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2347 - Amazonian Kichwa leadership: The circulation of wealth and the ambiguities of mediation

In this paper, I explore how the Amazonian Kichwa relates notions of public wealth and well being both to the production of themselves as persons and as a people. In this process of production, indigenous leaders are central. Although leadership is manifold in contemporaneous Amazonian Kichwa contexts, leaders are considered to be mediators per excellence, negotiating relations with powerful actors within human society and between human society and the spirit world. Mediation builds on Amazonian Kichwa perceptions about how persons and social relations are constituted, and about what constitutes reality. Mediation is, on the hand, related to the transference of live giving substances and qualities into a person’s gendered body and which both humans and spirits posses. On the other hand, mediation is related to the assumption that reality is made up of different worlds, and that the Kichwa depend upon the transference and the circulation of the resources of these worlds to their own world. Given the Amazonian Kichwa history and experience with non-indigenous ethnical domination and asymmetries, the incorporation and appropriation of capacities and resources associated with the non-indigenous world is considered essential. However, mediation and the positions of leaders as mediators are, ambiguous and contested. The ambiguities of mediation and of mediators have several aspects. Leaders as persons who can get access to the non-indigenous world and who can control the flow of wealth are always, in the view of their followers, in danger of turning into powerful actors something that may lead to undue accumulation of wealth. The Kichwa consider such undue accumulation as threatening and as undermining both personal and collective productive and creative capacities. The ambiguity of mediation has as well to do with the possible incorporation of indigenous leaders into the configurations and governing projects of powerful others, such as the State, the oil companies or supporting NGOs.

Keywords: Notions of Wealth, Leadership, Property, Personhood, Sociality, Amazonian Kichwa

Author: Guzmán-Gallegos, María A. (Rainforest Foundation Norway, Norway / Norwegen)

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