Asháninka Messianism: The Production of a 'Black Hole' in Western Amazonian Ethnography

Hanne Veber

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    As a set of explanatory notions, 'resistance' and 'messianism' have been important in anthropology, not least when applied to popular mobilization in colonial and postcolonial settings. The 'resistance' perspective has been subjected to critique from within the field; 'messianism' has remained curiously unchallenged. The notions of 'messianism' evokes a certain understanding of actors' motivations and perceptions and pretends to identify cultural crucibles at the heart of the conjuncture between cosmology and agency. for this reason, categorizing people, cultures, movements, or other phenomena as 'messianic' has significant interpretive implications. In their readeing og historical records and narratives, anthropologists have attributed a messianic proclivity to the Asháninka and other native populations in the Peruvian Amazon. Taking off from interpretation of the figure of Juan Santos Atahuallpa in the 1742 rebellion against the Franciscan mission, many anthropologists have depicted these Arawakans as highly receptive to messiah figures; more recent Asháninka movements have been seen as similarly motivated. It is argued here that the notion of Asháninka messianism derives its veracity more from its scholarly repetition than from grounded analysis; it has created a 'black hole' in place of ethnography that an approach that takes heed of practices, narrative and structural, may begin to fill.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalCurrent Anthropology
    Issue number3
    Pages (from-to)183-211
    Number of pages29
    Publication statusPublished - 2003

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