Personal truths, shared equivocations : otherness, uniqueness, and social life among the Mapuche of Southern Chile
Gonzalez Galvez, Marcelo Ignacio
Galvez, Marcelo Ignacio Gonzalez
Based upon thirteen months of ethnographic fieldwork among indigenous Mapuche people of southern Chile, this thesis explores two relational oppositions which are central concerns of both Mapuche people and the discipline of anthropology. The first opposition explored is that between self and other, focusing on how it is conceived differently from different positions within rural Mapuche life. Through this exploration, I emphasise an understanding of otherness as a relational category, which is more connected to ascertaining and describing what the self is not, rather than to the depiction of an embodied alterity. The second opposition I investigate is that between individual and society. More specifically, I look at the possibilities of constructing social relationships despite the strong emphasis Mapuche people put on persons as unique, unrepeatable, and often incommensurable, singularities. I demonstrate how and why these two oppositions are closely connected for the Mapuche. Such a connection lies in the fact that Mapuche philosophy proposes a radical singularism according to which the conception of everything is rooted in the individual person. As a result, the pluralisation of such conceptions is always, necessarily, a particularly personal extrapolation. The thesis is divided in three sections. In the first I explore the ontological foundations of Mapuche lived worlds, discussing the pillars upon which Mapuche people conceive their experiences and setting the scene for my overall argument. In the second section, through both ethnographical and historical sources, I attempt to explore how perceived differences and similarities are managed in order to create a sense of plurality. In the final section I elaborate an argument centred upon how Mapuche people conceive “the social”. Here, by discussing different ideas of what it means to be Mapuche, I conclude that Mapuche notions of sociality are in the antipodes of Western ones. Put simply, if in the latter sociality is based upon interactions embedded on given shared semantic fields, the Mapuche seem to maintain that shared semantic fields do not exist, and that they should, at best, be consciously created.