ANTH XXX:   Amazonian Religion and Nature

Contact Hours: 45  Credits: 3

Instructor: Tod Swanson

  

Course Description 

 

The course examines Amazonian 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 Objectives:

 

•  Learn to analyze Amazonian narratives on plant and animal origins 

•  Understand the aesthetics of Amazonian engagement of other species.   

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

•  Learn to carry out qualitative research in Cultural Anthropology and the Humanities.

 

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.

 

Grading and Assessment:

Daily entries in an academic journal.      60%

Participation  40%.

 

Required Readings:  (Selections from) 

 

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. 
 

Saturday          June 30         Arrive in Quito

Sunday             July 1            Travel down to Iyarina. Culture of the Cloud Forest

Monday           July 2             Introduction

Tuesday           July 3

                                                Swanson Lecture- Distinctive Common Features of Native Reliigious Traditions

                                                Bélgica Dagua, "How an Unwanted Man Became the Spirit-Eye Tree."(Video recorded                                                         and edited by Tod Swanson) .  Belgica Dagua.  The Origin of Wooly Monkeys

                                                 Yawamana Story of the Origin of Ayawaska (animated video)

Wednesday     July 4             Plant and animal origin stories.   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. 

Thursday         July 5             Swanson, "Relatives of the Living Forest:  The Social Relation to Nature Underlying

                                                Ecological Action.    Please read the whole article but focus your attention on the portion                                                  of the paper from page 5 on.  In this article I examine how Amazonian Quichua come                                                        into a physical relation with the forest spirit owners of the animals.

Swanson "Mixed Flock Fruit Eating Birds as Symbols of Love Relations"

Friday               July 6             Free afternoon

Saturday          July 7             Free Day.  No class. 

Sunday             July 8            Free Day.  No class. 

 

Monday            July 9        The Western Nature/Culture split and its absence in the Native Traditions

And God Made a Farmer:  The Origins of Human Exceptionalism in 

  • Paul Harvey, "So God Made a Farmer."  We watched this video in Week 1 as an example of human exceptionalism.  This week I would like for you to view it again as example of the key theme of self-reliance. The speech had tremendous appeal because portrayed the self-reliance of farm families as directly intended by God in Genesis.  How does this portrait of self-reliance compare to Emerson and Thoreau?  Paul Harvey's famous speech delivered at the Future Farmer's of America Convention in Kansas City Missouri in 1978 is here made into a video for the Official Ram Trucks Super Bowl Commercial "Farmer."     Please study this short video carefully with the theme of self-reliance in mind..  

  • He owns the cattle on a thousand hills (with lyrics).   Popular Christian western hymn from the 1950s written by Kansas native John W. Peterson.  What are the mythic assumptions and practical implications of this song?

  • This is my Father's world Popular Christian hymn written by a minister from New York named Maltbie Davenport Babcock.  Published in 1901 after his death.

  • How Great Thou Art  Christian hymn.

  • Alone in Nature: The Individual in 19th Century American Art _Hudson River School.pptx  

  • I come to the Garden Alone (music video)   Written in 1912 and included in the Methodist Hymnal this became a favorite hymn in the western United States.  In describes being alone in nature as the primary context for Encounter with God. 

  • Alone in Nature: The Individual in 19th Century American Art _Hudson River School.pptx  

  • I come to the Garden Alone (music video)   Written in 1912 and included in the Methodist Hymnal this became a favorite hymn in the western United States.  In describes being alone in nature as the primary context for Encounter with God. 

  • Bob Ross, "You are the creator."  Silly but once very popular Bob Ross exemplifies the idea of each individual as a little God-like creator at least on the canvas.  How would this compare to Islamic Art and Sacred Geometry or other texts we have read?

 

Eulodia Dagua, "On Waking Up a Tree to Ask for Its Medicine."    

                                             Peter Gow, Helplessness as the Pre-Condition of Piro Social Life

Tuesday            July 10         Belaunde, Fear of Anger among the Airo-Pai

Wednesday     July 11           

Thursday          July 12          Yasuni. National Park. Waorani culture and unconnected peoples

Friday               July 13         Yasuni. National Park. Waorani culture and unconnected peoples

Saturday          July 14           FYasuni. National Park. Waorani culture and unconnected peoples

Sunday             July 15          Yasuni. National Park. Waorani culture and unconnected peoples

 

Monday            July 16       
                                                Regina Harrison, The Metaphysics of Sex: Quichua Songs from the Tropical Forest  
Yawamana Story of the Origin of Ayawaska (animated video) Swanson, Engaging the Spaces and Times of Species:  The Kichwa Temporal Relation to                                                    Nature

Tuesday           July 17           

Cultural relations to water.   Descola, “The world of the River.” From In the Society of                                                         Nature.    Video on Origin of Ayawaska,  Anaconda Sirena and the Kandu Stones

Wednesday     July 18           Cultural relations to manioc gardens.  Michael Brown, “The Gardens Children,”  Tsewa’s                                                    Gift:  Magic and Meaning in an Amazonian Society.  Smithsonian Institution Press.  1986.

Thursday         July 19           Cultural Relations to Animals in Hunting.  Michael Brown, Tsewa’s Gift: Magic and Meaning                                 in an Amazonian Society.  Smithsonian Institution Press.  1986.

Friday               July 20           Guided research and interviewing.

 

Saturday          July 21           Free Day.  No class. 

Sunday             July 22          Free Day.  No class. 

 

Monday           July 23         

 Hike into the forest.   Round table discussion on strangler figs.   Kichwa story of                                                                  strangler figs.  Swanson, Engaging the Spaces and Times of Species:  The Kichwa                                                                Temporal Relation to Nature.

Tuesday           July 24           Native Culture and the Changing Environment

Wednesday     July 25           Native Culture and the Changing Environment.  

Thursday         July 2 6          Final.  Course wind up. 

Friday               July 2 7         Travel to the airport

Saturday          July 28          Arrive in Pittsburgh

2-5  Amazonian Religion and Nature

Academic Policies, University of Pittsburgh

 

If you have a disability for which you are or may be requesting an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Disability Resources and Services, 216 William Pitt Union, 412-648-7890/412-383-7355 (TTY), as early as possible in the term. Disability Resources and Services will verify your disability and determine reasonable accommodations for this course.

 

Cheating/plagiarism will not be tolerated. Students suspected of violating the University of Pittsburgh Policy on Academic Integrity, noted below, will be required to participate in the outlined procedural process as initiated by the instructor. A minimum sanction of a zero score for the quiz, exam or paper will be imposed.

 

The integrity of the academic process requires fair and impartial evaluation on the part of faculty and honest academic conduct on the part of students. To this end, students are expected to conduct themselves at a high level of responsibility in the fulfillment of the course of their study. It is the corresponding responsibility of faculty to make clear to students those standards by which students will be evaluated, and the resources permissible for use by students during the course of their study and evaluation. The educational process is perceived as a joint faculty-student enterprise which will perforce involve professional judgment by faculty and may involve—without penalty—reasoned exception by students to the data or views offered by faculty. Senate Committee on Tenure and Academic Freedom, February 1974

 

Each student is issued a University e-mail address (username@pitt.edu) upon admittance. This e-mail address may be used by the University for official communication with students. Students are expected to read e-mail sent to this account on a regular basis. Failure to read and react to University communications in a timely manner does not absolve the student from knowing and complying with the content of the communications. The University provides an e-mail forwarding service that allows students to read their e-mail via other service providers (e.g., Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo). Students that choose to forward their e-mail from their pitt.edu address to another address do so at their own risk. If e-mail is lost as a result of forwarding, it does not absolve the student from responding to official communications sent to their University e-mail address. To forward e-mail sent to your University account, go to http://accounts.pitt.edu, log into your account, click on Edit Forwarding Addresses, and follow the instructions on the page. Be sure to log out of your account when you have finished. (For the full E-mail Communication Policy, go to www.bc.pitt.edu/policies/policy/09/09-10-01.html.)

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