dinsdag 17 april 2012

Yanomami forage trails / ethnocartography of reticular space

"Ethnogeography and Resource use among the Yanomami" looks at the hunting and forage trails used by a Brazilian Yanomami village. It argues that space to the Yanomami is organized reticular and not concentric and zonal. Reticular? I've looked it up for you, it means: "1) Resembling a net in form; netlike. 2) Marked by complexity; intricate." I'm not entirely sure what the observations that the Yanomami use different systems of pathways adds to the table of forage psychogeography. Maybe it is a way of showing that paths connects places without laying claim to the space it traverses?
The spatial patterns of the Yanomami’s use of forest natural resources have traditionally been described or represented by anthropologists as concentric zones of exploitation (gardening, hunting, and gathering) outlined by approximate contours. Three types of concentric zones are usually distinguished: one close to the collective house, which includes the gardens, one for daily hunting, gathering, and harvesting, and, finally, one for long-distance collective hunting expeditions (hwenimu) and wild fruit gathering (waimi huu, yanomoa˜i-). This anthropological “zonal model,” which lacks any indigenous cultural recognition, projects onto Yanomami productive activities an ethnocentric conception of successive “rings” of decreasing degrees of resource exploitation similar to the classic agricultural model proposed
by J. H. von Thunen.

The methodology we adopted, allowing a fine-grained record of the Yanomami’s exploitation of natural resources, enabled us to produce a very different spatial model, this time structured by the collective knowledge and use of a web of identified forest paths (principal and secondary) tying together notable sites labeled by toponyms (hunting and gathering camps, former habitation and garden sites, groves of fruit trees, geographic features, and so on). In Yanomami cultural cartography, this complex network of paths and places is, moreover, closely interwoven with the intricate branching of the hydrographic network (made up of named rivers and streams), which constitutes another primary spatial reference.

From this new perspective, the Yanomami ethnogeographic organization of space appears to be reticular—structured by a crisscrossing network of sites (points) and routes (lines)—rather than zonal. By taking into account this emic structuring of space based on networks, as opposed to the conventional etic perspective in anthropology and geography, we aim to contribute toward a spatial model of tropical-forest resource use through data that are both quantitatively more precise and qualitatively more compatible with Yanomami social practices and cultural concepts.

1 opmerking:

  1. I suggest reading, "Naked Science: Anthropological Inquiry into Boundaries, Power and knowledge," Laura Nader ED. Much of the book is so dry that its almost unreadable but the preface, Ch 1, Ch 12, and the Epilogue are well worth the read. The book highlights the the problem of the hegemonic control of various western scientific fields which threaten the diversity of local knowledge and science at the micro level among the dwindling indigenous peoples. Warning: Anthropologists are not always the most engaging writers. This book is best read with as high lighter in hand, ten pages max at a time.