8828 - Materiality and Heresy in an Aché Community

This presentation describes the treatment of objects by the Aché of Eastern Paraguay with regard to Pentecostalism and paje , a syncretic assortment of curative beliefs. The recent introduction of these two systems—by Brazilian missionary organizations and Guarani-speaking campesinos, respectively—has generated an intense conflict between their practitioners. Those suspected of practicing paje are often blamed for illnesses or other misfortunes, and such scapegoating can sometimes lead to violent clashes in the community. But behind the conflict between Pentecostals and paje lies an agreement about the nature of objects, as the ability of paje practitioners to possess human and nonhuman bodies is unquestioned by each side. Drawing on Keane’s (2007) semiotic theory of the fetish and Gell’s (1998) inferential theory of indexical objects, I explore how ordinary objects are translated into potentially dangerous ones imbued with demonic agency. I then relate the Aché case to Viveiros de Castro’s (1998) assertion that body metamorphosis, rather than spiritual possession, is the hallmark of Amerindian perspectival ontology.

Keywords: Lowland South America, Christianity, materiality, ontology

Author: Thompson, Warren (University of New Mexico, Ud States of Am / USA)


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