Gender and Sociality in Amazonia: How Real People Are Made

By Cecilia McCallum | Go to book overview

4
Consumptive Production

Appropriation and the Circulation of Labour

How does a person come to own things? This question must be answered before discussing the distribution, consumption and exchange of the products of labour. Underlying all appropriation is the idea that the maker owns his or her product, seen most clearly in the case of immediate products such as cooked food. The labour involved in the preparation of a single product might come from several people, but nevertheless the product belongs to only one person. The Cashinahua describe this quite clearly in talking about labour processes. A woman may ask: ‘Medabe vapa? Atsadan mia chukaxunaitsa?’ (May I help? Perhaps I could wash the manioc on your behalf?). The first question contains the morpheme dabe, which here means ‘help’, but also signifies ‘double’. The verbal phrase medabe va-, which means ‘to help (in some task)’, suggests that one person is identified with another, since it implies that the speaker is identical to the person to whom the question is addressed. The morpheme also has a verbal form, and from the usage of this we may find further evidence supporting this analysis. Thus, to the question ‘What are you doing?’ a Cashinahua might reply, using the verb dabe- (to help), ‘En dabeaii’ (I am helping). Dabe- also means to ‘help to form a foetus’, as does a pregnant woman's lover, who ‘helps’ her husband in the work of making the child. These usages reflect the particularly Amazonian approach to personhood that underlies the Cashinahua process of appropriation.

In Melanesia, persons may be understood as processually formed ‘dividuals’ who transact gendered aspects of themselves in the constitution of sociality (Strathern 1988). In Amazonia personhood is similarly processual and relational (Conklin and Morgan 1996). But Amazon persons are not so much dividual as accumulative and encompassing. They blend into others or cut off sharply from them, but do not transact with parts of themselves in the constitution of a more global social sphere (McCallum 1999). In this sense the Cashinahua conception of the person assumes an integrity of the self, though not within the confines of one

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Gender and Sociality in Amazonia: How Real People Are Made
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements vii
  • List of Figures and Tables ix
  • A Note on Orthography xi
  • Introduction 1
  • Notes *
  • 1 - Kinship and the Child 15
  • Notes *
  • 2 - Creating Gender 41
  • Notes 64
  • 3 - Producing Sociality 65
  • Notes 89
  • 4 - Consumptive Production 91
  • Notes *
  • 5 - Making Community 109
  • Notes *
  • 6 - Ritual and Regeneration 129
  • Notes *
  • 7 - Gender and Sociality 157
  • Notes 182
  • References 187
  • Glossary 199
  • Index 203
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