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Sunday, 30 November 2014

Beyond predation

Descola's chapter 14 of his Par delà covers the groups in the Amazon where animists have social relations based chiefly on predation, mainly on reciprocity and generally on gift-giving. Different groups, sometimes close together, have different economies of relations with both the human and the non-humans (the Jivaro being predation based, the Tukano obsessed with balanced interchanges, the Campa taken by giving). The three animist groups found different ways to manage the interchange between what humans and the agents in their environment: to take and run away, as much as trading and giving away to establish bonds, is a social relation. The upshot, I take, is that the Moderns, by contrast, don't predate (neither do they trade or give away in their interactions with the no non-humans). They do predate their fellow humans - and trade with them, give and plea for gifts. They still the chestnut tree of the neighbor, but they do it conspicuously so that they can get away from anger or sanctions from other humans (who own the tree or protect them), but do not predate on the tree itself. The non-human is made available, is made into things for us - reified, commodified, resourcified. Things themselves are reified as resources for us. We don't even need to predate on them. The upshot is therefore to bring to the fore the strange and non-relational nature concocted by the Moderns.

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