Amerindian perspectivism and anthropophagic subjectivity

Image: Plato Terentev


Opening oneself to the contagion of bodily experiences that blur the Nature-Culture borders is a theoretical, political, artistic, anthropological and ethical effort

In this essay, themes of Amerindian perspectivism by Eduardo Viveiros de Castro and anthropophagic subjectivity by Suely Rolnik will be discussed in the context of an ethical thought centered on the body. To explore this discussion, texts by the two authors will be mobilized, accompanied by writings about the Amerindian peoples and other opportune philosophical and anthropological analyses. In this way, it will be possible to reflect on the power of such theoretical-conceptual tools for the anthropological, philosophical and political task of an ethics of the body in its connections with Amerindian cosmology.

In his article “Perspectivism and Multinaturalism in Indigenous America”, Eduardo Viveiros de Castro begins his exposition with a critique of the nature-culture distinction, which structuring much of the history of anthropology and rooted in modern Western thought. Such a distinction engenders a series of theoretical and practical problems, given that the nature-culture dyad implies a human subject of action as opposed to the pure objectual externality of nature as something to be controlled and exploited. In addition to repressing the assemblages that cross the molar forms of subjects (humans, non-humans, animals, spirits, etc.), the modern anthropocentric paradigm universalizes its axiomatics and threatens the way of life of those who live on its periphery — integrating them or purging them. them violently, infecting them (Viveiros de Castro, 2004; Soares, Collado, 2020; Krenak, 2020; Castro, 2020).

In modern cosmology, nature is taken as a given, an objective universal uniqueness; while culture is seen as multiple. Eduardo Viveiros de Castro seeks to theorize an inversion (which is not a simple exchange of definitions, as will be seen below): in Amerindian cosmology, there would be a universality of culture in contrast to the particular experiences of nature; however, the division does not remain ontological as in modern cosmology – it is about a multiplicity of points of view, of perspectives. Perspective that manages a subject: a mode of subjectivation that produces a certain state of the body; considering that “the point of view is in the body”. A body that is not defined by its shapes or organs, but by its relations of speed and slowness, by its power to affect and be affected (Viveiros de Castro, 2004; Rolnik, 1998; Deleuze, Guattari, 2012; Deleuze, 2002).

“In short, there are no views on things; things and beings are points of view. If there is no entity without identity, there is no multiplicity without perspectivism” (Viveiros de Castro, 2007).

Perspectivism is a multinaturalism. Not defined by physiological aspects, the specificity of the body is what marks the point of view, its mode of subjectivation, its bodily mannerism. Your appearance doesn't matter: the body is defined by what it is capable of. Espinosa's question is what guides Deleuze and Guattari, Viveiros de Castro and Rolnik: what can a body do? The criterion of potency is the ethical criterion par excellence, which is not guided by the arborescence of a transcendental morality, but by the rhizomes that manage the multiplicities of the plane of nature (which involves both what is considered natural and what is artificial - as Krenak says , everything is nature).

Such ethics is clearly expressed in the shaman: an anomalous sorcerer who inhabits the edges of the territory, the one who is capable of communicating different points of view, between different strata, in a multiplicity of becomings, increasing his power by abducting different agencies and affections; and in the anthropophagous: those who increase their potency by selecting the elements of otherness that intensify the affects their body is capable of (Viveiros de Castro, 2004; Rolnik, 1998; Deleuze, Guattari, 2012; Deleuze, 2002; Krenak, 2020).

By leaping over different circles, different signifying regimes, the shaman has a double aspect: the one who maintains contact with darkness and light, oscillating between the paths of the explorer-werewolf (the one who inhabits the territory but crosses its borders, infected by a wild animality) and the ways of the priest's traditional authority, shuffling the codes of the village. Their animal-becomings enter the village by contagion, a sorcery policy that is elaborated through pacts, demonic alliances, distinctive equipment – ​​while their assemblages are coded as coming from outside, a different perspective, a form of marking.

For the cannibal, these are the elements that compose him, which increase his potency in his infinite miscegenation, rejecting the repression of identity categories. The pragmatics of swallowing otherness articulates a resistance to the hierarchy and centrality of Culture as an official monolithic entity. In his cartography of intensities, the identity signifiers of culture are deterritorialized and put to work in new assemblages (Land, 2011; Viveiros de Castro, 2004; ibid, 2007; Deleuze, Guattari, 2011a; ibid, 2011b; ibid, 2012; Rolnik , 1998).

The cannibal’s creation of new “at home” and the shaman’s demonic alliances trace lines of flight through an ethics of experimentation, where the new strata through which the body connects are marked by its trajectories, making bastards of the elements it demystifies. The cannibal integrates and subverts the saint in his mestizo experimentation, the shaman makes his diplomacy from the perspectives of diverse beings, multiplicities that exceed the unity of a subject. In this way, experimentation reterritorializes without reintegrating into a One, a great identity: it resists reference systems, it changes its nature with each contagion; its subjectivity is based on a singular and impersonal pragmatics, against the figuration of identity.

This is how the disjunctive synthesis works: a reciprocal presupposition of the assembled elements that does not imply a unity of meaning: the path is not the same in both directions. In the in-between of shamanic diplomacy, the shaman's point of view of the jaguar is not the same as the jaguar's point of view of the shaman; by becoming-jaguar, the shaman perceives this asymmetry bodily, because becoming is neither an imitation nor a memory (Rolnik, 1998; Viveiros de Castro, 2004; ibid, 2007; Deleuze, Guattari, 2012).

As in Bataille, the discontinuity of the body (the limits of the extension of its parts) is broken in communication, a continuous-becoming of shamanic diplomacy — but which never reaches continuity as such, absolute deterritorialization, as it remains on the edges of the territory , in the zone of proximity and indiscernibility of the strata (where it is indeterminate which element belongs to which identity, which subject), making the flows traffic from the outside to the inside, from the inside to the outside; conveying the subject-bodies elsewhere; producing thresholds at the borders themselves.

Such thresholds are present in the vibration of the chant of anthropophagic subjectivity, vibrating the body in tune with a multiplicity of transnational affections; a different vibration to which Lyotard refers, by emphasizing the vibratory property of the traditional popular narrative as a performance, a certain temporal rhythm of the staging game. While the narrative of tradition represents, the cannibal contaminates, becomes another and emits its vibratory waves that modulate partial singulars according to its selective filtering (Bataille, 2020; Viveiros de Castro, 2004; Deleuze, Guattari, 2012; Lagrou, 2009; Rolnik, 1998; Lyotard, 2020).

Escaping imitation and identity assimilation, the ethics of the shaman and the cannibal resonate in the theorist's experimentation. Conceptual tools should not be used to simply insert a decolonial sign into the analysis; bricolage is a process of alliance, not mimesis. Nor is it about representing someone's speech, as Spivak problematizes. The alliances and selections of theoretical experimentation do not seek to integrate elements of Amerindian cosmology just to cultivate them as Baudrillard's antique objects, signs of authenticity and historical reference. On the contrary: there is a constructive reciprocity between the theoretical-conceptual machinery and the elements to which it is allied, passing through metamorphoses in its contagions; translation that assumes difference, a mismatch that promotes an opening that escapes the limits of technical frames (Castro, 2020; Spivak, 2010; Baudrillard, 2015; Goldstein, 2019).

In resonance with the pragmatics of the shaman, the cannibal and the theoretician, the question of art for the Amerindian peoples emphasizes a different cosmology in relation to modern aesthetics. For the Xikrin, objects become alive, and not a mere display of beauty that distinguishes a useful artifact from specialized contemplative art: it has a value function due to its relationship with otherness. What is beautiful and valuable for the Xikrin is what is discovered from the outside, appropriated and re-signified; goes through metamorphosis, transforming contagion, because there is no automatism, beauty is always the result of a production. Such a system of objects follows a different cosmology from the object system of consumer society, but maintains a curious common feature: the role of the object in a system of differentiation, in a mode of ritual subjectivation.

It is not just a matter of another artistic paradigm, such cosmology is a cosmotechnique; not based, however, on the logic of invention and originality of modern Western cosmotechnics, but on the transfer and appropriation of something that comes from outside. In this way, Amerindian cosmotechniques unify their moral cosmology of technical-artistic production by locating value in otherness and in its transformation through cultural overcoding. But like the shaman and the cannibal, they do not seek to centralize a cultural identity in the object: its polysemic character is preserved in the form of the object's historicity (Gordon, Silva, 2005; Lagrou, 2009; Demarchi, 2017; Baudrillard, 2015; Castro Nurseries, Hui, 2021; Hui, 2017).

Shaman, cannibal, theorist, artist: the figures of body ethics in connection with Amerindian cosmology allow an opening to the outside, to an alterity that repels identification; composition of agencies, multiplicities, other perspectives. Refusing mere formal representativeness, the field of practice is invaded by polycentric spheres, tracing lines without a fixed point of unification. What the body can refer to what it becomes capable of affecting and being affected, expansion of its scope of action. Opening oneself to the contagion of bodily experiences that blur the Nature-Culture boundaries is a theoretical, political, artistic, anthropological and ethical effort — a task that does not aim at recovering originality, but at producing a future through alliances with difference. .

*Bernardo Joao do Rego Monteiro Moreira He is a Master's student in Philosophy at PPGFIL-UERJ and Bachelor of Social Sciences at UFF.

* Nathália Durso Martins holds a degree in performing arts from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).


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