Becoming similar : knowledge, sociality and the aesthetics of relatedness amongst the Nivacle of the Paraguayan Chaco
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This thesis is an exploration of the concepts of knowledge, sociality and relatedness amongst the Nivacle indigenous people of the Paraguayan Chaco, concentrating particularly on the community of Jotoicha in the Mennonite Colonies of the Central Chaco region. A central issue in this thesis is the concept of "knowledge" as a relational capacity and the ways in which knowledgeable behaviour can be constitutive of aesthetically pleasing forms of sociality. Such practices can be generative of increased similarity between individuals over time. The thesis begins with an exploration of Nivacle understandings of "knowledge" and shows it to be an eminently social concept that is created in an organ located in the stomach known as the cachi. "Knowledge" for the Nivacle is the basis for an individual's social conscience, their productive and reproductive skills, as well as their inter-personal relationships. "Knowledge" is also a central aspect of Nivacle understandings of relatedness. Rather than being based on a static genealogical structure, relatedness is best understood within the context of lived relationships that are constantly evolving. These relationships are generated through the practices of feeding and caring for one's "close" kin, with such practices also being generative of sociality itself. However,"close" relationships are neither static nor geographically bounded and are always open to the possibility of re-activation through visiting and gift giving. The Nivacle have been inserted into the market economy for several decades. Wage labour is conceptualised alongside other "subsistence activities" and productive activities are generative both of gender relations and sociality itself. In the final chapter I discuss Nivacle notions of reciprocity within the context of team-based sporting events. I show that whilst such community-based divisions appear to be premised on relations of "sameness" and "difference," they are best understood within the context of an overarching desire for people to generate similarity between different kinds of people in a variety of contexts.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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