Space-Time of the Bororo of Brazil

Space-Time of the Bororo of Brazil

Space-Time of the Bororo of Brazil

Space-Time of the Bororo of Brazil


"A superior book. It provides thoughtful insights into the worldview of a changing cultural group and shows how they incorporate their vision of the celestial sphere into their social and ceremonial structures."--Dr. Ray A. Williamson, author of Living the Sky
"Fabian confirms once again that literacy is not a prerequisite for rational or scientific thought."--Allyn MacLean Stearman, University of Central Florida
For America's native peoples, Fabian writes, the sky is a daily--and nightly--influence on their society and culture. In one of the first comprehensive studies of a lowland South American people's astronomy, he explains how the Bororo Indians of Brazil integrate the social, natural, and cosmic dimensions of time and space into their environment.
Fabian introduces the Bororo by recounting a newly collected version of their bird-nester myth that alludes to the spatial dimensions that govern Bororo village organization. Time is mapped onto the circular village structure, astronomical observations plot the nature and location of daily activities, and the perimeter of the settlement is synchronized with circadian and seasonal cycles. The village itself acts as a retrieval and classification system that functions much as lists or tables would in a literate society.
By using extensive cross-cultural materials and a holistic approach that emphasizes relationships rather than objects, Fabian lets the Bororo speak for themselves. His interpretive work combines myth and folklore with personal interviews, archival research, and discussion of his own participation in ceremonies and secular activities during the ten-month period he and his wife lived among the Bororo. Of interest to anthropologists, folklorists, ethnoastronomers, and students of religion, Space-Time of the Bororo of Brazil shows that the Bororo animate a complex, rational system, a realization, Fabian writes, "that must both broaden and deepen our understanding, appreciation, and respect for all native societies."
Stephen Michael Fabian is assistant professor of anthropology at Hanover College, Hanover, Indiana, and the author of numerous papers based on his field research in Latin America and Japan.


Few Bororo not living at the Catholic mission of Meruri are literate, and of course the Bororo language has no indigenous writing system. Several early collections of vocabularies and brief grammatical descriptions exist (e.g., Magalhães 1919; Von den Steinen 1940 [1894 ]), but the Salesian fathers were the first to give systematic treatment to this material (see especially Colbacchini 1925; Colbacchini and Albisetti 1942). Later Salesian work published in the Enciclopédia Bororo (hereafter eb) uses a complex system of diacritical marks to designate Bororo pronunciation. in this text, the transcription of Bororo words is simplified; vowels and consonants generally resemble those of Portuguese, with the following notable exceptions:

G, t, and d are always hard, as in English "go," "to," "do,";

There is no shift in the pronunciation of word-final -e or -o as occurs in common Brazilian speech;

Bororo words are stressed on the penultimate syllable;

č as used by the Enciclopédia Bororo to express the sound "tch" has been replaced in this text by an x.

In addition to the works already cited, readers with a specific interest in the Bororo language are directed to recent work by the Summer Institute of Linguistics, specifically that of T. Crowell and J. Crowell (n.d.).

Those Portuguese words that have no discrete English gloss and that commonly occur in the anthropological literature, such as babaçu and cerrado, are not italicized; all other Portuguese and Bororo terms that are not used as proper nouns are italicized throughout the text.

This work could not have been done but for the contributions of many people, and to all of them -- whether specifically named below or not -- I express my deepest appreciation. of course full responsibility for the work must rest with me alone.

Dr. Anthony F. Aveni (Colgate University) and Dr. R. Tom Zuidema . . .

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