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Re-Imagining the Guyanas

 | 
Lawrence Aje
, 
Thomas Lacroix
, 
Judith Misrahi-Barak

Mapping and Charting the 3 Guyanas

Making oneself at Home: The Grammar of Travelling among the Makushi in the Pakaraima Mountains, Guyana

Lisa Katharina Grund

Texte intégral

  • 1 The process of knowing as a form of world-making was elaborated by Joanna Overing in her writing o (...)
  • 2 Butt Colson, Audrey. ‘Routes of Knowledge: an aspect of regional integration in the circum-Roraima (...)
  • 3 Raposo, Celino. Dicionário da língua macuxi. Boa Vista: Editora UFRR, 2008.
  • 4 Grund, Lisa. ‘Aasenîkon! Makushi Travelogues from the Borderlands of Southern Guyana’. PhD. thesis (...)
  • 5 Rubenstein, Steven. Alejandro Tsakimp: a Shuar Healer in the Margins of History. Lincoln [Neb.]: U (...)
  • 6 Basso, Keith. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache. Albuquerque (...)

1For the Makushi, the most southern Pemon group of the Carib-speaking peoples of the Circum-Roraima region, movement is a key concept of making their worlds.1 The major ethnographies of the area, notably the works of Overing (1990) and Butt Colson (1985), point to the search for knowledge and wisdom as a crucial aspect of social life in the Guianas associated with specialised or shamanic knowledge.2 Similarly, travellers bring observations from outside back to the community, which is communicated via narratives about the surrounding worlds and thus transformed into a social experience. Differing from fishing expeditions into the forest, journeys in the savannah mean passing through various villages and depend on the hospitality of others who provide accommodation, food, directions and instructions about paths, and exchange of other important information.3 This is not a trivial consideration. On the contrary, it brings to the fore core values of Makushi sociality and raises important aspects of knowledge and imagination when traversing human and non-human domains. The ethnographic data of this writing piece derives from my long-term fieldwork among the Makushi of the Rupununi Savannahs and Pakaraima Mountains, Guyana (see Grund 2017).4 It focuses on a particular journey I undertook in 2014, accompanying Marcia, a middle-aged woman from Tipuru, to the last mixed Makushi-Patamona community of Tusenen. Thus, in analysing this specific journey, my paper seeks to unveil a Makushi social experience of space. The method I adopt is tributary to a long and well-established qualitative method in ethnography, which at its core has life histories (see e.g. Rubenstein 2002: 59–70), and which also gave room to biographies (Stoller 1999) and autobiographies (Blowsnake and Radin 1920; Kopenawa and Albert 2013).5 As Basso summarised about Apache testimonies: ‘People, not cultures, sense places, and […] they do so in varying ways’.6 We could add that there is always a cultural scheme of meanings beneath these diverse individual experiences.

2There are many reasons why the inhabitants of the South Pakaraima Mountains move between the villages, ranging from family visits, driving cattle and buying and selling goods, to looking for work, collecting pay or going to hospital. While the occasional opportunity to hitch a ride with a passing vehicle might arise, the most common form of movement in the area is walking. Less often movement is by bicycle or on horseback. Female mobility is significant among the Makushi today. Many Makushi women, be they unmarried young girls or mature women, spend time ‘on the move’. Due to the novelty of the road, vehicles, school and work in the city they visit, walk, hitch a ride and take boats at crossings.

  • 7 See Farage, Nádia. ‘As Flores da Fala: práticas retóricas entre os Wapishana’. Ph.D. thesis. Unive (...)

3Marcia, a Makushi woman in her 60s from the village Tipuru in the South Pakaraima Mountains, Guyana, was frequently on the move from a young age, accompanying her father on his journeys to bleed balata or hunt in often faraway forest sites. She travelled on foot back home after doing temporary work in Ayanganna in the Cuyuni/Mazaruni region, spent years training as a nurse in Moruka, an Arawak village in the North, and now resides in the Makushi village St. Ignatius, near the city of Lethem and the border with Brazil. As a community health worker in Tipuru, she used to be responsible for visiting patients living in the many small, far-flung settlements throughout a large, sparsely populated area of about five hundred people. Marcia knows all the short cuts in the region, at least she used to, and sometimes cut her own trails through the forest. Presently divorced, she travels widely and frequently on her own, visiting family and relatives in other villages, regions and even abroad. Despite women commonly being portrayed as restricted to village life and gardens in the ethnography of Lowland South America, the experience of movement for the Makushi is not gender-based. Indeed, it can be said that female mobility increases with the advance of age and wisdom and the loss of reproductive vitality7, and consequentially, women’s agency and learning derive from the outside just as much as men’s.

4Marcia had not been back to Tusenen for years. My company was crucial and added another purpose beyond her general interest in revisiting people, which was that she was taking me around. As a white person, one is automatically considered a stranger and very possibly a tourist and thus an easy excuse for Marcia’s movements. Considering that our journey meant several days’ walk passing through other communities, it was important to take sufficient rations, mainly farine (coarse cassava flour) and cassava bread, to share with the households we would stop at. This meant some three days of preparation. Visits like these are usually unannounced, and as Marcia commented with a smile: ‘Maybe they feed us good and Tipuru will never see us again!’

5On our week-long trek we stopped at several communities on the way. On entering a less familiar village, Marcia would immediately enquire about people she knew or had kinship ties with. Whenever looking for someone, she also gave information about herself, explained which village she was from, why she had come here and how her family was related to people in this community. In this way, she made herself known to the people, aroused trust and created comfortable relations. This etiquette is expected and travellers who avoid these kinds of dialogues, or villages all together, demonstrate their strangeness with the place and people. Expecting others to disclose information about the presence and location of a fellow villager while being silent about oneself is prone to arouse suspicion. Being knowledgeable about the village’s composition, of who lives where, who is who and where one is going, is information that could be used in harmful ways in magical spells. In response to these kinds of enquiries, people would ask questions in return, such as ‘how are you related?’, ‘where do you know the person from?’ or ‘why are you looking for him/her?’ Dangers of the unknown and their neutralization—by way of discovering genealogical connections and extending the circle of familiarity through creating social links—are the two sides of this social cartography. An awareness of these two aspects is absolutely necessary.

  • 8 Im Thurn already mentioned the importance of these etiquettes among the Makushi ([1883] 1967: 35).

6When visiting someone’s house while on the move, the host offers whatever they have, most commonly parakari or kasiri (traditional beverages made from fermented cassava). If available, the host might also provide something to ‘burn your mouth’—antayaikî!—tuma (traditional dish with hot pepper, meat or fish boiled in cassava water) or at least some pepper broth with farine and cassava bread. The stranger/traveller on the other hand, has the task of making him- or herself at home, i.e. accepting food offers and showing familiarity with the way people live to make the host feel comfortable about welcoming the guest into their own home8. One evening during our journey, we were invited to sling our hammocks at a house of an extended family living on a hilltop mid-way between Monkey Mountain and Tusenen. Our host disappeared into the locked-up house and after a short while we were called inside to eat. Unsure about my familiarity with local food and customs, the old lady in charge of the smoked labba meat shared out pieces to everyone, except to me. To reassure the hosts that I (white, tall, stranger) was accustomed to ‘Makushi ways’, Marcia explained that I knew how to bake cassava bread, make parakari, plant a farm, plait a hammock and that I eat anything. The old lady suddenly called out ‘Eru, indikî, manon, karan pe pra, karan pe tîwe’ku‘se pra!’ (Sister-in-law, join in, don't make yourself a stranger!) The husband later reaffirmed to Marcia, ‘She is no stranger to us. I like the way she moves herself, because the way I am living (ko'mannî'pî), she doesn't scorn us’ (translated from Makushi by Marcia). Keeping oneself at a distance and scorning the food and habits of those one is visiting, creates otherness, distance and uncomfortable relations.

7Having a productive farm enables one to share; this again results in strengthening kinship ties, engaging in a large network of reciprocal exchange, and receiving food and presents in return. It is important to ‘always have enough to help the others’, a woman told me, ‘even if it is just a little Kari, some oranges or cassava from your farm.’ Generosity and hospitality is also a sign of being ‘hardworking’. On the contrary, iwan, hunger, describes the state when there is no food at home, either to eat or to offer (itȋrȋ), and is viewed as being self-inflicted, rather than with pity. Being greedy or lazy go hand in hand and are considered shameful and unhealthy behaviour. Refusing hospitality and not giving is not well thought of and can cause friction in the large network of reciprocal relations that extends to passing strangers and goes beyond the realm of familiar places and people. Social etiquettes of hospitality are taught from an early age in the form of moral-laden stories, such as this one Marcia told me about a man who brought famine to people who did not receive him well and spared those who did:

When mom was still here, a person came —to me, in my small eyesight, he was a tall Negro man. He had a grater in his Warashi [platted carrier bag]. Mom said he was the ‘master’ of the famine. We welcomed him in, he was soaked through-and-through with rain. Mom take out his clothes, rinse it, dry it up over the fire. A whole set of water came in—maybe that’s why she knew—Then she feed him with little pepper pot, we ate along together with him. The man went away. Then someone quarrel him at Karasabai. Why did they do that? I don’t know. So when the famine came, everything, everything dry up at Karasabai. Is only here we survive. And from Karasabai they came walking to collect cassava sticks and roots here. Some of them made farine, bags of farine and cassava bread. Some carried it as cassava meli to make Kari that side. They helped themselves. Because of that mom used to tell us: ‘don’t ever quarrel a stranger, because you don’t know who they are’! (Marcia, 2014, transcribed from Creole English)

  • 9 Pitt-Rivers, Julian. ‘The Law of Hospitality’. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2; 1 (2012): 50 (...)

8Makushi people who live far from Patamona communities, frequently accuse its people of being the reason for tragic incidents in their villages, though never without finding a reason for this to happen as a logical consequence. Some Patamona people, who were passing through Marcia's village, were refused permission by the vice-toshao (vice-chief) to sling their hammock in the community house. Another time a villager refused to sell farine to people, with the argument ‘You ever cut a farm for me’? By the end of the month, the two people who had been rude and refused shelter and food, died in inexplicable circumstances. For Marcia, the Patamona are only ‘sort of civilized right now’ and she remains wary in her behaviour towards them and the ‘magical danger of the envy of uninvited strangers’ (Pitt Rivers 2012: 511).9 She continues: ‘to make them annoyed like that be terrible for us. So when the Patamona come around I don't tell them anything, I welcome them any time’.

  • 10 While I will be saying more about kanaima later, in short, it is a complex and manifold Amerindian (...)
  • 11 Overing, Joanna. ‘Endogamy and the Marriage Alliance: a note on continuity in kindred-based groups (...)

9Perceptions about the ‘naked’, ‘uncivilized’, the ‘bush’ and ‘mountains’, the Patamona and the fear of kanaima10 assaults are for the Makushi all connected and deeply embedded in their cartography. Mountains and forests are places of powerful knowledge and knowledge acquisition, connected to shamanism and the realm of non-human beings. These distant places, and their people and beings, are the antipode of what the Makushi distinguish themselves from, specifically those living in the savannah. This is also supported by the assumption that social distance grows with spatial distance in the Guianas (Overing 1973) and other Amazonian regions (e.g. Descola 2001).11 The fear of what is ‘strange’ and ‘wild’ is connected to the idea of ambiguity and capacity for evil, highlighted in the act of ‘doing kanaima’. It is believed that every human is capable of ‘evil’, but unrelated and unknown people are much more suspicious and unpredictable. As mentioned previously, potentially insulting behaviour is better avoided—and as Marcia comments, ‘We don't know them. We don't know what type of people they are’. From past experiences travelling through the mountainous areas further north, she recalls the frightening and ‘savage’ attitude of some people she met:

One thing about them . . . you see how I come here? I never know what is in your bag. There they would tumble down your bag and take out what they want. It was scary, really, really scary! They take out everything! Empty out your bag and choose what they want. Without you telling them what to do. What we had to do is to put on three clothes on top of one another, to survive there. Three clothes, three pants, three shirts. I remember I had expensive clothes, like 16,000 GY$ that somebody give me as my birthday present. They take it away. I didn't want to be greedy, maybe they looking for trouble, maybe they planning for something. I just didn't say anything (transcribed from Creole English).

  • 12 O’ma’kon also categorizes all animals that the Makushi do not eat, from inedible small insects lik (...)
  • 13 See also the dictionary of the Makushi Research Unit (2009).

10Marcia’s perception of what she considered a ‘savage’ attitude of the people she encountered on her journey was linked to her understanding of o'ma'kon, entities who inhabit the forest and mountains, classed as ‘not tame’ or ‘something wild’ in Makushi imagination12. In a similar vein, o’ma’ can also be used as a verb and adjective, doing o’ma’, behaving o’ma’—behaving ‘wild’. O’ma’taiki (adjective), for instance, describes a person, often a child who behaves in an offensive way, troubling other people. Similarly, o’ma’ta (verb) is used when someone is ‘insulting or mischievous’ (cf. Raposo 2008: 65).13 O’ma’ is therefore also a quality and one can turn o’ma’ through behaving in an ‘improper’ way.

11To clarify the Makushi ideas of what is considered ‘civilized’ and ‘uncivilized’, it is important to look at these categories in Makushi terminology. Marcia defines ‘civilized’ as karanpe kompe senîhasan in Makushi—which she translates as: ‘We are friends, you not a stranger (karan) anymore’. She goes on to explain that people who are ‘civilized’

visit, they are sociable, they socialize. They would talk to any and everyone. We learn to stick with one another; we learn to socialize. We are civilized now because we would not run away from you anymore. We are not frightened anymore.

12‘Civilized’ is thus the equivalent of being sociable and not being frightened. ‘Wild’, on the contrary, Marcia defines with the expression aranneko’. Aranne’ in Makushi is an adjective meaning ‘frightened’ that can be used to describe the behaviour of recently captured wild animals. The suffix ko’ means ‘inhabitants of’, referring usually to a place but here rather to behaviour, i.e. ‘the (still) frightened people’; ‘the wild people’. Marcia further explains: ‘We don’t see each other. If I try to talk to them, they run away. Frightened of people, of strangers. They can turn into animals, when they put on alligator, anteater or tiger skins’.

13The Makushi’s perception of ‘improper’ forms of commensality connected to such silent and secretive behaviour was highlighted at various moments in conversations with villagers along our trajectory, warning us of a big group of strangers, apparently heading in our direction. The comments, loosely translated by Marcia from Makushi, were these:

‘A big group of people was sighted near Kato village, heading to Tusenen’
‘They walk with all their children and women, with clay pots and graters’
‘A truck driver on his way to Lethem had given them a lift, but they wanted to get off where there was no village near.’ (‘This is typical for them, they would not get off at a village, always before, and then hide in the bush,’ Marcia explained to me.)
‘They would not speak to anyone’
‘They are kanaima people’ (‘They come to do you harm, they eat people,’ Marcia added)

14In choosing to sleep in ‘the bush’ rather than the villages, maybe due to a lack of kinship ties in the region or wanting to remain hidden, the group of strangers failed to observe an important etiquette among travellers. The fact that no one knew who these people were and had been unable to talk to them about the purpose, origin and the destination of their journey aroused great suspicion. The importance of communication between travellers is evident when on the move. It is therefore a common practice to slow down when approaching someone on the road and exchange a few words.

O’no pata attî mîrîrî? - Where are you going?
O’no pata awe’numî’pî ko’manpîra? - Which place you sleep last night?
Asarî panma sîrîrî - Just passing?

  • 14 Butt Colson, Audrey. n.d. ‘Some Fundamental Concepts of the Kapon and Pemon in the circum-Roraima (...)

15The person might look at the ground while responding, hiding his face behind a football cap. However, the willingness to talk and give information facilitates comfortable and safe relations. On the contrary, people who merely pass without exchanging a word, not even a greeting, are perceived with considerable ambivalence. The analogy between hiding, not communicating and ‘being wild’ is clear and a marker for unsociability. Furthermore, according to Butt Colson, in Pemon and Kapon concepts of being, the spirit/soul (yekton) as opposed to the body (esa) is associated with moral values, wisdom and sensibility.14 Those that behave in an unsociable manner are seen to possess less yekaton and less understanding of how to ‘live well’ with one another. Furthermore, these considerations on wildness are subsumed under the larger notion of kanaima, to which I now turn.

  • 15 Im Thurn, Everard. Among the Indians of Guiana: Being sketches chiefly anthropologic from the inte (...)
  • 16 Koch-Grünberg, Theodor. Vom Roraima zum Orinoco: Ethnographie, vol. 3. Stuttgart: Verlag Strecker (...)
  • 17 Whitehead, Neil. ‘Kanaimà: shamanism and ritual death in the Pakaraima Mountains, Guyana’, in Bey (...)
  • 18 All quotes by Farage (1997) are my translation.
  • 19 Overing, Joanna. ‘There is no end of evil: the guilty innocents and their fallible god’, in The An (...)

16Throughout the Guianas, death is always attributed to some form of causal intervention, which for the Circum-Roraima people, is associated with kanaima, or kanaimȋ, as the Makushi call it. The notion of kanaima became a literary topos of the Guianas in the accounts of travellers and scientists in the 19th century, originally personified in the form of a ‘secret avenger’ (Im Thurn [1883] 1967; Schomburgk [1847] 1922; Roth [1915] 2011; Myers 1946).15 At the same time, some of the authors have interpreted kanaima from a functional sociological perspective as a law of retaliation, a ‘system of vendetta’ (Im Thurn [1883] 1967: 329), which facilitates social regulation (Schomburgk [1847] 1922; Roth [1915] 2011). Without contradicting the sociological explanation, other authors have viewed the notion of kanaima as a philosophy of causality, a native theory of ‘cause and effect’ (Myers 1946: 28; see also Koch-Grünberg 1923 and Farabee 1924).16 In her thesis on Wapishana rhetorical practices, Farage (1997) highlights the fact that Koch-Grünberg‘s analysis (1923) of the topos recognizes a crucial aspect of kanaima revenge that goes beyond ethnic borders, which is the ‘wrath of vengeance’ (‘furor da vingança’). Thus, rather than naturalised into a human assassin, as kanaima is usually described in contemporary ethnographic literature (e.g. Whitehead 2001, 2002)17, Farage suggests that kanaima should be read as a ‘mode of doing’ (1997: 107).18 Following the work of Overing (1985, 1986) on Guianese Amerindian philosophy, she proposes that kanaima refers to the break with, and denial of, communication, which must define human sociability, and thus needs to be understood as a kind of cosmopolitics of conviviality (60).19 Hence, as Farage has demonstrated (113), the act of kanaima is made possible when the dosage that humanity depends on, which lies midway between shamanic chant and kanaima silence, gets out of balance. The importance of proper human communication and the caesura of communication which results in kanaima silence, is particularly interesting in the discussion on movement.

  • 20 Rivière, Peter. ‘The more we are together…’, in The anthropology of love and anger: the aesthetics (...)
  • 21 Overing, Joanna. ‘The efficacy of laughter: the ludic side of magic within Amazonian sociality’, i (...)
  • 22 For more descriptions of kanaima deaths, see also Farage (1997), Riley (2000), Butt Colson (2001), (...)

17In order to understand the negative value of silence, let me first say that for the Makushi, as for other Amazonian peoples (e.g. Rivière 2000), anger is an emotion that is suppressed and not demonstrated openly and publicly, an attitude that is ‘trained’ throughout life, by teasing and joking.20 As Overing (e.g. 2000) stressed for the Piaroa, laughter and the ludic are very important for the creation of conviviality and the maintenance of community life.21 However, open and loud expressions of anger, and the consequences that arise from these, are feared. As Rivière has already noted, for the Trio, there is another side to this, as the ‘ultimate rage is when noise turns to silence, when speech and communication cease’ (2000: 257). Staying away from the general village chatter and daily gossip and keeping to oneself is associated with sorcery and arouses suspicion of unimaginable, uncontrolled behaviour. Anger and revenge understood as the consequence of negating the ethic of sharing and ‘proper’ human dialogue, are analogous with the silence surrounding kanaima. The victim never sees the perpetrator nor is able to talk about what happened due to the typical swelling of the tongue22—this inability to communicate is the prominent symptom of kanaima attack, which for its part is carried out secretly. Silence, as Farage explains, ‘carries with it a threat: a man who does not speak meditates revenge. (…) the man, who, overcome with fury, refuses dialogue, is prone to act’ (1997: 110).

  • 23 About the power of words and breath in shamanic practices, see e.g. Mentore (2004).
  • 24 See also Overing (2006) on the Piaroa’s notion of asocial diseases through unrestrained passions a (...)

18For the Wapishana, according to Farage, unspoken words cause decay, they ‘spoil’ and ferment anger and revenge.23 Kanaima inverts the human condition through a continent mouth and incontinent anus (victims become mute and intestines are usually pulled out through the anus), which mean a lack of sociality through uncontrolled poisons and a denial of social dialogue.24 It is interesting to note here that among the Kapon and Pemon, as Butt Colson (n.d.: 3) stresses, ewan, the abdomen—the area mutilated as a result of kanaima attacks—is the seat of ‘feelings and emotions’. Being human is an unstable condition that depends on a balance of 'proper food and appropriate words’ (Farage 1997: 60) to create sociability. Kanaima can be seen as the denial of this dialogue.

  • 25 Overing, Joanna. ‘The Grotesque Landscape of Mythic ‘Before Time’; the Folly of Sociality in ‘Toda (...)

19As discussed in the ethnography of the area, Amazonian places are multiverses composed of a vast array of entities (see Overing 2004) and knowing how to move through them appropriately is a prerequisite.25 Different kinds of paths have to be distinguished from one another when travelling, which include those of other beings, such as the o’m’akon, as they travel and traverse the area too. To travel safely, it is important to also create good relationships with those beings. This means talking to them when crossing their paths and territory, explaining who one is and what one has come to do—the same etiquette in fact which is observed when visiting another village. In this way one shows respect and familiarity with the place and its inhabitants. On one’s journey taking along food that is known to be preferred by the o’ma’kon, like the hairy, giant ataitai, such as cassava bread coated with starch, helps to mould one’s relationships with these entities, negotiate one’s passage and use of the place, create friendly ties and lower potential anger. Marcia is convinced that in this way the ataitai will not trouble her: ‘They are good, depends on how you greet them’! Thus, whenever she walks through the forest alone and on crossing the path of an o’ma’kon, she would talk in a loud voice to them:

Inapsa’se sîrîrî, inhekana wai (I have come back again)
ka’ran pepî urî (I am not a stranger)
Tarîron uurî (I belong here)
Kawai seni’ (this is tobacco [leave the tobacco, but far])
E’pîikka’tîkî, amooko! (help the other, grandfather!)
Unmukuyamî’ insemoro (here are my children)
To’ pî’ tiwo’ma’tai pra (don’t trouble them)
Tamî’nawîrî si’ma ko’mannîpai’nîkon (let us live together)
Epa’ka tîpoose unmukuyamî’ ko’mamî tiwookon pî’ (my children are hunting until I go out)
Seni’ imu kisa yapi’tî aasare’tîkonpa! (here is starch cassava bread, have something to eat!)

  • 26 Kahane, Ahuvia. ‘Epic, Novel, Genre: Bakhtin and the question of history’, in The Bakhtin Circle a (...)

20‘Proper’ words are essential when on the move, in order to prompt the good will of those whose places one passes on the way: like in the Odyssey, it is the ‘skill with words’ (Kahane 2005: 68) that is essential when on the move to create good relationships.26 Odysseus receives hospitality, food, accommodation, gifts and sympathy through his ‘well-shaped’ words, indicative of his noble mind, and because he ‘narrated’ his tale ‘skilfully’ (67).

21Having argued that ‘proper words’ create ‘proper relationships’, fundamental to understanding how journeys operate, it is necessary to reflect on what these ‘proper relationships’ are. As pointed out, a successful journey implies observing forms of social etiquette, in which a complex and subtle host/guest-relationship is played out. By making oneself known to others and trying to connect to local genealogies, the traveller undergoes a kind of ‘rite of passage’, from stranger to a person ‘at home’. The transformation from stranger to person ‘at home’, as Pitt-Rivers pointed out (2012: 503), requires that ‘an old status is abandoned and a new one acquired. In this case it is the status of stranger which is lost and that of community member which is gained’. However, while in the case discussed by Pitt-Rivers, a stranger is converted into a community member predominantly by the way he is received by the host, in the Makushi case it is the traveller, the guest, who has to actively make him- or herself ‘at home’.

  • 27 Evans-Pritchard, Edward. The Nuer: a description of the modes of the livelihood and political inst (...)

22Indeed, in Makushi journeying the guest makes him- or herself ‘part’ through a careful scrutiny of kinship ties. As consanguineous ties fade with spatial distance, on the move, the memory of social ties or the limits of one’s social cartography are tested—or rather, they are re-enacted. Locating oneself within this social space, no matter how tenuous the link, is the privileged way one makes oneself at home. Indeed, as shown in the classical ethnography of Evans-Pritchard (1940), for the Nuer the structural relativity of cieng (‘home’) encompasses one’s village; by way of lineages, however, it can be extended to the entire Nuer territory.27 In a context like the Guianas, where genealogical memory usually does not go beyond two or three generations, kinship ties are correspondingly limited in space.

  • 28 Overing, Joanna. ‘The Aesthetics of Production: The Sense of Community among the Cubeo and Piaroa’ (...)
  • 29 Shaffner, Justin and Huon Wardle, eds. Cosmopolitics: The Collected Papers of the Open Anthropolog (...)

23Commensality and dialogue, as we could see, are the devices then convoked to create safe relationships, which, in fact, are the same as those at work for the creation of a ‘shared substance’ inside a ‘community of equals’ (Overing 1989, 2003).28 Nevertheless, it is the traveller who sets these devices ‘in motion’ outside the limits of his or her kindred to establish relationships and make him- or herself at home amidst unknown worlds. Movement out of one’s community is always marked by potential dangers but at the same time is fundamental for the appropriation, recreation, and actualization of memory and for the acquisition of knowledge. Bringing ‘home’ closer when on the move requires, paradoxically, to be cosmopolitan, since this home must be built with new ideas and relationships—a place in movement. This place requires, as Wardle and Shaffner propose, ‘imaginative capacity’, an ‘empathic ability (or inability) to orient myself in another’s world’.29 The opposite is also true, as the ‘wild’ is the one who refuses such communication. Such an equation implies a rootlessness, not only with regards to the Makushi’s perception of an unlimited territory and land resources (Santilli 1994), but which also springs from the conception of belonging to vast and multiple worlds. From this perspective, home is wherever one communicates. In this vein, Makushi sociality seems to convey what Rapport defined as ‘mutual guests in sociocultural milieus’, and consequently ‘humanity might escape the mutual destruction that derived from singular, exclusivist identities fixed to territories’ (Rapport 2016: 201).

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Grund, Lisa. ‘Aasenîkon! Makushi Travelogues from the Borderlands of Southern Guyana’. PhD. thesis. University of St. Andrews, 2017

Im Thurn, Everard. Among the Indians of Guiana: Being sketches chiefly anthropologic from the interior of British Guiana. New York: Dover Publications, [1883] 1967.

Kahane, Ahuvia. ‘Epic, Novel, Genre: Bakhtin and the Question of History’, in The Bakhtin Circle and Ancient Narrative, Robert Branham, ed. Groningen: Barkhuis: Groningen University Library, 2005.

Koch-Grünberg, Theodor. Vom Roraima zum Orinoco: Ethnographie, vol. 3. Stuttgart: Verlag Strecker und Schröder, 1923.

Kopenawa, Davi, and Bruce Albert. The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013.

Makushi Research Unit. Makushi Dictionary. Prototype tri-lingual dictionary Makushi-English-Portuguese, Miriam Abbott, ed. Makushi Research Unit, North Rupununi District Development Board, 2009.

Mentore, George. ‘The Glorious Tyranny of Silence and the Resonance of Shamanic Breath’, in In Darkness and Secrecy: The Anthropology of Assault Sorcery and Witchcraft in Amazonia, Neil Whitehead and Robin Wright eds. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004; 132–156.

Myers, Iris. ‘The Makushi of British Guiana: a study in culture contact’. Part II. Timehri 27 (1946): 16–38.

Overing, Joanna. ‘Endogamy and the Marriage Alliance: a note on continuity in kindred-based groups.’ Man 8. 4 (1973): 555-570.

Overing, Joanna. ‘There is no End of Evil: the guilty innocents and their fallible god’, in The Anthropology of Evil, David Parkin ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1985; 244–278.

Overing, Joanna. ‘Images of Cannibalism, Death and Domination in a ‘Non-Violent’ Society’. Journal de la Société des Américanistes de Paris 72 (1986): 133–156.

Overing, Joanna. ‘The Aesthetics of Production: The sense of community among the Cubeo and Piaroa’. Dialectical Anthropology 14 (1989): 159–175.

Overing, Joanna. ‘The Shaman as a Maker of Worlds: Nelson Goodman in the Amazon’. Man 25 (1990): 602–619.

Overing, Joanna. ‘The Efficacy of Laughter: the ludic side of magic within Amazonian sociality’, in The Anthropology of love and anger: the aesthetics of conviviality in Native Amazonia, Joanna Overing and Alan Passes, eds. New York: Routledge, 2000; 64–81.

Overing, Joanna. ‘In Praise of the Everyday: Trust and the Art of Social Living in an Amazonian Community’. Ethnos 68. 3 (September 2003): 293–316.

Overing, Joanna. ‘The Grotesque Landscape of Mythic ‘Before Time’; the Folly of Sociality in ‘Today Time’: an Egalitarian Aesthetics of Human Existence’, in Kultur, Raum, Landschaft, Elke Mader and Ernst Halbmayer, eds. Frankfurt am Main: Brandes & Apsel/Südwind, 2004; 69–90.

Overing, Joanna. ‘The Stench of Death and the Aromas of Life: The Poetics of Ways of Knowing and Sensory Process among Piaroa of the Orinoco Basin’. Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 4 (2006): 9–32.

Pitt-Rivers, Julian. ‘The Law of Hospitality’. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2. 1 (2012): 501–517.

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Rapport, Nigel. ‘The Cosmopolitan Movement of the Global Guest’, in Serendipity in Anthropological Research: The Nomadic Turn, Haim Hazan and Esther Hertzog, eds. London, New York: Routledge, 2016; 199–212.

Riley, Mary. ‘Measuring the Biomedical Efficacy of Traditional Remedies among the Makushi Amerindians of Southwestern Guyana’. Ph.D. thesis. Tulane University, 2000.

Rivière, Peter. ‘The more we are together . . . ’, in The Anthropology of Love and Anger: the Aesthetics of Conviviality in Native Amazonia, Joanna Overing and Alan Passes, eds. London: Routledge, 2000; 252–267.

Roth, Water. An Inquiry into the Animism and Folk-lore of the Guiana Indians. Georgetown: The Caribbean Press, 2011 [1915].

Rubenstein, Steven. Alejandro Tsakimp: a Shuar healer in the margins of history. Lincoln [Neb.]: University of Nebraska Press, 2002.

Santilli, Paulo. Fronteiras da república: história e política entre os Macuxi no vale do rio Branco. São Paulo: NHII-USP, FAPESP, 1994.

Schomburgk, Richard. Reisen in Britisch-Guiana in den Jahren 1840-1844, vol. 1. 1847. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Shaffner, Justin and Huon Wardle, eds. Cosmopolitics: The Collected Papers of the Open Anthropology Cooperative, vol. 1. St. Andrews: Open Anthropology Cooperative Press, 2017.

Stoller, Paul. Jaguar: a Story of Africans in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999.

Whitehead, Neil. ‘Kanaimà: Shamanism and Ritual Death in the Pakaraima Mountains, Guyana’, in Beyond the Visible and the Material: the Amerindianization of Society in the Work of Peter Rivière, Laura Rival and Neil Whitehead eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Whitehead, Neil. Dark Shamans: Kanaimà and the Poetics of Violent Death. Durham, London: Duke University Press, 2002.

Notes

1 The process of knowing as a form of world-making was elaborated by Joanna Overing in her writing on the Piaroa shaman. Overing, Joanna. ‘The Shaman as a Maker of Worlds: Nelson Goodman in the Amazon’. Man 25 (1990): 602–619.

2 Butt Colson, Audrey. ‘Routes of Knowledge: an aspect of regional integration in the circum-Roraima area of the Guiana Highlands’. Antropológica 63–64 (1985): 103–149.

3 Raposo, Celino. Dicionário da língua macuxi. Boa Vista: Editora UFRR, 2008.

4 Grund, Lisa. ‘Aasenîkon! Makushi Travelogues from the Borderlands of Southern Guyana’. PhD. thesis. University of St. Andrews, 2017.

5 Rubenstein, Steven. Alejandro Tsakimp: a Shuar Healer in the Margins of History. Lincoln [Neb.]: University of Nebraska Press, 2002; Stoller, Paul. Jaguar: a story of Africans in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999; Blowsnake, Sam and Paul Radin. The Autobiography of a Winnebago Indian. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1920; Kopenawa, Davi and Bruce Albert. The Falling Sky: Words of a Yanomami Shaman. Cambridge, Massachusetts: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 2013.

6 Basso, Keith. Wisdom Sits in Places: Landscape and Language among the Western Apache. Albuquerque N.M.: University of New Mexico Press, 1996; xv-xvi.

7 See Farage, Nádia. ‘As Flores da Fala: práticas retóricas entre os Wapishana’. Ph.D. thesis. University of São Paulo, 1997; 134–36; 140.

8 Im Thurn already mentioned the importance of these etiquettes among the Makushi ([1883] 1967: 35).

9 Pitt-Rivers, Julian. ‘The Law of Hospitality’. HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 2; 1 (2012): 501–517.

10 While I will be saying more about kanaima later, in short, it is a complex and manifold Amerindian notion prevalent throughout the Guianas’ region, which refers to the act of vengeance in form of predation and death.

11 Overing, Joanna. ‘Endogamy and the Marriage Alliance: a note on continuity in kindred-based groups.’ Man 8. 4 (1973): 555-570; Descola, Phillipe. ‘The Genres of Gender: Local Models and Global Paradigms in the Comparison of Amazonia and Melanesia’, in Gender in Amazonia and Melanesia: an exploration of the comparative method, Gregor, Thomas and Tuzin, Donald eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2001; 99–114.

12 O’ma’kon also categorizes all animals that the Makushi do not eat, from inedible small insects like flies and mosquitos, to animals like snakes (ikîi) and jaguars (kaikusi). This compares to Kamoyamî: ‘game or prey’, edible animals that are hunte

13 See also the dictionary of the Makushi Research Unit (2009).

14 Butt Colson, Audrey. n.d. ‘Some Fundamental Concepts of the Kapon and Pemon in the circum-Roraima Area of the Guianas: the Nature of Being’. Translation of ‘La naturaleza del ser. Conceptos fundamentales de los Kapón y Pemón’. Unpublished; 2.

15 Im Thurn, Everard. Among the Indians of Guiana: Being sketches chiefly anthropologic from the interior of British Guiana. New York: Dover Publications, [1883] 1967; Myers, Iris. ‘The Makushi of British Guiana: a study in culture contact’. Part II. Timehri 27 (1946): 16–38; Schomburgk, Richard. Reisen in Britisch-Guiana in den Jahren 1840-1844, vol. 1. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010 [1847]; Roth, Walter. An inquiry into the animism and folk-lore of the Guiana Indians. Georgetown: The Caribbean Press, 2011 [1915].

16 Koch-Grünberg, Theodor. Vom Roraima zum Orinoco: Ethnographie, vol. 3. Stuttgart: Verlag Strecker und Schröder, 1923; Farabee, W. C. 1924. The Central Caribs. Philadelphia: University Museum.

17 Whitehead, Neil. ‘Kanaimà: shamanism and ritual death in the Pakaraima Mountains, Guyana’, in Beyond the Visible and the Material: the amerindianization of society in the work of Peter Rivière, Laura Rival and Neil Whitehead eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001; Whitehead, Neil. Dark Shamans: Kanaimà and the poetics of violent death. Durham, London: Duke University Press, 2002. See also other anthropological literature that discuss kanaima, for instance Foster (1993), Riley (2000) and Butt Colson (2001).

18 All quotes by Farage (1997) are my translation.

19 Overing, Joanna. ‘There is no end of evil: the guilty innocents and their fallible god’, in The Anthropology of Evil, David Parkin ed. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 1985; 244–278; OVERING, Joanna. ‘Images of cannibalism, death and domination in a ‘non violent’ society’. Journal de la Société des Américanistes de Paris 72 (1986): 133–156.

20 Rivière, Peter. ‘The more we are together…’, in The anthropology of love and anger: the aesthetics of conviviality in Native Amazonia, Joanna Overing and Alan Passes, eds. London: Routledge, 2000; 252–267.

21 Overing, Joanna. ‘The efficacy of laughter: the ludic side of magic within Amazonian sociality’, in The anthropology of love and anger: the aesthetics of conviviality in Native Amazonia, Joanna Overing and Alan Passes, eds. New York: Routledge, 2000; 64–81.

22 For more descriptions of kanaima deaths, see also Farage (1997), Riley (2000), Butt Colson (2001), Whitehead (2001: 241–242), Whitehead (2002).

23 About the power of words and breath in shamanic practices, see e.g. Mentore (2004).

24 See also Overing (2006) on the Piaroa’s notion of asocial diseases through unrestrained passions and excessive behaviour.

25 Overing, Joanna. ‘The Grotesque Landscape of Mythic ‘Before Time’; the Folly of Sociality in ‘Today Time’: an Egalitarian Aesthetics of Human Existence’, in Kultur, Raum, Landschaft, Elke Mader and Ernst Halbmayer, eds. Frankfurt am Main: Brandes & Apsel/Südwind, 2004; 69–90.

26 Kahane, Ahuvia. ‘Epic, Novel, Genre: Bakhtin and the question of history’, in The Bakhtin Circle and Ancient Narrative, Robert Branham, ed. Groningen: Barkhuis: Groningen University Library, 2005.

27 Evans-Pritchard, Edward. The Nuer: a description of the modes of the livelihood and political institutions of a Nilotic people. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1940.

28 Overing, Joanna. ‘The Aesthetics of Production: The Sense of Community among the Cubeo and Piaroa’. Dialectical Anthropology 14 (1989): 159–175; Overing, Joanna. ‘In Praise of the Everyday: Trust and the Art of Social Living in an Amazonian Community’. Ethnos 68. 3 (September 2003): 293–316.

29 Shaffner, Justin and Huon Wardle, eds. Cosmopolitics: The Collected Papers of the Open Anthropology Cooperative, vol. 1. St. Andrews: Open Anthropology Cooperative Press, 2017; 28.

Auteur

Lisa Katharina Grund completed her MA in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester, UK. Prior to commencing her Ph.D. at the Centre for Amerindian Studies, Department of Social Anthropology, at the University of St. Andrews, UK, she worked in the interior of Guyana in the area of audio and video documentation of indigenous culture. Her doctoral research among the Makushi people of the Rupununi and South Pakaraima region, Guyana, explores Makushi conceptions and practices of movement, particularly of women. She additionally works in an indigenous language documentation project (DoBeS) in the Brazilian Amazon, through the Max-Planck-Institute, Nijmegen. Although different, both projects are thematically connected and have contributed to her general understanding of Amazonian peoples.
 

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