Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Over the past 70 years, Amahuaca people of Peruvian Amazonia have engaged with outside organizations transforming fundamentally how they relate to one another and the landscape they inhabit. In the 1950s, most Amahuaca people lived in small family units scattered in an isolated area with intermittent contact with outsiders. In the mid-1950s, contact with members of the Summer Institute of Linguistics resulted in their move into more accessible, permanent, nucleated communities with clear boundaries and officially recognized land titles. Through this process many Amahuaca people converted to Christianity and today they consider themselves to be ‘civilized’, which has important implications for how they speak about and inhabit the landscape. Today, Amahuaca people frame their relationships with members of the SIL in terms of kinship, care and mutual transformation.
Beginning in 2015, I have carried out work with Amahuaca people to map the areas where they previously lived, secure further land rights and establish a political organization. This was understood by many Amahuaca people as directly connected to, and building upon, their previous relations with members of the SIL. Thus, while my work was carried out decades after the SIL departed and was explicitly framed as a collaborative project, there are many parallels and interconnections between these processes, which I will explore in this paper. In particular, it will interrogate the similarities and differences between the SIL’s approach and my own to raise questions about the significance of collaboration and historical relations with the landscape among Amahuaca people.