6199 - From token figures to warrior chiefs: portrait of a female Ashaninka leader in the Peruvian Amazon

This paper explores transformations in Amazonian leadership with a focus on gender. Whereas women first emerged in Amazonian politics as token figures, they are now often equal contenders to male leadership. Based on the leadership styles and practices of an Ashaninka female federation president (Ruth), the paper reconsiders some familiar tropes of Amazonian leadership through the lens of gender and proposes new pathways for understanding the dynamics of changing indigenous leadership. It addresses gender-specific approaches to two fundamental components of Amazonian leadership: defence and resource redistribution. The paper argues that while female leaders have a different approach the fulfilling these requirements when compared with their male counterparts, their leadership styles remain grounded in these twin needs. Ruth’s success in generating cooperative behaviour and redistributing resources among her followers, and in repelling the incursions of colonising policies and practices is unparalleled among her male colleagues. So, although her leadership approach appears to differ from the norm, the figure she casts is more congruent with Clastres’ warrior-leader than that cast by her male contemporaries. More broadly, the paper suggests that the insights gained from the analysis of indigenous female leaders' relationships with the people they represent can expand our analysis of changing patterns of gender relationships in present Amazonian settings.

Keywords: Amazonia, leadership, gender

Author: Caruso, Emily (University of Kent, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)


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