The implications of manioc cultivation in the culture and mythology of the Machiguenga of South Eastern Peru
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The aim of this thesis is to effect an introduction to the place of manioc (Manihot esculenta Crantz) in the culture of the Machiguenga Indians of the Peruvian rain forest. The main substance of my work finds its focus in a myth, the narrative of which was recorded during fieldwork on location in the Urubamba region of south east Peru. My thesis will attempt to examine the role of manioc and the justification of its description as a ‘sacred plant’ to the Machiguenga. The evidence I put forward to demonstrate the significance of manioc comes under the following headings: a) manioc cultivation and dietary uses, b) manioc plant taxonomy, c) the manioc myth itself, which I have transcribed and translated from my recordings. Whilst the anthropological structures of the myth are examined, no attempt will be made to deal in detail with the vocabulary and morphology of the Machiguenga language. Whilst conceding that it is vital to show the connection between the material use of manioc and the belief structure surrounding it, material already collected would suggest a more ambitious piece of work than a Master of Philosophy degree would allow, and I hope in the future to undertake full-scale investigation into this largely untouched aspect of Machiguenga social and religious organization. The present work aims only at an introduction to the people and their use of manioc, and the presentation of the manioc myth.
Thesis, MPhil Master of Philosophy
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