Link: Personal Website
Address: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute
ATT: Fernando Santos-Granero
9100 PANAMA CITY PL
Washington DC 20521-9100
Telephone: +507 212-8114
FAX: +507 212-8148
Anthropology; Amazonian history and culture; Amazonian regional economies.
My research interests, like those of many Latin American anthropologists doing anthropology “at home”, have oscillated between the classical topics of social and cultural anthropology –kinship and morality, power and authority, knowledge and personhood, to mention just a few- and the more contemporary and applied issues of economic and political anthropology -land tenure and use, regional markets, civil rights, and political struggles. My research on Amerindian philosophies of power, modes of knowledge and notions of personhood and sociality, on the one hand, and on colonization, regional economies and the building of local civil societies, on the other hand, reflects this duality; a duality that derives as much from personal preferences as from an attempt to conciliate the demands of academic anthropology with the very urgent needs of the Amazonian indigenous peoples, who are amongst the most marginal and ignored social groups in Latin America. Common to these two research fields is a permanent interest on historical processes and transformations, which has led me to investigate native Amazonian forms of slavery and servitude but also to focus on the configuration and development of Amazonian regional economies.
My recent research has addressed two interrelated topics. On the one hand, what is the nature of native Amazonian sociality? On the other hand, how do native Amazonians conceive of personhood? These two subjects have generated passionate debates among Amazonianist anthropologists, opening up new venues of inquiry and providing the grounds for the development of new theoretical frameworks –neo-animism, perspectivism, conviviality and incorporation– that are transcending the boundaries of our regional specialization to enter into mainstream anthropology.
The discussion on native Amazonian sociality has given rise to two antithetical approaches labelled respectively by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro as ‘the moral economy of intimacy’ and the ‘symbolic economy of alterity.’ Whereas the first approach focuses on the local level and the domestic domain, placing emphasis on consanguinity, endogamy and the solidarity induced by conviviality and moral sentiments, the latter focuses on the interlocal level and the political domain, highlighting the importance of affinity, exchange and ontological predation –the notion that the origin and reproduction of social life is always based on predation upon enemy others.
Followers of the morality approach, whom I have labelled ‘doves,’ emphasize consanguinity, as well as the consubstantiality that results from commensality or the continuous sharing of food and beverages, as the basis of Amazonian sociality. Sociality requires the incorporation of difference and different Others –for instance, affines incorporated through marriage–, but only insofar as these are tamed through convivial processes. Followers of the predation approach, whom I have labelled ‘hawks,’ assert that implicit in this view is the (erroneous) conception that consanguinity is ‘natural’ whereas affinity is a cultural construct. They contend instead that sociality and identity is about exchange rather than consubstantiality, and that symbolic affinity is the key category of sociability in the lowlands. Animism –the notion that that all living beings are persons– and perspectivism –the notion that that all living beings view themselves as human persons and Others as their structural opposites, whether animals, plants or spirits– are central to this approach.
In a recent article, titled “Of Fear and Friendship” (2007), I dispute these views, asking why if, as it is argued, Amazonian sociality is only about kinship and conviviality or about affinity and predation, there seems to be such a vast field of relations between non-kin/non-affines that are phrased in the idiom of friendship? The article is concerned with how sociality in its broadest sense –that is as a domain that includes relations with enemies, animals and even spirit beings– is understood and constructed by Amazonian indigenous peoples. I analyze trading partnerships, shamanic alliances, and mystical associations with other-worldly beings, as instances of friendship that allow for the establishment of spaces of sociality with ambiguous others that neither falls in the domain of kinship nor in that of affinity. I thus contend that friendship can be regarded as a third, alternative mode of relationship in the forging of native Amazonian sociality.
I propose that native Amazonian friendships are a means of creating relations with unrelated, potentially dangerous others, a means of turning fear into trust. Rather than transforming friends into kin or affines, however, what native Amazonians seem to do on special occasions is to turn particularly esteemed kin and affines into formalized personal friends. In such instances, the tie of friendship takes pre-eminence over existing links of affinity or consanguinity, signalling that the relationship has entered into a higher plane of trust and intimacy. Based on trust, congenial sharing, mutual caring, laughter and fun, friendships provide a highly formalized but, paradoxically, relaxed setting for social interaction; a setting that contrasts strongly with the prescriptions, proscriptions, and non-voluntary burdens of kinship and affinity.
The study of native Amazonian notions of personhood has divided anthropologists along similar lines. Defenders of the conviviality approach –with its strong emphasis on coresidence and commensality– view personhood as a condition solidly grounded in the body and in corporeal processes of substance exchange. From this point of view, personhood is both processual and relational. It is never given, but constructed, involving the input not only of parents, but also of close relatives and friends through their gifts of food, ornaments, and ritual knowledge. Personhood is relatedness. It is always in the making and as such, it requires the continued input of related people and a range of ritual operations to ensure its preservation in the face of attacks by a host of spiritual beings.
In contrast, defenders of the predation approach –with their emphasis on animism and perspectivism– view personhood as a structural rather than a processual condition. Personhood is a given, a condition determined by the possession of a soul and with it the capacity for language and communication. In this view personhood, or the subject, is the outcome of internalized relations with alterity rather than the product of experience and consubstantiality. It is relational only insofar as all persons occupy the positions of predator or prey with respect to other persons. The person or subject is thus constituted by the clash between its perspective and that of other beings. In this view, however, personhood is not defined by the possession of a perspective, but rather it is the perspective that constitutes the person or subject. Thus, whereas defenders of the conviviality model place emphasis on how the sharing of substances contribute to the making of social persons, defenders of the predation model underscore how the sharing of substances under the form of an ‘exchange of perspectives’ result in the unmaking of human persons and their transformation into animals and spirits.
In a recent book titled Vital Enemies: Slavery, Predation, and the Political Economy of Life (2009) I demonstrate how these two theoretical propositions interrelate to contribute to the process of turning enemies into slaves and slaves into kin. By focusing on the predation upon, and incorporation of, enemy others, the study deals both, with the discussion of whether slavery is antinomic to kinship, or its logical complement, and with the debate on the convivial or predatory nature of Amerindian sociality. It also contributes to discussions on the construction of Amerindian self-identity as a result of the bringing together of different entities and forces through the capture of slaves and other war trophies.
Education and Degrees
Licenciatura en Antropología at the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (1980).
M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology at the London School of Economics and Political Science (1986).
Ph.D. Dissertation: The Power of Love: The Moral Use of Knowledge Amongst the Amuesha of Central Peru.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2009. Vital Enemies: Slavery, Predation, and the Amerindian Political Economy of Life. Austin: University of Texas Press.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2009. Hybrid Bodyscapes: A Visual History of Yanesha Patterns of Cultural Change. Current Anthropology 50(4): 477-512.
Fernando Santos-Granero (Ed.). 2009. The Occult Life of Things: Native Amazonian Theories of Materiality and Personhood. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
Read book reviewed by Joyce M. Youmans
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2009. From Baby Slings to Feather Bibles and from Star Utensils to Jaguar Stones: The Multiple Ways of Being a Thing in the Yanesha Lived World. The Occult Life of Things: Native Amazonian Theories of Materiality and Personhood, pp. 105-127. Tucson: The University of Arizona Press.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2007. Of Fear and Friendship: Amazonian Sociality beyond Kinship and Affinity. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 13(1): 1-18.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2007. Time is Disease, Suffering and Oblivion: The Struggle Against Temporality Among the Yanesha. In Carlos Fausto and Michael Heckenberger (eds.), Time and Memory in Indigenous Amazonia: Anthropological Perspectives, pp. 47-73. Gainesville: University Press of Florida.
Fernando Santos-Granero & Frederica Barclay (Ed.). 2007. Guía etnográfica de la alta Amazonía. Volumen VI. Achuar, Candoshi. Lima: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute/Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos.
Fernando Santos-Granero & Frederica Barclay. 2007. Introducción. In Fernando Santos and Frederica Barclay (eds.), Guía etnográfica de la alta Amazonía. Volumen VI. Achuar, Candoshi, pp. xvii-xxxvi. Lima: Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute/Instituto Francés de Estudios Andinos.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2007. Las fronteras son creadas para ser transgredidas: magia, historia y política en la antigua divisoria entre Andes y Amazonía en el Perú. Histórica 29(1): 107-148.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2006. Sensual vitalities: non-corporeal modes of sensing and knowing in native Amazonia. In: Fernando Santos-Granero;George Mentore (Ed.), In the world and about the world: Amerindian modes of knowledge. Special issue in honor of professor Joanna Overing. Tipiti. Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 4(1-2): 57-80.
George Mentore & Fernando Santos-Granero. 2006. Introduction: Amerindian Modes of Knowledge. In Fernando Santos-Granero and George Mentore (eds.), In the World and about the World: Amerindian Modes of Knowledge. Special issue in honor of Prof. Joanna Overing. Tipiti. Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 4(1-2): 1-7.
Fernando Santos-Granero & George Mentore (Ed.). 2006. In the world and about the world: Amerindian modes of knowledge. Special issue in honor of professor Joanna Overing. Tipití. Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2006. Vitalidades sensuais: Modos nao-corporeos de sentir e conhecer na Amazonia indígena. In: Fernando Santos-Granero e George Mentore (eds.): No mundo e pelo mundo: Modos de conhecimiento ameríndio. Número especial em honor da Prof. Joanna Overing. Revista de Antropologia 49(1): 93-131.
George Mentore & Fernando Santos-Granero. 2006. Introdução. In Fernando Santos-Granero e George Mentore (eds.), No mundo e pelo mundo: Modos de conhecimento ameríndio. Número especial em honor da Prof. Joanna Overing. Revista de Antropologia 49(1): 11-16.
Fernando Santos-Granero & George Mentore. 2006. No mundo e pelo mundo: Modos de conhecimento ameríndio. Special Issue in honor of Prof. Joanna Overing. Revista de Antropologia, Brazil 49(1): 93-131.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2006. Paisajes sagrados arahuacos: Nociones indígenas del territorio en tiempos de cambio y modernidad. Revista Andina 42(1): 99-124.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2005 Arawakan Sacred Landscapes. Emplaced Myths, Place Rituals, and the Production of Locality in Western Amazonia. In Ernst Halbmayer & Elke Mader (eds.), Kultur, Raum, Landschaft. Zur Bedeutung des Raumes in Zeiten der Globalität, pp. 93-122. Franfkurt am Main: Brandes & Apsel Verlag.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2004 The Enemy Within: Child Sorcery, Revolution and the Evils of Modernization in Eastern Peru. In Neil L. Whitehead and Robin M. Wright (eds.), In Darkness and Secrecy: Witchcraft and Sorcery in Native South America, pp. 272-305. Durham: Duke University Press.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2003 Pedro Casanto’s Nightmares: Lucid Dreaming in Amazonia and the New Age World. Tipiti. Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America 1(2): 179-210.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2002 The Arawakan Matrix: Ethos, Language, and History in Native South America. In Jonathan D. Hill and Fernando Santos-Granero (eds.), Comparative Arawakan Histories: Rethinking Language Family and Culture Area in Amazonia, pp. 25-50. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2002 St. Christopher in the Amazon: Child Sorcery, Colonialism, and Violence among the Southern Arawak. Ethnohistory, 49(3): 507-543.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2002 Boundaries are Made to be Crossed: The Magic and Politics of the Long-lasting Amazon/Andes Divide. Identities 9(4): 545-569.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 2000 The Sisyphus Syndrome or the Struggle for Conviviality in Native Amazonia. In Joanna Overing and Alan Passes (eds.), The Anthropology of Love and Anger. The Aesthetics of Conviviality in Native Amazonia, pp. 268-287. New York: Routledge.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 1998 Writing History into the Landscape: Space, Myth and Ritual in Contemporary Amazonia. American Ethnologist, 25(2): 128-148.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 1993 From ‘Prisoner of the Group’ to ‘Darling of the Gods’: An Approach to the Issue of Power in Lowland South America. L’Homme, 33(2-4): 213-230.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 1992 The Dry and the Wet: Astronomy, Agriculture and Ceremonial Life in Eastern Peru. Journal de la Société des Americanistes, 78(2): 107-32.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 1991 The Power of Love: The Moral Use of Knowledge Amongst the Amuesha of Central Peru. London: Athlone Press.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 1986 The Moral and Social Aspects of Equality Amongst the Amuesha of Central Peru. Journal de la Société des Americanistes, 72: 107-31.
Fernando Santos-Granero. 1986 Power, Ideology and the Ritual of Production in Lowland South America. Man. Journal of the Royal Anthropological Society, 21(4): 657-79.