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Title: 'Now we live together' : village formation amongst the Ngöbe and how "Majority rule is still an alien concept to most Guaymi"
Author: Karkotis, Alexis
ISNI:       0000 0004 2739 3190
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2012
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My thesis is an exploration into the social dynamics of village formation amongst the Ngobe, a process which begun in the 1970's. This represents a dramatic change from their 400 year old settlement pattern, whereby kin groups as the ultimate locus of power within the society, lived in autonomous hamlets dispersed across , The rugged tropical terrain. Focusing on one particular community called Bisira I show how its locals, as residents in a concentrated community, while retaining their kin group membership, establish relationships of friendship amongst themselves based on trust, generosity, fecundity and respect and transgress kinship boundaries. I argue that the Ngobe have been forming communities whose internal 'configuration' reflects and replicates their stateless society, without thus becoming loci where power has the potential to accumulate in the hands of a few. The ethnography presented in this thesis explores a number of interrelated issues that can help us understand social change in Ngobe society. In the thesis I investigate (a) how the Ngobe in recent years have successfully organized to fend off the state in its attempts to develop open-pit mining and hydro-electric damming in their land. I address how the Ngobe leaders negotiate amongst themselves and between the state arguing that the fabric of their stateless society, while under severe threat by the state, still remains acephalous, multi-centered and non-hierarchical; (b) A successful Malaria Project which was implemented by PAHO in 2006 as prime example of the 'generative culture' of the Ngobe on the community level since through collective and voluntary work Bisira went from having one of the highest cases of Malaria in the country to none within two years after its implementation; (c) How informal ritualistic boxing Jamete solidifies relationships and forms brothers out of others. I also address (d) the importance of working at the plantations (as an experience of discrimination) had in enhancing solidarity, and the influence that the Mama Chi millenarian, reformist, nativistic movement -which appeared in the 1960's-had in bringing the women (within one generation) to have the same public rights as the men, while concurrently establishing the idea of a Pan-Nqobe-sister-brotherhood: and (e) the effects of schooling, party politics, and Christianity on the local culture and how aspects of modernity are consumed, rejected, desired or ignored by the locals. Several narratives are presented whereby the Ngobe voice, formally or informally, their views from family affairs to community formation. These narratives are in turn complemented by an anthropological analysis of the context at hand, and interpretations of particular events which make that context meaningful. Concurrently the thesis highlights the 'mundane' and subtle aspects of daily living: body postures, gestures, breathing, reflecting, tone of voice, the tone of silence, the unwritten laws about laws, the insignificant, or as Malinowski puts it, 'the manner of taking food and preparing it: the tone of conversational and social life around the village fires."
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available