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9247 - Bodily Deixis, Encompassing Personhood, and Public Property in Amazonia

Recent anthropological research in Amazonia reveals remarkable variation and complexity and dynamic change in coupled human environment systems. Archaeology and indigenous history document a diverse territorial polities that in some cases were organized into peer polities or “nations,” including vast socio-political and sacred landscapes, prestige goods elite exchange, theocracies and theater states, and political economies of persons, what in many other world areas would be called aristocrats, even kings and queens, and slaves. Rather than absences, lacking domesticated animals, surplus, writing, masonry, and bureaucracies, Amazonia provides fertile ground to consider fungible wealth, inalienable possessions, property rights, and biopower. In this paper, the construction of persons in elite rites of passage, the distribution of elite persons in structured space, and the control of public space in ritual and everyday life is examined in the Upper Xingu (southern Brazilian Amazon). Encompassing personhood provided the basis for the distribution of different types of persons and their control of public space and properties, including esoteric knowledge, names and titles, and exclusive objects, and landesque capital. Entitlement was worn on the body and expressed through oratory, rather than recorded in written records, but has alienable and heritable or ‘fixed’ qualities. Fixed ‘ownership’ and, particularly, the control of public space are marked through bodily orientation and movements. The emplacement of exclusive objects and elite persons in highly structured built environments, were expressed in most developed form in late pre-Columbian Xinguano polities, arguably a form of multi-centric urbanism. Considered over the long-term, Amazonian peoples prompt a reconsideration of definitions and cases of pre-modern statehood and urbanized anthropogenic landscapes. Such findings have important implications for the cultural heritage and rights of indigenous peoples today.

Keywords: Amazonia, corporeal properties, public property, landscape

Author: Heckenberger, Michael (University of Florida, Ud States of Am / USA)

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