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CHAPTER THREE. Deep History, Cultural Identities, and Ethnogenesis in the Southern Amazon

Alf Hornborg University Press of Colorado ePub

Michael Heckenberger

Ethnogenesis is a widely discussed aspect of cultural change in indigenous Amazonia, generally taken to mean the emergence of a discrete “ethnos” through the mixing of two or more distinctive cultural groups, particularly within the context of European colonialism (Hill 1996). However, little is known in most cases about the actual processes of change, particularly over the long term, including different perspectives on change and continuity operating at multiple scales. Processes of cultural transformation, including major changes within societies and across regional systems, as well as cultural pluralism, are particularly poorly understood for pre-Columbian periods. This is due to a lack of well-documented long-term trajectories of sociohistorical change in discrete regions, especially such that can be linked to specific ethnographic cultural groups.

This chapter discusses the southern Amazon periphery and, particularly, the upper Xingú region of the southern Amazon. The Xinguano regional culture has long been known as one of the best cases of ethnogenesis in Amazonia, since peer communities in this regional society speak diverse languages, including Arawak, Carib, and Tupían languages, yet share the same basic cultural pattern.1 Recent research demonstrates that, while post-contact changes, particularly during the period from 1700 to 1800, were critical in the genesis of the plural society known today (composed of Arawak, Tupí-Guaraní, or closely related Tupían- and Carib-speaking peoples), pluralism has been part and parcel of Xinguano society and culture throughout much of its long history. This culture history, which extends from before ca. AD 500–800 to present times, is discussed in relation to several major periods, each of which can be seen as representing different aspects of “ethnogenesis”: (1) the early emergence of settled, hierarchical, and regional social formations and the spread of these cultural features, related specifically to ancestors of Arawak and related ethnolinguistic groups, in the lowlands and, particularly, southern Amazon periphery; (2) colonization by early Arawak agriculturalists, ca. AD 500 to 800 or before; (3) development of the regional social formation, characterized by the integration of small territorial polities within a regional peer-polity, by ca. 1250; and (4) post-contact development of the multilingual Xinguano society documented ethnographically, particularly after 1650–1750.

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CHAPTER TWO. Archaeological Cultures and Past Identities in the Pre-colonial Central Amazon

Alf Hornborg University Press of Colorado ePub

Eduardo Góes Neves

Archaeologists are well aware that a simple association between patterns in the archaeological record and ethnographic or ethnohistorical patterns is highly problematic. The ethnographic literature on lowland South America is full of examples of multilinguistic regional systems where different language groups share, for instance, the use of the same pottery, occupy villages with similar spatial layout, and even produce and consume the same basic foodstuffs. Such examples show that there is no simple correlation between the dynamic functioning of social systems and the static dimension of the archaeological record. In the particular case of Amazonia and northern South America the ethnographic and ethnohistorical literature is full of evidence that in the sixteenth century AD, and in some areas up until the present, local indigenous groups were regionally integrated in multiethnic networks including specialized production and exchange of goods, mobilization for warfare, and a periodic condensation into hierarchical, chiefdom-like social formations. These social formations were multilinguistic, with a patterning in material culture generated by exchange networks, although they sometimes developed lingua francas or pidgins. It is likely that many of the Amazonian social formations in the 500 years that preceded the European conquest had this general structural pattern (Neves 2008).

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CHAPTER FIVE. Generic Pots and Generic Indians: The Archaeology of Ethnogenesis in the Middle Orinoco

Alf Hornborg University Press of Colorado ePub

Kay Tarble de Scaramelli and Franz Scaramelli

Epidemic disease, slave raiding, and the displacement and relocation of indigenous groups under the colonial mission regime resulted in dramatic transformations in the ethnic conformation of the middle Orinoco area, as in other parts of America. Nonetheless, after the expulsion of the missionaries following the war of independence, native societies had the opportunity to redefine themselves vis-à-vis the fledgling Republics of Colombia and Venezuela. This process involved the coalition of small, remnant groups into viable multiethnic communities and the appearance of new ethnic identities. At the same time, a non-indigenous Criollo/Llanero (creole/ranger or cowboy) identity was evolving out of the combination of escaped slaves, former mission Indians, poor mestizos, mulattos, and blancos de orilla (whites from the periphery), who joined forces to exploit the abundant feral cattle in the savannahs, but who eventually were forced to enter the workforce as peons and cow-hands on the privately owned ranches in the area. As a part of this post-colonial process, ethnic, racial, and class lines were redrawn. A supra-ethnic identity, the generic Indio, emerged for indigenous peoples, as opposed to the generic Criollo or Racional, a gloss for Spanish-speaking sectors formerly divided into multiple castas during the colonial period. The colonial casta distinctions were largely abandoned as indigenous and non-indigenous sectors became increasingly polarized.

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN. Captive Identities, or the Genesis of Subordinate Quasi-Ethnic Collectivities in the American Tropics

Alf Hornborg University Press of Colorado ePub

Fernando Santos-Granero

Situations in which different social groups come into close contact and become engaged in a power struggle constitute an especially propitious terrain for the unfolding of processes of ethnogenesis. This is particularly true of colonial situations, where ethnogenesis has been characterized “as a creative adaptation to a general history of violent changes” (Hill 1996:1). In the Americas, the economic, demographic, cultural, and political processes triggered by the presence and pressures of colonial agents have undoubtedly affected indigenous peoples, leading to the disappearance of some identities, the emergence of new ones, and the transformation and reinvention of most. Thus, much of the literature on ethnogenesis in the Americas deals with situations of conflict derived from colonial encounters in what has been labeled the “tribal zone” (Ferguson and Whitehead 1992; Anderson 1999; Schwartz and Salomon 1999; Heckenberger 2001). This chapter focuses instead on processes of ethnogenesis resulting from the activities of native tropical American peoples engaged in large-scale slave raiding and/or the subjugation of enemy peoples as servant groups during pre-colonial and early colonial times (see also Santos-Granero 2009b). It is thus concerned with ethnogenesis as the result of native- rather than foreign-induced sociopolitical dynamics. In such situations, captors were faced with the problem of how to incorporate large numbers of war captives and servant populations, whereas the latter were faced with the dilemma of resisting or giving in to the forces of assimilation. The tensions derived from this relationship had important consequences with regard to the identities of both masters and servants. Through the examination of three historical cases—Taíno/Naborey, Tukano/Makú, and Chiriguaná/Chané—I will assess the role of Amerindian forms of slavery and servitude in the transformation of existing identities and the production of new ones, a process that, from an Amerindian point of view, involves the transformation of less-than-human subordinates into “real people” and, eventually, into friends and kin. In other words, I propose to determine the role of relations of extreme dependence in the genesis of subordinate, quasi-ethnic collectivities and identities.

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CHAPTER EIGHTEEN. Afterword: Ethnicity in Ancient Amazonia

Alf Hornborg University Press of Colorado ePub

Neil L. Whitehead

This volume makes a major contribution to rethinking the history of South America by directly confronting some of the major theoretical constraints that have interfered with a better appreciation of the nature of ancient Amazonia. Several authors in the volume use the lens of Arawakan peoples to begin to provide a coherent ethnological framework for thinking through the interrelationships of language, society, culture, and history over extended time frames. This necessarily means that archaeological, no less than linguistic and sociocultural, materials are brought together into an emerging theoretical and historical paradigm. This has been achieved by rejecting earlier simplistic conceptions that picture a series of “peoples” distributed across a static landscape and forming neat, coherent, bounded populations linked by a common language, which, it was supposed, gave rise directly and distinctly to equally discrete and bounded “cultures” and “ethnic identities.” The apparent plausibility of this model no doubt has many roots, including inherent biases deriving from the colonial entanglements of anthropology and archaeology as intellectual projects; a lack of basic information on the archaeology, ecology, and ethnology of many parts of this vast region; and the resulting assumptions that the character of groups encountered in twentieth-century ethnography was essentially unchanged “survivors” from earlier times. Nothing could be further from the truth of the matter, and in fact the situation, demographic and sociopolitical, of modern Amazonians is more in the character of refugees from genocide than of untouched relics of a sylvan past.

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