Death, Biography, and the Mapuche Person
The amulpüllün biographical oratory which takes place at Mapuche funerals in southern Chile is said to ‘complete’ the person. Such a perspective challenges the assumption that mortuary practices necessarily constitute a form of analysis, a division of the component parts of the social person. In this paper I explore what it is about the Mapuche person which needs to be ‘completed,’ and how funeral oratory achieves this goal. Utilizing Bakhtin’s concepts of consummation and transgredience, and Ricoeur’s concepts of emplotment and narrative identity, I suggest that it is only from the position of outsidedness that the necessary totalization of the deceased’s person can occur. These processes of synthesis and totalization cast light upon an apparent contradiction between the importance which Amerindians place upon biography as an oral form, and theoretical approaches which stress the instability and divisibility of an Amerindian personhood predicated upon the incorporation of the other. Rather than viewing the totalization which occurs in biography as a critique of such an approach, I see it as a solution to the ontological problem which such an approach describes.