Kayapo Ethnoecology and Culture

Kayapo Ethnoecology and Culture

Kayapo Ethnoecology and Culture

Kayapo Ethnoecology and Culture


Darrell A Posey died in March 2001 after a long and distinguished career in anthropology and ecology. Kayapoacute; Ethnoecology and Culture presents a selection of his writings that result from 25 years of work with the Kayapoacute; Indians of the Amazon Basin. These writings describe the dispersal of the Kayapoacute; sub-groups and explain how with this diaspora useful biological species and natural resource management strategies also spread. However the Kayapoacute; are threatened with extinction like many of the inhabitants of the Amazon basin. The author is adamant that it is no longer satisfactory for scientists to just do 'good science'. They are are increasingly asked and morally obliged to become involved in political action to protect the peoples they study.


Darrell Posey died from cancer in March 2001 at the age of 53, in mid-career. He had been living in Oxford since 1993, teaching in the University, and travelling extensively throughout the world to attend conferences, teach and give lectures. At his home on Boar's Hill he received almost incessant requests for copies of his articles, and had been considering gathering together some of his more important papers for re-publication. It was a suggestion from Roy Ellen and Laura Rival that he actually do this for the Studies in Environmental Anthropology series which finally prompted him to act. in preparing material for the new MSc Programme in Ethnobotany at Kent they had discovered just how much of a challenge finding his scattered and sometimes inaccessible original papers could be. This is perhaps to be expected of someone who was more concerned with making an impact on the world than with ensuring that his output was bibliographically tidy.

It was in this context that Darrell and I discussed how best to present the papers he had written during his career, or two careers as it seemed to me, and it soon became obvious that his ethnobiological work with the Kayapó, whilst it directed the way his career would develop, could be regarded as a complete entity in itself. the development of his work for traditional resource rights after the Rio Summit was a new direction that grew out of his experiences in Brazil and meetings with indigenous peoples from throughout the world. This phase of his career was in turn reaching a natural closure as he turned once again to the inextricable link revealed to him by the Kayapó between human well-being and our natural environment.

Darrell was less sure than I was of this natural break because his involvement with the ethnosciences and indigenous knowledge systems carried on throughout his life. To him his career had been a continuing path, but he felt that his past work was all too familiar to him and he could not look at it impartially, so he gave me carte-blanche to proceed with the selection, which we subsequently discussed with Mark Simon.

This book therefore concentrates on the early part of Darrell's career, his years in Brazil, when his entomological research and interest in anthropology came face to face with the complexity and differentness of Kayapó culture - the interweaving of spiritual and practical. It was the time also when he was confronted with the

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