People of the Amazon floodplain : kinship, work and sharing in a Caboclo community, near Obidos, Para, Brazil
PublisherLondon School of Economics and Political Science (University of London)
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This thesis presents an analysis of the principles and values in the social organisation of a Caboclo community near Óbidos, Pará, Brazil. The information presented here is based on eighteen months of fieldwork, between 1992 and 1994, in a floodplain area of about eight hundred people on the banks of the River Amazon. Most scholars who have written on Caboclos have portrayed them as 'adaptations' to their historical and ecological conditions. Furthermore, Caboclos have often been characterised negatively, as non-tribal Amazonians, without an ethnic identity and not fully Brazilian. My argument refutes the contingent nature of their lives, and shows the ways in which Caboclos are affirming a positive self-identity. A crucial change of perspective is needed, then, if aspects such as the 'denial' of and resistance to their alleged marginality are to be fully appreciated. I adopt such a change of perspective here, one which aims to interpret the ways in which the people with whom I lived are constructing an alternative moral universe. The floodplain Caboclo community at the centre of this thesis is analytically portrayed to be organised through three main spheres. The first is the community, which has multiple significances, primary among which is the collectivity of kinspeople. The second is the cluster, which is a residential pattern that is composed, in its most developed form, of a sibling set, their spouses, children and parents. The house itself is the third, acting as a site of conjugality, whilst also creating the possibility for the movement of people and objects between houses in the community. These levels of social organisation are not units, since process and flexibility are their defining characteristics. The guiding theme of the thesis is the exploration of the processes which take place between and within these levels of social organisation.