Vilaca, “Dividuality in Amazonia”

Vilaca, Aparecida. 2011. Dividuality in Amazonia: God, the Devil, and the constitution of personhood in Wari Christianity. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 17(2):243-262.

Abstract: This article explores the Christian experience of the Wari’, an Amazonian native group, in light of a central feature of their personhood: its dual composition, both human and animal. Arguing that the centrality of the relation with God has resulted in a more stable human person, the article provides an ethnographic examination of how this relation is produced and maintained. Analytic categories derived from the New Melanesian Ethnography – the notions of the ‘dividual’ and the ‘partible person’– are applied to the Amazonian context, enabling a particular description of the Wari’ person and the Christian God, and the subsequent visualization of some key aspects of the relationship between God and humans. Through this comparative exercise, the article looks to contribute to the dialogue between Amazonianists and Melanesianists that has been unfolding over the past decade or so. It also aims to insert Amazonian ethnography into the anthropological debate on Christianity, today strongly anchored in data and conceptual tools derived from Pacific societies in general and Melanesia in particular.