Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
This paper presents a critique of the theory of sign underlying Amazonian perspectivism. It argues that perspectivism, as articulated by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro, takes for granted the arbitrary character of the sign and shows an overreliance on Saussurean value. This theoretical stance permeates perspectivism’s conceptual apparatus, especially the notions of controlled equivocation, translation, comparison, and homonymy. This results in an emphasis on the study of relationality and radical alterity at the expense of interactionality. As a counterbalance, I propose a shift of focus away from taking arbitrariness as a feature of the sign and towards understanding regimes of arbitrariness. We can understand these regimes as ideological stances that permeate the semiotic ground of the relationship among signs, objects, and contexts. In the course of this paper I illustrate these regimes of arbitrariness with examples from Amazonian perspectivism as well as examples of engagements of indigenous leaders with national public spheres.