4950 - The notion of common wealth in object-poor societies. Goods, exchange and inheritance amongst Yanomami people

Are such notions as accumulation, property - either individual or collective - or inheritance a distinctive feature of Euro-American societies? This paper will focus on personal vs. collective property, material vs. spiritual goods, and well-being amongst the Yanomami people, a society that is particularly an object-poor society. Like many other Amazonian peoples, all belongings of the deceased are destroyed after death. That includes material goods, garden plants, and places where they used to stay during their lives. Nothing should remind others of the dead in order to avoid giving sadness and melancholia to their close family and friends. For the same reason, each individual during his own life has to take care not to leave anything that could be perennial after his death. But unlike other Amazonian peoples, Yanomami people do not possess collective paraphernalia for collective or individual rituals, such as masks or musical instruments, for instance. Nevertheless there is what we could call a 'collective wealth' that should not be lost at the death of individuals and that plays a key role in the reproduction of collectivities and, thus, of the society. The paper will show the importance of the notion of transmission and how well-being is achieved in this society that places a high value on good health and conviviality.

Keywords: property, public wealth, well-being, personhood, Amazonia

Author: Alès, Catherine (CNRS-EHESS, France / Frankreich)


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