The place of livestock in human-nonhuman relationship among the Wayuu

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

In the ethnology of indigenous LSA, the Wayuu case has always been considered a peculiar one. Among the main features which make difficult to insert it in the comparative debate on indigenous models of sociality and cosmology in this area, one can mention: pristine introduction of cattle raising; maintenance of political semi-autonomy till very recent times; development, already in the colonial period, of forms of social hierarchy based on ownership of livestock and other material goods; articulation of these forms with a system of matrilineal descent groups; interplay among the inclusive character of the descendants of mixed unions and the shifting of the traits selected for marking ethnic boundaries; the coexistence of what Descola (2001) terms as homosubstitution and heterosubstitution regimes of exchange.In my paper, combining ethnographic and historical literature with my fieldwork data, I propose some ways of relating the Wayuu case with some comparative issues at stake in the current debates on LSA indigenous societies, as in particular: forms and concepts of ownership, mastery and exchange; their relationships with definition and hierarchies of socio-political and ‘ethnic’ status, including serfdom and slavery; modes of human/non-human relationships. In the first part of the chapter, I will examine how livestock, being among the Wayuu an object both of ownership and exchange has historically become fundamental in the reshaping of socio-political, and also ‘ethnic’ hierarchies as well as of reciprocity circuits and how, since the beginning of the XX Century, the crisis of pastoral economy caused a deep transformation of the relationships of dependency and hierarchy among and inside the groups centred on the figure of the chief owner of great herds. In the second part, I will examine how among the Wayuu livestock raising and ownership inform the overall pattern of thinking about human/non-human relationship and, more broadly, alterity. I will pay special attention to two aspects: 1) the combination of a ‘pastoral’ idiom for talking about the relationships between the Masters of wild domains and the beings which inhabit them with the ambivalent character, swinging between reciprocal exchange and predation, of the relationship between the Master and the human hunter/fisher; 2) the ambivalent ontological status attributed to livestock species, highlighted above all in the beliefs and stories told about their origin and provenance.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAmerindian Socio-Cosmologies between the Andes, Amazonia and Mesoamerica Toward an Anthropological Understanding of the Isthmo–Colombian Area
Pages303-329
Number of pages27
Publication statusPublished - 2020

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    Mancuso, A. (2020). The place of livestock in human-nonhuman relationship among the Wayuu. In Amerindian Socio-Cosmologies between the Andes, Amazonia and Mesoamerica Toward an Anthropological Understanding of the Isthmo–Colombian Area (pp. 303-329)