Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Name Rituals and Acts of Feeling among the Kayapo (Mebengokre)

Academic journal article Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

Name Rituals and Acts of Feeling among the Kayapo (Mebengokre)

Article excerpt

Ritual form and performance carry meanings about commitment to a certain order, and the temporal qualities of that order are at least partly established through ritual itself. In this article I argue that Rappaport's (1999) ideas about the ritual production of temporal orders, prefigured in part by Wagner's (1977) notion of kinship as analogic flow, help us to understand ceremonial name transmission among the Ge-speaking Kayapo (Mebengokre) peoples of central Brazil. Ceremonially confirmed names, also known as 'great' names, index the simultaneous co-ordination of relationship among different relatives that ritual orchestrates. (1) For the Kayapo, sentiments of longing and happiness are a self-evident result of this process, and such sentiments are attributed both to relations within an extended family and to a performing community as a whole. In this article I contend that great names do not represent titles or the non-material patrimony of corporate groups (Lea 1992; Verswijver 1983) but are tokens or index ical symbols that refer to the production and differentiation of relationships through time. (2) While names do accord access to positions of social prestige (Bamberger 1974), the interest of the congregation of participants lies in their own experience of ritual. Unlike common names, great names that are the focus of ritual participate in the condition of their own transmission and, in doing so, transcend ties of kinship.

Ethnographic context

The Brazilian Kayapo (or Mebengokre) are perhaps best known as a noteworthy example of an Amazonian people who have managed, despite their marginal status within a nation-state, to project themselves forcefully onto the national and international political scene. Their impact has not been limited to challenging specific development projects, such as hydroelectric, road, and nuclear storage facility construction, but has also influenced the ways in which conservation and development issues have been framed (cf. Conklin & Graham 1995; Fisher 1994). The Kayapo occupy several large indigenous reserves and more than a dozen villages, each of which is politically autonomous, although individuals hold ties of kinship with inhabitants of other villages. The Kayapo share a number of features with other Ge-speaking peoples of central Brazil: a matri-uxorical residence pattern, an idealized circular village plan, and differentiation between public and private realms, this being particularly notable in the contrast betwe en the central village plaza and the domestic households ringing the village perimeter. The public arena features a diversity of institutional forms, commonly including men's clubs, ceremonial moieties, age organizations, and ritual societies. Women's participation in this arena may be restricted or linked to that of their spouses, although this is not always the case. The diversity of institutional forms beyond the household may be contrasted with striking similarities regarding notions of personhood, the trajectory of life cycle development, and the foundational place of age and gender complementarity in creating the basic conditions for sociality among Ge-speaking peoples, as well as the non-Ge speaking Bororo (cf. J.C. Crocker 1985; Viertler 1976). Bodily practices and imagery point to similar ideas about the complex formation of social persons, based, on the one hand, on ties of filiation and, on the other, on ties that exclude these relations (W Crocker 1990; Da Matta 1982; Melatti 1979). Carneiro da Cu nha (1993: 86) suggests that G& institutional diversity overlays a 'family resemblance' based on common residence arrangements and a dualist outlook underlying the organization of the cosmos, society, and personhood.

Focusing specifically on the Kayapo, Verswijver (1983) and Lea (1992) rightly place matri-uxoriocal residence segments composed of extended families at the centre of thinking about great name transmission. These residences tend to retain their relative position vis-a-vis one another and with respect to the sun's path through the sky Lea, in a series of works (1986; 1992; 1995; 1996), has made the case that domestic clusters should be treated as 'Houses', following Levi-Strauss's proposed terminology (1984: 189 ff. …

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