Cashinahua cosmovision : a perspectival approach to identity and alterity
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This thesis explores the interface of social and cosmogonic thought in an indigenous society of the southwestern Brazilian Amazon. The first part sets out the Cashinahua ontological framework, describes key concepts and places the Cashinahua in the broader context of an Amerindian worldview where perspectivism and a special philosophical interest in the questions of alterity and identity are central issues. These questions are dealt with by means of a complex dualistic symbolism that pervades the fields of ethnicity, gender, social life and ritual. The second part of the thesis is divided into two chapters (chapters III and IV). Chapter three sets out the mythological framework in which the key concepts previously described gain a narrative form, while chapter IV describes the Nixpu pima initiation ritual of girls and boys and shows how this ritual represents an important moment of synthesis and actualisation of the Cashinahua worldview. The initiation ritual illustrates how the Cashinahua basic ontological distinctions between the embodied and rooted self as opposed to free-floating images and spirits are expressed in a graphic way and guide ritual action. Throughout the thesis references are also made to the intimate association and mutual illumination between, on the one hand, the Cashinahua worldview, social life and ontology, and, on the other, eschatology and indigenous conceptions of death.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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