Marett Memorial Lecture 2018: Individualism in the Wild: Oneness in Jivaroan Culture

The Marett Memorial Lecture 2018

Professor Anne-Christine Taylor (Director of Research at the CNRS; emeritus) will deliver the 2018 Marett Memorial Lecture on 27 April at 5pm, Saskatchewan Room, Exeter College.

Individualism in the Wild: Oneness in Jivaroan Culture

Amazonian ethnology has long recognized that individual sovereignty is a central value among indigenous lowland groups whose cosmopolitics are premised on the production of persons rather than material property. Jivaroan peoples exemplify this peculiar form of Amazonian ‘Individualism’ to an extreme degree. They were and remain deeply committed to the quest for uniqueness of being and destiny, unconstrained by the claims of any institutionalized form of supra-individual authority.  Presumed to be shared by all persons claiming Jivaroan identity –  indeed the defining feature of such an identity - the striving of each to become ‘the best of Jivaroans’ through the dedicated cultivation of agonistic stances is paradoxically constitutive of a distinctive social formation remarkable for its resilience and stability over time.  My goal in this conference is first to describe the principal manifestations of Jivaroan individualism, then to analyze how it is produced, what kinds of relationality and temporality it implies and how these lead to the making of a society of ‘unequal equals’, before examining some implications of this study for a better understanding of the varieties of individualism and of the polities they are linked to. I thereby hope to bring some fresh insights to the classic problem of Amazonian ‘anti-politics’.

Anne-Christine Taylor, Director of Research at the CNRS (emeritus) is a specialist of indigenous groups of the Amazon, and has worked with Jivaroan peoples in Ecuador and Peru. Her recent research has focused on indigenous conceptualizations of history, personhood and relationality. She has directed several research units and was Head of the Research Department of the musée du quai Branly from 2005 to 2014. She has published numerous articles in JRAI, L’Homme, Terrain and other journals and has co-authored several books, most recently Qu’est-ce qu’un corps’? (Flammarion, 2006).