Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia

Bartholomew Dean

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"This work transcends the two-dimensional studies of conventional ethnography. Dean provides a comprehensive vision of the Urarina, making and remaking themselves in the complex history and multiethnic society of lowland Peru."--Richard K. Reed, Trinity University

The Urarina are an indigenous group found in the Peruvian lowlands. Seemingly isolated, they actually have a long history of engaging in networks of trade with outside groups, argues Bartholomew Dean in this first ever ethnography of the group.

Dean describes the surroundings and circumstances under which the Urarina live, focusing on such hot-button issues as globalization, inequality, and debt. He challenges the view of "pristine" Amazonian society by revealing the region's long history with agents of international capital. By showing how the Urarina are engaged with global, national, and regional economies, he reveals the ways those interactions shape their day-to-day life.

Based on more than a decade of field research in Peru, Dean's analysis touches on kinship and power, the exchange of goods such as cloth and forest game, land use, and the importance of narcotic trance, myths, and shamanic wizardry. Grounded in observation rather than theory, the book offers a new and more complex form of the traditional anthropological ethnography.

Bartholomew Dean is associate professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas.

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"At a moment when academic publishing teeters on the edge of the abyss, it is gratifying to note the appearance of an old-school Amazonian ethnography: sprawling, comprehensive, and theoretically rich. In Urarina Society, Cosmology, and History in Peruvian Amazonia, Bartholomew Dean manages to both document the lifeways of one of Peru's least known indigenous societies and offer a master class in the major themes of contemporary Amazonian research." "Dean adds a phenomenological dimension to the project by emphasizing the Urarina's own understandings of exchange and how these articulate --or fail to articulate-- with those of the region’s nonindigenous population." "Readers more interested in theory and historical synthesis than in ethnographic detail will admire the author’s command of a vast bibliography and his nuanced assessment of a range of interpretive strategies." "When Dean pushes theory into the background and lets the Urarina speak in their own words, their predicament is laid bare in ways that can be profoundly moving." Journal of Anthropological Research vol. 66

"A lucid intervention into a series of debates that have occupied the anthropological imagination for quite some time… a fascinating account of the ambivalent ways and means by which the Uranina - a stereotypically "isolated Amazonian people - articulate their local sense of self with social actors of broader reach and greater power" American Anthropologist

"A thought provoking ethnography that returns our attention to he quotidian realities of indigenous social, cultural, and political-economic reproduction in the context of ongoing colonial violences…In addition to its rich ethnographic work, the book offers for specialist and student alike a survey of the central theoretical debates of the field." Tipiti: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America

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