Fluent Selves: Autobiography, Person, and History in Lowland South America

Fluent Selves: Autobiography, Person, and History in Lowland South America

Fluent Selves: Autobiography, Person, and History in Lowland South America

Fluent Selves: Autobiography, Person, and History in Lowland South America

Synopsis

Fluent Selves examines narrative practices throughout lowland South America focusing on indigenous communities in Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru, illuminating the social and cultural processes that make the past as important as the present for these peoples. This collection brings together leading scholars in the fields of anthropology and linguistics to examine the intersection of these narratives of the past with the construction of personhood. The volume's exploration of autobiographical and biographical accounts raises questions about fieldwork, ethical practices, and cultural boundaries in the study of anthropology.

Rather than relying on a simple opposition between the "Western individual" and the non-Western rest, contributors to Fluent Selves explore the complex interplay of both individualizing as well as relational personhood in these practices. Transcending classic debates over the categorization of "myth" and "history," the autobiographical and biographical narratives in Fluent Selves illustrate the very medium in which several modes of engaging with the past meet, are reconciled, and reemerge.

Excerpt

Suzanne Oakdale and Magnus Course

Much of the recent research in lowland South America foregrounds history—a significant departure in a literature long marked by a commitment to a structural functional emphasis on integrated systems (Fausto and Heckenberger 2007; Hill 1988; Whitehead 2003). Yet despite the attention to historical consciousness and “historicity” in this literature, remarkably few studies have explicitly focused on autobiographical or biographical narrative. in this volume we set out to address this lacuna through the exploration of narrative practices in a wide variety of lowland communities. We explore how they illuminate the social and cultural processes that make the past meaningful for indigenous peoples in lowland South America and what these narrative practices show us about the contemporary enactment of persons in these locales. in brief this volume concerns the relationships between personhood and the ways people relate to the past as these come together in narrative practices.

The authors represented in Fluent Selves focus on a variety of autobiographical and biographical narrative forms and employ a range of different theoretical approaches. Chapters explore both oral and written genres, in rural and urban settings in such countries as Ecuador, Brazil, Peru, and Chile, active in a range of contexts from highly ritualized performances to ethnographic interviews and moments of self-presentation in large public events. This volume unites scholars from Europe . . .

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