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Title: Argonauts of the Amazon: River Trade and Rights in the Xingu Basin
Authors: Furuie, Vinicius de Aguiar
Advisors: Biehl, João
Rouse, Carolyn
Contributors: Anthropology Department
Keywords: Amazon
Anthropological archives
Oral history
River trade
Subjects: Cultural anthropology
Environmental economics
Latin American studies
Issue Date: 2020
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: Riverside communities in the Amazon basin, contrary to widespread belief, are not isolated but rather closely tied to commodity markets, primarily through the labor of river traders locally known as regatões. This ethnographic study of river trade in the Iriri River, located in the municipality of Altamira in the Xingu basin of the Eastern Brazilian Amazon, focuses on exchange between riverside communities and the regatão and makes visible the extra-economic obligations created through this relation. Throughout the dissertation, I trace the monetary, emotional, and moral expectations and commitments that bind traders to riverside dwellers. I argue that these relations represent a more sustainable economic alternative to large-scale infrastructure projects that are currently fueling deforestation and urban violence in the region. Through oral history and archival work, this dissertation charts the formation of the current beiradão (the great riverbanks), the name by which these riverside communities are locally known. Oral accounts of elder residents and documents left by early ethnographers of the region illuminate how current exchange is shaped by hierarchical relations forged during colonial occupation. My ethnography shows that, in recent decades, the unequal exchanges of those days have become forms of co-dependency between regatão and local inhabitants. Riverside dwellers currently demand from the regatões obligations stemming from the colonial past, such as credit and access to healthcare, as well as responsibilities elicited by new practices, such as cash and access to government welfare. I analyze this set of mutual expectations through concepts originating in the beiradão, such as the notions of direito (right/duty), ajuda (aid) and amansar (to tame). Concepts that organize economic distribution elsewhere also help develop my analysis: ideas such as manhood and business. I argue that to achieve trust, traders and locals agree on a common set of obligations informed by the past that I refer to as an infrastructure of feeling. These shared notions and histories inform key values that keep exchange working in a place with no written contracts and where land is not private property and the forest is still kept largely intact.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog:
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Anthropology

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