NATURE/CULTURE DISTINCTION IN JURUNA COSMOLOGY
The hypothesis underlying my analysis isthat the great division comprises one specific re-gime for dealing with the nature/culture distinc-tion. This regime can be provisionally character-ized as follows: applying itself all at once to variouslevels of reality, the great division necessarilyimposes the overlapping of these levels, overcod-ing, as Deleuze and Guattari would say, the distinc-tions generated at each level. In other words, thedistinctions between Nature and Culture, Objectiv-ity and Subjectivity, Truth and Error, Writing andOrality, Moderns and Pre-Moderns, Future andPast, and so on, are articulated in such a way thatthe moderns retain nature, objectivity, truth andeven time itself, leaving the leftover terms for othersocieties.What takes place in Juruna cosmology isvery different. Distinctions such as River and For-est, Living and Dead, Humans and Animals, Con-sanguinity and Affinity, White-Lipped Peccary andCollared Peccary, do not overlap: the peccary is nota consanguine, nor are the dead of the forest.
Nature and culture according to the Juruna
Looking at the question from a distance, onecan affirm that the notions of nature and culturehave no counterparts in Juruna cosmology. Suchan assertion is primarily based on two pieces of ethnographic evidence: humans do not belong tothe class of animals, nor do they distinguish them-selves precisely from the latter through the posses-sion of culture, language and social life.These last three functions are primarily relat-ed not to humans but — how to put this? — to theliving beings that inhabit the different regions of the cosmos, some of whom are defined as
souls and others as
souls. For animals, spiritsand humans, having a soul means having aware-ness of oneself and others, being able to think,being a subject. Whoever thinks or lives in effectbehaves like humans: in this sense, animals havean awareness of their own humanity, act in accor-dance with this, and consider humans properlyspeaking to be their similars; in turn, the souls of the dead think of themselves as living people.Here, culture denotes a universal functionwhich is simultaneously defined as thought andsociality (and is, therefore, neither a domain isolat-ed from an exterior reality, nor a distinctive func-tion of humanity in opposition to animality).
Thisfact is suggestive of a profoundly anthropocentricvision of the world and seems to correspond towhat is conventionally called animism. From Tylorto Descola, the question of the applicability of thenature/culture distinction to so-called pre-modernsystems has been put forward. The question iswhether it is suitable for us to apply such labels toAmazon cosmologies: despite Descola’s argument(1992), I think it is not.Firstly, the question of culture is not onlysituated on the level of generality that I just out-lined. There is another level, for which we mayconveniently employ the term civilization, a leveldefined by the diversity of food regimes, numerousmusical instruments and artifacts, categories of spirits and regions of the cosmos, and even theenvironment itself wherein the lives of humans andanimals unfold. And here a differential betweenwild and civilized is introduced: certain humansocieties have practices that are reminiscent of those of the jaguar.It is true that on the first level the humansimplied are the Juruna: peccaries and howler mon-keys think and act as if they were Juruna. However,as far as the human genus is concerned, each socialgroup possesses its own modes of action, and theirsubjective experience is not a simple replica of theaction and subjectivity of the Juruna.Secondly, what I learnt about the soul andcivilization amounted to a very elementary lesson:(a) animals and the souls of the dead have differentpoints of view to ours in respect to reality, and (b)the Juruna are not necessarily in agreement withwhat these other beings think of themselves andthe Juruna.I believe, then, that to fashion a generalcharacterization of Juruna cosmology through theuse of notions like anthropocentrism and animismis to lose sight of the essential: for the Juruna, therelation of identity between humanity and animal-ity is primarily given as a condition for imaginingtheir difference (Lima, 1996).