Research seminar no3 in Cultural Anthropology. Agency of plants and a theory of connected bodies. Evidence from Western Amazonia
- Date: –12:00
- Location: Zoom link given upon registration
- Lecturer: Dr Monika Kujawska, Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology, University of Lodz
- Organiser: Department of Cultural Anthropology and Ethnology
- Contact person: Claudia Merli
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Organiser: Dr Claudia Merli (Associate Professor of Cultural Anthropology)
In this presentation I discuss the relationship between Ashaninka people from Peruvian Amazonia and domesticated plants, which have been domesticated for non-dietary reasons. Ashaninka people classify their medicinal plants into: inchatoshi (forest plants), ibenki (Cyperus species) and ibinishi (Justicia and Lepidagathis species, Acanthaceae family). Ibenki and ibinishi are cultivated in almost every Ashaninka home garden. The ethnographic data was collected between 2016 and 2019 in 70 Ashaninka home gardens along the Tambo river in the Upper Peruvian Amazonia. An over-differentiation phenomenon from botanical perspective is observed, in which 4 species of Cyperus genus correspond to 86 different ethnospecies of ibenki, and 3 species of Justicia and 1 of Lepidogathis correspond to 70 ethnospecies of ibinishi. The names of ethnospecies are composed of a semantically active constituent and a generic suffix (i)benki and shi, respectively. Their meanings correspond to Ashaninka ontological categories, thus revealing many levels of connectivity between them and non-humans. The diversity of uses outstretches the boundaries of what is consider ‘medicinal’ in orthodox Western thinking. Ibenki and ibinishi are endowed with multiple agencies and they are allies in maintaining specific inter species relations and help in counteracting prohibitions. The Ashaninka are engaged in producing the bodies of their kin, the ibenki and ibinishi. Simultaneously, ibenki and ibinishi participate in maintaining the bodies (persons) connected.