Upper Perené Arawak Narratives of History, Landscape, and Ritual

Upper Perené Arawak Narratives of History, Landscape, and Ritual

Upper Perené Arawak Narratives of History, Landscape, and Ritual

Upper Perené Arawak Narratives of History, Landscape, and Ritual


Published through the Recovering Languages and Literacies of the Americas initiative, supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The rich storytelling traditions of the Ashaninka Perene Arawaks of eastern Peru are showcased in this bilingual collection of traditional narratives, ethnographic accounts, women's autobiographical stories, songs, chants, and ritual speeches. The Ashaninkas are located in the colonization frontier at the foot of the eastern Andes and the western fringe of the Amazonian jungle. Unfortunately, their language has a slim chance of surviving because only about three hundred fluent speakers remain. This volume collects and preserves the power and vitality of Ashaninka oral and linguistic traditions, as told by thirty members of the Native community.

Upper Perene Arawak Narratives of History, Landscape, and Ritual covers a range of themes in the Ashaninka oral tradition, through genres such as myths, folk tales, autobiographical accounts, and ethnographic texts about customs and rituals, as well as songs, chants, and oratory. Transcribed and translated by a specialist in Ashaninka language varieties, Elena Mihas, and grounded in the actual performances of Ashaninka speakers, this collection makes these stories available in English for the first time. Each original text in Ashaninka is accompanied by an English translation and each theme is introduced with an essay providing biographical, cultural, and linguistic information. The result is a masterful, authoritative, yet entertaining and provocative collection of oral literature that vividly testifies to the power of Ashaninka storytelling.


This book is a result of sixteen months of linguistic fieldwork among Peruvian Upper Perené Arawaks from Chanchamayo Province, Peru, spanning a period of five years. My first, short visit to Chanchamayo Province occurred in 2008, followed by a series of long-term fieldwork periods in subsequent years. the research project began with a utilitarian purpose of fulfilling the requirement for a doctoral degree in linguistics but eventually morphed into an ethnographic-documentary study that attempts to provide a broad perspective on the Ashéninka Perené world as described by the indigenous speakers. the text selections in this anthology constitute a self-portrayal of the natives’ ways of thinking and living, both in the past and present.

This study also takes into account existing ethnographies of indigenous Amazonian people, including academic publications about Ashéninka/Asháninka subsistence patterns; social, religious, and cultural life; and ecological adaptation (e.g., Anderson 2000; Bodley 1970, 1972, 1973; Chevalier 1982; Elick 1969; Gow 1991; Hvalkof 1989; Lenaerts 2006b, 2006c; Narby 1989; Rojas Zolezzi 1994, 2002; Santos-Granero 1998, 2002a, 2002b, 2004a, 2004b; Santos-Granero and Barclay 1998; Sarmiento Barletti 2011; Varese 2002; Veber 2003, 2009; Weiss 1973, 1974, 1975). These accounts offer critical insights and anchoring reference points, necessary for providing the sociocultural context for the Upper Perené narratives and placing the collected texts within pan-Amazonian symbolic discourses. It should be noted that the speakers of Ashéninka and Asháninka varieties are often . . .

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