Love and hate among the people without things : the social and economic relations of the Enxet people of Paraguay
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This thesis examines the social and economic relations of the Enxet indigenous people of the Paraguayan Chaco region who place a high value on egalitarianism, generosity and personal autonomy. However, during the twentieth century their land has been colonized by cattle ranchers and they have been obliged to enter the market economy. While anthropologists have proposed a range of theories to explain indigenous social and economic relations, the main concern of this thesis is to examine how the Enxet themselves explain their social behaviour. The Enxet make salient use of "emotion words" when discussing their social and economic practices. For instance, a fundamental dichotomy in Enxet thought is between "love" and "hate" and much of their discourse centres on these two concepts. The Enxet seek to create "good/beautiful" people who know how to act appropriately. In certain contexts they should practise "love" while in other contexts "hate" is acceptable. Enxet social organization should not be understood as a structure but as a process, as something that is being continually created. I will consider different aspects of this process through an examination of kinship, co-residence, marital relations, "brideservice" and inter-community contact, and I will describe how economic transactions are key elements in the generation of "loving" social relations. However, self-centred practices create many challenges to a harmonious community life and I will consider how the Enxet strive to overcome them. Of particular interest will be demand sharing which responds, in part, to a strongly-held egalitarian ethic but can also provoke disharmony and discomfort in community life. I will also discuss commodity relations within Enxet communities and challenge the common assumption that money is necessarily destructive of indigenous social relations. I will conclude that the overriding goal of the Enxet is the attainment of tranquillity in both their personal and social lives. For the Enxet, economic relations are not about gaining material wealth but about living well with other people. They recognize that personal affective comfort is dependent on engendering tranquillity in other people. Therefore, the "emotion words" they use to explain their social behaviour should not be regarded as merely referring to "feelings" but as encompassing an aesthetics of social behaviour.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
Embargo Date: 2025-03-13
Embargo Reason: Electronic copy restricted until 13th March 2025
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