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Title: The Nunak : on the move in a shatter zone : a study of nomadism and continuity in the Colombian Amazon
Author: Herrera, Ruth Gutierrez
ISNI:       0000 0004 2732 8997
Awarding Body: Oxford University
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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This study explores the social life of the Nukak, a small, nomadic society that lives in the northwest of the Colombian Amazon, between the Guaviare and Inirida rivers. For reasons that are still debated, the Nukak maintained themselves in voluntary isolation until the early 1990s, preserving their autonomy and independence from mainstream Colombian society. The thesis focuses on Nukak mobility patterns, and how elements internal to their social system such as myths, rituals, and political views have been challenged in the face of contemporary life. Through this st~9J' levels of Nukak •.... , resilience and identity are explored from different angles. The fii~st four chapters show how social mobility is deeply rooted in the symbolic organisation of space and landscape practices. In this part of the thesis, I discuss the Nukak economy and the ways in which it relates to the dispersion of social units, which leads me to establish parallels with the incorporation of distant groups, and, more generally, processes of alterity. In the two chapters that constitute the second part of the study, I look at the recent context of forced displacement, exploring the ways in which Nukak society faces the challenges of living in larger, aggregated units. I discuss how they live with armed conflict, humanitarian aid, and various state and non-governmental development initiatives. Through the analysis of detailed ethnographic data, I show how mobility patterns are socially constructed. My central argument is that Nukak society still retains its nomadic coherence, in response to the cultural valuation of societal independence and personal autonomy. Today, the Nukak continue to live a complex and independent socio-cultural life style, which leads them to redefine and re-interpret ethnic boundaries. As I explore the shifting patterns of ethnic configurations in Nukak land, I contribute to the anthropological debate on the heterogeneity of assimilation and acculturation in the Amazon region. I conclude that, despite the complex transformations that the Nukak are facing, they do not see themselves as forming a society in transition, nor do they feel part of the mainstream. Rather, they subvert the ideal of assimilation presented to them by a range of Western or Westernised actors, and work at reinforcing their own understanding of the world around them.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available