4505 - Becoming-FUNAI: A Kanamari Transformation

The Kanamari, a Katukina speaking people who inhabit the western edge of Brazilian Amazonia, say that they are "becoming FUNAI". FUNAI is the acronym of the Fundação Nacional do Índio , the Brazilian government agency responsible for the tutelage of Indigenous people in the country. "We are becoming FUNAI" is said in a variety of settings: when explaining to the anthropologist the historical events that brought the Kanamari to their present predicament; when contrasting the past to the present in discussions among themselves, or when speaking to government agents about their hopes for the future. But "becoming FUNAI" is not limited to discourse. Some Kanamari have sought and obtained employment in FUNAI, others have tattooed 'FUNAI', or some word associated with the agency, on their arms or chests. In most villages people have stopped working in their gardens or procuring food on Sundays because "FUNAI does not work on Sundays". Many Kanamari are named after employees of the agency and a few are named after the ranks of the agency's hierarchy (e.g. "General") or after the acronym of one of the agencies that the Kanamari associate with FUNAI (e.g. "SUCAM", the "Superintendency for Public Health Campaigns"). This paper will investigate what the Kanamari mean when they claim that they are "becoming FUNAI". I argue that the word FUNAI is indissoluble from another word, -warah , which simultaneously refers to the (living) body and to the owner of something. -Warah is equally used to refer to the ownership of people, and one of the English-language translations of -warah is "chief". Indeed, I propose that 'FUNAI' is coterminous with one of the forms of chieftaincy that the Kanamari know and that to "become FUNAI" is to become a certain type of chief. In order to demonstrate this partial semantic congruence I will detail Kanamari conceptions of chieftaincy in relation to the history of their interactions with non-Indigenous people. I conclude by considering how Kanamari submission to state tutelage must be understood as a historical transformation of Kanamari submission to their chiefs.

Palavras-chaves: body, chieftaincy, FUNAI, Kanamari, Amazonia

Autores: Costa, Luiz (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil / Brasilien)


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