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5461 - IT MAKES ME SAD WHEN THEY SAY WE ARE POOR, WE ARE RICH! THE GOOD LIFE AS PUBLIC WEALTH IN INDIGENOUS AMAZONIA

There is an undeniable move towards the accumulation of individual property in indigenous Amazonian societies. At the same time, there is also a heightened importance attributed to communally-owned objects such as titles, engines and ritual gear, and valuable materials such as timber. However, I will argue that we should not look at these objects but look at the rationale for their accumulation if we want to understand what these societies consider as public wealth. Objects are only key communal or individual property because of their relation to that community’s pursuit of well-being. It is this ‘good life’, and its knowledge and practices, which we should consider as their most important item of communal property.      

Kametsa asaiki , the Ashaninka ‘good life’, is public wealth generated through everyday convivial village relations following the knowledge inherited from their ancestors and the knowledge acquired through predatory relations with the outside. This ethos of living is the most important aspect of a community’s self and the self-identification of Ashaninka people as ‘real’ people.      

There is an interesting mix of responsibilities and ownership when we discuss the ‘good life’. Amazonian societies are known for being composed of fiercely autonomous and egalitarian people who are individually responsible for controlling their own emotions and desires. But at the same time, Ashaninka people, well-aware of the defects plaguing human beings, talk of the ‘good life’ as a communal pursuit. This sense is heightened by their contemporary political fight for maintaining their desired way of life and the issues that have created an even greater awareness for the need to defend and police the boundaries of this ethos of living. This is a case in which public wealth does not only contribute to well-being, it becomes its essence.      

Through an analysis of Ashaninka people’s discourses of kametsa asaiki , I argue that conviviality, but especially the knowledge that leads to it, should be considered as the most important element of communal property and public wealth in indigenous Amazonia. Additionally, I aim at connecting the wealth of analysis on the Amazonian ‘good life’ with the recent interest in the anthropological literature on well-being.

Palabras claves: Amazonia, Ashaninka, Good Life, Public Wealth, Identity.

Autores: Sarmiento Barletti, Juan Pablo (University of St Andrews, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)

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