The People of the Center of the World: A Study in Culture, History, and Orality in the Colombian Amazon
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It is usually believed that Amerindian groups have tended either toward assimilation or toward the formation of ethnic enclaves. I pose my question in different terms: Is the “culture” of those Amerindian groups, which appears as distinctive and separate, a dialogical reflection of the history of contact? This dissertation contributes to the understanding of the culture and history of some Amazonian Indian groups in the aftermath of their violent insertion into an extractive economy. My aim is to research how an Amazonian Indian philosophy (“philosophy of the axe,” “Word of tobacco and coca”)—which appears today as their “traditional culture”—speaks to the historical process of contact and to the construction of new forms of collective identity—as expressed in the idiom “People of the Center.” I explore this through the analysis of indigenous narratives collected both in Spanish and in Uitoto (an indigenous language) in the Caquetá-Putumayo region in the Colombian Amazon.