An Amazonian Myth and Its History

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Oxford University Press, 2001 - Social Science - 338 pages
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Peter Gow unites the ethnographic data collected by the fieldwork methods invented by Malinowski with Levi-Strauss's analyses of the relations between myth and time. His book is an analysis of a century of social transformation in an indigenous Amazonian society, the Piro people of PeruvianAmazonia, taking as its starting point a single myth told to the author by a Piro man. Gow explores Piro history and ethnography outwards into the domains of myth-telling in general, and following the logic of certain important myths, further out into important domains of Piro experience such asvisual art, shamanry and girls' initiation ritual. All of these domains, like the myths themselves, have been demonstrably changing over the period since the 1880s. The book then shows how these changes are in fact transformations of transformations, changes in social forms that are intrinsicallyabout change. The logic of these changes are then followed through the historical circumstances of Piro people from the 1880s to the 1980s, to show how the intrinsically transformational nature of Piro social forms led them to respond in the ways that they did to the coming of rubber bosses,missionaries, and film-makers.This book makes an important contribution to debates in anthropology on the nature of history and social change, as well as addressing neglected areas such as myth, visual art, and the methodological issues involved in addressing fieldwork and archival data.
 

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Contents

A Piro Myth and its Context
35
Artemios Life
44
Telling Piro People about My Country
50
The Meaning of the Myth
56
Myths and Mythopoeisis
78
Design
103
The Things with Design
110
Human and Animal Design
116
The Gringos Envisioned
191
The World on the Other Side
203
Possible Origins for Sangamas Analysis
213
The Gringos Arrive
219
The Gringos Rethought
253
Conclusion
286
Myth Texts
313
References
319

The Transformations of Design
124
Hallucination
130
The Girls Initiation Ritual
158

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About the author (2001)

Peter Gow is at London School of Economics.

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