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Social Body and Embodied Subject: Bodiliness, Subjectivity, and Sociality among the Kayapo

Author(s): Terence Turner

Source: Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 10, No. 2, Anthropologies of the Body (May, 1995), pp.
Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Anthropological Association
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Social Body and Embodied Subject:

Bodiliness, Subjectivity, and Sociality
among the Kayapo
Terence Turner
University of Chicago

The meteoric rise of "the body" to the status of a primarycategory of social and
cultural theory, replacing more collective categories of social and cultural
understandinglike "society" and "culture"themselves, has been one of the most
salient aspects of the development of postmodernforms of cultural theory over
the past two decades. The reasons for this turn to the body have remained
shrouded in confusion despite the voluminous discussion it has occasioned.
Even some of the main exemplars and partisans of the new body focus have
been at a loss to account for it. Martin,for example, suggests that the body has
come so prominentlyinto focus because a new body, suitable to the postmodern
era of "flexible accumulation,"is now replacing the old, familiar body of the
previous capitalist era of Fordist mass production (Martin 1992). This formulation, however, merely exemplifies the problem it sets out to solve. Why do
we suddenly find it appropriateto speak of a new regime of social production
in terms of a unique body it supposedly brings into being? Why did not social
thinkers, cultural theorists, or just ordinary folks of the previous Fordist era
conceive of their own era in such terms?Like social thinkersof most, if not all,
previous historical epochs and modes of production,they would doubtless have
found the characterizationof their era in terms of the appearanceof a new body
(as distinct from a new style of representingthe body) bizarreand mystifying.
Martin's formulationthereforeseems to me to be partof the problemratherthan
part of the solution.
The dimensions of the problem are suggested by juxtaposing Martin's
proposition with two very different passages that express ideas and attitudes
centralin the turnto the body in culturaltheory. The first, appropriatelyenough,
is from an interview with Foucault, in which he suggests that his reconception
of cultural and social theory in terms of a focus on the body as the site of disciplines of power not only is a more authentically "materialist"position than
CulturalAnthropology 10(2): 143-170. Copyright? 1995, American Anthropological Association.



Marxistapproaches(and, by implication, all othersocially groundedmaterialist

approaches),but also renderspasse the Marxian conception of ideological critique:
Wouldyou distinguishyourinterestin thebodyfromthatof other
[Foucault:]... As regardsMarxism,I'm not one of those who try to elicit the
effects of powerat the level of ideology. IndeedI wonderwhether,before one
poses the questionof ideology, it wouldn'tbe morematerialistto studyfirst the
questionof the body and the effects of poweron it. Becausewhat troublesme
withtheseanalyseswhichprioritiseideologyis thatthereis alwayspresupposed
a humansubject on the lines ... [of] classical philosophy,endowed with a
consciousnesswhichpoweris thenthoughtto seize on. [Foucault1980:58]
The assertion that ideological critique presupposes a concept of the subject "on
the lines of classical philosophy" is of course both logically and historically
untrue;and, as I shall try to show in this article, it is contradictedby the kind
of socially and culturally contextualized analysis of the bodily grounding of
subjectivity thatFoucault himself never bothered to make.
The second passage, from the conclusion of Game's book Undoing the Social (1991), sums up her argumentthat the body alone (as the site of direct experience and concrete, pre-rationalsubjective consciousness in everyday life) is
the source of authenticknowledge and truth:
Theunconscious,thebody andthe subjectivehavebeenemphasizedin a critique
of knowledgeunderstoodas speculativeand rational,and as a productof a
consciousnessthatmightknowthe whole. .. Myconcernherehas beento argue
thatthebodyprovidesthebasisfor a differentconceptionof knowledge:we know
with ourbodies. In this regard,the authenticof experiencemightbe reclaimed;
if thereis any truth,it is the truthof the body. [1991:192]
As the passage from Game suggests, the theoretical prominence of the
body is partly an effect and partly a cause of a general reductionisttendency to
reject abstractcategories and totalizing theoreticalconstructsnot directly accessible to individual perception, consciousness, and participation.This means, in
effect, all levels of collective social and culturalreality and historical process,
and all structuralconstraintsin absentia, leaving only direct experience in praesenti as the domain of the authentic.
The causes of this general intellectual and political retreatfrom critical engagement with the social and culturalconditions of humanexistence (including
individual subjectivity and bodiliness) have been much discussed and are beyond the scope of this article. The point for present purposes is that the rise of
the body to its currenttheoretical prominence has been an integral part of this
general trend.The body has filled the vacuum createdby the general evacuation
of the social, cultural, and political content of theorizing about the human condition, above all in the modern/postmodernera. As the site of individual consciousness, sensations, and desires, and of some (thoughby no means all) social
controls, as well as the focus of some (though by no means all) cultural repre-


sentations of the materialand social world, and as both a materialobject and a

category of discourse, the body appears to offer itself as a basis for a new and
different theorization of the social-culturaldimensions of individual existence,
if at the cost of reducing most relevant aspects of the former to the latter.
I have set out some general theoretical and historical criticisms of this tendency and its relation to the currentfocus on the body elsewhere (Turner1994).
Here I want to develop a more specifically anthropologicalcritique of the ways
the body has tended to be conceived and treatedin much recent work. In itself,
the focus on bodiliness is a salutary theoretical development. Bodiliness is
rightly recognized as a fundamentalunifying category of humanexistence in all
its senses and levels: cultural,social, psychological, and biological. The body is
at once a material object and a living and acting organism possessing rudimentary forms of subjectivity that becomes, through a process of social appropriation, both a social identity and a cultural subject. The social appropriationof
bodiliness in all the above-mentioned senses is the prototype of all social production; the person constitutedby a socialized and embodied subjectivity is the
prototype of all products. The "socially informed body," to use Bourdieu's
(1977) phrase, acts as bothproductand producerof this process of appropriation
and in many societies therebydirectly becomes the paradigmof the structureof
society and the cosmos as well.
As a biological organism,the body is an individual, but an individual that
biologically depends for its reproduction,nurturance,and continued existence
on biological and social inputs from other individuals and from the environment. Its biological individuality, moreover, is complex, mediated as the product of numerous distinct and quasi-independentlimbs, organs, faculties, stages
of growth, and so forth. In these respects (its "internaldividuality," to borrow
Marriott's [1976, 1990] term, and the relativization of its external boundaries
throughinterdependencewith others), the body serves as the paradigm,not only
of individuality, but of the limitations of individuality.
One of the main points of difference between these general remarkson the
theoretical significance of bodiliness and many currentdiscussions of the body
is the emphasis placed on activity, especially productive activity. Anotheris the
emphasis on the relativity of the unity of the individual body to its imbrication
and participation in various social processes, with the implication that wide
variationis to be expected in the degree to which, and the ways in which, bodies
will be treatedas boundedor complete individuals in different societies, or different contexts within the same society. The basic point at issue here, however,
is not social or culturalrelativity as such, but the intrinsically social characterof
the human body, in all its material,phenomenal, biological, psychological, social, and cultural dimensions.
It is this fundamentalcharacterof human bodiliness that anthropologyis,
or should be, in a strategically advantageous position to clarify, at least in two
senses. First, anthropologycan offer comparativeethnographicdocumentation
and analysis of social and culturalvariation in the conception and treatmentof
bodies and bodiliness. Second, and of equal importance, it can convey to the


arena of Western theoretical discussion the concepts and theories (implicit if not
explicit) of non-Western peoples about bodies and bodiliness. These points
have been well made by Lamb in a recent doctoral dissertation, from which I
quote the following passage:
I believe Bengali ethno-theories of the body ... can effectively respond to some
of the problems in the current anthropological literature on the body, which has
tended to present "the body" as a reified, decontextualized, somehow transhistorical and transcultural object....
I must ask ... whether some of this focus on the body [in recent anthropological and cultural theory] may be misleading, serving ... to foreground a
particular vision of the body that may not always resonate with the "bodies" or
embodied experiences of those we are attempting to understand.By focusing on
"the body" we tend to assume that there is (necessarily) such a thing as "the body"
that we can isolate. We tend to reify the body as an individual, materialspace....
But there are also many societies (and contexts within our own society) where
other perceptions, experiences, and constructions of the body are highlightedones that do not (wholly or even predominantly) assume the body to be local,
tangible, bounded, stable, individually experienced, or the particularsite of social
and political control. [1993:29-31]
This article is conceived, in the spirit of Lamb's remarks, as an attempt to
combine a critical anthropological examination of general aspects of the significance and treatment of bodiliness in human cultures with an account of the
bodily practices and ideas, amounting to an implicit "ethno-theory" of the social
body, of an indigenous people of the Brazilian Amazon, the Kayapo.

The Body as Representation and as Medium of Social Value

In all humancultures, the body is identified, at least in some contexts, with
the socialized actor or person to which it belongs. This identification involves,
in part, a semiotic use of the body, commonly in the form of more or less standardized modifications of the body surface that then serve, in their ensemble, as
representationsof the identity of the social person. Such modifications typically
include treatmentsof the surface of the body (for example, clothing, painting or
tattooing, adornment,and coiffure). In all such usages, the naturalor artificial
surfaces of the body (skin and hair, clothing and ornaments)are treatedas signs
of the culturalboundarybetween the self or person and its social and naturalobject world (Turner1979).
A. L. Kroeberremarkssomewhere that the direct alterationof the surface
of the body, as in tattooing, scarification, or painting, is one of the few general
ethnographicallydistinctive features of "primitive"society. He proposed no explanationfor this phenomenon,doubtless in partbecause his notion of the primitive was itself relatively vague and confused. It is nevertheless possible to recognize in this formulationa curious truth.Direct modification of the surface of
the body as a general social practice tends to be found far more frequently in
simple societies with relatively rudimentarydivisions of labor, that do not produce primarilyfor exchange. Why should this be so?


Partof the answer, it seems reasonableto suppose, is that where individual

bodily changes (physical growth, the development of gender characteristicsand
sexual powers, mental and emotional development, etc.) corresponddirectly to
the main articulationsof social relations (the division of labor, the family cycle,
gender and age grouping, etc.), the former may easily come to be seen as the
naturalground,and even the causes, of the latter. Under these circumstances,direct operationson the body may be seen as potent means of regulating social relations as well as the social identity of the person that those relations define.
Collectively standardizedalterationsand treatmentsof the body thus become a
basic techniquefor appropriatingandcoopting the naturalforces and changes of
the body to (re)produce social relations, groups, and persons.
There is, however, anotherrespect in which the body and direct modifications of its form tend to play a role more fundamentalin simple societies thanin
ones with differentiatedsystems of exchange. In such simple societies, the circulation of tokens of social identity and value may not be mediated, at least to
the same extent, by the exchange of objects (valuables, gifts, or commodities).
That such societies may nevertheless possess elaborate symbolic media of circulation of social values has often been obscured by the tendency to treatcirculation as virtually synonymous with exchange (for a critiqueof exchange theory
in these terms, see Fajans 1993).
Societies in which social identity is not constituted primarily throughthe
exchange of goods (valuables, gifts, or commodities) nevertheless depend on
the public circulation of symbolic tokens of valued aspects of personal identity,
such as marksof status, appropriaterole performance,and the values associated
with them. In the absence of concrete objects that might serve as embodiments
of such values or tokens of status, a society may make use of other modes of circulation that do not rely on the exchange of objects. One such mode is specialized verbal performance. Status may be marked by the status holder's public
performanceof a distinctive way of speaking, or by his or her ability to speak in
this way (for example, sing, chant,pray,keen, recite poetry, articulatecollective
decisions, give orders,etc.) in some specific context. Such a performancecirculates in the sense that it is publicly communicated, and the values and status
claims implicit in it may be recognized and accepted and thus confirmed by
those to whom the performance is directly or indirectly addressed (Turner
Anothermode of circulationwithout exchange is throughvisual display. In
the case of circulating tokens of personal identity and value, such display typically involves specialized forms of bodily appearance. Where these forms of
bodily appearancecarrythe main load of communicatingthe natureand value of
personal identity, they frequentlyinvolve the direct modification of the body itself and/or the elaboration of complex semiotic codes of bodily adornment
fraught with social messages about the content and value of personal identity
and status.
The symbolic modification of the body as an aspect of the productionof enculturated subjects appears to be a fundamental feature of human culture as


such. The decorationof the body appearsin the archaeologicalrecordamong the

originary traits of fully human culture. Beads from necklaces and bracelets,
spangles or sequins still in the patternsin which they were sewn on clothing, and
figurines with indicationsof coiffure and body paintingor tattooingarefound in
the earliest levels of the Upper Paleolithic. As White (1992) has argued, these
means of stylized presentationandrepresentationsof the humanbody implicitly
constitute media throughwhich physical bodies and their animal life are appropriated and transformedinto social beings with collectively recognized identities, the prerequisiteof any culturally patternedsocial life.
Just as the semiotic representationof the naturalhumanbody as social beto have played a fundamentalrole in the developmentof fully human
culturaltreatmentof the body remains in contemporarysocieties an
index of fundamentalcultural notions of personal identity, agency, and subjectivity. These notions in turn proceed from the schemas or processes through
which the culturalactor is formed to the social appropriationof the living body
and its interactionwith the ambientobject world. It is trueof any culturethat its
overt semiotic forms of bodiliness, from fashion in clothing to ideas of physical
health and beauty, afford profound insights into its fundamentalcategories of
subjectivity and personal identity, as well as its system of social values. For the
reasons thathave been suggested, however, the forms of physical appropriation
and cultural elaboration of the body in simple societies lacking in elaborated
systems of gift or commodity exchange may afford the clearest and most direct
cases of the role of the body as source and medium of personal identity and social production.
The Kayapo: Body Social as Social Body
The Kayapo of the Brazilian tropical forest afford a case in point. The
Kayapo are a Ge-speaking people who inhabit a large area south of the Amazon
in central Brazil, comprising most of the drainage of the Xingu River from the
von MartiusFalls in the south to Altamirain the north,and from the headwaters
of the Rio Fresco in the east to the Curuaand Iriri in the west. Their population
today is about 4,000, distributedover 14 villages.
The Kayapo have been in direct, if often intermittentand violent, contact
with Brazilian society for about 150 years. Their society has undergone important changes in that time. First as a raiding society increasingly dependentupon
plunderfrom Brazilian settlements, and more recently as the owners of valuable
gold mines and standsof mahoganyfrom which they have extracteda sizable income over the last decade, the Kayapo are no strangers to commodities and
money. I have elsewhere describedthe ways they have incorporatedcommodity
and money wealth into their society, and the culturalchanges in bodily presentation and related matters such as domestic architectureto which this has led
(Turner1991a, 1993a, 1993b). In this article, I want to focus on the indigenous
system of bodily treatments,beliefs, representation,and adornmentas it continues, with relatively few modifications, beneath the facade of Brazilian dresses,
shorts and T-shirts.


Until recently the Kayapo wore no clothing in the Western sense. They
nonetheless possess an elaborate cultural code of bodily adornment,including
body painting, coiffure, and the use of a wide arrayor ornaments such as lip
plugs, penis sheaths, ear pendants,beaded arm and leg bands, necklaces, bracelets, and sashes of beads or reddenedcotton string, not to mention a spectacular
arrayof ceremonial costumes: feather capes and headdresses;feather pendants,
necklaces, and bunches of arm plumes; mother-of-pearlear spools; toucan-bill
lip plugs; crushedblue eggshell stuck to the face with resin in elaboratepatterns;
and parrotbreast-feathersstuck over the whole body with latex or the wearer's
own blood. I have elsewhere described and analyzed (in ratherdifferent and less
comprehensive terms than in the present text) much of this repertoireof bodily
adornments(Turner 1969, 1979).
This varied repertoire of bodily treatments comprises several discrete
codes, consisting of distinct sets of items of wear, styles of body painting, and
coiffure, that serve to encode specific messages relating to modes, states, and
stages of development of different bodily powers, attributes,or conditions.
For the Kayapo, the social presentationof the body begins with cleanliness.
All Kayapo bathe at least once a day. To be dirty, or above all to allow traces of
animal substances such as blood, meat, or hair to remainon the skin, is considered not only aesthetically unbecoming but actively antisocial and even dangerous to the unclean individual. Animal blood or hair are among the most dangerous pathogenic agents in Kayapo medical thinking: if allowed to penetrate the
skin as a result of prolonged contact they may inflict fatal disease. Health and
disease, however, are conceived by the Kayapo not as purely medical or physical conditions in our sense, but ratheras states of social integrationor dis-integration (respectively). The encroachmentof dirt (natural,and particularlyanimal) on the surface of the social body represents,for the Kayapo, the disruption
of social relationsby asocial elements and forces. Cleanliness, defined as the removal of all naturalexcrescence from the surface of the body, is thus the essential first step in socializing the interface between self and society, embodied in
concrete terms by the skin. In this as in other contexts of bodily adornment,the
skin and hair that constitute the physical boundaryof the body is appropriated
as a symbolic index of the boundarybetween the individual actor as culturally
formed subject and the external object world. The physical skin of the body becomes a social skin of signs and meanings that bound and representthe socialized self by mediating its relations to the ambient social world (Turner 1979).
Facial and Bodily Hair
The removal of facial hair, including eyebrows and eyelashes, carries out
this same fundamentalprinciple of transformingthe skin from a mere natural
envelope of the physical body into a sort of social filter, able to contain and insulate within a social form the natural,unsocialized forces and energies within.


Facial and bodily hair, called 'o, which is also the word for the leaves of plants
and trees, is distinguished from the hair of the head (kin). The Kayapo have very
little body hair. Pubic hair seems to appear only in adulthood and may be
plucked, although especially in older individuals it may simply be left to grow.

Hair of the Head

The cutting of the hair of the head comprises a distinct code, communicatinformation
about the individual's stage of development, bodily participaing
tion or intercoursewith others in reproductiveprocesses, or separationor isolation from such physical mutuality."Reproductiveprocesses" is takenhere in the
Kayapo sense, which includes both reproductive sexual intercourse and the
physical continuity of parents and children in gestation and nursing. Wearing
the hair long denotes such a state of bodily continuity andparticipationwith others; wearing it clipped short denotes the opposite state as produced by weaning
and the absence of sexual activity, or the death of a spouse or child. Infantswear
their hair long until weaning, with nursing being considered a continuation of
the physical continuity of motherand child established in the womb. The father
also participates in this continuity through repeated intercourse during pregnancy, his infusions of semen being thoughtto nourish the developing fetus. At
birth,he marksthe severance of this directphysical bond by cutting his hair and
painting himself black.
Upon weaning, childrenof both genders have their hair cut short, they then
being considered to have become fully distinct social and biological individuals
whose "skin has hardened"(in other words, whose bodily boundarieshave become closed and clearly defined as those of autonomous individuals). Young
men begin to wear their hair long again when, as adolescents, they receive their
penis sheaths, in public recognition of their ability to engage in sexual relations
potentially leading to pregnancy and, hence, marriage.Girls start to wear their
hair long somewhat later, after a rite that signals their readiness for childbirth
(by which time they may have been having sexual relations for half a dozen
years). Actively procreative adults of both genders continue to wear their hair
long, in recognition of their sharing of their physical being with procreative
partnersand offspring. At the death of a spouse or child, however, the hair is
again cut short, signaling the severing of such a connection and consequent retractionof the continuum of the individual's bodily existence to the boundaries
of his or her own body. Old people living as widows or widowers may keep their
hair permanentlycut short in public recognition of their bereaved condition.
The fundamentalidea underlyingthe social meanings of Kayapo coiffures
is that bodiliness, in the sense of participationin the life of a body, is not restricted to the individual body, but may involve the individual in direct participation in the living bodies of others, specifically others involved in producing
her or his own bodily existence, or with whom she or he is involved in (re)producing the bodily existence of others.


Body Painting
The bodies of Kayapo of all ages and genders are painted according to a
code comprising colors, design elements, contrastingstyles, and the mapping of
all of these onto distinct bodily regions and stages of growth. The painting of the
body marks stages and modes of socialization of the body's natural powers:
muscularstrengthand energy, sensory capacities, sexuality, and reproductivity.
Infants and young children of both sexes are painted with intricate geometrical
designs composed of a limited stock of formal elements, each total composition
being unique. Painting a child in this style requires hours of patient work, as
each line and element is tracedon the skin in black with a stylus made of the center rib of a leaf. Only women paint in this style; typically, a mother or grandmotherpaints her own child or grandchild.Boys cease to be painted in this way
after weaning, but girls may continue to be painted in this style from time to
time, and adult women may occasionally paint one anotherin the same way.
Older boys and men are invariably painted in another style, consisting of
broad strokes or areas of black, usually applied directly with the hand or occasionally with a stampmade of the rind of a fruit.In this style, a single overall pattern is created, usually called after an animal or fish species it is thought to resemble, or else simply by the dominant design element (e.g., stripes or spots).
Whereas the elaborate infantile style is applied individually to one child (or
older girl or woman) at a time, the coarseradult style is typically applied in communal groups, usually age sets or ceremonial groups. Men paint men and boys
(at least from the time the latter are inducted into the men's house), and women
paint women and girls (in earlier times before the general use of clothing, collective painting sessions were held every two weeks or so and were the main activity of the women's age sets during most of the year). It should be noted that
infants may also be painted in the adult style, when no adult kinswoman has the
time at her disposal to paint them in the more elaborate style.
The women's style used for infants thus emphasizes individuation as the
result of a prolonged and intense interactionbetween a socializing adult and a
child, who must patiently submit to the process of being configured into a culturallydefined unity, while the adult men's and women's style emphasizes collectively shared, culturally stereotyped identities produced through communally organized social activity. It is also significant thatwhereas the overall body
patternsproducedin the infantile style have no names, each being a unique configuration of abstract geometrical elements, the animal names of the patterns
comprising the repertoireof the adult style, consideredin the context of their application in communal social groups, connote the socialization of fully developed natural(animal) powers throughcollective social organization and activity.
Both the infantile and adult styles, despite their differences in design, context of execution, and nomenclature,employ the same conventions with respect
to the application of colors to regions of the body. Two colors are employed:
black and red. Black paint, usually made from a mixtureof the juice of the genipapo fruit, charcoal, and spittle, is applied to the trunk of the body, the upper


arms, and the thighs. It is the exclusive medium of the designs, comprising both
the infantile and adult styles, which cover only this inner, central region of the
body. Black designs or stripes are also paintedon the cheeks, along the edges of
the hair over the forehead, and occasionally over the mouth as well. Red paint,
made from the crushed seed of the urucu bush mixed with palm oil or spittle, is
applied to the calves and feet, the hands and forearms,and the face, typically in
a band across the eyes. The entire face may be painted red, a coat of red sometimes even being applied over freshly painted black cheek designs. In all of
these cases, red is invariably applied as a uniformcovering of the whole area in
question, with no attempt at internalpatternor design.
The two colors have symbolic associations which, taken in conjunction
with the areas of the body to which they are applied, encode fundamental
Kayaponotions of the relation between the social appropriationof the body and
the production of a socialized subject. The word for black, tuk, also means
"dead," and the term is applied to the zone immediately outside the village
where the cemetery and ritually secluded camps for persons undergoingrites of
passage or performingother secret rites, such as the constructionof ceremonial
masks, arelocated. Black, as tuk, is thereforeassociated with extrasocial, taboo,
or naturalstates incompatible with normal social existence (death, it may be
noted, is conceived as a reversion to a naturalstate, being referredto in keening
as "transformationinto an animal").Red (kamrek,a word without other significations), by contrast, is associated with notions of vitality, energy, sensory
acuteness, and in general the intensification of the interactionof the embodied
individual with ambient reality, social or natural.
In sum, red is applied to all the peripheralparts of the body that come directly into contact with the ambientworld (hands,feet, and eyes), while black is
applied to the centralregion of the body which is the source of its natural,infrasocial appetites, powers, and energies, the direct expression of which would be
incompatible with social intercourse or effective interaction with the natural
world. Heightening (that is, reddening) the sensitization and interactive capacity of the eyes, hands, and feet while insulating and suppressing the infrasocial
energies and appetites of the trunkof the body has the effect of channeling the
latter through the former into interaction with the social and natural object
world. Note that here the blackened (socially repressed) center of the body is
made to stand for the presocial, naturalinside of the body, while the artificially
activated peripheralzone of the body is metaphoricallyappropriatedto represent its outside or surface, its interface with the world. The contrastinguse of the
two colors thus establishes a binaryclassification and set of metaphoricalidentities (center/inside: periphery/outside:: asocial/repressed: socialized/intensified) thatunderliethe system of bodily adornmentand notions of bodiliness and
embodied subjectivity as a whole.
It is consistent with this analysis that in rituals associated with war and the
killing of jaguars, and for actual fighting, Kayapomen replace the usual bandof
red across the eyes with a band of black. In these contexts, the intended effect is
the reverse of normal social intercourse:not heightened mutual interaction,but


the destruction of the other. The use of black symbolically suppresses the relation with the other as an autonomousbeing, social or naturalas the case may be,
and asserts instead the negation or suppressionof that being as the intended effect of the action of the warrior/killer.
Hearing, Speaking,Ears, and Lips
Seeing, as these contrasting treatmentsof the eyes imply, is conceived by
the Kayapo as an active form of knowing directed outward toward interaction
with the world. Hearing, by contrast, is treatedas an inwardly directed mode of
passive understanding, more directly tied to verbal communication. It is, as
such, the complementof the faculty of active social communicationexemplified
by speaking. These meanings are implicit in Kayapo adornmentsof ears and lips
and their transformationsover the life cycle.
The ears of infants of both sexes are pierced, and reddened wooden plugs
are inserted that are gradually increased in size until they reach a diameter of
about 2.5 centimeters. Upon weaning, these are replaced by loops consisting of
single strandsof reddenedcotton or beaded string supportinga large bead, button, or piece of mother-of-pearl.These earpendants,usually aboutfive centimeters in length, continue to be worn throughoutlife by both sexes. Boys also have
their lower lips pierced before weaning, and a single reddenedcotton or beaded
string with a large bead, nut-shell and feather pendant, or a bit of mother-ofpearl is insertedin the hole. After weaning, this ornamentis removed, leaving an
empty hole. After marriage(that is, the inception of social and biological fatherhood), a man traditionallyinserts a wooden dowel into this hole, gradually increasing its size until it reaches a diameterof about six centimeters by the time
he joins the senior men's age grade, comprisingmen of grandfatheror father-inlaw age. Women's lips are never pierced;lip plugs, like penis sheaths, are exclusively masculine ornaments.
Hearing, as noted above, is associated by the Kayapo with understanding,
and thus with sociality. Respecting, following the advice of, or generally feeling
socially close to anotherperson or persons is referredto as "listening to [them]
strongly" (mari taytch, where mari is "hearing"or "listening" and taytch is
"strong[ly]").Love or strongpositive attachmentto anotherperson is referredto
as oamak (where o- is an activizer and amak is "ear";as a verb, prefixed by kam
["on"or "for"],it means "to wait"). A literal translationof oamak might be "to
listen for," but the expression is metaphoricaland plays on activizing the normally passive connotations of hearing/understandingthroughthe ear, implying
the subject's active desire for the social relationship of solidarity and close understandingwith the otherperson. Inappropriatesocial behavior, deriving either
from stupidity, faulty socialization, or antisocial motives such as greed, which
inhibits or disruptscivil social relations, is referredto as stemming from a "lack
of holes in the ears" (amak kre ket, where amak is "ear,"kre is "hole," and ket
is negation). The reference here is primarilyto the aural cavity, but metaphorically the relation to the artificially pierced earlobe is suggestive.


Against this backgroundof cultural associations, the piercing of infants'

ears, symbolically opening holes in their ears, is understandableas an act of socialization, at once mimetic and performative, creating the capacity to receive
social communicationand to participatein social relationships,andmarkingthe
children's identities as beings now imbued with this fundamentalsocial capability. The wooden plug, as a device for the active opening and distension of the
hole in the ear, thus metaphorically and metonymically activates the sensory,
communicative, and cognitive faculties located in the bodily organ in question.
The same holds true for the distension of the lower lips of senior men by the
wooden plug or lip disc, which symbolically activates their ability to deliver
authoritativesocial communication in the form of public oratory.The stylized
public speakingin which men of this age areexpected to engage is called "teaching" (me akre odja); the idea is that younger people should listen to or "hear"
(mari,with its Kayapo connotationof respecting andcarryingout what is heard)
the counsel, advice, and lore "taught"by senior men in this way. The amplification of the mouth by the distension of the lip mimetically "amplifies"this power
of active social communicationjust as the distension of the ear by the earplug
amplifies the capacity to receive it.
Where distending wooden plugs serve as mimetic devices for appropriating, activating, and enlarging the bodily powers of hearing and speaking, the
beaded pendantsinserted in the holes pierced in earlobes and lips markthe potential for the exercise of those powers as an attributeof the identity of the actor.
The sequential relation of beaded markerof potential to wooden instrumentof
activation and amplification is reversed in the two cases, consistent with the respectively passive and active natureof the powers in question. The beaded ear
pendantsof older children and adult men and women signal their possession of
the passive faculty of "hearing"social communication, activated at the beginning of their existence as social beings by the wooden earplugs of infancy. The
beaded lip pendantspassed throughthe pierced lips of infant boys, by contrast,
signal their(as yet unrealized)potential to become authoritativecommunicators
of social wisdom and proper conduct as adult male orators.
Very old men traditionally adopted special lip plugs made of white rock
crystal (kruturd).These were not flat discs, like the lip plugs used by active senior men, but cylindrical objects approximately2.5 centimeters in diameter and
7.5 centimetersin length. Considerablyheavier than the wooden lip discs, they
were also narrowerand thus more likely to slip through the perforation in the
lower lip, distended by the previous wearing of a wooden disc. They were therefore less compatible with vigorous public speaking than the wooden discs. It
may be that these properties were felt to make them appropriatefor men of an
age to retirefrom public oratory.However this may be, they were the most prestigious and"beautiful"form of lip plug, one thatembodiedthe high value placed
on the oldest men of the community. They have gone out of use, although I was
still able to see a few in the possession of some families in the mid-1960s.


Girls' Reddenedor Beaded CottonSlings and Women'sBaby Slings

The same sequentialpairingof a reddenedor beaded string,markerof a potential bodily power and a device for the social appropriationand active realization of thatpower, is representedby the young girl's sling of beadedor reddened
cotton string (arape) andthe maturewoman's baby-carryingsling (ayi). The latter is a highly ornamentalstrap some three to four centimeters wide, woven of
buriti palm-leaf fiber by a woman's husband.It is long enough to pass over one
shoulder and under the opposite arm, with room for a baby to sit on the strap,
facing the mother'sbody and cradled against it by her arm(the one underwhich
it passes), allowing the child to nurse as the woman moves about or works with
her hands. The sling is thus an instrumentenabling women to carry out their
functions as caregivers and nurses while working in the garden or performing
domestic chores at home. It constitutes, as such, a device for the promotionand
amplification of the bodily power for which it also serves as a public index or
sign. Women of child-bearingage make constant use of these slings, which constitute a sort of badge of maturewomanhood. The slings of reddenedor beaded
cotton string wornby young girls of the maiden's age set (me kurerere)similarly
pass over one shoulder and under the opposite arm, and serve as the principal
badge of membershipin this age set. The maiden's sling thus representsa sort
of premonitoryform of the mother's baby sling, marking, and by its red color
energizing and stimulating,the as-yet-unrealized potential of the girl for motherhood, much as the small boy's beaded lip ornament serves as a premonitory
adult man's lip disc.
Bracelets and Leg and AnkleBands
The symbolic use of bracelets and wrist, leg, and ankle bands in Kayapo
bodily adornment appears to draw on two complementary aspects of these
adornments:first, as social forms imposed on bodily connections with the external world (or with the extremities which connect it with thatworld); and second,
as incrementsof thickness to the connecting limbs orjoints themselves, thus mimetically emphasizing their "growth."
Infants of both sexes are fitted with bands of cotton webbing between one
and two centimeterswide aroundthe wrists, below the knees, and aroundthe ankles. These are reddened with urucu. The bands are fitted tightly, and as the
child grows its arms and legs bulge out from under the constrainingbands. The
effect is an exaggeratedappearanceof burgeoning growth and plumpness. The
bands must be removed periodically when they grow too tight, and are then replaced with looser ones. The mother saves the clipped-off bands as a sort of record and proof of the child's growth. When the child has grown up, the bands,
together with the child's shriveled umbilical cord, are buriedin a cleft in a rock
or a hardwood tree, a measure supposed to promote the strength of the grown
child's body and its imperviousness to penetration by disease.
It is significant that these bands, which emphasize and symbolically amplify the child's growth both through their tightness and their red color, are


placed at the junctures of the child's inner body and extremities. These are the
points at which the individual's developing natural, bio-psychic powers are
channeled into socialized forms of interactionwith the object world. Energizing
and amplifying the child's growth at these points thus becomes a form of mimetic socialization. That the bands are made and put on by the child's mother
emphasizes the role of the mother,and more generally of the child's connection
to its natal family, in shaping and channeling its relation to the world and thus
reflexively defining its social identity.
Boys dispense with these bands after weaning, but girls continue to use
them, at least sporadically, until the "Black Thighs" ceremony that recognizes
their readiness for marriageand motherhood.A feature of this rite is the cutting
off of these arm and leg bands by an adoptive or "substitute"mother, who acts
as ritual sponsor. This symbolically marks the end of the period in the young
women's lives in which their hands and feet have been connected to their bodies
throughbands supplied by their mothers (the end of the stage in which their relation to the social world is fully defined by their connection to their natal families). The removal of the bands, in otherwords, signifies the end of the women's
full membershipin their natalfamilies and the attenuationof their connection to
it as children throughthe substitutionof theirrelation to their adoptive mothers,
who henceforth act as their patrons and connections to the social world for all
public and ceremonial purposes.
The ostensible purpose of all majorKayapo ceremonies is to confer honorific ritual names and "valuables" (nekretch) on young children. The children
honored in this way are distinguished, when they are carriedor otherwise made
the focus of activities during the ceremony, by special bracelets. These elaboratedforms of the basic reddenedor beaded wristbandsthey wear at other times
are covered with geometrical patternswoven of light and darkstrips of cane and
inner bark. Attached to them are large bunches of reddened seeds of a hardwooded palm tree, to which in turnare fastened pendantsof red macaw plumes.
The giving of names and valuables by grandparents,uncles, and aunts is considered essential in order to complete the social identity of the person. These specifically social aspects of identity can come only from beyond the boundaryof
the immediate, biological family. In termsof the language of bodily space, they
amount to imposing a social form, sanctioned by the ritual involvement of the
community as a whole in the performanceof the collective naming ceremony,
on the child's developing relationshipwith the sphereof social relations that begins at the peripheryof the quasi-naturalsphere of immediate family relations.
The imposition of the elaborate ceremonial bracelets on the child's wrists,
which connect the naturalcore of its body to the ambient sphere of social interaction concretely accessed throughthe hands (now expanded, throughthe naming ceremony, to include the name-giving extended family relations), metaphorically inculcates this socializing form. The reddened seeds attachedto the
bracelet suggest the activation of the power to reproducesocial identity (as distinct from the reproductionof the biological body within the nuclear family),


which is what is achieved by the bestowal by the name-givers of theirnames on

the children in the ceremony.
The role of wristbandsas symbolic mediators of the relation of the person
to the social world is most fully expressed in the boys' initiation ceremony, in
which two consecutive sets of bracelets become the key symbols aroundwhich
the ceremony as a whole is focused (the ceremony as a whole is called the
"Black Bracelets,"referringto the second of these sets of bracelets).The bracelets are the main items in the two successive decorative outfits worn by the initiands in the initial and final stages of the ceremony. These outfits, with the exception of the necklaces (to be discussed in the next section), are made by the
ceremonial companions (krabdjuo)of the initiates; krabdjuomediate the transformations in the identities and social relations of their ritual relations marked
by all rites of passage.
The first set of bracelets, called the "swelling" or "growing"bracelets (i'in
agot), consists of macrameconstructions of cord made of braided inner bark.
They are uncolored and relatively small, though thick (approximately7.5 centimeters long and one centimeter thick). Bracelets of the second set (also of inner-barkcord macrame)aremuch larger,at least double the length andthickness
of the first. They are painted bright red, which raises the question of why they
should be called the "Black Bracelets" (i'in tuk).
The consecutive sets of bracelets symbolize physical growth, both in the
appellation of the first set and in the incremental contrast between the sizes of
the first and second sets. The initiation, of course, recognizes and accelerates
this growth, but also channels it within the new social forms of marriageand
membership in the bachelors' (initiated marriageableyouths) age set. The successive sets of braceletsiconically symbolize the initiands' physical growth, the
direction of their developing naturalphysical powers into social forms of manhood and marriageability,and the social promotion and activation of their interaction with the social world of community and men's house on the basis of these
new roles. These effects are semiotically constructedthrougha combinationof
color (plain, red, black), the size and terms used for the bracelets ("growing,"
"black"), and the associations of the role of the ceremonial companions who
make the bracelets.
The first set of bracelets, with their raw, natural (unpainted) appearance,
embody the naturalprocess of physical growth evoked by their name:the bracelets of the "growing"or "swelling." The second set in turnembody both the further amplification of the growth of naturalpowers representedby the first set
and the control and mediation of these powers into the social forms metonymically associated with the bracelets:marriageand bachelorhood,the two statuses
inculcated throughthe ceremony. The function of control and social mediation
is expressed by the appellation"black"and by the identification of the bracelets
with theirmakers,the krabdjuo,ritualmediatorsof individualpersons, or, more
precisely, individual development, to transformationsin communal status and
roles in all rites of passage. In a way analogous to the painting of the trunkof the
body black, the "blackness"of the bracelets serves to suppress the spontaneous


expression of their new powers, channeling and socializing them within the
new, normativesocial forms of relationshipslike marriageand age set membership. The transitionfrom uncolored to reddenedbracelets simultaneously energizes and intensifies the new forms of interactionwith the social world.
The head is the most importantextremity of the body, the locus of the socialized senses and understanding.The neck which connects it to the trunk is
analogous in this functional sense to the wrists and forearmsas connections to
the hands, and the lower legs and ankles as connections to the feet. Necklaces
are to necks as bracelets are to wrists and anklets to ankles. It is therefore consistent with the general principles of Kayapo bodily adornmentthat necklaces
should be used to signify the social channeling or imposition of control on the
bodily powers located in the head (in this case, the unique and all-important
powers of understandingand communication).Elaboratenecklaces made of individually cut and ground bits of mother-of-pearl bound onto a cotton coil
stained red or black and often paralleled by additional strandsof cotton strung
with beads are a prominentitem in the decoration of infants of both sexes.
In later childhood and adulthood these necklaces are worn only by males.
There may be a practicalreason for this, namely thatthis formof necklace would
hang over a woman's breasts and overlap with her baby-carryingsling, interfering with the handling and nursing of her baby, and providing the latter with an
irresistible temptation for tugging, chewing, and otherwise harassing the
mother. At any rate, the baby sling appearsto function as the woman's "necklace." The bestowing of two consecutive necklaces, the first of simple innerbark cords and the second a complex and delicate constructionof feathers tied
to sticks, is a majorfeature of the boys' initiation into the marriageablebachelors' age set. It is significant that this feather necklace is made by the initiand's
ceremonial wife's father.The representationof the affinal relationshipwith the
wife's parents, the constricted gateway through which the youth must eventually pass into adulthood,it is thus also the key symbol of the socialization of his
powers of understandingand communication in their adult form.
Penis Sheaths
The Kayapo bestow penis sheaths on boys shortly before or at the time of
the bachelors' initiation, which certifies them as able to enter into sexual relations potentially leading to marriage.The sheath is a small cone woven of inaja
palm leaf. It fits over the end (glans) of the penis, and ends in a small hole
throughwhich the foreskin is drawn,so thatit protrudesandholds the sheathon,
forcing the penis back into the body and preventing erection. Kayapo explain
that its purposeis to prevent public display of any partof the glans of a sexually
active, matureman's penis. This, implying or suggesting erection, is felt to be
ultimately shameful. The sheath is thus both a public recognition of the mature
sexuality of the youths and an instrumental,as well as symbolic, imposition of


social restraintupon its expression. Women wear no genital covering, but take
care not to spreadtheir legs while sitting or rising in such a way as to display the
vagina, which in Kayapo eyes would be the female equivalent of the display of
the glans penis protrudingthroughthe foreskin as the result of a public erection
for a man. The symbolic import of both practices is again the prevention of the
direct and socially uncontrolled projection of naturalbodily (in this case, sexual) desires and powers into the sphereof social relations, and the channeling of
the powers in question into socially mediated forms of sexual relations and reproduction.
Sexualityand Reproduction
The Kayapo conceive of the roles of the sexes in reproductionin symmetrical terms: conception and gestation are effected by the mixture of semen from
the father or fathers (conception is not thought to be a unique event) and milk
from the mother, which drips down into her womb from her breasts inside her
body. The bodily connection of both parentsto the fetus is maintainedthroughout pregnancy, since the father contributes to the growth of the embryo with
each infusion of semen, just as the mothercontinues to nourish it with her milk.
This physical connection of both parentswith the child continues in attenuated
form after birthin the ability of the parentsto affect the health of their offspring
by eating meat when the children are ill (eating meat is thought to weaken an ill
person and is taboo for the patients themselves). As this practice indicates, the
Kayapo do not think of the bodies of parentsand their children as entirely separate. A form of bodily participationcontinues to connect their bodies throughout
life; it is the severance of this bodily continuity at death that is marked by the
cutting of the hair in mourning.
Both women and men initiate sexual relations and take lovers, both before
and during marriage. Both genders must consent to marriage, and either may
precipitate divorce. In these respects, the symmetry of male and female sexuality accords with the relative symmetryof male and female social roles. In one respect, however, male and female sexuality is treated in radically asymmetrical
terms. Sexual relations with women are conceived as potential threats to communal solidarity (identified with the solidarity of communal men's groups),
both as a cause of conflict among men and as a source of centrifugal attachment
of men to individual family households. The communal groupings of men associated with the men's house thereforecollectively appropriatefemale sexuality
throughritualizedcollective intercourse,collectively sexually initiate girls, and
collectively escort or attendthe ritualsof marriageand firstbornchildren, which
are focused on collective male control of female sexuality and reproductivity.
There is thus a sense in which sexuality for the Kayapo is a collective affair
ratherthan an individual bodily function.
CeremonialCostume:Feathers, Palm Leaves,Hooves, and Claws
Ceremony for the Kayapo is a collective dramatizationof the creation of
social form. In Kayapo social theory, however, the forms of society and basic


culturalpossessions like fire, bows and arrows, or agricultureare the creations

not of ordinarysocial persons but of extrasocial beings, usually animals or humans with animal attributes.The celebration of the great ceremonies that constitute the main form of Kayapo communalactivity thus involves the performers
in the paradoxically asocial activity of social (re-)creation. Ceremonial performancethereforeentails the transformationof the social body into the body of
an asocial creature,typically a bird. Ceremonialdancing is called me toro, "flying," and the characteristicform of ceremonial costume is the wearing of feathers: featherheaddresses,featherarmpendants, feathernecklaces, feathers stuck
directly to the skin of the trunkof the body, and the great feather capes that appear in the climactic rites of most rituals. The songs sung by the massed dancers
to accompany their dances are thought to be the songs of birds or (less frequently) other animals or naturalbeings, and often presentthe bird or animal in
question speaking in the first person. A detailed analysis of the tropes and symbolic transformationsinvolved in Kayapoceremonialcostume andperformance
is presented in Turner 1991b.
Otheritems of ceremonial costume carryout the same theme of transformthe
social body into that of an extrasocial, quasi-animalbeing: necklaces of
claws or animal teeth, belts or leg bands hung with animal hooves or nutshells
to serve as rattles, earplugs of fresh-watermussel shells, lip plugs made of toucan bills, crushed eggshell stuck with resin in patternson the cheeks, and eagle
or vulturedown stuck in the hair. Some ceremonies employ masks thatcover the
entire body; these also representanimals (anteaters,monkeys, or catfish) or, in
one case, the soul of a dead person. The purpose of all of these forms of ceremonial regalia is the same: to transformthe social body into an animal, bird, or
other such extrasocialbody, andtherebyto transformthe embodied subject from
an ordinary social actor to an agent endowed with the creative powers of the
mythical beings who first instituted the relations and cultural forms the celebrantsare ritually engaged in reproducing.
Some Kayapoceremonies are short affairs requiringonly a single performance. For these, or for the first performanceof the rites constituting one of the
longer ceremonies, the dancersoften employ simple headdresses,armpendants,
or capes made of inaja palm fronds. Featherheaddresses and the other types of
regalia mentioned above make their appearanceonly in later performances of
the same dances (the longer ceremonies typically consisting of repetitive performances of the same suites of dances). The great feather capes of red macaw
plumes (krokr6kti),green parakeetor yellow tinamou tail feathers (kwen iamu
orpeyati iamu) appearonly in the final repetition comprising the climactic rite.
The successional patternsare thus from palm fronds to feathers, and from simple feather headdresses to giant feather capes. The latter often themselves are
ranked in a sort of successional pattern,the long macaw-plumecapes or krokrokti tending to be worn by membersof the senior men's and women's age sets,
while the smaller green and yellow parakeetor tinamoucapes tend to be worn
by the junior age sets (this pattern,however, is crosscut by the association of
certainkin groups with the right to wear one or anotherof these types of capes).


These successional patterns representinstances of the same type as the many

other cases of paired consecutive forms of bodily adornmentthat have been described, and they carry the same connotations of developmental sequence from
an initial, relatively simple or at least less developed, form or state to a final,
fully realized form or socialized state. This patternclearly embodies an important set of ideas aboutthe natureanddevelopment of the social body andembodied subject.
TheBody as RecursiveProcess: the Significanceof Formal Replicationin
SuccessiveAge-AssociatedItemsof Adornment
For the Kayapo, the human life cycle itself is divided into consecutive
phases of repetitive form by the master symbol of haircutting as described
above: from long hair at infancy to shorthair in laterchildhood and adolescence
to long hair again with the onset of marriage,parenthood,and adulthood, or in
terms of the signification of these changes in coiffure, from psycho-physical
continuity with the parents to separateness (but relative incompleteness) as a
child to the re-establishmentof psycho-physical connection in conjunction with
the completeness of adult social identity as a reproductive adult. The life cycle
of the social body is thus defined as the recapitulationof an initial phase of raw,
natural continuity with biologically linked others through a social form (marriage) which serves as the frame of replication of such a natural(sexual, reproductive) continuity, this time channeled within a social frameworkof social reproduction (that is, the replication of persons and families).
This double patternof succession, comprising the replication of an initial
state-treated as unique, originary, and natural,with its social potential as yet
unrealized-by a second, mature,socially reproductivestate, is the fundamental
schema exemplified by all the instances of successive paired forms that have
been described: infantile and adult painting styles, successive sets of bracelets,
lip plugs, women's slings, and the repetitionof identical ritual sequences in the
initial and final stages of rites of passage. In all of these cases of consecutive
transformationsof bodily treatments,representations,and performances,the reproduction of the initial patternin a heightened, more socially and corporeally
integrated form constitutes the decisive moment. In each case, the replication
constitutes not only the means of socializing the quality or power at issue, but
also the instrumentalityof its active realization and reproductionas a socialized
The cultural subject, in other words, is produced by the reproduction of
naturalbodily qualities, powers, and processes in the form of social relations,
activities, and representations.In every case, the essential purpose of the replicated treatmentor performanceis the transformation,socialization, andempowerment of some naturalaspect of the embodied subject or socialized actor. The
subject or self thus broughtinto being is not a Cartesianego, a pure form of consciousness or idealist intentionality that inhabits the body while remaining distinct from it, but the living body in action, consciously orienting and directing
its engagement in social forms of interactionwith its ambient object world.


Body, Subject,and Cosmos

The traditionalKayapo conception of the cosmos, formulatedin a period
when villages were still relatively autonomous, self-reproducing social totalities, was directly embodied in the structureof the circularvillage, with its moieties oriented to the "pathof the sun" across the sky from east to west. In the
eastern and western halves of the circularplaza in the center of the ring of matri-uxorilocal extended family households stood two men's houses, each associated with women's age sets composed of the wives of the men of the men's
house of the same side of the plaza. These associated communal groupings of
men and women constitutedthe moieties of Kayapo society. Thatof the east was
called that of the "root"or "beginning"of the sky, and its memberswere called
the "lower"people; that of the west was called that of the "tip"or "end"of the
sky, and its members were known as the "upper"people. East and west are the
only two cardinalpoints; northand south are referredto simply as the "edge"of
the sky, that is, of the sun's path. This single east-west cardinaldimension, then,
was and continues to be conceived not simply as a horizontalbut ratheras a vertical dimension, and not merely as a static spatial relation but ratheras a linear
and irreversibleprocess of growth (from "root"to "tip,"or from "beginning"to
"end,"on the model of the rising and setting of the sun).
Horizontal space, by contrast,was and is organized as a series of concentric
circles. The men's houses, called nga or "center,"jointly comprise the center of
the village circle and of space as a whole, being conceived as directly underthe
highest point of the sun's journey at noon. Beyond the circle of houses ringing
the plaza comes a zone called the "black ground" (a tuk), extending about a
stone's throw from the village. Here are located the cemetery and the seclusion
camps for those undergoing rites of passage, manufacturingdance masks, or
otherwise engaging in transforming unsocialized natural powers into social
forms. Beyond this transitionalzone lies the completely naturalzone of forest
and savanna. Concentric space is also identified with a mode of temporalprocess, in this case of a reversible, cyclical natureratherthan the irreversible,linear characterof vertical space-time. This reversible movement is conceived as
a continual oscillation between the peripheralpowers of natureand the central
forms of society and culture, with social beings (men and women) continually
making forays into the peripheralworld of natureto hunt animalsandmake gardens, meanwhile continually succumbing to the natural,disease-inflicting powers of animals and forest, passing out from the central zone of society through
the cemeteries of the medial "black"or "dead"zone to become, as ghosts, natural beings like animals inhabitingthe peripheralzone of the forest. Social life is
thus seen as a continualmovement from the peripheralzone of natureto the central zone of the village and back again from society to nature.
At the distant outer edge of the forest, the dome of the sky bends down to
rest on the earth; the limit of vertical space is thus simultaneously the limit of
concentric space. In this zone of destructuredspace-time dwell monstrous beings who combine human and animal characteristics(frog people, bat people),


or confuse the vertical and concentric arrangementof the human body (people
with eyes in their feet, or headless people with their faces in their abdomens).
As this bodily imagery of the limits of the spatiotemporalstructureof the
cosmos indicates, that structureitself is conceived as isomorphic with the structure of a normalhumanbody which, as the foregoing account of bodily practices
and representationshas made clear, is also conceived as a construct of complementary vertical and horizontal dimensions. The concentric opposition of central trunkand peripheralextremities, markedby contrasting zones of black and
red painting, respectively, is also conceived as a dimension of reversible processes, in this case of channeling naturalenergies from the naturalinternal/central core of the body throughits socialized extremities into the social zone of interaction that lies beyond. The vertical dimension of contrastbetween head and
feet is also a dimension of linear and irreversiblegrowth, from short infant (the
"root"or "beginning"form of the body) to tall adult (the "tip"or final point of
its growth). Just as this linear process of growth is imaged as a sequence of two
consecutive phases (relatively unsocialized childhood and social adulthood,
markedby the recurrentoscillation between long- and short-cuthair), moreover,
so the vertical dimension of cosmic space-time is bifurcatedinto two successive
halves, respectively embodied by the moieties of the "root"and the "tip."
The corresponding bifurcation of the complementary, concentric dimension takes the form of the boundary across which reversible transactions and
passages occur between the central zone of cosmic space-time, normally identified at the cosmic level of macrospace with society, and the peripheralzone,
normally identified with nature.Movements and transformationsfrom natureto
society are reciprocally balancedby movements and transformationsfrom society to nature.At the level of bodily microspace, the associations of center and
periphery are reversed. The social body is the focus of reciprocal transactions
from relatively naturalbodily centerto relatively social bodily peripheryand the
surrounding zone of social interaction. Central society receives infusions of
naturalenergy from peripheralextra-village space in the form of game and garden produce and also of the plant, animal, and bird forms of ritualbodily adornment and performance,throughwhich it is socialized. Ultimately, this reproductive movement is reversed as the social person ages and dies, moving through
stages of increasing peripheralizationassociated with old age (marginalization
in the men's house, in ceremonial performance,and within the household), burial in the cemetery of the a tuk zone, andfinally existence as an animal-like ghost
in the outer peripheral zone of the forest. The inversion of "normal"secular
space-time in the sacred space-time of ritual performance preserves the same
biphasic patternin reverse. The normally"social" central plaza of the village is
now taken over by monstrous half-human,half-animal feathered beings, analogous to the mythical races at the outer edges of normal space and the distant beginnings of mythical time, while the nonparticipatingspectators, normal social
beings, look on from the peripheryof the centralsacred space of ceremonial performance. This inversion is likewise replicated in the bodies of the dancers,


whose relatively social (human)bodies now form the inner cores upon which a
natural"skin" of feathers, claws, hooves, and tree fronds has been imposed.
From the Kayapo point of view, this thoroughgoing parallelism between
cosmic and bodily form is neithera metaphoricalcorrespondencebetween separately given naturaland social orders or "systems of differences," nor a projection of the structureof the social body as the structureof the cosmos. Rather,
body and cosmos participatein a single process of development, the form of all
space-time, conceived as an endlessly replicated series of irreversible linear
processes in vertical space (diurnalsolarjourneys, the growthof individualbodies) which in turn imply repeated cycles of reversible movement between concentrically contrastedzones of peripheryand center, and natureand society (as
the sun in its "vertical,"linear movement also moves from the easternperiphery
to the center of the dome of the sky, and from there back to the western periphery, from there returningto rise in the east, or as the reproductionof an individual social body requiresan infusion of other, peripherallyattachedbodies, and
in turn reproducesother bodies through the infusion of powers and substances
from its central core across its peripheralboundary).
The structureof this universal macroprocessis also the structureof microprocesses of social activity at all levels of social and individual action down to
and including intrabodilyprocesses. Both the vertical and horizontal/concentric
dimensions of the patternare replicated, in the same complementaryrelation,at
all levels of social organization.The "cosmos"is simply the abstractform of the
total process of individual and collective activity which simultaneously produces social bodies andpersons, families and households, communalgroupings
andcommunities themselves. The fundamentalreality of body, society, andcosmos alike is that of a process of action that unfolds from beginning to end
through a reciprocal interactionbetween central subject and peripheralobject
world, a process simultaneouslysubjective and objective, intentionaland material, which appears,at different levels, as the form of an individual act, the life
cycle of the social body, the developmental cycles of family andhousehold, the
structureof the community as a whole, and the formation of the universe.
Conclusions: The Social Body as Will, Representation, and Fetish
A general point thatemerges from the foregoing account of the production
and representationof bodiliness among the Kayapo is that the culturalhorizon
of bodily representationsis articulatednot in terms of abstractconceptualattributes such as sex, age, strength, and so on, but in terms of schemas of concrete
bodily activity. The horizon of Kayapo representations of the body, in other
words, is not formulatedin abstractionfrom agency and subjectivity or from social relations, but on the contraryit is built up out of them, as they become embodied in materialsocial activities. Both the objective and subjective aspects of
the living social body are represented as they are realized in social activity,
broadly defined to include both moment-to-moment acts of sensing and doing,
and long-term processes of growth, sickening and healing, reproductionanddy-


ing. These activities, in turn, become the basis of Kayapo representationsof

Kayapo representationsof bodiliness, like important strands of Western
Marxian and pragmatistthought, thus startfrom the imbricationof the body in
social praxis, through which individuals produce and define themselves as
agents and persons, subjects and objects, and in the process reproducetheirbodies and their social world. This approachhas the double advantageof recognizing the objective reality of the material world (including the body) and the essential constructednessof thatreality by human(social) action. It thus affords a
basis for a historical, as distinct from a mythical, understandingof the mutability of social arrangementsand individual identity, including the forms of bodiliness (Turner 1988a, 1988b). This in turn supports a consciousness of the possibility of collective political action to maintainor transformsocial and political
conditions. This potential has been stunningly realized by the Kayapo over the
last dozen years (Turner 1991a, 1993a, 1993b).
It is perhaps significant that the Kayapo language lacks a specific term for
the individual body as such. The generic word for "flesh" (in) is used, and the
concept of an individual body is expressed as "someone's flesh" (me on nhin).
In contrast to much contemporary theorizing on the body, Kayapo representations of the body and bodily processes presuppose neither the concept of a
unitarytranscendentalsubject nor the notion of an abstractlyhomogeneous, unitary "body"with which contemporarybody-theoristslike Foucault have sought
to replace it. They areconstructedof heterogeneous modes of interactionof the
embodied subject with objective realities both "inside"and "outside"the physical boundariesof the individual body. These objective realities, accordingto the
Kayapo formulation, can be to some extent known, affected, and appropriated
through willfully (subjectively, consciously) coordinated bodily activity. The
differentiated modes and aspects of bodiliness recognized by the Kayapo all
representmodalities of such interaction,in which the body (operatingas subjective agency) transformsitself by appropriatingand channeling its internaland
external ambient reality and in turn is transformedin various ways by its interaction with other realities. The social body, in other words, is reducible neither
to the biological body considered as given prior to its engagement in socially
patterned activities nor to the forms of social consciousness or discourse
through which those activities are mediated as culturally sharedforms of signification and meaning.
Kayapo social representationsof bodiliness, then, do not take the individual body as a whole (that is, "the body") as their naturalor primaryreferent,or
presuppose any concept of the individual body as an abstractor a priori unity.
Rather,they tend to focus either on subsystems or aspects of bodiliness, such as
sexuality, sensory faculties, health, and illness, or else on the culturalhorizon of
bodily representationstranscendingthe individual body as such, comprisingthe
classification of contrastingtypes of social bodies. This classification is in turn
groundedin the socially distinctive propertiesand capacities of bodies of different ages and genders. Such conceptual or aesthetic unity as the social body pos-


sesses thereforecannot be understoodas a positive reflection of the naturalunmediated wholeness of the individual body in itself, that is, "the body." The
unity of any individual body, as socially represented,is a mediated and derivative product of the social coordination of concretely differentiated aspects of
bodily processes and powers, on the one hand, and of contrasts among a plurality of types of social bodies, on the other.
The performance and representationof bodily activities in culturally patterned and significant ways comprises the social appropriationof the material
body. "Appropriation"in this sense is tantamountto the social production of
both social body and embodied subject, includingthe culturalmeanings and significations in terms of which they are socially defined.
That the social body is produced as an ensemble of bodily activities thus
implies that it must be understood as a pattern,or patterns,of social appropriation of the real: specifically, the materialreality of the body-in-action. In epistemological and ontological terms, Kayaporepresentationsof the body thus imply what in Western philosophical terms would be called a realist analysis of
bodiliness. Realism may be defined for present purposes as the position that
there is an objective reality that exists independentlyof the perceiving individual, and that this reality contains levels that are not directly accessible to individual experience. The Kayapo realist approachto bodiliness proceeds from the
presuppositionthatthe body is an objective reality that constructs itself through
interactionwith objective realities both internaland external to itself, and is at
the same time possessed of propertiesof agency and subjectivity, by virtue of its
fundamentalproperty of being alive and its consequent capacity for volitional
action, sensory perception, knowing and feeling.
Social body and embodied subject,jointly constructedas active processes
of appropriation,participatein the organizationof social (re)productionand reflexively take on the pattern of that organization. The embodied subject thus
plays a dual role in productive activity: both as producerand product, agent and
object. The processes through which Kayapo bodies are produced as social objects consist of the willed acts of Kayapo subjects. I use the term subject to refer
to an embodied consciousness possessing purpose and will and capable of
agency. In general terms, this usage does not imply that such an agent need correspond to an "individual"in the Western sense or that the consciousness involved should necessarily be conceived as uniformand continuous across all the
contexts in which a person participates.Subjectivity and agency may ratherbe
represented,as they are among the Kayapo, as dividual ratherthan individual
and as embodied in discrete bodily processes and modes of activity ratherthan
as attributesof a disembodied and integralCartesianego. The Kayapo represent
social persons as individuals denoted by personal names, but, as I have described, they treatpersons in their capacity as agents or acting subjects as constructed of heterogeneous, concretely embodied modes of subjectivity that
change and become substitutedfor one anotherat differenttimes and in different


A Kayapo person assumes such a mode or aspect of subjectivity as a constituent of his or her own subjectivity through willed activity involving what
Mauss (1979 [1936]) described in generic terms as techniquesdu corps: the use,
direction, and presentationof the body in socially prescribedways. Mauss emphasized the patterningof modes of bodily activity and presentationas means of
disciplining the will and thus of the production of socially standardizedmodes
of subjectivity.Kayapo rites of passage, as I have described, consist in large part
of such socially patterned,willed bodily usages, and the general Kayapo pattern
of pairedrepetitionof successive rites of passage and items of bodily adornment
can be understood as a metapatterning of willed activity directed to the selfreproductionof social forms.
The dual role of the embodied subject as both producerand product of its
own activity, however, becomes the focus of misrepresentationas well as representation.The willful productionof the body as subjectively intendedproduct
is elided when the resulting socially patternedbody and its activities are represented in terms of the objective, collective patternto which they conform. The
subjective contributionof the producerand his or her activity, both in individual
and collective action, thus tends to become misrepresented as an objective
(natural)feature existing independently of the subject and imposing its form
upon his or her activity. Among the Kayapo, as we have seen, this form is represented as the "natural"structureof the cosmos and the mythically established
and ritually renewed form of society as embodied by the village community as
a whole.
As a result of this fetishistic inversion, the realism of Kayapo representations of bodiliness takes a Platonic form, in which the form of the cosmos
is seen as replicating itself at all levels of Kayapo culture and bodily activity,
from the structureof the cosmos to the organization of ceremonies to the spatiotemporalcoordinates of simple activities, like hunting, gardening, and preparing a meal, to the culturalarticulationof the growing, acting, living body itself.
This analytical account of Kayapo cultural representationsof bodiliness
has been an attempt to translate into the categories of contemporaryWestern
theory the ideas and principles implicit in Kayapo practices and beliefs relating
to the body. It comprises, as closely as I can understandand translateit, an immanentKayapo"theory"of the natureof the humansubject, the socialized body,
and the relationbetween the two (if the term theory can be stretchedin this context to apply to an unselfconscious system of ideas not abstracted,as a set of
generalpropositions,from the specific instances they are understoodto govern).
In the introductionto his recent collection of papers,Another Tale to Tell,
Fred Pfeil (1990:3) makes the point that the thinking embodied in the films,
works of fiction, and otherpopularculturalproductionsthatare grist for the mill
of the cultural critic are often fully equal or superior,as social analysis or cultural interpretation,to the critical theories and analyses deployed by the critics
who analyze them (contraryto the virtually universal opinion of the latter). In
the same way, I would like to argue here that the theories, ideas, and interpreta-


tions of cultural, social, and psychological reality implicitly embedded in the

unselfconscious practices and beliefs of relatively simple aliterate societies,
when properlyunderstood and explicated, will often be found to possess great
theoreticalpower, at least on a par with the self-conscious theories of anthropological researchers and cultural theorists who typically describe and analyze
them only as "cultural"phenomena,that is, as symbols and meanings, objects of
theoretical analysis ratherthan theoretical constructs in their own right.
The anthropologicalanalysis I have offered of Kayapo representationsof
bodiliness and the implicit theory they contain, however, has been explicitly
framedin critical terms (that is, in the terms of a specifically Westerntheoretical
tradition).I have suggested that Kayapo Platonism is understandableas a kind
of fetishism in the Marxiansense: an alienationof subjective self-consciousness
as naturalreality (for an analysis of other aspects of Kayapo cosmology and social consciousness in these terms, see Turner1985 and in press). Thus I have argued thatthe representationalform of the Kayapobody embodies the form of the
material activities through which the social body is producedby embodied social subjects. Bodily representationsthemselves serve as media through which
this productionis formally coordinatedand its products(the embodied subjects)
publicly circulatedin ways that enable them to realize the values imbued in production as attributesof their social identities. Partof a whole whose structureit
shares, the Kayapo body reproduces that whole through activities that themselves exemplify the patternit incarnates.
Critically understood in these terms, Kayapo representationsof the body,
in their relation to the material activities of which they form an integral and
functional part,imply an epistemology and foreshadow a theory of the relationships of body andsubject, individual and society, andrepresentationandreality.
This theory stands in diametric opposition to some of the most widely shared
tenets of contemporaryculturaltheorizing on the body, epitomized by the passages from Foucault and Game quoted above. It holds, and demonstratesby its
own example, thata critical theoreticaland analyticalfocus on the body does not
imply the abstractionof "the body" from social relations and processes but on
the contrarypoints toward the integration of body and social relations as parts
of a single continuumof materialactivity. It also shows thata thoroughanalysis
of the social regulation and representationof the body does not presuppose a
transcendental"Cartesian"subject, integralandpriorto any imbricationin body
or material activity, but rathercomprehends subjectivity as immanent in concrete bodily activities. These activities are of varying kinds and draw on heterogeneous bodily capacities and interactionswith the ambientobject world; to the
extent thatthey become constructedas a unified subject they do so throughthe
mediation of intersubjective systems of social organizationand representation.
"The truthof the body," to use Game's (1991:192) phrase, is thus an intrinsically social and cultural truth. Social representations of the body are also,
among the Kayapo as among ourselves, ideological distortionsof the subjective
truthof bodiliness, perhapsthe most fundamental,and thus most universal, fetishes of all. As I have argued, againstthe position of Foucaultquoted above, rec-


ognition of the materialityof the body, far from renderingideological critique

superfluous, directly implies a critique of the ideological characterof the body
itself as socially mediated misrepresentation.
The whole analysis in this article, on the other hand, supportsthe proposition that specific representationsof bodiliness and associated forms of embodied subjectivity are produced as integral components of specific social organizations of productive relations. To this extent it converges with the principle
underlying Martin's analysis of the different "bodies" associated with successive phases of capitalism. What it does not support, however, is Martin's suggestion that the transitionbetween two such stages, and their respectively associated bodies, by itself accounts for our current fashion of abstracting "the
body" from the total context of social relations and cultural representationsof
which it forms partand fetishizing it as the foundationalcategory, or truth,of social reality, cultural theory, and subjective identity, while denying the importance, or truth,of extrabodily aspects of the social and culturalcontext. Martin's
claim begs the question of why the changing social relations of production
themselves have not been broughtto a similarpitch of social consciousness, and
why the reverse seems to have happened,at least as far as many social and culturaltheorists areconcerned. The currentfetishism of the body in culturaltheory
must be accountedfor, not as a straightforwardcase of consciousness-raising by
history, but ratheras an instance of ideological reification of precisely the kind
that many leading proponents of contemporary body theory proclaim themselves, in the name of the body, to have transcended.
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