Kametsa asaiki : the pursuit of the 'good life' in an Ashaninka village (Peruvian Amazonia)
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This thesis is an ethnographic study of the pursuit of kametsa asaiki (‘the good life’) in an Ashaninka village by the Bajo Urubamba River (Peruvian Amazonia). My study centres on Ashaninka social organization in a context made difficult by the wake of the Peruvian Internal War, the activities of extractive industries, and a series of despotic decrees that have been passed by the Peruvian government. This is all framed by a change in their social organization from living in small, separated family-based settlements to one of living in villages. This shift presents them with great problems when internal conflicts arise. Whilst in the past settlements would have fissioned in order to avoid conflict, today there are two related groups of reasons that lead them to want to live in centralised communities. The first is their great desire for their children to go to school and the importance they place on long-term cash-crops. The second is the encroachment of the Peruvian State and private companies on their territory and lives which forces them to stay together in order to resist and protect their territory and way of life. I suggest that this change in organisation changes the rules of the game of sociality. Contemporary Ashaninka life is centred on the pursuit of kametsa asaiki, a philosophy of life they believe to have inherited from their ancestors that teaches emotional restraint and the sharing of food in order to create the right type of Ashaninka person. Yet, at present it also has new factors they believe allow them to become ‘civilised’: school education, new forms of leadership and conflict resolution, money, new forms of conflict resolution, intercultural health, and a strong political federation to defend their right to pursue kametsa asaiki. My thesis is an anthropological analysis of the 'audacious innovations' they have developed to retake the pursuit of kametsa asaiki in the aftermath of the war. I show that this ethos of living is not solely a communal project of conviviality but it has become a symbol of resistance in their fight for the right to have rights in Peru.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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