1st Edition

The Lowland South American World

Edited By Casey High, Luiz Costa Copyright 2025
    744 Pages 47 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The Lowland South American World showcases cutting-edge research on the anthropology of Lowland South America, providing both an in-depth knowledge of Lowland South American life ways and engaging readers in urgent social, environmental and political issues in the contemporary world.

    Covering the vast expanse of a region that includes all of South America except for the Andes, its forty chapters engage with questions of what ‘Lowland South America’ means as a geographical designation, both in studies of indigenous Amazonian peoples and other lowland areas of the continent. They emphasize the multiple ways that the practices and cosmologies challenge conventional Western ideas about nature, culture, personhood, sociality, community, and indigenous people.

    Some of the region’s well-known contributions to anthropology, such as animism, perspectivism, and novel approaches to the body are updated here with new ethnography and in light of the varying political situations in which the region’s peoples find themselves. With contributions by authors from fifteen different countries, including a number of Indigenous anthropologists and activists, this book will set the agenda for future research in the continent.

    The World of Lowland South America is a valuable resource for scholars and students of anthropology, Latin American studies and indigenous studies, as well history, geography and other social sciences.


    Casey High and Luiz Costa


    Part 1: Colonial Legacies, Indigenous Histories

    1)      The Enigma of Ashaninka Endowarfare: Cultural Dictate or Historical Product?

    Fernando Santos-Granero

    2)      Labor, Resistance, and Politics: Indigenous Agency in the Bolivian Rubber Boom

    Lorena Córdoba and Anna Guiteras Mombiola

    3)      Christianity and Christians in Amazonia

    Victor Cova

    4)      Guianese Maroons in an Amazonian Ethnological Landscape

    Olívia Maria Gomes da Cunha


    Part 2: Myth, Memory and Storytelling

    5)      The Origin Myth of a Myth: The ‘Land without Evil’ Revisited

    Diego Villar and Isabelle Combès

    6)      A Matrix of Knowledge: Indigenous Histories and Indigenous Anthropology in Brazil

    Marina Vanzolini

    7)      The Work of Desire: Alterity and Exogamy in a Kotiria Origin Myth from the Northwest Amazon

    Janet M. Chernela

    8)      Storytelling, Textuality and Experience in Lowland South America

    Michael A. Uzendoski

    9)      Eras and Events: Contrasting Amazonian Narratives of the Past

    Cédric Yvinec


    Part 3: The Substance of Life: Making Real People

    10)   Birth in Amazonia: Transforming Responsibility in the Care Encounter

    Harry Walker and Juana Lucía Cabrera Prieto

    11)   Detachable Persons, Porous Bodies, and the Art of Love in the Argentinian Chaco

    Florência Tola

    12)   The Imports of Uncertainty in the Tragedy of a Man of Substance

    Carlos D. Londoño Sulkin

    13)   A World More Bearable in Which to Live: Three Ethnographic Examples from Lowland South America

    George Mentore

    14)   The ways of food and feathers: Revisiting the Bororo Literature

    João Kelmer


    Part 4: Land, Territory and Mobility

    15)   Darawate: Native Amazonian Trail Signals and other Ephemeral Plant Scripts

    Philippe Erikson

    16)   Regenerating Life: Indigenous Landscapes on the Atlantic Coast of Northeast Brazil

    Susana de Matos Viegas and Thiago Mota Cardoso

    17)   Language and Territory in Mapuche Ritual Practices in Chile (Zugun ka mapu mapuche gijañmawün mew Gülu püle)

    José Quidel Lincoleo

    18)   Paths and Networks Beyond the Human in Amazonian Social Worlds

    Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen

    19)   Amazonian Environmental Activism at COP26: A Conversation with Uboye Gaba

    Uboye Gaba and Casey High


    Part 5: Ownership, Mastery and Exchange

    20)   Child, Pet, and Prey: Relations of Dependence in Amazonia

    Amy Penfield

    21)   Mastery Without Servitude: On Freedom and Dependence in Amazonia

    Carlos Fausto

    22)   A Politics of Regard: Action and Influence in Lowland South America

    José Antonio Kelly & Marcos de Almeida Matos

    23)   Pets and Domesticated Animals in Lowland South America

    Felipe Vander Velden


    Part 6: Gender, the Body, and the Senses

    24)   Darséa Bhasera Numia: Tukana Women, Kumua Women, and their Transformation

    João Rivelino Rezende Barreto

    25)   Neither Witches nor Charlatans: Subverting Stereotypes of Shipibo-Konibo Female Shamans in Western Amazonia

    Anne-Marie Colpron

    26)   Sick of School: Childhood, Gender, and Intergenerational Change in Guyana

    Courtney Stafford-Walter


    Part 7: Imagery, Materiality and the Visual

    27)   Indigenous Media as Cultural Outreach: Contextualizing a Longstanding A’uwe (Xavante) Tradition

    Laura R. Graham

    28)   The Metaphysics of An Amazonian Tubology

    Jean-Pierre Chaumeil

    29)   “Assembling” the Xingu Indigenous Territory: A Kawaiwete Shaman and His Collection of Material Culture

    Suzanne Oakdale

    30)   Collecting Amazonia: Beyond Material Culture and Ethnological Museums

    Thiago da Costa Oliveira


    Part 8: Language, Music, and Ritual Communication

    31)   Voices of the Spirits: Ritual Discourse, Musicality, and Communicative Ideologies in Amazonia

    Jonathan D. Hill

    32)   Geomythology of Musicological Rites: A Journey with Wild Dialogue

    Jaime Diakara

    33)   Indigenous Language Revival as a Practice of Resistance: The Case of Patxohã Language and Pataxó People in Northeast Brazil

    Anari Braz Bomfim

    34)   Kuambü: The Poetics and Politics of a Xingu Ritual in Brazil

    Antonio Guerreiro and Marina Novo


    Part 9: Indigenous Politics and Leadership

    35)    Voting in Lowland South America: changing relations between indigenous people, communities, and nation-states

    Olivier Allard

    36)   Beauty and Strength: Mẽbêngôkre-Kayapó Women’s Leadership and Governance in Brazil

    Laura Zanotti and Emily Colón

    37)   Cultural Duality in Amazonian Ecuador: The Canelos Quichua

    Norman E. Whitten Jr.


    Part 10: Education, Inequality and the State

    38)   The Sociocultural Dimensions of Education among River-Dwellers and Other Lowland Communities in Brazil

    João Rivelino Rezende Barreto

    39)   Water, Water Everywhere: Health and Sanitation in Indigenous Communities of the Amazon

    Glenn H. Shepard Jr.

    40)   Indigenous Agency, Isolation and Access to Justice

    Eliesio da Silva Marubo and Juliana Oliveira Silva




    Casey High is a Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. His research with Waorani communities Ecuador over the past 25 years has focused on memory, language, collaborative anthropology, and Amazonian environmental activism in response to oil development.

    Luiz Costa is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Institute of Philosophy and Social Sciences of the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a member of the Graduate Programme in Social Anthropology at the National Museum. He has carried out research with the Kanamari of southwestern Amazonia since 2002.

    "South America, particularly its lowlands, was once considered the least known continent. Fifty years of research have changed that entirely. This is more than evident in this compendium, which not only summarises the current state of the art, especially in Amazonian ethnology, but also includes innovative chapters on the cutting edge of the discipline, some of them written by indigenous authors. A true achievement."

     - Aparecida Vilaça, Professor of Social Anthropology at Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

    "From Guyana to Chile, from Ecuador to Argentina, this groundbreaking volume foregrounds Indigenous voices and Indigenous scholarship in situating the Lowland South American world today. Each one of the forty essays contained within offers a unique perspective, and collectively they address a wide variety of essential themes, from religion to politics, from economy to environment. The volume promises to be required and provocative reading for both students and scholars of the region for many years to come."

    - Magnus Course, Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at University of Edinburgh