Walking with Jesus in indigenous Amazonia: for an anthropology of paths


This thesis is an exploration of paths and Christianity among the Ye’kwana, a Carib-speaking group in the Venezuelan Amazon. It is based on two years of fieldwork among Christian Ye’kwana, mainly an extended family network from the Upper Orinoco region. Under the evangelizing action of the New Tribes Mission, an American missionary organization, the Ye’kwana from that region converted en masse to Baptist Christianity in the fifties of last century. Today, the Ye’kwana celebrate their own form of Baptist Christianity. One defining feature of the latter is that it is articulated using a social language of paths, mainly by Ye’kwana from older generations. Paths and tubes have been a recurrent topic in the anthropology of Amazonia, where they have been associated with ideas of energy transformation, indigenous notions of the body, or music and sound. It has also been suggested that paths and tubes might be a totalizing representation that some indigenous Amazonians use to think about the world. However, the implications that this possibility might have for how indigenous Amazonian conceive of sociality or change have not been fully explored. In this thesis it is argued that the Ye’kwana conjure up in their notion of paths an idea of the world and social life as made of rhythmic flows that are perceived and experienced through processes of entrainment. The transformations brought about by conversion to Christianity, including those centered on the body and sense of humanness, can be understood as taking place within this framework and being governed by ideas of how change happens within it. This thesis ultimately argues for an anthropology of paths in indigenous Amazonia that centers on direct perception of the world and that captures how indigenous people express this using the theme of the path/tube

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This paper was published in LSE Theses Online.

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