By Lucas Bessire
In 2004, one of many world’s final bands of voluntarily remoted nomads left in the back of their ancestral lifestyles within the dwindling thorn forests of northern Paraguay, fleeing ranchers’ bulldozers. Behold the Black Caiman is Lucas Bessire’s intimate chronicle of the adventure of this small team of Ayoreo humans, the terrifying new international they now face, and the precarious lives they're piecing jointly opposed to the backdrop of soul-collecting missionaries, humanitarian NGOs, past due liberal financial guidelines, and the top deforestation price within the world.
Drawing on ten years of fieldwork, Bessire highlights the stark disconnect among the determined stipulations of Ayoreo lifestyles for these out of the woodland and the well-funded worldwide efforts to maintain these Ayoreo nonetheless dwelling in it. via exhibiting how this disconnect reverberates inside of Ayoreo our bodies and minds, his reflexive account takes objective on the devastating results of our society’s persevered obsession with the primitive and increases very important questions on anthropology’s powerful skill to additional or bog down indigenous struggles for sovereignty. the result's a well timed replace to the vintage literary ethnographies of South the US, a sustained critique of the so-called ontological turn—one of anthropology’s preferred trends—and, exceptionally, an pressing demand students and activists alike to reconsider their notions of difference.
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Extra resources for Behold the Black Caiman: A Chronicle of Ayoreo Life
It was a telling irony that Simijáné’s teachings to me contradicted nearly everything that had been written about Ayoreo traditional spirituality by the same men he had previously instructed. Tradition as Ethnographic Fetish Ethnographers have made Ayoreo tradition, and spirituality especially, their primary object of study since shortly after missionaries contacted northern Ayoreo-speaking groups in the late 1940s. Although Ayoreospeaking people are nearly absent from English-language scholarship, they are the subject of dozens of anthropological theses, articles, and monographs in Spanish, French, German, and Italian.
It was mid-September 2006, one of the last cold days of the dry season. The low clouds were pushed by a south wind. I had arrived the week before to begin two years of fieldwork. Everything seemed opaque, my relationships tenuous. I spent my days making preparations to set up camp in the forest and visiting with the fluid group of a dozen Totobiegosode living in a wooden garage behind the brick house in the town of Filadelfia, the Mennonite colony and nerve center of the Paraguayan Chaco where the NGO had its headquarters.
Reciting a puyaque chant could reportedly cause great calamity, madness, and death, unless it was indicated by a specific illness. I told him I was not interested in the puyaque chants but only in those that were safe. ” I eagerly accepted his terms. Our acquaintance began with a formal instruction in curing chants over two months in 2001–2002 and gradually turned into lengthy storytelling sessions, first in a cheap hotel in the nearby town of Samaipata, then on the street corner, and two years later over a tiny fire in his drafty shack once he was allowed to return to the urban camp.