The infliction of descent : an overview of the Capanahua descendants’ explanations of the generative process
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This thesis traces the ways of explaining the generative process by the eastern Peruvian descendants of the Capanahua. These predominately Spanish-speaking people tend to emphasize the discontinuity with their ancestors, a little known Panoan-speaking indigenous population of the Western Amazon. Based on ethnographic fieldwork and transcriptions of recorded conversations, this presentation follows and reconstructs a salient frustrative-generative dynamic in a wide range of representations, wherein alterations of self-containment or perceptibility incept the processes of differentiation and discontinuity. These processes guide a local conception of “descent” as infliction. Implications of this dynamic are examined for the formulations of kinship. The familial relations, explicitly based on notions of consanguinity and filiation – are cast in an ambiguous, if not predominately negative light. Procreation is formulated in predatory, parasitic terms, and shares dynamics with pathogenic causality and aetiology. As such, it does not naturally contribute to reproduction and continuity, but rather frustrates it by introducing difference into the vertical axis. Such results also produce horizontal differences and hierarchies, encoded as the person’s divergent, hidden “descent” in the always “mixed” social life. This image of the generative process is instrumental to understanding the villagers’ explanations of the acculturative processes. Because representations of acculturation focuses on the idiom of procreation and its frustrative results, it appears as the very function of procreative dynamics. This produces a series of associations between the progeny and sociality, focusing on their inherently “third” or external position and perpetual dividuality of belonging/containing. Such ambiguity might be tamed and everted, to produce cleansing or encompassment that counteracts the divisive continuity of time (qua descent, history, or kinship). In a contemporary context, these formulations are seen reflected in the villagers’ construal of the Peruvian state as the urban environment that is hierarchically closer to the ideal originality and beautiful imperishability than the smaller, isolated unities of rural ancestors.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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