ANTH 1713:  Amazonian Religion and Nature

Contact Hours: 45  Credits: 3

Instructor: Tod Swanson

  

Course Description 

 

The course examines Amazonian religious life as cultural way of engaging nature as human-like and alive.  It thus explores cultural knowledge of water, weather, plant and animal life seeking to uncover underlying assumptions that constitute a systematic, if implicit, religious philosophy of nature.  It also teaches students how to ask key questions and to carry out qualitative ethnographic research in the Cultural Anthropology and the Humanities.  How do Amazonian people understand their relatedness to a natural world believed to be alive and human-like?  How do they understand the hidden social lives of plants and animals.  What is believed to cause new species to emerge or to become extinct? How are human emotions related to the seasonal cycle of rains?  How is plant and animal ecology believed to serve as a model for understanding human society and vice versa.  What aesthetic, emotional or religious practices were developed to create bonds of empathy or communication between human beings and the natural world.

 

Learning Outcomes:
 

At the completion of this course, students will be able to:
•  Give a basic description of Andean/Amazonian religious relation to land, plants and animals

•  Analyze an Amazonian narratives on plant and animal origins to determine its underlying assumptions 
•  Articulate how relations to the land mediate relations to family.
•  Describe Native thinking about the key emotions and patterns of behavior that hold a group of relatives together with
their land or tear them apart.
•  Describe Native practices of listening and speaking with the land or responding to the land.

•  Articulate how nature works as a pattern for organizing Amazonian social life and conversely, how social life works as a model for understanding nature.

•  Carry out simple qualitative research in Cultural Anthropology and the Humanities.

•  Understand the aesthetics of Amazonian engagement of other species.

•  Articulate how people came into a special relation to the forest and animals as they matured.

•  Articulate patterns of similarity that distinguish Native stories of encounters with animals and their world

Method of Instruction

This course is a field course which teaches students how to elicit and analyze indigenous knowledge of nature.  Because Amazonian cultures are oral cultures their knowledge of nature has not been codified in texts but rather in origin stories, art, songs, prohibitions and patterns of speech for addressing nature.  It is thus these materials which the course teaches students to analyze.

 

Assignments and Grading Procedure
 

Grades reflect your performance on assignments and adherence to deadlines. Graded assignments will be available
within 48 hours of the due date via the Gradebook.   3 tests for a total of 46%   (Test 1: 15%; Test 2: 15%; Test 3: 16%).  These tests are primarily multiple choice intended to measure comprehension and the ability to apply concepts learned from the assigned videos, readings and lectures.  

 

4 essays of 400 words each that critically examine the readings, videos, or field engagement of indigenous culture .  The essays are due by end of day each Friday and should be posted through that weeks forum on the discussion board.  (11% each for a total of 44%)

Brown, Michael.  Tsewa’s Gift:  Magic and Meaning in an Amazonian Society.  Smithsonian Institution Press.  1986

Descola, Phillipe.  In the Society of Nature:  A Native Ecology in Amazonia.  Cambridge University Press, 1996 [1986]. 

Muratorio, Blanca.  The Life and Times of Grandfather Alonso:  Culture and History in the Upper Amazon.  Rutgers University Press, 1991.

Overing, Joanna and Alan Passes.  The Anthropology of Love and Anger:  The Aesthetics of Conviviality in Native Amazonia, Routledge Press, 2000.

Swanson, Tod.  Singing to Estranged Relatives:  Quichua Relations to Plants in the Ecuadorian Amazon.  Journal of Religion and Culture, Vol 3.1 (2009) 36-65. 

 

Course Schedule

 

 

Saturday, June 29

 

Sunday, June 30

Monday, July 1

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, July 2

Wednesday, July 3

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday, July 4

 

 

 

 

 

Friday,  July 

 

Saturday-Sunday  July 6-7

Monday,  July 8

Tuesday,  July 9

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday,  July 10

 

 

 

 

Thursday,  July 11

 

Friday,  July 12

Saturday-Sunday July 13-14

 

Monday,  July 15

 

Tuesday,  July 16

Wednesday , July 17

 

Thursday,  July 18 

Friday,  July 19

Saturday-Sunday  July 20-21

Monday,  June 22

 

 

Tuesday,  June 23

 

 

 

Wednesday,  June 24

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thursday,  June 25

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday,  July 26           

 

Saturday,  July 27 

Arrive in Quito

 

Travel to Iyarina

8:00 AM Breakfast

9:00 AM Tour colonial Quito (founded 1535)

12:00 Lunch At Hotel Real Audiencia

1:PM  Hike in the high altitude páramo polylepus forest.

6:30 PM Arrive at Yanayacu Cloud forest Station

Introduction to the course

The Local Land as Object of Religious Emotion and Action.

 

Readings:

 

How the Relation to the Land is Mediated by Family Ties

 

 

 

Origin stories:  The transformation of humans into animals and the consequences for Amazonian religious practice.

Origin Stories continued:

"Killa"  The Andean Amazonian understanding of fault (evil) 

Adolescence as process of coming into relation with the land.

An Apinaye Man's Testimony

Free afternoon

No classes

 

Travel to Yasuni National Park

 

Yasuni National Park

Yasuni National Park

Yasuní National Park

Return from Yasuni Park

No class.

Yawamana Story of the Origin of Ayawaska (animated video)

On anger:  

 

 

​Free Afternoon

​Travel to the airport

 

A comparative examination of fault in North American Indian Origin Stories

Catalog Description
 Presents worldviews through the art, architecture, writing, mythology, ritual and folklore of tribes in Native America.
Course Overview
This course explores Native worldviews as ways of living as relatives with the land.   Weeks 1 and 2 examine the Native
experience of living in response to the Great Plains and the Sonoran Desert.  Weeks 3 then examines the religious
emotions that tie people together as relatives with their land.   Week 4 examines the stories of origin and transformation
from out of which sacred lands emerge.  Week 5 examines the relation to other species that emerges from these
transformation stories. 

your performance on assignments and adherence to deadlines. Graded assignments will be available
within 48 hours of the due date via the Gradebook.
3 tests for a total of 46%   (Test 1: 15%; Test 2: 15%; Test 3: 16%).  These tests are primarily multiple choice intended to
measure comprehension and the ability to apply concepts learned from the assigned videos, readings and lectures.  
7 essays of 500 words each that critically examine the readings.  The essays should be posted through that weeks
forum on the discussion board.  (6% each for a total of 42%)

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