11702 - What's in a name: A study of change and stability among the Curripaco of the Northwest Amazon

This paper addresses the following questions: Is it possible to consider the Curripaco as some definable, separate social grouping? And, if that is achievable, to what extent is it possible to equate, in any meaningful sense, the Curripaco of today with the indigenous population that inhabited their territory some 250 years ago?

It is only possible to engage in such a broad topic because of the considerable historical and ethnohistorical research that has been carried out over the past 20 years (Hill, Journet, Vidal, Wright, Valentine, and others). Drawing on this body of work, this paper will locate the Curripaco (also known as Baniwa and Wakuénai) in relation to their neighbours to show 1) that at the boundary, the Curripaco merge with their neighbours, such that there must have been, and still is, a continuous and persistent flow of things, ideas and people across this zone, nevertheless, 2) certain features of Curripaco social organisation and belief have remained peculiarly Curripaco—their lack of links between language or dialect groupings and social organisation, and their profound and unique founding myth are striking examples. However, 3) because of the pressure of the dominant culture, their ecological and economic strategies have been radically transformed, and their religion has been subject to enormous outside pressure. Further, their warring and exo-cannibalism have been halted. These transformations, I argue, 4) have, in turn, played a significant role in undermining Curripaco notions of rank and social hierarchy.

Keywords: Northwest Amazon, culture change, diversity

Author: Valentine, Paul (Universiity of East London, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)


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