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Title: Morality and emotion in the dynamics of an Amerindian society (Warao, Orinoco Delta, Venezuela)
Author: Allard, Olivier
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2010
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This dissertation is a study of the interplay of moral issues and emotional states in the daily life of the Warao of the Orinoco Delta in Venezuela. Among the Warao, neither moral issues nor emotional processes are the subject of much explicit discursive elaboration. They usually emerge in a non-propositional or even non-verbal way as aspects of everyday and ritual interactions, and shape the course of those interactions, which are essentially dynamic processes. This dissertation is therefore essentially concerned with understanding the effect of people’s actions on one another, and with elucidating the role played by morality and emotion in such processes. The dissertation starts with a general description of interactions between Warao and outsiders, which centres on the acquisition and management of things (chapter 1) and continues with a consideration of the effects of the production and consumption of food upon such interactions (chapter 2). Both chapters stress how the moral issues surrounding such practices are central in accounting for the form taken by Warao sociality. Nurture, as a specific form of food consumption, also has long-lasting emotional effects, revealed by the saliency of childhood experiences in the definition of kinship networks, and of the schema of fosterage as an asymmetrical – yet valued – way of relating to others. Discourses and practices of care and nurture also abound around illness and shamanism, and such contexts present shamanic aggression as the archetypically immoral act. They also offer the opportunity to study how different types of discourse (ritual speech, gossip, etc.) and non-verbal acts have effects on the emotional state of those involved and on the nature of their relationships. Death offers another stage for the critical and reflexive evaluation of the behaviour of oneself and others, especially in funerary laments. But intense sorrow is not only conventionally expressed or channelled, it is also intentionally produced in circumscribed contexts, because it is a moral – albeit painful – state. By focusing on verbal and non-verbal acts in specific contexts, this study shows how moral reflexivity can be pervasive in spite of not being explicitly theorised, and how it is inextricably linked to emotional states which are produced by – as well as productive of – interactions.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: moral issues ; morality ; emotion