Kinship and the saturation of life among the Kuna of Panamá
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This thesis is an ethnographic analysis of kinship among the Kuna of the San Blas Archipelago of eastern Panamá, which focuses on the creation of bodies and persons. San Blas island villages are characterized by a compact layout and a burgeoning demographic concentration in relation to space. Despite land is available on surrounding mainland areas, the Kuna continue living in nucleated villages, emphasizing kinship as the value of a life in spatial and social concentration. By describing quotidian life in one Kuna community, this thesis considers what it means to live in concentration from a Kuna perspective, and how wellbeing is created through daily practices and rituals aimed at contrasting the social disengagement, that people consider an effect of domestic splitting, the ramification of collateral ties, and illnesses inflicted by invisible pathogenic beings. My analysis focuses on two main lines of enquiry: 1) the progression of social relations from close to distant. Beginning from the house, where the bodies of co-residents are made consubstantial through commensality, the thesis analyses marriageability as the management of social distance, and the celebration of communal drinking festivals as the re-patterning of relations with different types of non-kin (e.g. non co-resident kin, the dead, and pathogenic spirits) for the regeneration of fertility and wellbeing. 2) It focuses on the person and discusses how adults make sense of babies and processes of body and kinship making in relation to non-human beings. By describing how ritual and micro-quotidian practices operate according to patterns of density and repetition, this thesis demonstrates that concentration and saturation are the core notions of sociality and personhood for the Kuna. The thesis argues that saturation is interior to the ongoing creation of kinship.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy