A Walk to the River in Amazonia


A Walk to the River in Amazonia: Ordinary Reality for the Mehinaku Indians
Carla Stang
2009, Berghahn Books
Hardback, 221 pages

WHILE it will be of interest mainly to anthropologists because of its specialist ethnographic approach, A Walk to the River in Amazonia is both a valuable philosophical journey into the relationship between consciousness and reality, as well as a powerful statement about the complexity of the Xinguano cultures within Brazil that are at risk from the incursion of a very different way of life. The book begins with an open letter from the Xinguano peoples to the Brazilian nation warning about the social and environmental threats that now put their millennial culture at risk in the region of the headwaters of the Xingu river tributaries. Stang’s work with the Mehinku community helps to draw attention to this cultural vandalism while charting a new and important course in her field that places ordinary life – “when nothing in particular is going on” – at the dynamic heart of research. Ordinary reality has been largely overlooked as the focus of study in anthropology but, as Malinowski suggested, the anthropologist’s final goal must be to grasp the native’s point of view: Stang has done so, and in the process raises important questions about the abstract world that, if perhaps mischievously applied to anthropologists themselves, might even test the disciplinary boundaries that define the everday reality of scholars. – GO’T

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