto). The Pianokoto, on the other hand, are said to be hirsute forest-dwelling savages, dangerous and warlike, and more like spirits than humans.313 Their condition is said to be similar to that once shared by the Wajarikure and the Akuriyo (whom I will discuss shortly). The subtlety with which jana identities change, splitting and merging, or becoming encompassed by or encompassing others, makes it difficult to find etic categories suitable to describe them, as the details given above show. The many narratives which fill the cosmos with a proliferation of peoples, as I have tried to convey, are the expression of an animic cosmology, in which the semi-human and non-human universe is organized in the same way as society itself. It is this quality of the universe that allows the all important transformations of affines into kin: social relations exist even outside human society. It is more useful to expand further the description of the pattern to see more clearly the implications that it has for social relations on a regional scale, and this is the purpose of the following sections.


The names Piana and Pianokoto are used by Trio and Wayana, although the word for harpy eagle in both languages is Piana. I was unable to discover the meaning of the word piano. It is possible that it is a corruption of piana, pronounced deliberately differently to convey some peculiar attribute of the Pianokoto, such as strange form of speech playing with words in this way is common in Trio.


Contemporary change and a regional pattern Even today, when identities are becoming increasingly fixed, an inquiry into the finer details of Trio ethnicity yields conflicting and sometimes confusing results. One individual may call himself an Okomojana on one occasion and Aramiso on another; two individuals speculating on the identity of a third often disagree. I suspect that many of the apparently conflicting conclusions drawn by different authors as to the relationships between jana have been true at one time or another, because ethnogenesis is a continually ongoing process. Howard (2001) has shown that the Waiwai were helped considerably by missionaries to manage their networks of human resources, from the late 1940s onwards, increasing their number through missionary-led contact expeditions to other groups, sometimes of trading-partners, sometimes of previously avoided groups. The influence of Pananakiri (White people (T)) of one sort or another upon Guianese ethnicities has been much greater than most ethnographic accounts suggest (cf. Henley 1982), as I shall discuss with regard to the contact and sedentarisation of the Akuriyo by a missionary-led party of Trio and Wayana and their settlement in Tpu. First I would like to consider the general point that the current mono eka (big name[s]) of Tarno/Trio and Wayana, like that of Waiwai, as overarching categories incorporating various jana or sub-groups, precisely coincide with the history of sustained and direct contact between Wtoto (Indian) and Pananakiri (White/ Creole). It is frequently said by Wayana and Trio of all ages, in Tpu and Antecume Pata, and by informants from Misso, that the Pananakiri brought peace. It is said that in the past, the peoples used constantly to fight each other; they were barbarous (W. kaliponome, kaliponohman) and did not know how to live together. All my informants referred to peoples other than their own practising cannibalism, and some say that their own grandfathers did so. Cannibalism has enormous symbolic importance.314 The spirit of the group of consanguines, as their vital energy, is said to be carried in the blood, and therefore exocannibalism would literally allow the incorporation of one group into another. Thanks to

Cf. Vilaa 2000; Viveiros de Castro 1992.


the Pananakiri, who, it is often added, brought the Bible and Jesus, different peoples can now live together in large settlements instead of going to war with each other. Their commensality, in the form of collective visitors feasts, allows the sharing of substance in a peaceful manner, and the incorporation of the group through nurture (Grotti 2007). With permanent settlement, Tarno, the people here has become an identity marker in its own right, which has gradually overtaken the shifting names of ever re-forming groups of the past. This transformation of identity through relocation represents a long-term pattern. Looking at each group and tracing its history, as we go back in time we will find that it divides and re-divides, fragmenting into a kaleidoscope of ethnicities. But going forwards in time, external influence, in the form not only of knowledge, but of identity itself, is constantly drawn upon to change the local group, while allowing it to reproduce. The fact that the next generation is genealogically different from the previous is always hidden by the fact that the process of integration, the primary form of which is marriage, makes consanguines. The politics of relations between the groups that exist at any one time are fundamentally influenced by this pattern.

Ethnicity and identity: between trade and negative reciprocity. The historical patterns of ethnogenesis that I have been discussing are important for any study of leadership and political organisation in the Guianas. I have shown that the picture we can reconstruct from studies of traditional ethnicity and ethnogenesis suggests that identity was constantly shifting when populations were nomadic or seminomadic. Identity was largely spatially expressed (i.e., linked to residence); that is to say, although choosing to live in a particular place was the result of choosing to live with particular people, and above all in the settlement of a particular leader, such choices resulted in the creation of new group identities. Sedentarisation has caused identities to become more fixed on one level: although individuals are still highly mobile and intermarriages occur, each village, even when it contains a mixed population, is thought of as a Trio village, or a Wayana village, etc. But on a sub-village level they are as fluid as ever before. 216

Identities form in this way partly because of a particular form of relationship to the nonhuman other, characteristic of local cosmology. If one digs deeply enough, one tends to find that ethnic identity does not really exist per se, but exists only in opposition to something else. Trio is the ethnic identity of the village of Tpu with regard to Pananakiri society. Meanwhile national identities play complex roles. Elderly Trio in Tpu who travelled from Brazil say that they have become Surinamese. Demas likes to define herself as French, in opposition to the rest of the villagers of Tpu, who are Surinamese. On the level of jana, among the Trio there are some individuals who describe themselves as Prop, to distinguish themselves as the 'real' Trio, as opposed to those groups whose identity later became assimilated to Trio (similarly, the Wayanahle are the real Wayana). This expresses a distinction between positive ethnicity (what we are) and negative ethnicity (what we are not). The distinction is clear as an expression of self in opposition to the Other the ambiguous potential affine/potential enemy. It is the clear manifestation of the opposition between consanguinity and affinity on different social scales. The contemporary Trio and Wayana relationship with the Akuriyo in Tpu illustrates the importance of this distinction, and it is unusual in being a case of the artificial preservation of difference among coresidents.

Sedentarisation of the Akuriyo Several bands of nomadic foragers now known collectively as the Akuriyo were sedentarised in the late 1960s and early 1970s by groups of Trio and Wayana, at the instigation of evangelical Protestant missionaries. At that time they numbered at least 66 (Yohner 1970a: 15). Before this occurred, the Akuriyo avoided contact with other ethnic groups, and were feared by their neighbours. Both in historical sources and in native accounts their name is often confused with those of other isolated groups, particularly the Okomojana, the Wajarikure and the Wama. The differences between these groups are unclear; although they have different names and some of the stories about them are distinct, often different narrators tell the same stories involving different groups as protagonists. My informants in Tpu repeatedly told 217

me that the Akuriyo, themselves made up of the Akuraekare and the Turaekare, were the same group as that known to Trio, Wayana and Kalina as Wajarikure/Wayalikule, and that they became known as Akuriyo through sedentarisation and domestication.315 In fact, this is because the name Akuriyo comes from an auto-denomination used by one of the allied (intermarrying) groups into which the nomadic foragers had organised themselves: the Akuriekare (Agouti316 people). Although these different kare (people, cf. jana) used to be very numerous according to Jaras informant, only one other was brought to Tpu: the Turaekare (Capuchin monkey317 people) (Jara 1990: 23). My own main Akuriyo informant, Kuritune, told me that his father was Turajana, or Taribijana, these being a partial and full translation respectively into Trio of Turaekare. Just weeks before the first missionary expedition in 1968, the French naturalized Wayana, Andr Cognat, visited a group of 27 Akuriyo on the Ouaramapane creek, with two other Wayana, and found them in good health, and reasonably friendly (A. Cognat pers. comm.; Cognat & Massot 1977). In Mimisikus account of the same expedition, he said, the Akuriyo also say kule to people, because they are not bad. Shortly afterwards, the first of a series of Trio and Wayana expeditions, led by American missionaries, located a group of Akuriyo. On subsequent expeditions, some Trio remained with the Akuriyo to gain their confidence and learn their language. After various other sedentarisation schemes failed (planting fruit trees and manioc, starting a Maroon-run manioc farm to encourage trade, etc.), and progressive contact had led to major health problems among the Akuriyo, the missionaries decided to cut their losses and make the Akuriyo settle in Tpu with the Trio (Schoen [n.d.]; Schoen & Crocker [n.d.]; Yohner

The Wayana appear to have differentiated the Wayalikule (long ears?) from the Wama ( wama, or wama hale, in Wayana, means arouman (Ischnosiphon arouma), a type of cane used for weaving, and of which people are said to have been made). Crevaux was told by his Boni hosts that the Oyacoulets were tall and fair, and were named after their peaceful (but treacherous) greeting, Coul-Coul (cf. kure, good in Trio and Akuriyo) (1993: 70). Ahlbrinck met members of both groups in 1938 on the upper Oelemari but claimed that a woman he brought to Paramaribo was the last Wajarikure (Ahlbrinck 1956). Andr Cognat and Mimisiku both told me that they thought they had found the Wayalikule in the forest, until they identified themselves as Akuriyo. The Wayalikule were also known to the Wayana at the time as the long ears (Cognat & Massot 1977), a group reported to live on the headwaters of the Maroni since the earliest records. John Ley heard of Indyans with longe and large eares hangeing uppon their showlders (Lorimer 1994: 207), and Harcourt heard that these long-eared Indians were of enormous proportions (1928: 208). Fisher, Harcourts cousin, heard that the long-eared Indians were extraordinarily kind and gentle (Harcourt 1928: 173), which suggests that these Indians, later reputed to be fierce, might not always have been so. 316 Dasyprocta leporina. 317 Cebus apella.


1970a,b, c; Schoen 1971; Conley 2000: 393). Primarily because they were nomadic hunter-gatherers, the Akuriyo were considered particularly wild and inhuman by their captors indeed, were it not for the influence of the missionaries, the Trio and Wayana would not have contacted them at all for the purposes of trade or alliance. I suspect that had they entered into a cycle of raids with each other then, because of their perceived wildness, the Trio and Wayana would have taken no prisoners indeed, this is what occurs in the story of Aturai (Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 253ff; see below). Although the Akuriyo had deliberately and completely isolated themselves, hoping to exclude themselves from the Janus logic of war and trade, the result was a prolonged Hobbesian war effectively a cold war, with a constant threat of violence. The sudden transformation of the relationship between Trio and Wayana and Akuriyo from that of enemy strangers to coresidents has had far-reaching consequences, but here I shall look at the relationship in terms of historical inter-group relations and kinship. The Akuriyo in Tpu today are effectively servants of the Trio and Wayana. Akuriyo nuclear families live in different parts of the village, each attached to the household of a Trio family. Although they are spoken of as children, Akuriyo men are also often treated in some respects as though they were sons-in-law, implying as subservient a relationship as is possible between adults in traditional kinship terms, as I have shown, but also implying indebtedness. However, it is rare to find an Akuriyo man actually married to a Trio or Wayana woman. There are one or two instances of Akuriyo men marrying old Trio women, and of Trio men marrying Akuriyo women, but apart from these no intermarriage has occurred.318 This situation is extraordinary in a region where co-residence usually leads to social absorption. In view of the Waiwais history of evangelising and incorporating other groups, it cannot simply be attributed to missionary activities. Instead, it needs to be understood in the context of narratives of identity which have defined certain peoples as fierce and cannibalistic. These narratives, since sedentarisation, have come to


For a Trio man, to be married to an Akuriyo woman is favourable in practical terms, because he can hardly be obliged to carry out brideservice for an Akuriyo father-in-law. In exactly the same way, the Mak, who are treated by the Tukanoans as servants, only intermarry with Tukanoan men: Whilst Tukanoans sometimes take Mak wives, Mak men do not marry Tukanoan women (Silverwood-Cope 1972: 200).


differentiate superior, riperine, sedentary, horticulturalist, trading people from inferior, forest-dwelling, foraging people. But such narratives mean that the domestication of such peoples takes on a different character from the domestication of other horticulturalist peoples. Akuriyo are treated and addressed as non-kin, but they are fed, nurtured and educated as though in order to make them into kin. They are in a constant state of becoming, but are also, partly as a result of this, reduced socially. Their status thus recalls the Jivaroan process of shrinking heads: as enemy others, they must undergo a process of reduction which takes the form of social incorporation as children of the local group. But this process takes away their agency and renders them innocuous (Descola 1993: 302-7). The genius of the Trio and Wayanas relationship with the Akuriyo is that the Akuriyo can still be rendered their agency when they go into the forest, where they can become powerful hunters who can see as no Trio or Wayana can. The Trio and Wayana, with Akuriyo to hunt for them, are therefore able to concentrate on cultivating their familiarity with the more powerful knowledge of White people.

Interethnic relations and hierarchy as markers of identity The idea that there were many (Wtoto/Amerindian) people in the past is commonly expressed by the Trio and Wayana. At Samuwaka, a savannah area near the present location of Misso, there must have been a period of peaceful alliance in the past between a number of jana, and this period was often compared informally by my interlocutors to the present peaceful coexistence of affines in Tpu. There were nevertheless other groups who were fierce (ire), and with whom avoidance and warfare succeeded each other. Capture and slavery in warfare provides an informative dimension to my understanding of soceral authority and the pito relationship in Guianese society. In the story of Aturai,319 the fierce Akuriyo and Okomojana literally eat their prisoners, whereas the Trio Aturai give his prisoner a wife in order to make him his subordinate. The outsider, moreover, in one case a Trio with a partially Akuriyo upbringing (Aturai), and in the other case a Pianakoto (Maritik), has prodigious abilities. The outsider, because of his supposedly

See appendix 6.


greater knowledge of the forest and spirit world, is potentially dangerous, and the only way to eliminate the risk of ill effects is to take control of him, by domesticating him through marriage. Rivire (1984) established that Guianese societies tend to express an ideal or a preference for settlement endogamy, but that necessity requires relationships to be maintained and even promoted with the outside: as Henley puts it, while the inside represents harmony and security, it is also potentially sterile (2001: 217). The fact that for the Trio, pito is a relationship of reciprocity (see chapter 3), with less of the suggestion of servant or slave, may constitute further evidence that the Trio in the past showed even stronger preference for settlement endogamy than other Guianese groups: when marriage is close, wife-givers are more likely also to be wife-takers.320 Equality between wife-givers and wife-takers is established by reciprocity, favouring the ideal harmony emphasised by Overing et al. (2000). In former times the Trio disapproved of marriage between a Wayana man and a Trio woman, but saw nothing wrong with a Trio man taking a Wayana wife, a conviction in accord with Trios general attitude towards women (Rivire 1969a: 52). Although wife-givers are superior to wife takers in uxorilocal Guianese society, the rule only applies among co-residents, and a non-coresident wife-giver would be inferior.321 Nowadays, as I have mentioned, Trio and Wayana shun marriage with Akuriyo, but marriage between Trio and Wayana is quite acceptable in either combination of sexes. The exceptional treatment of the Akuriyo cannot be said to be due to their former fierceness (the Okomojana have been able to intermarry with Trio to such an extent that they are now considered Trio themselves). It is due to the contrived nature of coresidence with them, as a result of outside influence.322 An ordinary alliance would not have occurred between Trio and Akuriyo because the Akuriyo lacked the quintessentially humanizing food, bitter manioc. The facts that the Akuriyo may have had gardens and

320 321

See also Rivire 1969a passim. This poses a question of sequence: in order for a man to obtain a wife from outside and not be obliged to stay in her fathers village, he would have to have some form of leverage over her father. Hence the attraction of wife capture in war. 322 Cf. Keifenheim 1997, on wild Mashiku Indians pacified by the Kashinawa: their status is ambiguously poised between those of brother-in-law and slave.


bitter manioc in the past,323 that they were allies of other jana, and that they cannot have been considered fierce by these allies all these appear irrelevant to their current unequal alliance with the Trio and Wayana.324 Their lack of manioc is seen as the ultimate evidence of savagery, compared to which their inferior knowledge of Christianity is a mild stigma. These aspects of relations between local groups, or between the identity groups of oral myth/history, help to explain the Trio preference for local endogamy discussed in chapter 3. Reciprocity is best guaranteed between co-residents, where constant daily interactions and prestations in kind or service can act to maintain it. Between individuals from different settlements, a certain imbalance, albeit temporary, is almost inevitable, and this is the reason for the fragility that often characterises trade relationships. There is no fundamental objective distinction between wife-givers and takers, trading partners and enemies, especially as trade tends to take place between individuals rather than groups. Different identity groups can be enemies, and enemies are usually referred to in group terms although individually named enemy shamans are an important exception to this. It is more helpful to imagine a continuum, from consanguine kin, through various degrees of affinity, to enmity. A Trio man who calls another man his jipawana is calling him his friend and trading partner, but with a degree of caution.325 A jipawana may yet become either an anonymous enemy, or a pito literally wife-giver and taker, but also a more trusted friend and trading partner. Such relations are constantly changing on all levels, from individual to group, and can be manipulated through various active strategies for the creation of alliances. It is useful to think of this in terms of a hierarchy, at the top of which are persons who have a high level of reciprocity, and who regard each other as fully human, and at the bottom of which are those who have no relationship of communication, kinship or trade with those at the top, who regard them as nonhuman. It is reciprocity that makes people human.326

323 324

One Akuriyo woman said that her mother had told her about manioc bread Schoen & Crocker (n.d.): 5. This confirms the inadequacy of regarding jana as exogamous clans. 325 Part of this caution is the use of kin terms to address jipawana and their treatment as if they were kin. 326 This is also the case in Melanesia: in a Kaluli myth, a boy is consistently denied food by his ad!; her lack of assistance, denial of obligation, and unwillingness to fulfil a role snaps the thread of the social bondinstantly the boy is diminished to a nonhuman state (Feld 1982: 29).


Alliance and integration The domestication or taming (tpamnehe (W)) of other groups occurs throughout the Guianas. Howard (2001) has examined the contact expeditions of the Waiwai to sedentarise and domesticate neighbouring groups. Once settlements are in contact, they maintain their relationship through a variety of prestations clearly expressed in the institution of the alliance feast. These alliance feasts display an important difference from those recalled in oral narratives of the more distant past. For example, when the Apalai, having had enough of war, decided to accept the equivalence of the Wayanas culture, they exchanged beer with them, and exchanged women (Barbosa 2002: 180-2).327 On the other hand, the Waiwai, and the Surinamese Trio and Wayana, as Christian converts, had been convinced of the superiority of their newly modified way of life, and therefore their prestation of manioc was not to be reciprocated. When they went to contact other groups, it was not for the purpose of alliance in the conventional sense. Their purpose was evangelical, and as such it was to give culture, not to receive it; correspondingly, to give manioc,328 and not to receive it. The result was integration, or, in the case of the Akuriyo, incorporation and subjection: an unequal alliance. This should be seen in conjunction with the fact that in such cases knowledge is also primarily passed, in the form of evangelization, from manioc-giving hosts to manioc-receiving guests, that is, in the opposite direction from usual.329 Although they were not tamed by the Trio or Wayana in the same sense as other Amerindian groups were, it is useful to compare the case of the Maroons. Like the Akuriyo, Maroons are said not to know about manioc (although in fact they do grow it); also like the Akuriyo, Maroons are not considered suitable marriage partners. The

The exchange of women and food to end conflict is a recurrent theme in Kuliyamans narratives (Chapuis & Rivire 2003 passim). 328 Protestant missionaries, unlike the Catholics in Misso, have attempted to eliminate the production of beer wherever they have had influence (among the Wayana, Trio, Waiwai and Wapishana). They have only completely succeeded in the case of the Waiwai, who have replaced it with a non-alcoholic alternative also made from manioc, which is called pnkuhp by the Trio, who therefore also call the Waiwai pnkuhpsawa , drinkers of pnkuhp (C. Koelewijn pers comm.). 329 However, knowledge of the forest, hunting skills and shamanic knowledge is passed in the other direction under such circumstances. I observed this in the case of the Trio-Akuriyo relationship, as did Howard (2001) in the case of the Waiwai and the unseen tribes.


modalities of the relationship between categories of person are thus expressed in the reciprocal or non-reciprocal prestation of beer and women: real people gave manioc to Akuriyo and Maroons, who are nevertheless classified as lacking manioc; this marks them out as unsuitable wife-takers. Now it is possible to understand the difference between the Trios relationships with the Maroons and with the Akuriyo. The former were jipawana, and as such neither wifegivers nor wifetakers (see chapter 1). Marriage alliances with them were never contemplated, and the alliance remained on a political and economic level. The Akuriyo, however, were made by the missionaries to live with the Trio, in order to be converted to Christianity. They could not intermarry with them, because of their cultural difference (they lacked manioc), but as co-residents their relationship needed to be expressed in appropriate terms. They therefore became servants: brideservants who could never be given brides. In the long term, this situation only appears to have crystallized in Tpu. Unlike in French Guiana, where the Akuriyo seem to have integrated relatively well, taking Wayana wives, a large number were brought to Tpu, and they could therefore preserve a certain sense of common identity despite being allocated Trio families to serve. It is also significant that a semi-nomadic village, such as those that existed before the arrival of missionaries, implied a fluidity of population much greater than that in existence today, which may also have served to allow greater integration over time. In the large, permanent, sedentary village of today, the Akuriyo have found a seemingly selfperpetuating position as an underclass, almost a caste of untouchables. This galvanization of their social status is mirrored in other aspects of sedentary society in the central Guianas, particularly in that of leadership.


Succession and ownership of authority One effect of missionary influence and, more specifically, of sedentarisation, has been to increase the tendency for leadership positions to be passed down from father to son. This phenomenon is not without foundations in pre-sedentary practice. Rivire argues that the maintenance of social order within the pre-sedentary village normally relied on the smooth functioning of reciprocal obligations intrinsic to kinship ties. The leader depended for his influence entirely upon his position within this network of relationships.330 However, the leaders position ultimately depended on his competence in mediating disputes and ordering everyday affairs (Rivire 1969a: 232). In this way the network of relationships upon which authority depended was maintained. Without it, the village would dwindle to a small core of close kin as discontent individuals chose to leave. Good and strong leaders tended to attract residents (op. cit.: 233), thus increasing the size of their supporting network of relationships. The importance of this network of relationships is confirmed by the fact that a good leader was not tied to his village, but could found another, as may happen on the death of his son, for example. The place of residence changed in such a case, but the human relationships could remain the same. I suggest that greater attention to networks of kin and affinal relationships may help explain the confusion that has sometimes arisen over the question of succession. It seems that, among the Trio, where leadership changes during the lifetime of an existing leader (if he retires), the successor is usually an affine, but when he dies as leader, his son is more likely to take his place. In the past, when villages were dissolved on the death of a leader, this would not apply; or rather, those who remained loyal to a deceased leader might relocate following his son, whereas a leader who retired might be superseded by a rival affine, in a new location, perhaps with only a portion of the original villages inhabitants. In Tpu, a sedentary village which is also, on another level, a cluster of autonomous villages as I have shown, both situations can be found simultaneously: Tmeta was one of the village leaders. He gradually gave way to others before he died, including Pikumi, the current head captain. Now Pikumi is gradually ceding influence

Cf. Menget 1993: 69.


to Mosesi, the son of Tmeta, who died in 2001. Each of these transfers has also involved a change of location: Tmeta used to live in the central area, near the tukusipan; Pikumi lives on the opposite side of the airstrip; and Mosesi lives at the very opposite end of the village from Pikumi.331 Yet there are no conventional rules of succession which is hardly surprising as villages often used to be deserted at the death of their leader, personal abilities are held in such high esteem, and populations are so fluid (Rivire 1969a: 234) all largely due to the relative self-sufficiency of the conjugal unit. The affinal successor would most likely be a man who had built up through marriage and other forms of exchange a position in the network of relationships to rival that of his predecessor; it would thus be logical for him to take over from a leader sufficiently weakened to retire. A leader strong enough to maintain his position until his death, however, would often have managed to do so because he had no strong rival anyone with enough prestige and support would probably have left the village to start one of his own (cf. Howard 2001). The only person with a comparable position within the network of relationships would be his son. The fragility of the practice of filial succession is due to the generally unstable and transitory nature of leadership in the Guianas, and both, like the fragility of descent there in general, are due to the pattern of group dispersal and regeneration characteristic of the region. However, with sedentarisation, succession from father to son has become increasingly common as villages have become more permanent. Groups disperse less easily, and as village foundation is a strategy for the assertion of leadership, there are fewer opportunities to create independent polities. Succession in village leadership has passed to the son of the leader in the villages of Tpu (from Tmeta to Mosesi), in Twenk (from Twenk to Amaipot), and in Balat from father to daughter (Brigitte Wyngaarde). In certain villages, the likelihood that succession from father to son will occur is reduced, because of the character of the son of the current leader, or also because of disputes in which he has been involved. The influence of the State also plays a role in perpetuating identity both on the level of the individual and on that of the group, through the mechanisms of official political

See map 5.


representation. The Toushau in Guyana, the Tuxao in Brazil, the Kapitein in Suriname and the Chef coutumier (formerly Capitaine) in French Guiana, have become the officially sanctioned representatives of villages, which have simultaneously become bureaucratically recognized political units. Meanwhile the term Granman (originally a Maroon term for a supralocal leader) has become the official title for a tribal leader in French Guiana and Suriname.332 Granman Asonko is thus the official representative of all the Trio in Suriname, and Granman Amapoti is that of the Wayana in French Guiana. In villages other than their own, the Granmans authority is only vaguely recognized, but it is significant that it is recognized at all, and it may be expected that these positions will become increasingly important with time. Most significantly, all of these titles convey permanence. Despite their having been effectively created by democratic states, once a Captain, Chef coutumier Toushau or Granman has been recognized as such by the State, he333 is leader for the rest of his life.334 The official recognition of the village ensures that it is the focus for development and infrastructure, and the consequent presence of schools, clinics and airstrips helps to preserve the leaders position by maintaining the integrity of his constituency. Incipient tribal identity, enshrined in its representative, the Granman, suggests that the pattern of constant ethnic transformation described in this chapter may not continue, at least not above the sub-village level. It is now in the interest of all Trio, for instance, to be represented at the highest possible level, as the Trio tribe and the Trio are well aware of this. However this does not mean that the fluidity of Guianese Amerindian society will also end. Within a more static structure

The Granman appears to be appointed by the tribe (Amerindian (Trio, Wayana, Kalina, Lokono, etc.) or Maroon (Aluku, Ndjuka, Saramakka, etc.)), but subject to approval by the State. This roughly follows the form agreed in the 1760 treaty between the Ndjuka and the Dutch state: in the case of the death of the Granmanthey would inform the colonial government, who would approve the successor chosen by the Maroons the 1760 treaty also included the free Indians as beneficiaries (Kambel & MacKay 1999: 58). Among the Maroons the title may in the past have been hereditary (Crevaux 1993: 96). In practice, a Granman will be a well-established leader who already has longstanding relations with state officials. The line between local support and state appointment seems to become still more blurred as relations with the State grow more important. It is only clear that there is no formal system for choosing a Granman among the Amerindians, although the choice will be made following discussion between leaders at a communal meeting similar to the Maroon krutu , and with the same (adopted) name. 333 In exceptional cases, the leader may be a woman. There are two female chefs coutumires in French Guiana, among the relatively highly educated coastal Lokono and Kalina. 334 Moreover, Article 13 of the Peace Accord of Lelydorp (1992) stipulates that the legal status, authority and the stipend paid to these authorities must be strengthened and increased and that the government will do so by enacting legal regulations after consultation with those concerned, although little change has occurred since the accord was signed (Kambel & MacKay 1999: 129).


of permanent villages, people continue to move between villages and to create new satellite villages as I have shown, and it is within this new framework that the dynamics of leadership, based on movement and choice, continue as before. Relationships with white people and the State highlight the dual nature of change and continuity in leadership and succession. Two examples illustrate this: one is an anecdote told to me by Peter Rivire, according to which one of the official, uniformed leaders in Kwamalasamutu in 1978 was a thoroughly uncharismatic individual, who was skilled neither at speaking nor at ordinary mens activities. He had been pushed to the front when a government official arrived in the village and asked to speak to the leader, because nobody wanted to have to do the job. The other example is that of Andr Cognat, who is sometimes accused of not being a Wayana by those who wish to contest his authority. These examples both seem to evoke the scenario described by Clastres (1974) of the power of the group over the leader. However, pace Clastres, the role of mediator does give these leaders a certain power. In both cases, unwilling individuals fell almost by chance into the role of mediator with the outside, in this case urban society. A continuity can be seen with older patterns in these forms of leadership, to the extent that they can be seen as transformations, in the Lvi-Straussian sense, of their predecessors. Cognat illustrates this best, for he embodies a proliferation of transformations: most obviously, he is a white man transformed into a Wayana, but as such it is not merely his bodily attributes that were transformed (by adornment, marake ritual passage, commensality, etc.), but, as a result of these things, and of otherwise behaving like a Wayana, his perspective became that of a Wayana. Meanwhile, like a shaman, he is able to oscillate between Wayana and White peoples perspectives, as he can still see like a White person, and can still transform himself into a White man, putting on White peoples clothes to go into their world, the city. His powerful transformability, which is the very source of his influence, causes him to share the ambiguity of the shaman, who it is feared may change into the Other and lose his real humanity. It is in this sense that people challenge his authority when they draw attention to his Whiteness, and paradoxically this is exactly how leadership worked before White people became such an important source of influence.


Strategic ethnicity I have shown that Guianese ethnicity operates according to the same logic in a presedentary context of warfare and alliance succeeding one another, as it does when these practices have adapted to the projects of evangelical missionaries. Social organisation thus appears to follow the same patterns of historical transformation as myth. The current tendency, however, is for leaders to assert their identity as a political strategy in its own right. Amerindians, even those from the central highlands of Guiana, find themselves implicated in a wider world of international politics where their principal political capital is based on their indigeneity. Many of the good Portuguese speakers among the Trio or Kaxuyana whom I met, such as Ercilio, who was educated in Misso, or Ferrinho, who had worked a great deal with Brazilian gold prospectors, would often repeat phrases such as seu Indio (Im an Indian), or indio assim (thats how Indian is). These were not leaders, but ordinary men, whose contact with Brazilians had impressed upon them their identity. In Suriname and French Guyana, the Wayana and Trios neighbours, the Maroons, because of their long history of trade with them, differentiate between distinct Amerindian groups. Brazilian gold prospectors, who have had a history of conflict with Amerindians, appear to regard them all as generic Indians. Through the assertive manner with which they accept this layer of identity, the Indians themselves begin to use it for their own ends. As Indians, they know about the forest, and it belongs to them. The people who spoke to me about this, whether Wayana, Trio or urban Kalina,335 all deliberately reiterated the stereotypical discourse that the Indian belongs to the forest, he knows about its products, it provides his livelihood, and without it he dies. However, rather than reflecting a fundamental change of self-identification, these instances all involved individuals addressing me as an outsider and a White person. They were adoptions of a particular perspective as a social strategy.336 The question of the extent of the accuracy of this image of the ecological Indian warrants its own discussion, but does not affect the fact that it is used as part of a political strategy based on ethnicity.

335 336

Chef Coutumier of Kourou and President of FOAG, Jean-Auberic Charles. Cf. Vilaa 2006.


In the village, ordinary alliance feasts and other rituals have taken on new forms, involving guitars, Christian hymns and ragga sound systems (see chapter 4), but as with the production of traditional craftworks, generic Indian dances are put on to satisfy the stereotypes looked for by film crews, researchers, and tourists (cf. Barbosa 2002: 137). For example, in Palumeu, the Wayana and Trio village a few hours downstream from Tpu, tourists come every week to see traditional dances and be taken on wildlife tours by authentic forest Indians. The Trio in Kwamalasamutu plan to start a similar ecotourism project, with the added attraction of petroglyphs recently discovered at Werehpai.337 The Wayana of Talouwen put on a marake ceremony for an amateur French film crew, in order for one of the crews members to be initiated himself. In Tpu, on one occasion a small group of Swiss tourists arrived unannounced, and the resourceful Kapitein Mosesi hurriedly mustered a dance troupe in order to earn money from the visitors; the dancers put on a parody of a Maroon dance which was more amusing to the local population than to the tourists themselves. The ironic nature of such a performance suggests that these uses of Amerindian ethnicity are not examples of cultural exploitation. They instead manifest the strategic use of a knowingly constructed ethnicity in order to obtain goods or cash.338 Guianese Amerindians, like many self-styled indigenous peoples from around the world, now also use their Indian or indigenous identity to make claims to special rights in national and international forums.339 The technical debates on the draft declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, for example, are complex, and there is not enough space to discuss them here, but one question that requires to be addressed has been raised by Adam Kuper, who argues:

337 338

See appendix 7. See Hugh-Jones 1992, who shows how Barasana employ whatever means necessary in order to obtain the things they want from White people. 339 Cf. Ramos 1998. The FOAG, (Fdration des Organisations Autochtones de Guyane), includes as members the Wayana, the Kalina, the Lokono, the Waipi and all the other Amerindian groups of French Guiana. It has links to sister organizations in Suriname and Guyana, the OIS and the APA (Amerindian Peoples Association), and is a member of COICA (Coordenadora de las Organizaciones Indigenas de la Cuenca Amazonica). The French Kalina are the wealthiest and best educated of all of the Guianese groups in COICA, and they regularly send a delegate to the conferences of the International Working Group for Indigenous Peoples (IWGIP) at the United Nations High Commission for Human Rights (UNHCHR), in Geneva.


In the indigenous peoples movement, descent is tacitly assumed to represent the bedrock of collective identitywhatever the political inspiration, the conventional lines of argument currently used to justify indigenous land claims rely on obsolete anthropological notions and on a romantic and false ethnographic vision (Kuper 2003).

Kuper does not consider the fact that the primitive peoples reified as natives are as capable as civilized politicians of formulating powerful political strategies designed to capitalize as much as possible on the status quo. Their construction of their indigenous identity constitutes a deliberate rhetorical use of their strongest political asset in the modern world: the romantic image of the noble savage, a European myth of which they are well aware.340 The logical implications of the general acceptance of the principle of indigenous rights are well worth debating, but in practical terms, if Kuper had been thinking more anthropologically about politics and activism, when he considered these questions, then he would not have dismissed them so forthrightly. Politicians use all kinds of strategies to achieve their ends, and these are rarely based on objective truth.

Symbolic ecology, animism and categories of group Guianese indigenous activists rhetoric of environmental harmony is not even a misrepresentation insofar as it presents kinship and ecology as closely intertwined. In the Guianas, marriage, politics and relations with the living environment are not separable, and this is because affines, potential affines, game animals and spirits are all engaged with in social terms. Rather than thinking of the itpme or jana as descent groups or totemic groups, it is more useful to think of them as part of animic systems, in which the social organisation of non-humans takes the same form as that of humans themselves (Descola 1996; Viveiros de Castro 1998). To explain this symbolic ecology it is useful to turn to myth. In numerous myths,341 a human meet a non-human (eagle, jaguar, etc.) in the forest, and finds that non-human society is organised in the same way as human


As Ramos puts it, To put in the same category indigenous claims for legitimate difference, Nazi racism, and South African apartheid is to miss the point of differential power (2003: 397). 341 E.g. the story of Jaguar and Deer in appendix 5.


society usually he finds this out by being persuaded to marry the daughter of the nonhuman he meets. In other myths, a caterpillar takes on human form, enters a village and seduces a girl. In both cases, males come from outside society and transform from one species perspective to another. For this reason, the categories of human and non-human should not be used uncritically. It is striking that it happens so often that a human marries the daughter of a forest-dweller in myth, or vice-versa, and this should be understood in the light of the fact that men often travel to find wives in practice (in principle they always do so). Kinship and co-residence are so closely related that humanity is a sociocentric, not a biological quality in Amerindian cosmologies. If the potential affine is not regarded as fully human, the boundary becomes blurred between him and the jaguar or eagle. Thus the reason for the animal- or plant-derived jana appellations being overwhelmingly applied to other people while auto-denominations tend to be such things as the people here (Tarno) or real people (Wayana) becomes clearer: the boundary between other people, plants, animals and spirits is vague and shifting,342 whereas that between all of these and real people can at least be actively managed, as indeed it is. The situation is complicated by the narratives that perpetuate residual identities: these give rise to a form of virtual totemism, whereby in the world of myth/history groups are categorised in terms of species.343 Ecology and relations of consanguinity and affinity are thus inseparable from one another. Any two individuals sufficiently distantly related to marry one another are ipso facto testing the boundaries of humanity and non-humanity. Enemy groups may be regarded as testing the same boundaries, albeit in a negative manner. Marriage itself, like procreation, is an act of humanization. In such a world, in which the boundaries between


This analysis can even be applied to a group name which derived from an apparently inanimate object, such as prujana (arrow(cane) people): there is a Trio myth in which arrows were once autonomous, animate creatures which grew with tips and flights. They flew to their target by their own agency, and had only to be pointed in the right direction to fly of their own accord; however they only agreed to do this on condition that they be treated well. When the Trio began to be careless and not speak to them kindly, the arrows stopped flying to their targets unpropelled (Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 110ff). Pru refers to the plant arrowcane (wild cane, Gynerium sagittatum), which may be regarded as endowed with a soul, as well as to the arrow as artefact. 343 This may be thought of as an example of the coexistence of animic and totemic systems which Descola has found elsewhere (1996, 2005), but it should be remembered that in this case the animic principle is prior to the totemic, and the totemic principle does not govern marriage practices.


nature and culture are relative (or else perhaps nonexistent), categories of person are hierarchically arranged, on a scale from more to less human: what Descola has called a scale of order according to the levels of exchange of information reputed possible, with us (the Achuar, or the Trio) at the top of the pyramid (2005: 23). Of course, what is at stake is not only the exchange of information, but to all forms of communication, as I have been describing.

Conclusion The attitudes towards ethnic identity demonstrated by peoples who have become involved in the international discourse of the Indigenous Peoples movement, and other educated Amerindians, mostly from coastal areas, show that an important historical shift has occurred, although this is not to say that marriage and ecology have become any less important. A situation in which networks of people transform and renegotiate temporarily spatially defined identities, is increasingly being influenced by involvement in wider networks of information though which ideas of property (in land, blood, culture) reinforce increasingly fixed notions of identity. As people become more mobile, their attachment to particular places, in terms of ethnic identity, sometimes appears to grow in fact the real reason for this, at least in coastal areas and on the Maroni, is that land pressure, particularly from gold mining, is making discourses of territoriality increasingly necessary. In all cases, however, a segmentary logic functions, and identities are formulated negatively as much as positively. The references forming the basis for this logic are created and exchanged through supralocal networks of people; the definition of group identity is a political strategy for cutting the network a strategy on the part of leaders to make the social world intelligible and describable and therefore making leadership and political discourse possible. As Lepri succinctly puts it, relatedness derives from both birth and conviviality (2005: 720). The strongest constant element that can be observed in the pre-sedentary as well as in the contemporary patterns of supralocal relations on all levels is that relatedness is constantly being actively reconstructed and transformed. The reason for the apparent 233

discrepancy between Rivires (1984) analysis and that of Grupioni (n.d.) is that both rely for their clarity on different synchronic models. Insofar as historical change is taken into account, it is made subservient to the model. My argument shows that that both models can be correct representations of a state of affairs at particular times and places. Trio relationship terminology shows that marriage with sisters daughter was practised at some time in the not too distant past, due to a strong preference for local endogamy. Grupioni has started out by trying to demonstrate the existence of regional networks of alliance between exogamous groups, and believes that the resulting picture disproves the hypothesis of isolated settlements that she claims Rivire puts forward (1984). In fact, Rivire shows a more general picture of constantly shifting localities and local formations, with local endogamy as an ideal that could never be realized in the long term the system of marriage with sisters daughter being one method developed for the achievement of this ideal (see chapter 3). The apparent discrepancy is merely due to the fact that the equivalent in the real world of the groups and networks imagined by Grupioni is less static than she portrays it. Janas are, more than anything, aspects of the collective identity of a local group carried over into a new local context. Over time, ethnic groups dissolve and emerge, local endogamy is practised when possible, but not always, and the appearance of itp exogamy is a result, not a cause, of sister-exchange, ideally sustained in the form of bilateral cross-cousin marriage. There is not a necessary logical direction of cause and effect between sister exchange, bilateral cross-cousin marriage and itp exogamy, and in purely logical terms the opposite scenario could be convincingly proposed, but it is very clear from the way in which local actors speak about these matters that this is how they see them. This explains the contentment expressed by the Trio at living in large villages, where people are at peace with each other and can potentially marry a greater diversity of people. Even in the large villages or clusters of villages that are increasingly common in the Guianas, narratives about jana continue to be passed on. If the proliferation of jana is, as I have argued, the result of interactions between subjectively human and non-human (or potentially human) groups, then it is also the result of a particular way of understanding, interpreting and remembering history. Memory, when it is unaided by mnemonic devices 234

such as a permanent relationship to place, as is inscribed in certain types of house elsewhere (Carsten & Hugh-Jones 1995), is liable to fade.344 In fact, the ways in which events turn into historical memories and eventually either disappear completely or become absorbed into myth may correspond precisely to the ways in which local groups become jana identities (cf. Gow 2001). It is true that the toposiwa or places associated with itp (Grupioni [n.d.]) or jana tend to be permanent geographical features, such as tepui mountains or rivers, but they are not usually man-made landmarks. This further supports the hypothesis that jana are memories of possibly short-lived local groups. My informants gave me the clear impression that such places were merely the historical territories of the groups associated with them, and that there was no particular sacred or exclusive element to the relationship between group and place. In the Guianas, where the house, and place in general, is clearly transitory (see chapter 3), and memory of the dead is deliberately obliterated by every means possible, this is unsurprising. Most of all, the importance of narratives preserving and transforming the memory of co-resident groups is that they provide a bridge between politics and ecology, and between human and non-human. They show that the relations between local people and other people are performed in a way at least analogous to those between people and game animals, plants and spirits. It is for this reason that myths portray forest-dwelling nonhumans as acting in similar ways to humans, and in engagements with them the rules are the same as for engagements with potential affines; in fact, any peaceful relationship with others is potentially affinal, whatever biological species the others may belong to. The only mechanism for obliterating difference between species, jana or any other identifiers is marriage, and so we find that on the supralocal level politics can once again be logically reduced to relations of consanguinity and affinity. The role of the leader in a society with this ecological and political perspective must be dominated by the control of external relations, whether as father-in-law, shaman, trading-partner, diplomat or warrior.


This recalls the Jivaroans, for whom history is not the past, it is autobiography in the making which relies on forgetting the dead (Taylor 1993: 674).



This thesis has addressed some longstanding debates in Amazonian anthropology and in the discipline as a whole, and it has raised some new topics for consideration. Since Montaigne was inspired by minimalist Amazonian political organisation to use it as a foil for political reflections upon European society, the most influential authors on Amazonian politics have cast it in terms of noble or brutish savagery in the absence of the State. Clastres chief without power can be seen as the concentration of these ideas into the impotent germ of the State, kept in check by his vigilant band of wifegivers. But a less idealised, and less ideologised vision of Amazonian leadership, such as Lvi-Strauss began with his study of the Nambikuara, reveals something subtler. The questions remained to be answered of how order could exist without stratification, collective action without coercion, solidarity without authority; by considering fields and levels of action of contemporary leaders with an eye on history and change, I have offered answers to these questions, and to others. I will briefly sum up my argument before suggesting some of its more general implications. Over the last five chapters we have come a long way from Clastres canonical model of Amazonian leadership. Far from being structurally opposed to the community, he represents and embodies the social group and gives it form. In chapter 1, I showed that this is achieved in general terms through his activity as mediator, channelling external influence for the good of his dependents. He is a communicator who, through speech, movement and the appropriation and redistribution of diverse material and invisible elements, creates community and nurtures solidarity. Networks, both as sets of human relationships, and as conjunctions of heterogeneous elements such as in items of 236

material culture, underpin and sustain leadership. They take the form of trade and visiting, where objects embody relationships, and these in turn represent further relationships. Social relations, even those between kin, are not value-free, and, in chapter 2, I made the case for the interrelationship of persons, places and objects in terms of property, defining property as processual, like human relationships, and articulated in different ways according to circumstances. The creation of property by making places concretely shows leadership in action, as village foundation constitutes the creation of the social space which is coextensive with the polity. In chapter 3, I took up this theme to show how the same types of action and the same conjunctions of relationship exist on different scales: village foundation begins with the building of a single house, and the kinship relations that form the domestic unit, are structured around the soceral relationship. This presentation of marriage practice demonstrated its central political significance as the model and germ of leadership on a larger scale. The expansion of social relations onto this collective level is achieved and motivated through ritual, which does more than generate collective solidarity and harmony; chapter 4 showed that it brings in further influence from the outside, and celebrates this inclusivity. Here, the skills associated with leadership are richly apparent: making and playing musical instruments, chiefly speech calling for harmony and solidarity, and ceremonial dialogue negotiating the boundaries of the collectivity; it is here that the leader shows himself most clearly to be at one with the collectivity. This complex picture of leadership in action has wider implications for group histories, collective identities and named communities. As chapter 5 demonstrated, a group is largely defined by a leader and a place, and such groups outlive their physical existence only as memories and myths. New leaders establish new villages and new groups, and the scale and duration of these give rise to proportionately strong narratives. Collectivities form, split and reform, growing and dying with their creators. The ways in which this process, which depends on leadership, is remembered and forgotten give rise to a distinctively Guianese form of historicity.


Running throughout this portrayal of Guianese Amazonian leadership are two complementary strands: networks, and hierarchy or disequilibrium. Leadership relies on networks of persons and things, but the leader himself is also a network, concentrating in himself an array of heterogeneous elements, involving spirit power, multilingualism and hunting prowess, and neutralising alterity itself as he mediates with the outside. Each of these qualities on its own is worth little, and leadership cannot be reduced to any one factor, because it is the accumulation of multiple abilities and other advantages in a context of a productive household of influential kin that makes a leader.345 This multiple, cumulative character of leadership is important to bear in mind even in discussions of other aspects of Amazonian sociality. For example, Santos-Granero writes, traders are seldom village leaders acting as mediators between exchanging collectivities (2007: 3); although it is true that trade takes place between individuals and traders are not necessarily leaders, the statement hides the fact that leaders invariably are traders among many other things, as I have shown. A leader is thus a hybrid, whose hybridity is denied by his very success, for he uses foreign qualities and objects the better to identify himself with the collectivity. Hierarchy, epitomised in the atom of politics, the soceral relationship, is not of a static kind but constitutes the perpetual disequilibrium that gives society its dynamism. A leaders followers are structural sons-in-law, and the affinal nature of their relationship gives it its inherent instability, which is why the leader must constantly strive to maintain collective harmony. Another hierarchical dimension to the argument is that social life is replicated on different levels or scales, and recognition of this makes ethnographic approaches which emphasise everyday conviviality compatible with those focusing on the symbolism of predation or of consanguinity and affinity: in differing temporal and spatial dimensions (everyday life/ ritual; the domestic house/ the tukusipan/ the forest), affinal or convivial relations are emphasised according to circumstances. The leader mediates between scales, and organises the movement from ordinary time to ritual time. Meanwhile the house and household display the personal capacity of the builder-household head, just as the


Cf. Basso (1973: 124, in Menget 1993: 74 n. 23): In reality leaders are those few persons who have managed to acquire a great many statuses and who thus stand apart from the rest of the community as powerful individuals.


tukusipan and village display the capacity of the founder-village leader (cf. Strathern 1999). In showing the self-similar relationship between household and village, which can be extended inwards to the body and outwards to the cosmos (cf. Carsten and Hugh-Jones 1995 and Viveiros de Castro 2001), I use the term scale in a slightly different sense from Strathern,346 but her display function of scale measurement is also relevant here, and the two senses may not be entirely separable; indeed, the atom of politics, the unequal soceral relationship by which affinity is realised and consanguines produced, may well be the scale by which society is measured on different levels. Be this as it may, I have arrived at this conception of Amerindian leadership by refusing to see it merely as part of a structure or a system. Leadership is intrinsically historical; indeed, Guianese Amazonian history is lived through leadership, as leadership is the motor of community formation. Therefore, insofar as structure or system exists, it is created through leadership. This in turn is represented in myth, as the historical action of leaders is mythologised, although the discernable patterns of leadership suggest that the action of leaders also follows a mythological template. This eternal reflection is further repeated in the relationship and between domestic unit and the larger local collectivity, the one not only being the microcosm of the other but also being its historical origin. This historicised view of leadership also shows that conviviality is a strategy; communities are neither given, nor are they static ideals; instead they are contingent, ephemeral historical products of leadership and social disequilibrium. Part of the interest in studying leadership in the minimalist societies of Guianese Amazonia lay in the fact that here, political structures (including clans, sibs, moieties or factions) are less obviously apparent than in Northwest Amazonia and the Xing.347 Perhaps paradoxically, as I have shown, this actually increases the importance of leadership; here, society depends entirely upon the actions of leadership for their very existence. But the distinctions between these types of Amazonian society may have been overstated; as Gordon has also illustrated with respect to the Xikrin, the difference


Strathern uses the term in the sense of standardised computable or quantifiable dimensions (op. cit.: 298 n. 33). 347 Hugh-Jones 1979; Maybury-Lewis 1967; Turner 1979b.


between dialectical and minimalist societies may not be so great after all.348 In the Guianas, just as much as in the Xing or in Northwest Amazonia, the house clearly plays a role of structuring structure in a much more concrete sense than in Viveiros de Castros use of the phrase to refer to potential affinity (2002: 157). But the exteriority expressed as potential affinity (loc. cit.) is also of equal importance, at least in the Xing, as in the Guianas (Menget 1993). Both regions feature neighbouring social groups cohabiting peaceably without supra-communal institution or political apparatus, and unregulated by local or linguistic exogamy (op. cit.: 62). Although territoriality is more pronounced and defined there, the Xinguano polity shares with the Guianese the features of moral community, association of solidary local groups in case of necessity but without automaticity, interconnected network of riperine villages (op. cit.: 64). Moreover, despite the existence of chiefly lineages in the Xing, leadership in practice is a matter of personal qualities there too (op. cit.: 67-8). The comparison even leads to the possibility that Guianese leaders have coercive power after all, for the argument that Menget uses to show how Xinguano leaders can use their influence and rhetorical skills obliquely to incite others to assassinate a rival could also be applied to this region (op. cit.: 71). Recognizing the hierarchical foundations of politics in even the most apparently egalitarian societies also makes it possible to see what these societies share with others in the Xing and in Northwest Amazonia that are still often referred to as more complex. It shows that hierarchy is not something that emerges, but that it is intrinsic to society and the polity in all their forms. This is an important caveat to claims such as that ...the peoples of the Guianas have little or no social structure...defined by 1) structures of separation and opposition, and 2) structures of inequality, or the institutional elaboration of relations of dominance and subordination (Overing 1993: 193); indeed, in this very same article, Overing herself sets out the evidence of this latent social differentiation, when she describes the moiety and clan system (op. cit.: 194) of the Piaroa afterworld. Lvi-Strauss recognised that even the most minimalist societies of Amazonia carry


Gordon 2006 (see introduction by Fausto). In fact, minimalist societies are dialectical in their relationship to alterity (Taylor 1993: 654; cf. Viveiros de Castro & Fausto 1993, who describe a continuum between Amazonian and Central Brazilian societies.


within them the potential for complexity when he wrote that, ...primitive institutions are not only capable of maintaining what is, or of temporarily keeping the vestiges of a past which is coming undone, but also of elaborating audacious innovations, even if the traditional structures must thereby find themselves profoundly transformed (Lvi-Strauss 1943: 139). When they profoundly modify their structure, they do exactly this: the change is not radical or fundamental, but (to use a spatial analogy) the structure before and after transformation remains topologically equivalent (cf. Leach 1966). Dialectical and minimalist societies thus belong to the same transformational group (Lvi-Strauss 1971: 604). Relationships of hierarchy, domination and power exist in even the most apparently egalitarian Amazonian societies, and their formal manifestations wax and wane through time the fact that regressions and false archaisms (Descola 1988: 819) are found to be ever more widespread as archaeological research progresses shows that the multiplication of social scales is not merely the result of Western-instigated sedentarisation. This carries implications for what we should expect from future developments among the Trio and Wayana and elsewhere. From their own perspective, Guianese Amerindians experience the changes wrought by national and transnational influence on their own terms, although from a more objective, economic perspective they are quite clearly disadvantaged. As Gow has shown (2001), if they situate the initiative and motive force of change outside society, this constitutes a political stance consistent with their own indigenous cosmology. But more than this, it preserves the integrity of society itself, which remains a place in which external influence is transformed. The study of leadership can contribute further still to our understanding of indigenous Amerindian history. Taylor (n.d.) has described the complementary relationship between Jivaroan and Quichua historicities, whereby the difficulties of sustaining the Jivaroan self, which is based on an antagonistic relationship to the Other, can lead to illness, which must be cured by Quichua shamans whose power is based upon the ability to identify with alterity. The distinction between Jivaroan and Quichua identity is based upon differing views of history: Jivaroan history is narrated as the personal experience of a strong man (op. cit.: 18), whereas Quichua history is presented as the collective experience of phases from times of wildness through times of slavery to times of


civilisation (op. cit.: 28). Trio and Wayana historicity echoes both those of the Jivaroans and the Quichua. The leaders acquisitive and transformative activities echo the Quichua shamans songs which evoke a dream-like bric--brac mixing elements of different times, types of outsiders and ontological status (op. cit.: 23). But at the same time the forgetfulness of past identities, the focus on the leaders biography as constitutive of collective identity, and the leaders rhetorical maximisation of shared ontology and collective selfhood, not to mention the predatory relationship to alterity that is characteristic of Guianese warfare and hunting, all recall Jivaroan historicity. If this antagonistic relationship with the Other is hard to sustain and is vulnerable to erosion (op. cit.: 23) manifested as illness, and if Quichua-type historicity and shamanism are the cure, then it would seem that the Trio and Wayana have the best of both worlds: they balance their predatory and antagonistic ontology with an inclusive, identificational ontology capable of solving the problems of the former. The historical alternations between peace and war, between strong and weak forms of leadership, between inclusivity and exclusivity, and between fission and accretion, can be seen as corresponding to these two views of history, which are just as complementary and mutually dependent whether they coexist in one society or whether they are spread between two. For Amerindians, as Vilaa has noted (2006: 501), following Lvi-Strauss (1991), difference is structural, and must be maintained; this is paradoxically tied to a need to become the Other while remaining the same. In the Guianas, leaders position themselves at the axis between identification and difference, as the very hinge of this paradox. All of this may well raise more questions than it answers, and hopefully this can be translated into pathways to new research. An understanding of leadership combined with an appreciation of the transitory and personalised nature of property in Amazonia, for example, carries numerous implications for research on intellectual property and land rights: the exchange of plant knowledge needs to be seen in the context of a long history of trade in various forms with different kinds of people, and the difficulties of translating the intensely biographical relationships to space into collective titles, and vice versa, are but two subjects worthy of investigation. In the context of ever-increasing pressure and demand on Lowland South American peoples for their land and their knowledge, there is 242

urgent practical need for an Amazonian theory of property. Another benefit of such a theory would be to give a more solid basis to the style of analysis in Amazonian anthropology that Viveiros de Castro has called the political economy of control (1996). As Santos-Granero has noted (2007: 1-2), it is unfortunate that subsequent discussion has tended to reduce the three analytical styles that Viveiros de Castro tentatively identified to two (the moral economy of intimacy and the symbolic economy of alterity), which have sometimes become reified almost into models of Amazonian sociality. The control of persons and things in various forms has been a recurring theme in this thesis, and part of its importance lies precisely in its ability to reconcile and move beyond this ongoing dialectic between Hobbesian and Rousseauesque portrayals of Amazonian society. Property is a basis for control, and a basis for a political economy, but has been neglected in Amazonia in large part due to the intellectual history of Amazonianist literature. According to this tradition, the State has been assumed to be absent in the regions primitive, apolitical indigenous societies, which lack property, for as readers of Locke and Rousseau know, property is one of the requisites for the development of the State or commonwealth.349 As I have shown in this thesis, such a view is false. Property may be a defining attribute of the State, but it is also an attribute of Amerindian polities; in order to recognise this, property must be seen in a broader light; after all, if property is a condition for the State to exist, then it is prior to the State, and the State therefore does not define its form, although it may limit it. Much as Moutu (2003) has proposed for Melanesian societies, the distinctive Amazonian ways of relating to place, object, technique and knowledge, therefore need to be examined in terms of ownership and belonging. This has the added practical benefit of facilitating translations between Amerindian and State property regimes. Even the most sophisticated attempts to formulate theories of property tend to do so starting from Western categories and practices (e.g. Hirsch & Strathern 2004), because the final arbiter in property disputes is the law of the State. I have not discussed disputes and the relationship between legal constructions of property in this thesis because it has seemed to me that such a discussion can only take place profitably when a convincing theory of Amazonian property has been formulated on the basis of indigenous practices and indigenous perspectives. This thesis

Locke 1988: 285-302; 350ff; Rousseau 1992: 222.


has laid the groundwork for such a theory to be developed. To end with some more general conclusions: there are many implications for political anthropology in the fact that leadership is not only ingrained in the fabric of the everyday, but also articulates the transitions from ordinary life to extraordinary event, whether ritual ceremony or political gathering. Without any need for reliance on the introduction of inappropriate distinctions such as between tradition and modernity, music and objects can be seen as politically charged modes of communication and appropriation. There is no need for political anthropology to take the State as given; on the contrary, it should be open to different types of power relations, whether overtly political or embedded in daily practice. Mauss described politics as the conscious direction of society (1990: 247), and this can take many forms and requires many types of quality. It can also take place on the smallest of scales: what is meant by society in this phrase clearly has important implications for the nature of politics. The multiple scales of social action are most clearly illustrated by the Guianese distinction between the domestic and the ceremonial house, and this distinction also highlights that the dynamics of kinship relations can provide an atom of politics which radiates a minimal template for the disequilibrium on which all political relations are predicated. These scale relations show the interrelatedness of kinship, ritual and space, and how these should be understood alongside the personal qualities of leadership, and indigenous notions of property. This last element has become particularly neglected in political anthropology in recent years, largely because Marxist-oriented approaches have become less fashionable; in this, the baby seems to have been thrown out with the bathwater. Classical political theory clearly, and rightly, presents property as a political phenomenon, and I suspect that it may even be the most important one, whether it takes the form of slavery, feudal vassalage, the enclosure of the commons, or the foundation and naming of a village or of other forms of creativity. Anthropological political economy approaches tend to be influenced by Marxist and world systems theory, but these are by no means necessary foundations for analyses that focus on property relations as an important aspect of politics. Some authors have addressed anthropologys need to study property (Hann 1998; Hirsch & Strathern 2004; Moutu 2003; Verdery & Humphrey 2004), but without laying claim to its 244

specific importance for political anthropology; to do so would seem to me a worthwhile and significant project. Lack of attention to leadership in Amazonianist scholarship has led to focus on the individualism, personal autonomy and disaggregation said to be typical of the Guianas, and to attempts to subvert such an image. The study of leadership shows that such a polarisation of perspectives is misplaced. It reveals the existence and the value of a notion of collectivity, which has been ignored largely because of its ephemerality and because it is expressed in an idiom of kinship and social harmony rather than in formal institutions. Appreciation of the role of leadership in making the collectivity allows us to understand why the study of leadership has for so long been dominated by exchange models: as I showed in chapter 4, the leader does give things, such as words, objects and food, to coresidents. But, vitally, his very act of giving dissolves the difference between giver and receiver, obviating the requirement for reciprocity. Previous authors following Clastres and Lvi-Strauss have seen the leaders prestation and assumed a relationship of exchange (or its negation), because they could not understand that the transaction transformed the very opposition between giver and receiver into mutual identification. I have drawn attention to the importance of dual or multiple perspectives and their use by leaders, and it is this capacity of proliferation of identity and assimilation of the powers associated with difference that lies behind Amerindian leadership: leaders identify with alterity, creating solidarity among their coresidents; but they simultaneously identify with their coresidents, and share in their solidarity. The cover illustration is an example of this process: Mosesi, dressed in a shirt and trousers, distributes white bread from the city in the tukusipan. He wears the clothes of the Other (a White person or Creole), and feeds villagers the food of the Other; but he does so in the collective house which he himself sponsored, and the act of feeding is the quintessential process of kinship. Clothing and substance here represent one facet of leadership (alterity); place and act represent the Other (identification). This makes the dual nature of Guianese leadership clear: difference is the principal condition for society, and leadership is the creative act that transforms one into the other.


Appendix 1: The Marake: clarinets and bodily techniques The stinging ritual known among the Wayana as the marake1 is dedicated to the promotion and maintenance of bodily and moral integrity, continence and hardness, and thus to resistance to disease, and skill and vigour in both male and female activities. The tule of the Waypi, which shares some formal characteristics, is presented by Beaudet (1997) as, among other things, a realisation of a collectivity on the scale of a political faction, whereas the Wayana tule was a type of mourning ceremony. The clarinet, itself called tule in Waypi, is played in an orchestra using the hocket technique, as at the marake (see plate 12), but this is not the only common element: there is an important relationship between death and the renewal of the collective sociopolitical unit, and it is quite logical that similar ceremonies should exist for mourning and integration. Indeed, this is consistent with a wide range of accounts noting the similarity between funerals and initiation rituals (Bloch & Parry 1982 passim). The main instrument played during the marake is the waitakala (W) clarinet.2 Beaudet places this type of instrument and its associated rituals among the Waypi halfway along a continuum between individual, non-danced music and collective, danced music (1997: 38). The highest-pitched lead clarinet is played by a man of knowledge and charisma, who can play the tule repertoire well (confidently and beautifully) and correctly. He is usually the leader of a faction, and his performance, or else his decision not to perform,

A detailed description of the marake is given by Chapuis who, in apparent contrast to current Wayana usage, has suggested that it is more correctly known as the eputop (1998: 455 ff.). It is performed today as a simplified version of various different rituals of the past, which also included the tule and the pono (according to Crevaux (1993) these were mourning rituals). Similar rituals appear to have been common to different groups across the central Guiana region, and indeed to have been exchanged between groups thus the central song of the marake, the Kalau, is said to have come from the Upului (Chapuis & Rivire 2003: 385). 2 Izikowitz (1935) describes this type as a reed flute. They are bamboo (Guadua sp.) flutes, described by H. Rivire as follows: These large ceremonial clarinettes (between roughly 50 and 120cm) are composed of two elements: an exterior tube of green luwe hle bamboo (or alternatively in kulekle cannon wood or kulumuli bamboo), without any holes, and a simple idioglot beating reed cut in a short piece of luwe-akin bamboo (inserted in the perforated first knot of the exterior tube) (1994: 56). They were also played at several other types of dance, but few of these are now performed.


can be used as part of his political strategy for the promotion of his faction (Beaudet 1997). These observations seem to apply equally well to the Wayana marake.

Plate 12: Waitakala clarinet orchestra, olok headdresses and kawai percussion sticks in front of the tukusipan for the marake (drawing by Demas).

The central focus of the marake is the ceremony at which woven kunana mats impregnated with stinging ants or wasps are applied to the legs and torso of the tpiem or candidates, who afterwards observe a period of isolation and abstinence from certain foods. Although the marake brings both boys and girls into adulthood, the ritual is not strictly an initiation, because it may be repeated any number of times through life, in order to maintain hardness, a form of bodily discipline and resilience which invites the suggestion that the marake is a form of ascetic practice. The marake is thus better characterised as a process dedicated to the making of the person and the collectivity, much as Erikson has described with regard to tattooing among the Pano (1986). As 247

Henley has noted (2001), since Seeger et al. (1979) showed the importance of the construction of the person in Amazonia, ceremonies and rituals have been interpreted as contributing to individual growth, development and death, but the question of how and to what extent these ceremonies may simultaneously operate on the level of the collectivity has consequently been neglected. The marake shows bodily practice on a collective level. The Kalau song, a cycle considered to be of outstanding power and beauty, is sung for male initiation.3 It is sung by the leader of the visitors (the dancers), who are always part of collective feasts in the Guianas.4 It is sung in its own language, based on Wayana, with added or inverted syllables, and additional words borrowed from other languages such as Tupi-Guarani (Barbosa 2002: 148). Knowledge of the Kalau is therefore highly specialized, and possessed only by a few individuals in Antecume Pata there is said no longer to be anyone who knows all of the Kalau cycle, although there are several men who can recite parts of it. I heard men singing it at a drinking party in Antecume Pata, but they told me they were only singing it for fun, because they did not know it all. Even in this case, however, we should see the singing of the Kalau as a prestation, part of an exchange of knowledge for collective renewal. As Schoepf (1998) has noted, the marake, like the visitors feasts (which he puts in a separate category although they are in fact by no means mutually exclusive), involves the presence of non-residents,5 who bring knowledge and thus the power to transform soft, vulnerable children into hard adults. Leadership is essential to such rituals on numerous levels: to organise the event, ensuring that the candidates observe the preparative food prohibitions correctly, to lead the music, to chant correctly, to invite non-residents, and so on. The arcane language of the Kalau and the length of the cycle make the knowledge of it all the more prestigious, and the role of a man with such knowledge is of corresponding importance. Similar rituals had already been suppressed among the Trio by missionaries by 1963 (Rivire 1969), but they are still carried out by the Wayana and Apalai of the

3 4

See Chapuis & Rivire (2003) for a transcription of the Kalau. According to Hurault it is sung by a member of the host village who takes a place among the dancers (Hurault 1968: 90). Barbosa (2002) claims that the principal task of the visitors is to sing the Kalau. Similarly, Henley notes that men of progressive degrees of non-relation are responsible for the initiation of young Panare men (2001: 211). 5 Crevaux also notes that the dancers at a Wayana Toule festival that he observes are almost all foreign to the tribe (1993: 322).


Maroni and Litani in French Guiana, as well as on the Paru de Leste in Brazil. Elderly Trio such as Rime told me that the Trio used to conduct marake rituals, and many Trio speak of the Wayana of French Guiana and Brazil as privileged possessors of knowledge they themselves have lost. The rituals had become rare on the Maroni and Litani in the 1990s, but in recent years they have been becoming more frequent several took place in various villages around the time of my visits there, although I never witnessed one myself. Local people say that they celebrate the marake with greater frequency today because they are concerned that young people are becoming soft and lazy, vulnerable to the corrupting influence of garimpeiro gold prospectors, tempted by the bright lights of the coastal cities, and ever less knowledgeable about the forest and garden. Influential and responsible men leaders, though not necessarily official village capitaines or chefs coutumiers are promoting the marake to maintain social cohesion in the face of the dispersal favoured by modern conditions. Leaders thus promote these ceremonies and decide when they will take place; this is in keeping with the ceremonies themselves, which at once serve to mediate with the outside and promote the continuity of the collectivity all fundamental aspects of leadership. Meanwhile the skill required to organise the ceremony, to make the instruments and lead the dance, and sing the kalau, all require and demonstrate the personal abilities expected of a leader.


Appendix 2: The domestic house and related structures The house is a dynamic object, which manifests living relationships and the movement of people. Ordinary houses (pakoro (T/W)) can take on a variety of forms, but share a single basic design: Four vertical corner posts of hardwood (typically kunawa), support horizontal lintels of lighter wood. At least one other, longer hardwood post, centrally placed, supports the middle part of the ridge purlin. The gable lintels carry vertical posts that support the ends of the ridge purlin at the gable; the side lintels and ridge purlin carry rafters, to support the courses of thatch. A ridge pole is laid over the rafters where they cross the ridge purlin, to carry the ridge thatch. The gable ends may be covered with thatch, the double battens either being connected to the last rafters in such a way as to form a flat gable, or else fanned out using further vertical posts supporting extra rafters to make a hood-shaped round gable or apse. In the latter case, the effect is to give the house a lozenge shape, a form known as paiman. The gable end away from the prevailing wind is sometimes left open. In the past, the eaves usually reached to the ground, but it is now more usual, in houses designed for sleeping in, to have walls made of planks, secured with nails, either closely fitting each other vertically or slightly overlapping horizontally. In other buildings used for cooking, eating, weaving, processing manioc and other activities, the eaves are lengthened using long palm leaves such as kumu, or else the sides may be left open. Corrugated zinc is often used instead of thatch, both for main houses and outhouses, and, being only available to those who can afford it, has prestige value.6 Flat roofs, inclined in order to let the rain run off, are often used for dog houses and cookhouses. They are made of old pieces of corrugated zinc, flattened oil barrels or old sections of thatching, or a patchwork of any combination of these. Some houses simply have beaten and brushed earth floors. This is the case for all houses which are not designed for sleeping in, with the following exceptions: the school, the clinic, the airstrip

As it makes the house hot during the day and cold at night, its only practical qualities are its durability and ease of installation; the former quality also has symbolic importance.


radio building, the Telesur radio house, the Jaraware library, the ACT buildings, and dog houses. This last exception, which may appear incongruous, shows the great care that is taken of dogs. Although they often howl miserably while tied or chained into their houses, where they are often not fed in preparation for a hunt, the floor protects them from chiggers, enabling them to run faster. The buildings mentioned, as well as some of the main domestic houses, have floors made of planks carried on beams supported by the main posts, to which they are attached with dado joints this type of raised house, now known simply as pakoro, is recorded by Frikel under the name mekoro-pan, because it had been adopted from Maroon house types (Frikel 1973); the Maroons in turn may have adopted this form from the Kalina, who Hurault records as using a similar design (Hurault 1973). In domestic houses, they are usually constructed high enough to allow the space beneath to be used for various activities, such as chatting, drinking and dancing. The planks used for walls are, in some houses, of a rough kind cut with a machete, but floors require well cut planks made with a chainsaw. They are therefore expensive. There is a clear correlation between the types of houses owned by people, their wealth, and their position in the village. Economic difference is clearly visible, and materials from the city demonstrate a command of relations with the world of Pananakiri. Pikumi has a large, expensive house, with a floor and corrugated zinc roof, as do Mosesi, soro, Pesoro and Ksi. All of them have two storeys, and Mosesi has enclosed the lower storey of his house and divided it into windowless rooms which are kept locked, and where he is rumoured to keep a great store of manufactured objects. Akuriyo have modest houses with beaten earth floors, old thatched roofs and machete-cut plank walls. Kuritunes is particularly humble, as his lack of a wife combined with his status as an Akuriyo make almost inevitable even more emphatically in his case than for any other Akuriyo, it is impossible for him to summon a work party. It is made almost exclusively of forest products, manifesting his association with that domain. It might be suggested that the Akuriyo choose to live in such humble houses because, as former hunter-gatherers proper and forest-dwellers, they have a different relationship towards domestic space. However, their often-expressed desires to be like the Trio, and the practical impossibility for them to have better houses for the reasons given above, make this possibility negligible. 251

Most people have houses whose features lie somewhere between these extremes, although there is a clear gap between the best Akuriyo house and the worst Trio or Wayana house. Pirous house stands out because as a Trio it is unusual for him to have machete-cut plank walls and no floor. However, he has a high roof of corrugated zinc without walls next to the dwelling-houses, beneath which the women (of which there are many in his household) regularly prepare beer. This seems to be the remnant of a longpostponed project to build a less modest house but the zinc is put to good use. It is significant that the first of Pirous daughters to marry did so quite recently: with a son-inlaw to help, Pirou may well build further. W, who has a lot of money because of his entrepreneurship and his government connections, but who is unpopular because of his exploitative attitude to trade, has a small house, but it is decorated with every imaginable trapping: apart from a zinc roof and a plank floor, he has a glass window, and even a satellite dish. The house built by Mosesi as a hunting lodge for the government official M, which I used during the first part of my stay in the village, has two verandahs, at the front and back, from which visiting government officials on one occasion idly watched over the villagers while sipping rum, and an outhouse (kept locked when the house is not being used), containing a European style toilet, fitted with a reservoir to fill the cistern with rainwater. To see the way in which the patronage of outsiders functions in the village, it is useful to consider the various housebuilding projects that have been initiated. Aside from Medisches Zending and the air authority, there are three main patrons in Tpu: M, Cees Koelewijn, and Amazon Conservation Team (ACT). M, although he represents the government ministry of social affairs, acts primarily on his own initiative, and in his own name, even if the funds he uses are provided by the state. Villagers therefore regard his projects as belonging to him, rather than to the state. He has built the house mentioned above, and an open sided house with a bar, overlooking the river. The idea of having a bar in Tpu was so extraordinary that I thought my interlocutor was joking when I heard the purpose of this new building, but upon closer inspection it was indeed clear that it was designed for this use and no other there are even locally constructed wooden armchairs for M and his entourage to lounge in when they visit. M pays his workers well, in their own view; he also obtains building materials effectively, and he gives a regular payment 252

to a brother and a niece of Mosesi (Atenio and Monjiek). These projects add greatly to Ms personal prestige, upon which he relies for his influence in the village. Cees Koelewijn, the missionary schoolteacher, has sponsored many building projects. The old school, near the church, was built at his request; he has had two different houses built for him to live in, and he organized the building of the Jaraware library building.7 His current project is to stimulate the village economy by encouraging the building of a tourist lodge, near the river. Except to build his own houses, he does not pay workers, but he provides good quality materials, and seeks to persuade people that each project is in their own interest, unlike M, who relies on the more rapidly effective levers of prestige and money. For this reason, Ceess projects tend to take a long time to be completed, particularly when, as occurred recently, the materials (e.g. petrol and nails) are used for other purposes in Ceess absence. The old school, in fact, was dismantled to allow some of the materials, particularly the corrugated zinc, to be reused for the guest lodge. Cees told me that on each day of the construction of the new building Pikumi would appear to observe the work. Ceess reaction was strictly to count the hours of manual work that everyone had carried out, and pay them by the hour; Pikumi had only observed, and therefore could not benefit financially. However, Pikumis presence was most likely designed primarily to ensure his partial association with the project, sufficiently for him to strengthen his existing claim (as village captain) to a part of the profits that the visiting tourists will eventually bring. Although Ceess buildings are, as he insists, public, they never lose their association with him, and they add to his more ambiguous prestige symbols of his authority, but at the same time of his (in local peoples eyes) somewhat mysterious purposes. The biographical associations of the houses built by M and Cees make them closer in

Jaraware is registered as a stichting or cultural association. The creation of such associations has emerged all over Amazonia as a way of overcoming the difference in trade practices between those of local Amerindian culture and those of national and global capitalism. There has been a proliferation of associaes among the Wayana and Apala of the Paru de Leste, and among the Trio and Kaxuyana of the Paru de Oeste. This began with the associao Apitu taking from Funai important responsibilities such as buying medicine and chartering aircraft, as a result of a government policy favouring direct support for communities instead of using Funai as an intermediary. Disputes over power and influence have led to rival foundations being created, along ethnic, residential or family lines, each aiming to gain greater control of resources for itself (Barbosa 2002: 61). As Barbosa has also observed (loc. cit.), foundations, although usually created with the intention of representing a collectivity rather than individual or family interests, often come to be dominated by individuals who claim ownership of them.


this respect to ordinary houses and the tukusipan, in terms of how they are regarded by local people, and show that any sense of community is inseparable from its sponsor. Similarly, the church in Tpu is associated with the first missionary who local Trio told me was the founder of the village, Claude Leavitt.8 On the other hand, certain other buildings have more anonymous associations. The current school building is associated with the government and the donor foundation that funded it. The environmental NGO, ACT, has two buildings in the village: the ACT clinic, and the adjacent school. Their builders were paid for their work, which appears to have been carried out with efficiency comparable to Ms projects. Unlike these, however, the ACT buildings have not in themselves contributed to the prestige of an individual sponsor. Although the boss or owner (entu) of ACT is the ethnobotanist Mark Plotkin, his delegation of the organizations work to other individuals, both Pananakiri and local people, seems to have ensured that the organization has its own identity. In French Guiana, there is less variation in quality of house and materials: in Antecume Pata, everybody has a good quality dwelling house, with wood-tiled roof, and finely cut timber, regularly treated with chemicals to protect against mosquitoes. These houses were paid for with state money, and built by professional Creole or Boni builders from Maripasoula or the coast. Although not all identical, they are of similar quality and size apart from those of the Chef coutumier and his immediate family, which are larger. There are some exceptions: those houses which have been built on the fringes of the villages and in St. Laurent, the new (rival) village on the east bank, follow roughly the pattern described above for Tpu, with some relatively new Apalai arrivals on another small island having very modest dwellings roughly comparable to those of the Akuriyo. The wood tiled houses, despite various modifications that some of their owners have made, constitute an anomaly in the practices associated with dwellings. They belong to those who live in them (for whom they were built), but they appear to be more alienable than ordinary houses built by their owners. Kulitaik and his family, for example, moved into the house which his cousins had vacated in order to move to St. Laurent. There may be

Leavitts foundation of the village itself, as discussed in the previous chapter, explains why Tpu is sometimes referred to by its residents as a white peoples village (pananakiri ipata), and why the leaders of the village remain so close to missionaries when they are present this way, they can appear as village founders by proxy.


a dimension of identity politics involved in the case of wood tiled houses. They are sometimes referred to as white peoples houses, because they were built by outsiders. I was told on one occasion by a drunken man who was speaking sarcastically about white people (W. palasisi), that the wooden tiles leak and are difficult to repair, and that zinc is, in fact, the best material. This may seem contradictory, since zinc is also of foreign origin, but unlike wooden tiles, zinc is used by men who build their own houses, rather than by foreign builders. It is an optimum material because it is durable, it has the prestige value of a scarce, extraneous resource, and yet it can be incorporated into local architectural practices. It is also easy to install, requiring less labour.


Appendix 3: Story of Mulokot. Told by Kulitaik. Original transcription and translation from Wayana by Demas. Mulokot eitoponp. Upak wayana ya tnei. Imyata lya akena. Ymyate tapek tamuoiman. Tanme u hapon. Moloin tat kai. Uwa muhnu pk tte, alaule muhnume. Imuhnume ml pk Wayana upak alaule pk, tyakai, tyakai, tyakai, tumkhe ipk hmel: paku, asitau, talani, walak. Tuwi ml pk lken wayana upak. Kai omolme tte m hem twln pona. Tanme iwete pu tom uhpo. Molon mkl tumkle. Tyakai mll katp. Yah-yah-yah-yah-yah, mhya alaule. Ml lken muhnume. Inuhnume wal. Epola ml pk ka tuwi eya. Moloin tumkmi, tw. Tuna mutam tkai. K niknma neha. Ma, tnei tpanan mai eya: kulo-kulo-kulo-kulo. tkai. Tuna mutomutom tkai, ml alaule patatp po. K, nkn ma mhe. Tyakun kephe, ipkla sike, tnei eya. Ke, nkn ma mhe. Ehet tuwalla upak, Wayana. Imyata man kom. Tnehem tlla, huwa, talhnaltom, ki tom hapon tapek, ipo, ehetmna. Mkle mhe katla. Moloin, tti lamna pono, tu top tpananmai. Tmeha yepe? Hei, ptna wtm, pakuwi, muhnu epai. nkpa muw? Uwa, paku lken, talani, walak, ml katp weha. Me? mkon? Uwa tal lken koweha. Tetuhe tot heme tpe mal hei tamusi tom imyata tom inaliktau upaphak, malipa silipyai tkai, upak wapot pk. Moloin tkali lknma hek wene, yepe? Tapa neha? K, katp. nik katp? K, nknma lken. Muto-mutom tkai. Lo tphe, imuhnu pk. nh katp pa neha, ka katp? Uwanma ka katpla. Tw tmilikhe. Me. nkn ma lken? Ma, pananman tamusiya tipananmai. nk tkai? nknma wene, nkei mi tkai. Tapa neha? Tunak wau? Tunak wau. Me. ti katip? Ka katp lome twln ma, pumali al katip ml ipumalin pk u-upsipan. Me. Uwa, Mulokot tkai. Mulokot mkl. Ipkla nahek eitk tkailep. Moloin, ai heneta tkai, twln. htpa. nkpamene tkai. Ke. Mulokot nka tamusi tom. Enehenma kohek wai? e. Ai? Ai heneta, ahpela katohme heneta thali tot myal. Tal, kan man? Tyakai ml alaule, tih tan muhnume mneh yomtya alaule. Moloin, tyakai ml: yah-yah-yah-yah, Mhya yapinan po tanonupsik po. Ka eklohpo eitohme. Tuw eya mye tumkmme. 256

Mlpona, upak tumkhe mkl mhe kan tikai enekma? Pepte mepsiknma ka. Ka, katpl. Lomenma tw tupye. Tih mehekan? Uw yai hek? Uwa. Kutuw nahek yepe. Uw yai hek? Uwanma pananmatla. Moloin, tuwe. Uwa yepe, ipk laik tkai lep, uwe yai enetohme tkai, ahpela katohme. kaikelep tuwk. Kai tahti kahenma tuw. Uwan ma tokolon - tokolon kala, tuw awomi: Kolo-kolo-kolo-kolo-kolo muto-mutomutom, peptame asimhak ttheml. Moloin, ml maka aptau, Upak mkl upaphak mn katp. Muwka tkai? Uw uwanma nai tkai le al, tenh upak ttim uwanma tlai kala, henela katp lken ttimi. Molonme, thalimi leptot: tenh. Mum km tuka? h emna numkm uluka mkmya, iye? Mkl, iptimn mkl. Malonme, enepkpa kusile? Ttahamai hapon ipun, upak eu yau iwal. Moloin, tuma tteimai kasili: tei, tei ulu anapam po, elimak yawla upok anapam po lken, tei tuma. Moloin tnei eya: tih. Sin nai tunah pepsik huwa, hel hapon yau, wei-wei-wei, uwahle nisu pukmala tkulephe ulu lken tkhe, kom-kom-kom. Tnei mkl msin, mama, alkle. iya ya tlimi talah, an iwok, palu ml - lupsik, kalapi yau upak (waiwatop) wokl psik sin. , klk, helep, upak aw. Ma lken, kasili yau, talelema yau, paluyau, asikalu euku twuhkai aw. Epih tti hemele mye, tunak wan, mnipi pamya. Sihnat euku elihe wtyai tkai, sihnat tpkai eya itu hale yak: Solo-lo-lo aw. Moloin tti mhya amat kuwak pit , tanme man mye imna tkai. Moloin, tnei eya: th hap tkai lken upaphak kin lken mn katp. Mye aw mlk wau amat kuwau. Enma, yapyep ya henma kohek, tulatai hapon eliktop myela ttihe. Asikalu lken tmei, ulu ihpala, tahku thpai, talele ma tom henma, oktom henma supek-supek aw. Aw inl - inl Mulokot inenetpil inuwtp l Moloin, tanme tapsik nunuwe ehetimna upak malpsik nunuw kunehak kunelik mkl katop tapek, nunuw ehet tuwalela. Ma, isela tkai mkl, Mulokot wtpan, tenh tuna uputpme ntm, ptna wtyahe mama. Elikhe wtyahe umk mla nai wahe tkai tenh ntm Kokopsik mya tuna uput ppsik yau mnke tot tamusi tom nekal lken. p opin: tulu-lu-lu tkai ml p opin. Tumekne, moloin, aklep hakin tnei eya tn tkai, uwa imna. Ale el ya henma tuna - tunahe wkehenma. Kai asimhak tti tuh-tu-tu-tu, tomotai lkene ikalhtau, ppp, makahle lken ml ton tkai amat, toh, koh-oh-oh-oh-peptame ikutpme upak asimhak tthe, Maka heneimla tkulephe, upak the, mkl Mulokot tya the, inuwt plya l, mkle ttampoi. Tkai Mulokot. Masike Mulokot tom pkla eitk, tnei ya he aptau 257

nuwla eitk, ipkla eitek, ipo pkla eitek. Talanman ipo ml katp mnkai mhnya kutamu, ipkla eik Tpu amatou tnei ya aptau ipkla eik, meneyai: th koko ipkla eik, twle niwei polaik weu yak mmtya. Huwa lken pneim, Mulokot, huwa lken. Maipulm tom man uwa Kulimawuim, tan nikyam komoi m tom man owa. Huwa lken man u yak tt hamo, linatim tom uwa man mkye kom, mkl hek Mulokotim, Pneim imeleka pola, tkai mkl ekaltop. Malonme tkohmamne eneimi tki epe tenh. Tanmenma nai yepe nelik tkai, tti eneim, Hm upak ikutpme tthe, upak wewe ttumo pupkai yawahe ikulumhak ene tamsiukatka maka. Eh, yepe neliku, tumkimi. Moloin iye ya tti, yepe nai nelik tkai. An, iye thamoi tipa line lken, ahpela tkai. Moloin thali kolankom hemele enei mi, iyen ptom, uwanma akwatpola, yahpine lanma huwa lhlenma tpkl ml amat uputp peptame ikutp the ml, molo tepatam ti inl Mulokot. Tkai mnkai mhnye Kutamu ml ekal lhtau mh Mulokot, eitop masike ipkla eik, ipkla eik enele lken, uwyai enetohme kala eik Mulokot tom pk wan yak mntya koto pon ptom Mulokot tom. Mle katp mhe ekali tot, mkl etutohme tthe mkle kalipono eliktop akenap ttpon. Maka hemal Mulokot he henelahle. Pknat p mklya lken tnei Tamusi Kuliyaman nuya. Mye malah hei Jar ametai malal, inipuku kumtau pluna pk lken. Mlme mkl yapsik lken tnei tan Mulokot wene kalanma mantot Wayana aletanik waltom, wene th nka mole nka molo Kalahle. Huwa masike ml hatp lken molona lken man mke ekaltop, tutop ipklo eik katop, welikyai katop, imyata tomaya. Imyatatomman Mulokot ehet tuwalla, Iulken wai tuwal. Mulokot ehet man tw mntam poya, nuwla eik, thwle ek nenela, ilw tn wepoya malal mnbetot mkya kai tamo ya. Kwanma ikulum haknma ya Mulokot huwa masika molo na lken man mhe Mulokot ekalt op. Myaman uwa tlekhe sike ttampei mkl. Huwa lken. Translation: Story of Mulokot. A long time ago the Wayana saw it. He was a young man, he was neither young nor old. A man like me. Then what did he do? Nothing much, he went to get alaule (poison) to catch fish. In those days the Wayana fished just with alaule, he put it everywhere by the river. The fish came everywhere because of the alaule: paku, talani (pacoussines), walak (carp). They were killed by the Wayana. After a few days the man 258

went a bit further. Perhaps near the bottom of the river. Then the mulokot came. The man put alaule as before, yah yah yah. He fished all the time with alaule I think. So he fished just with alaule. Then, he came back. He saw that the water was dirty. he said, what is it? He looked carefully and listened but the water was very dirty where he had put the alaule, he heard kulo kulo and muto-muto-mutom What is it? He looked well because he didnt touch and the water was calm. What is it? The Wayana didnt know. This man who was like me. Weve never seen the Mulokot because he isnt like a snake, hes a water spirit. Then, he heard the old people telling stories. Where were you, yepe? (said his friend) I went fishing, to catch pakus. What did you catch? Nothing, just pakus, pacoussines, carp I see And you? Nothing, I was just here. They talked like this, the young Wayana and his friend. The old people were around the fire. The young people were behind them. Nearby. The old people said, be careful of the fire. Then they (the young men) say to each other, You know what I saw, my friend? What was it like? I dont know what What was it like? I dont know who it was. The water became very dirty. Mulokot dug, he ate earth. What is he like? Is he like a fish? No, he isnt like a fish. He is different, he has a special colour. I see! So what is he like? The elders heard them. What is it? What did I see? said the man to the elder. What was it like? (said the elder) Was it in the water? Yes, it was in the water. I see! What was it like? Like a fish, but not like a fish; he has something like body ornaments. He has something like a fin I see! No, its Mulokot, he said (the elder). It was Mulokot. You mustnt touch it. Then someone said he wanted to go and see. Where did you see it? What did you see he said. I dont know. The elders say its Mulokot! I want to see it. OK. Shall we go? Lets go and see, to make sure. They went over there. Is it here? He put alaule as before, th. Then he put alaule, yah-yah-yah-yah because the fish had just arrived. When he turned round after killing the fish, Mulokot appeared Its him! Do you see him? He is quite big. A fish, a bit like a fish but not like a fish. There he is! Is he there? Can I kill him? No. You mustnt kill him. Can I kill him? You can if you want, but I dont want you to. Then, he killed him. No, my friend, you must leave him. I want to kill him to see him properly. OK, kill him. He killed him. But he isnt like a fish; he goes tokolon-tokolon kolo-kolo-kolo-kolo-kolo muto-muto-mutom, he digs the earth straight away. Then it was finished. The first 259

Wayana was further away than his friend. Have you killed him already? Yes, Ive already killed him. He brought an arrow and came nearby to see. But he (Mulokot) wasnt dead; he had left; it was hard to see. The two Wayana left, tenh. Are you back? said the mother of the second Wayana Yes, were back. Do you want to eat? (he didnt have a wife) Then he said, bring (food), I will eat. He was a bit sad, because Mulokot was hurting him. Then, she gave him manioc juice with chilli-peppers: tei, tei, and some cassava bread on the fan. Because in the past there were no bowls. Then, he saw the Mulokot in the manioc juice, in a pot, tih. (there was just a bit of liquid there, but Mulokot was in it, wei-wei-wei (playing)). He didnt dip his bread in the juice. He just ate the bread, kom-kom-kom. He saw him (mulokot). He said to his mother take it away. OK. His mother took it away, and she gave him banana juice in the calabash. Here is your drink. OK, klk (he took it), he saw Mulokot in the drink, he saw him in the cassiri, in the banana juice, in the sugar cane juice, always in the liquid. Then he went to bathe, but he (Mulokot) is still there in the river. The Wayana began to grow thinner. Then he said he wanted to go in the forest, he wanted to drink the juice of a liana there, but Mulokot was there. He said Solo-lo-lo (hes in there). Then he went into the forest, to the top of a little creek, he thought Mulokot was not there. Then, he went tih to where the water came out of the mountain. But the Mulokot was still there. Enma (Im very thirsty), he said, Im very hungry; he was a bit thin. He ate only sugar cane, but not cassava in cassiri. He preferred drink, he wanted cassiri. But there was always Mulokot, as before, whom he had killed. The, from that moment, the elders dont know when exactly, in which month, the Wayana died. He didnt want to see the Mulokot any more; he disappeared tenh; he had gone into the forest. Im going hunting, he said to his mother; he said I wont come back, Im going to die in the forest. He went to the forest in the morning. Thats what the elders said. Under the mountain: tulu-lu-lu, he heard the water, he went to drink it, then he went to drink the water under the mountain, tn he thought, it seemed to him mulokot wasnt there. Im going to drink it because Im very thirsty, he said. Then he went very fast, tuh-tu-tu-tu, he ran, afterwards he drank the water, but after he drank it the water became like a storm, then, the water became very big like the sea, toh, koh-oh-oh-oh-. The man was never seen again because Mulokot had eaten him. The elders say that you mustnt touch Mulokot, you 260

mustnt kill him, and you mustnt kill a water spirit. Thats what my grandfather said, you mustnt kill mulokot when you see him by the rock. From this evening you mustnt touch him because hes a water spirit, and you must be very careful. You mustnt touch a water spirit, or Mulokot; Maipulm [tapir spirit] and Kulima [paka spirit] and the other spirits arent like that [you can touch them]. You mustnt touch linatim [another water spirit]. You can touch [i.e. shoot] the others, but not that one. The next morning his friend [first Wayana] went to see him tenh [he went to look for him in the forest]. But the little creek had become as big as the sea, there were no more trees in the forest, the water was like the sea, very big. It was very frightening, one couldnt look at it. Eh, my friend has died because of Mulokot. He returned to the village. Then he went to the mother of his friend and said my friend is dead. Then his mother cried. Then all the elders went to see in the forest, even the Wayanas parents, but they couldnt find him. The water had become like the sea, there were no more trees, the water was very high. So, Mulokot is alive. It was my grandfather who said that when he told the story of Mulokot. You mustnt touch it, you must only look, but you mustnt kill it because its a water spirit. Thats what the old people say. Im not making it up, its what the ancient people said. Now one doesnt see the Mulokot. Only Kuliyaman, who saw it at Inipuku on the Jari, has seen it among the people of today. He saw it by his arrows when he went fishing. Only he has seen it. The other people had never seen it. So it was just to tell the story and to make conversation, and so that one doesnt touch and is very careful, so thats what the ancients say to young boys. The young boys didnt know the name of Mulokot, so I learned the story from my grandfather, I know about Mulokot from my grandfather; Thats how I tell the story. You mustnt touch, only look. Mulokot made me very afraid. It was just to make conversation. I cant go on because the young man died because of Mulokot. Thats all.


Appendix 4: Trio Relationship Terminology9

Parallel Generation Grandparent Male Tamo, tamusinp Female Noosi, noosinp, kuku Parent Ego/ e Ego/ y Papa, pa, pahko Piipi pii, pihko (j)akmi, (ji)kri, kami, jar. Mama, ma, manko Wi, wiko (Ji)wri (=) (J)ee, (Jee)t, Tamu, tamusinp; jau (W/HF) Konoka, Pito (male ego) Enmernp (female ego. Addressed as jeet) (j)injo (H) mi, minko, ae, aenp (H) Child (j)inmuku (j)eemi (j)inmuku Jipam (DH, BDH, ZDH, SDH) Grandchild (j)ipa (j)ipa (j)eemi Jipaeje (SW, BSW, ZSW, MBW) kori, koko (female ego) Enmernp (male ego. Addressed as jiwri or address avoided) (ji)p (W) mi, minko, ae, aenp (W) Jaup (W/HM) Male Tamu, tamusinp Cross Female Nosi, noosinp, kuku

Diagram 4 (After Dumont 1983: 10; based on Rivire 1969: 284ff. and Carlin 2003: 139-40, and checked against my own data).

Terms not necessarily expressing specific relationships: o o o o o o o krinmuku: boy wrinmuku: girl tamutup: old man notip: old woman Musere, mupiro, kunme, kr-pisi: little boy Papot, tato, wri-pisi: little girl (j)emu: baby boy (lit. testicle)

Names given in italics, including the possessive suffix (given in brackets) when applied, are also terms of address. All others are simply terms of reference for a third person.


o (j)epa: baby girl (lit. vagina) (Carlin glosses these last four sets as grandson and granddaughter). o jako: friend, comrade. Carlin glosses jako as of the same (age) status (male ego). In todays usage, unrelated women of the same age status frequently address each other as kori jako and kori are the terms that were used by most people of our own age to address me and my partner in the field. In Tpu, Trio Wayana and Akuriyo men address each other as jako in most cases (e.g. Ksi - Kuritune, Thomas - Pilou). Carlin also gives the Wayana yepe as a rough equivalent of jako now also used by the Trio. Rivire states that kori and koko were not used as address terms, and the reason for this is undoubtedly because relationships between affines used to be more reserved. According to Carlin, jar is a Prop word (see chapter 5). She appears to claim (although her meaning is not quite clear to me) that jar and kami are mutual address terms for men sharing a grandfather. But the conflation of affines and kin in the grandparents generation means that if this were so then everyone would call everyone else of the same generation kami or jar, which is clearly not the case. A development which seems to have occurred between the time of Rivires fieldwork and that of Carlin is that men and women can now address their potential wives and husbands as jiwri and jeet respectively. In the past, and in my own experience, there was no direct address form for such a relationship. Again, like the use of kori and jako, this is a reflection of the recent relaxation of the relationship between affines. However, I never witnessed this usage, and it is therefore possible that it is restricted to Kwamalasamutu, where Carlin conducted her research. Note that cross and parallel grandparents and grandchildren are not distinguished in the relationship terminology, a fact which greatly reduces the likelihood of the existence of descent groups or lineages, and which corresponds to the canonical dravidianate (cf. Henley 1995). My data correspond with those of Rivire with the following exceptions and additions: o Piipi does not refer to MH o Akmi does not refer to SW


o Jenmrinp, according to one (male) informant, can be used to address a potential spouse, although it would be funny suggesting a relationship of joking or flirtation, rather than avoidance.10 However, another (female) informant said that there was no appropriate term of address for MBS or ZH. Jaup still has no direct address term. o Inmuku does not refer to ZH. o Eemi does not refer to BW. o Tamusimp is also used of someone long dead. o Jau and jaup can both be used for both mother- and father-in-law, and the former appears to be less common. o Jipam can also refer to SDH (Ksi addressed Ercilio in this way). o Tamo is also used of spirits (as in the past, although this was not included as part of the relationship terminology by Rivire), and now it is additionally used of our Lord. o Pahko is similarly used to translate Our Father. In one case (Tiwimo of Nauku and Ksi), wiko was used to address W(d)M and W(d)MB. The speaker, Tiwimo, lives with his W(d)M, and next door to his W(d)MB; this case shows that the institution of ZD marriage can also operate in reverse: marriage to a woman can make her mother and mothers siblings into brothers and sisters. In sum, the principal changes in terminology appear to reflect a weakening or softening of the reserved nature of relationships between affines (jau, jaup, jenmrinp), and an increased familiarity between genealogical non-relatives or potential affines. The cause of this may be said to be the increased frequency of marriage between individuals more distantly related than cross-cousins, and the more frequent company of genealogical nonrelatives, both of which are due to increased village size and travel between villages. According to my data, in Akuriyo relationship terminology, as in Trio, there is one word for parents-in-law of both sexes: kutune:ton (cf. jaup). Akuriyo has an additional interesting feature: kutune:ton is also the equivalent of the Trio word pito. The Akuriyo term thus captures the essence of the nature of the affinal relationships of parents- and brother-in-law: it can be suitably glossed as wifegiver although Akuriyo does have other terms for affines, such as wtinana (T. konoka, WB etc.), ye:na:no (T. enmrinp, FZD etc.), pahtje (T. jipaeje, SW, etc.), jitanana (if near) or wtinananme (if far) (T. ipam, DH, etc.),11 tje:emp (T. jeet, MB, etc. direct address).

10 11

Cf. Radcliffe-Brown 1940. This distinction seems to refer to an uxorilocal and an autonomous son-in-law respectively.


Appendix 5: Story of Jaguar and Deer. Told by Rime. Original transcription and translation from Trio by Demas. Ma meinjar tamusanton inponopp wiponojae. Tamutupton inponop kaikuip. Irme Kaikui tte iwae, tot rate. Ma irmao, tpose ija wkapau mono Amatawana. Irmao tpsere ija. Irmao tkonkae ija. Twaratake, tretke. Irme kaikuijapa tnontae. Irme wtoto tte, iwae. Irmao ttae ija, twse tese. Owankan par jwewa ek, wetarama jikonka, ok wja tkae. Japise tkae. Owa apsewa wae par tkae. Ok kasanne tkae. Krpa kukujapa krk tkae. Owa japisenai tkae. Owa tkae. Kone irnppe tnpo tre ija. Trepa ija, iptjapa tre ija. Irme ip krr tkae ijeta. Kure japjan toto tkae. Owa apsewa wae par tkae. Apsewa kuku tkae. ije nai kuku tkae. Ma irmao tepatakae. Tmike tese kaikui. Irme tkaramae ija tarno ipme. Ekatao tese. Tponte ija oninpkenke, akuri aptoke, pasinure, pakira, peinjeke, pai, wkapau ir apo iwarar tkuse ija. Ma irmao tpse ija oknpken pakira, wkapau, kajak oknpken, akuri, seu, kurimau tre ija amrar. Owa nrta me tkae kaikui, ipapa. Ma, irmao oknpken tpse. Ma irmao oknpken tpse. Twese ikonka nenp, tnawae nr wkapau mono Amatawana. Witon, witon, witon, tkae ken. Ma irmao, anhhn, anhahanhan tpitnpik, anhhn, anhahanhan tpitnpik, anhhn, anhahanhan tpitnpik tkae. Tuna pona tte enhtome mar. Irmao twese tepatakae ma kure kata tkae tnjoja. Kure kata metakene tkae. Ijeta iret iwarata ir. Ma irnppe, tnawaepa: Witon, witon, witon anhaha tpitnpik kenesaru, anhaha tpitnpik kenesaru [in high voice of deer]. Soka kapota tepe. Twepse narike, kaikui twae, ija tan, tan. Ma irnekat tunakao tese kopo. Tnse ija irpon krpa kapota tese, twepse, twepse, twepse. Wa waken, kapewa twtonanje mjan. Nonotao kento tese. Ma irmao nmnjan tunakao purin. Irmao tpse ijane tunahao, knr tnjo mar kure apk tkae. Turu watese. Irmao ipapa sasame tese serpa kutunna tese ikonkato ponp ija. , kmi, knmuku tahken nepor tkae, ipapa. Kmi tahken nepor irnekat tkae. Irme mpa ktnne epe epuse wte tkae kaikui ikonkap. Irme tepe, tepuse. Irmao ttepa emi. 265

Ma mekae pako tkae emi turu wkapau. Mepopa ekekeken mijaremati. Senpopa jikonkanenp, tkae kaikui ipapa. Naka kurepa tese. Wtoto ipme wein. Kapewa tarno tese tnepitae kaporoken ot tjere ija pijasa rken. Irme nr tnere ija. Irja tnepita nse tarno wtoto. Ma irmepa tte. Wtotopa tte. Tte emi tnjo iwatomepa. Tposepa ija mpa, tterepa. Ma irnppe tteinkrpa. Ma irmao, twekenaepa ija kaikui japa iptja. Ma irmao, atkaepa mnepnkr tkae, irmao nwn. Owa, owa, jwseta wae tkaere kaikui, ip. Twe ija turu watese tpinae ija wewe otata. Toran ttuntaepa pata ponapa. Ma irnppe ipapa trewainaeken. Jemi takar neriki tkae. Ant iweike kaikui tte. Ir apo. Tsikaepa ija sotan trepa ija tptjapa kminai trise tkae. Irme wtotopa tmoitrta tte. Irpo tese, irpo, irpo, ikuwae tte imoit iwepto. Tunaka tewa. Ma irnekat tnepitae imoit tuna watop. Eptanpa tkae. Kone! Irme tteto tapimere. Ninmjanken kaikui ir po. Irme twae ija imoitrja. Irmao nenmjan mr wtoto irnppe kaikuija tpse. Irnppe ken ttepa kaikui. nna tpanse ipapa rja. Ir apo tamusan inpono pp pena, ir muretiton enpatome pena. Ir aponai penatonp iwetoponp kanto. Ma ir rken, irtae rken jinetap. Naka meinjar. Translation: Today I tell a story of the ancients. What the ancients tell of Jaguar. Well, the jaguar had gone into the forest to hunt his game. Then he found the big deer, (wkapau mono Amatawana). Then the jaguar could attack the deer. Then the deer wounded the jaguar. He wounded him with his horns. So the jaguar hated him. Then a man went hunting. And then he heard the sound of jaguar, and at first he wanted to kill the jaguar. No, my child, you mustnt kill me, the bit of wood hurts me, so come to me, says the jaguar. The man thought the jaguar wanted to eat him. No, I dont want to eat you, says the jaguar, Come and help me, he says. You must come to your grandmother, the jaguar says to him. No, he wants to eat me, the man thinks. No, I wont eat you, the jaguar said to him. Later they agreed, then the man put the jaguar on his back to bring him to his wife. Then, the jaguar brought the man to his wife. So, the wife of the old jaguar makes a lot of noise. I hope he doesnt eat me, thinks the man. No, I wont eat you, my child (par), says the old jaguar to the man. Your grandmother wont eat you, says the old jaguar to him, your grandmother wants to look after you, he says to him. So the man and the old 266

jaguar went back to the place of the old jaguars wife. The old jaguar had a daughter. So the old jaguar gave him his daughter, so that they could marry each other. The man was looked after by the old jaguar. The old jaguar gave him some jaguar costumes, to catch agouti, collared peccary, white-lipped peccary, tapir, deer, and so the man learned to hunt like the jaguar. Then the man tried to hunt peccary, deer, agouti, and he also brought home some game like paca. No, it wasnt him, the one who hurt me, says the old jaguar to his daughter. So, the husband of his daughter tries hunting more game. Then, later, the man tried to hunt the deer that had hurt the old jaguar. The deer came to play his flute, it is he, the big Amatawana, who wounded the old jaguar. Witon, witon, witon, the deer plays his flute. Then, anhhn, anhahanhan tpitnpik (3 times), sings the deer. The deer went to the river to drink water. Then the deer arrives at the river, you have to attack him well, says the daughter of jaguar to her husband. You have to attack him well, I think its him, says the jaguars daughter to her husband. He has a lot of horns, those are his arrows. Then, he sings and plays his flute, Witon, witon, witon anhaha tpitnpik kenesaru, anhaha tpitnpik kenesaru [in high voice of deer]. He is up for a long time to bathe. He is afraid, and looks around, over there, over there for the jaguar. Then, he goes right into the river. He drinks some water and stays much longer still in the river looking. Nothing there any more, the man and the daughter of the jaguar are hidden. They are hidden on the ground [in the forest]. Then the deer goes right into the river. Then they attack the deer, we have to attack him, says the wife to her husband. So the deer died. Then the father jaguar was very happy, and he was no longer in pain from where the deer had wounded him. Well, perhaps, our daughter and our son have killed the deer, says the old jaguar to his wife. Perhaps our daughter has already found the deer, says the jaguar to his wife. So, we must go and wash ourselves, says the old jaguar to his wife. So they washed themselves at the river. Then the daughter came home. Its him, the deer, the daughter says to her father, and put the deer next to him. Yes, its him, the deer, how did you kill him, says the old jaguar to his daughter. It was these horns that wounded me, says the old jaguar to his daughter. Then, the old jaguar was healed. Well, the daughter of Jaguar was the wife of the man. But the man could not live any longer with them because jaguars do not cook their meat well. So he only ate a little of the jaguars meat. But he did not want to eat more because it was not cooked in the 267

Trio way. So he went home. He went back to his people. Then the daughter of the old jaguar goes to look for her husband to ask him to come home. Then, she finds him on his way and brings him back with her. Then, he goes back again on the same path. This time his jaguar wife goes with him because she does not want him to go back to his people. So her husband says to her, why have you come with me again?, then he kills his wife. No, no, I dont want you to kill me, says his jaguar wife. He kills her, she is dead, then he puts her in a hole in the trunk of a tree. Then, the man goes back home to his village. Then, the father of the jaguar starts thinking that his daughter has been beaten by her husband. I think my daughter is in trouble, says the jaguar. Then, he goes to look for his daughter, because he is a good hunter. There. The jaguar gets his daughter out from under the ground, then brings her to his wife. Well, the man went back to his family in his village. He stayed at home, and only his family went to get water from the river for him to wash. Because he could not go to the river. But his family grew tired of going to get water for him at the river. Go and wash, they say. Very well! So, he goes to the river to wash with many other people. The jaguar is stalking him in the village. So, the family of the man look everywhere for the jaguar around the village. Then the man goes to the river to wash, then the jaguar comes to attack him. Then the jaguar runs away, he goes to his home in the forest. Thats how the jaguar attacked the man who killed his daughter. Thats what the ancients used to tell in the old days to the young children. Thats what the ancients used to tell. And there, thats what I have learned of this story. Thats all now.


Appendix 6: Story of Aturai The story of Aturai (from Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 253-61) begins: Aturai lived long ago, in a time when there were many people. In the area of Samuwaka lived many Trio: Prujana, Trjo, Akjo, and others. Some had come this way, to the Tapanahony: Waripi or Okomojana, who had mixed with the fierce Akuriyo. The Akuriyo and the Okomojana were trading-partners. In fact both the Akuriyo and the Okomojana were known as fierce people. The Prujana however were trading-partners with Trjo and Aramajana. They lived together, just as we now see Trio living here together with Waijana, and elsewhere [at Kwamala Samoetoe] Trio living together with Waiwai and Tunajana (Koelewijn & Rivire 1987: 253). Aturai and his younger brother are kidnapped by the Akuriyo and Okomojana.12 Aturai learns that the Akuriyo plan to eat them both, so he escapes back to his own village. Once there, it emerges that he has superhuman abilities as a wrestler and warrior. He convinces the other Trio to prepare themselves for war, and they surround the Akuriyo and Okomojana village and kill everyone except one child. This child leads them to another village, where they try to kill everyone, but another child covered in eagle down, who first appears on top of the roof of a house, proves to move too fast for them to kill. This child, called Maritik, turns out to have even greater supernatural abilities than Aturai, and he can hunt prodigious quantities of game using only a spear or a machete. Aturai, worried that Maritik may seek revenge on the Trio, decides to give him a wife and thus make him junior (pito, jipetome wapjae (Koelewijn 1984 vol. 1: 245)). Maritik refuses to kill some relatives of the Akuriyo who had been killed by the Trio when asked to do so, because he has not yet been given a wife. The Trio kill many more Akuriyo. Maritik says that he is a Pianakoto. He is given incisions, and cleansed with a certain moss used for the purpose of cleansing prisoners of war. Finally Aturai is satisfied


These are current Trio names for peoples which did not necessarily define themselves in the same way. This story should not be seen as being about real groups, but as manifesting both a sociopolitical and an ecological view of the universe see chapter 5.


with the revenge he has taken. 13


The Okomojana and the Akurijo now live peacefully with the Trio, primarily in Kwamalasamutu and Tpu respectively; the only difference is that the Okomojana, as far as I am aware, intermarry with and are treated as equals by the Trio, in contrast with the Akuriyo. Two reasons may be suggested for this contrast: (1) the Okomojana, unlike the Akuriyo, appear to have already known about horticulture, and (2) the missionaries appear to have taken a less direct role in the integration of the Okomojana (see chapter 5).


Appendix 7: Land and territory The legal position of the Surinamese state, that land occupied by indigenous peoples is conceded to them by the state temporarily (Kambel & Mackay 1999: 178), has partly resulted from its profiting from the Amerindians quite different attitude towards land as property. The general category of land itself is not entirely appropriate in the Guianas, because of the radical distinction between the forest and the village. The nearest translation in Trio is nono, which means earth, but its meaning is shifting as NGO land rights campaigns are currently encouraging incipient notions of clearly bounded territoriality by glossing nono as land marked as territory. Bearing this in mind, I will retain the term land for the sake of convenience in order to make a number of general points. Property relations towards land in European and colonial history have been the most politically significant of all, as they have often involved group politics and leadership in territorial disputes. The indigenous Guianese relationship towards land presents a quite different scenario. The Amerindians of the Guianas were, until recently, all either nomadic or semi-nomadic and they still have wide ranging networks of social relations maintained by extensive travel. The relationship towards land has changed little despite sedentarisation villages are not necessarily regarded as permanent although in practice they have become so, and shifting cultivation is still the norm. Territoriality, to the extent that there is such a thing, is socially defined rather than concerned with land as exclusively owned property in a legal sense. The forest, savannahs and rivers are regarded as an environment, to be lived in, used, and narrated, but usually claims are not made to absolute and permanent ownership, either of land or of rights of use, except in coastal areas where land pressure has become an issue. Cultivated land, on the other hand, does belong to those who work it, but not permanently it is only by virtue of the activity of cultivation that it is owned, and when a garden is exhausted, although it remains in memory as the garden of a certain person, it is no longer seen as that persons 271

exclusive property. In terms of nature and culture, we might say that the former cannot be owned, whereas the latter can it is owned, in fact, by definition: the histories of cultural objects, of any thing or person, made, created or transformed, make them belong. The wild realm of the forest is associated with the primordial, chaotic spirit world which only ritual specialists claim to understand, where identities shift and living beings are not always what they seem; to talk about human territory and ownership in such a context would be meaningless, although certain places are said to be historically associated with, and therefore to belong to, particular spirits, and to trespass in such places would be dangerous. i) Land across the Guianas Land as exclusive property in an abstract and permanent sense is a concept largely alien to Guianese Amerindians, at least to those in the villages of the interior of French Guiana and Suriname, although on the coast, among the Kalina and Lokono, where land pressure is greater, and where local leaders participate in the international indigenous peoples movement, it has recently become an important political issue. The reasons for this can be understood on one level by distinguishing land as a lived environment, experienced almost exclusively from within, and land as a mapped and measured quantity. The former is unquantifiable, it belongs and is belonged to in a more profound, more multifarious, and therefore less easily defined way than the latter, whose objectivity and commensurability nevertheless make it more amenable to the considerations of state and legal arbiters. Even in the remote villages of the Trio and Wayana, however, the interest shown in the land by governments, goldmining companies and small prospectors, NGOs such as Amazon Conservation Team (ACT), which has carried out mapping projects of traditional resource use in several villages in Suriname and Brazil, and other external agents, has caused local leaders to be wary. Land is now considered the most important issue in the coastal Kalina village of Awala-Yalimapo, and the national park issue has brought the discourses surrounding it to the upper Maroni (see chapter 2). In Guyana, there is greater pressure on land because of mining interests, ranchers, etc. on the Rupununi, and Wapishana indigenous leaders are keen to have ownership of the land in order to exploit it themselves. Meanwhile Waiwai 272

leaders in the far south extend their claims as far north as possible. The Waiwai have employed their ethnicity and the idea of cultural property to strengthen their claim to land. In the Waiwai and Wapishana village on the Essequibo which I visited in April 2003, called Erepoimo by the Waiwai, and Parabara by the Wapishana, there is a petroglyph on the riverbank, visible in the dry season. The village is at the centre of a land demarcation dispute.14 The forested area south of the Rupununi savannah is in the process of being demarcated as a protected area by the Guyanese government, under the auspices of the US environmental NGO, Conservation International (CI). The Wapishana leaders oppose the demarcation scheme on their land, and, true to the worldwide Indigenous Peoples Movement in which they participate, lobby for collective tribal ownership of Wapishana ancestral territory: they use the idea of collective ownership, to safeguard the integrity of the lands they are accustomed to use freely. The Waiwai are in favour of the CI programme, which would prevent extractive industries from coming into the area, and promote sustainable development such as ecotourism. To bolster their claims, the Waiwai and Wapishana themselves employ quasianthropological arguments about whether language or environment is a truer foundation for ethnicity. Being in an old Taruma village, the petroglyph might be seen as a symbol of the Wapishanas claim on the basis of purely archaeological evidence, since the Taruma were there earlier and seem to have married in to the Wapishana; the fact that both are Arawakan-speaking groups is also enlisted. However, the Taruma were forest dwellers, like the Waiwai, and some see the distinction between forest dwellers and savannah dwellers as more important than linguistic differences. According to Ekupa, the Waiwai leader of the village, the petroglyph at Erepoimo represents a baking plate hence the villages Waiwai name. The anthropologist George Mentore (pers. comm.) adds that it has the motif of an anaconda upon it. Both baking plate and anaconda suggest similar interpretations: the baking plate is used for making manioc bread, the social food par excellence in Amazonia, i.e. the process of transforming nature into culture (Grotti 2003; cf. Lvi-Strauss 1964), much as Waiwai assimilation strategies transform other groups into Waiwai (Howard 2000). The anaconda

The information given here does not take into account developments since my visit in 2003.


represents the ambivalent value of the archetypal Other as dangerous provider. Anacondas are the origin of Waiwai body ornaments, and of the Waiwai themselves: a culture hero obtained an Anaconda wife but tricked the Anacondas into leaving their body ornaments behind without obtaining a wife in return (Mentore 1993).15 Among the Wayana, when the giant caterpillar-spirit kuluwayak was killed, all of the Wayana cultural attributes came out of its dead body (Damien Davy pers. comm.).16 The anaconda and the baking plate are thus two sides of the same coin: the transformation of knowledge and resources from outside into local culture and food through the artifices of real people. In the same way, the Waiwai seek to transform their Wapishana coresidents into Waiwai kin, and to appropriate the meaning of the land demarcation project to serve their own ends, thus maintaining control over their own destiny. The Trio seek to do something similar with the cave petroglyphs recently discovered at Werehpai, near Kwamalasamutu. These were discovered by accident by a Trio man out hunting with his dog. When the same NGO involved with the Waiwai in Guyana, CI, learned of the petroglyphs, they wanted to take measures to study them and control access to them17. The local Trio, however, are being very careful about letting anyone see the petroglyphs, and will only do so in return for a large fee. The government has taken an interest, and claims ownership on the grounds that all archaeological discoveries automatically come under the responsibility of the Ministry of Education however, the ministry has shown little interest since a brief first visit to see the petroglyphs. Asonko, the Kapitein of Kwamalasamutu and Granman of all the Trio, asked CI, who have gained
15 16

The Wayana also obtained flute rituals through a similar form of chicanery see chapter 4. Kuluwayak is portrayed on the maluwana (see chapter 3). The symbolic connections between anacondas, caterpillars and rivers, common to the Guianas and Northwest Amazonia, are further emphasised among Tukanoans by a common linguistic marker which denotes their common undulation movement (HughJones pers. comm.). 17 Annette Tjon Sie Fat, Director of Operations of CI in Suriname, whom I interviewed on 25th February, 2004. The discovery was reported by CI on Nov. 6 2000: Members of the Trio indigenous community have discovered an ancient site where their ancestors probably lived. Euka Oochpatapo, tribal chief of the Trio people of Kwamalasamutu in southern Suriname, informed President Ronald Venetiaan of the discovery of caves containing pre-Columbian petroglyphs on Oct. 4. The site, called Werehpai, was found in May by a member of the village and further explored in August, although only a few rooms have been thoroughly examined. Experts say the cave-like spaces enclosed by rocks probably served as a living area and shelter. Besides hundreds of petroglyphs, ceramic shards and unbroken vases were found. Im honored to visit this site, Oochpatapo said when he first visited Werehpai. This place belongs to my ancestors. The rocks are like a big house. ... If I look at these drawings, I see my ancestors. Experts hope to date the site from soot accumulated on the rocks. At other sites in Suriname, it has been impossible to carbon-date petroglyphs (Conservation International 2000).


his confidence, to manage the petroglpyhs. The Trio of Kwamalasamutu hope to make money from ecotourism, with the petroglyphs as a major attraction. A piece of material culture, although it was probably created long before the Trio existed as a group, has thus become appropriated by them as an asset from which to make a living it has become a piece of cultural property, by virtue of its geographical location. In Awala-Yalimapo, although people feel threatened with regard to land because of the greater pressures on the coast, and are more politically mobilized in an overt way, making claims to the ancestral right to more land, there is a difficulty. When asked during a conference on linguistics about how collective ownership worked, two eminent local men, Michael Tiouka and Jean-Paul Ferreira, avoided an answer, and the reason for this is likely to be that most of the land claimed, including that to which the Kalina already have right of use, is not used. This is because few Kalina people are now motivated to work gardens, and very few even hunt.18 Collective ownership is a translation into legal language of a relationship towards land that is more concrete, based on the practice of hunting and cultivation, on narratives of place; the Kalina activists are aware that their relatives memories and biographies reside in places such as old villages, hunting grounds and gardens, and although these narratives are not based on current relationships of possession but on obsolete ones, they are the true (and quite valid) basis of their claims, which are a strategic response to unprecedented competition and the dominance of an alien property regime. The Kalinas use of the idea of collective property is a strategic response to a longestablished othering practice of the West: Westerners, from the earliest colonial times, have tended to assume that indigenous property is an inversion of their own, and therefore collective as opposed to private. A temptation that arises from starting an analysis from the point of view of Western property regimes is to focus on differences in this way, and I have tried to avoid this in chapter 2. However, the Kalina take the contrastive collective form of property, which, thanks to its European derivation, has already become enshrined in the state legal system, and declare it their own.19 Even the


Game still forms a fairly important part of the diet, but a few men now hunt to sell meat to those who wish to buy it. 19 See Brightman 2007b.


Kalina claim narratives are ultimately based on creations of place in the past that is to say, they are based on the same pattern of turning natural forest into cultured garden or village, and thus making it belong to the group, and especially to its leader.


Appendix 8: Additional maps

Mosesi (50) Supipi (16) Airstrip

Tukusipan (a) Tapanahoni Pikumi (28) Ksi (1) soro (56)

Map 5: Map of Tpu showing principal sectors of the village (numbers correspond to the key to map 6 below)


a. Tukusipan b. Telesur radio c. Medizep poliklinik d. Volleyball pitch e. Jaraware library f. ACT Shamanic clinic g. ACT Shamans Apprentice School h. Manjes bar i. States building j. States airstrip radio k. Baptist Church

Tapanahoni 57 56 55 21 20 22 c 23 3 b a h d 7 15 16 17 r q 60 m 18 19 j i k 8 6 13 14 25 g f 27 2 24 Airstrip 31 30 58


54 10

12 11 5

o e

l. Elementary School m. Kindergarten n. Cemetery 4

28 29 26

o. Cees & Ineke Koelewijns house p. Missionarys house (abandoned) q. Mantjes house r. Tourists house (under construction)

34 33 35 37 36 42 43 45 44 47 46 41 l


51 50 52 48 49

39 38 40

Map 6: Distribution of households in Tpu 278

Heads of household:
1. Ksi 2. Nauku 3. Hali 4. Theo 5. Anoliya 6. Jan 7. Elamu 8. Aiwn 9. Tikinol 10. Pommi 11. Anku 12. Seki 13. Tapowala 14. Patowa 15. Tapi 16. Supipi 17. Malesu 18. Wekimai 19. Kto 20. Lali 21. Weji 22. Tunu 23. Manas 24. Akui 25. Ink 26. Matayasi 27. Rime 28. Pikumi 29. Kepio 30. Atnijo 31. Tewaimo 32. Ruki 33. Tamara 34. nuri 35. Takheim 36. Dnk 37. Sonja 38. Jappali 39. Malisi 40. Alekawa 41. Makupina 42. Pijatu 43. Kanap 44. Deny 45. Konelija 46. Tupiro 47. Senape 48. Nowa 49. Patopas 50. Mosesi 51. Nupi 52. Sapk 53. Thomas 54. Malinje 55. Pesoro 56. soro 57. Akalina 58. Sipu 59. Aranta 60. Pmi


Map 7: Parc amazonien de Guyane. From http://www.parc-guyane.gf, accessed 28/5/2007.


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