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The friend, the enemy, and the

anthropologist: hostility and
hospitality among the Parakanã
(Amazonia, Brazil)
Ca r l o s F a us to Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

Here I investigate a special relationship existing among the Tupi-speaking Parakanã of Amazonia,
usually translated as ‘friendship’, and implying expectations of hospitality. Its field of application
spans from the closest other (the cross-cousin) to the most distant (the enemy). I show that this kind
of relationship is internally structured around an unstable prey-predator polarity, meaning that the
most intimate other is also the prey closest to hand. This ambivalence in the friendship relation
counteracts the possibility of a space of sovereignty at the levels of the person and of collectivities,
but it does not imply a ‘hospitality of visitation’ as envisaged by Derrida.

A friend who does me no good is like an

enemy who does me no harm.
Ricci 2009 [1596]: 99
On the whole I have no illusions
about my own talent for friendship.
I am indeed faithful, but extremely
suspicious. If I think I am betrayed,
I am quick to betray.
Bergman 1988: 263

The anthropologist as guest

March 1988. As the boat wound its way up the Bom Jardim creek, I yet again pon-
dered how I should behave when I arrived. I had rehearsed the moment in my mind
a thousand times. Now, after three days’ journey up the Xingu river, I was finally
reaching my destination, and my mind started to spin. How would a recently con-
tacted Amerindian people welcome a 24-year-old anthropologist-to-be? They knew
no Portuguese, while I knew only a few words of their language and even less
The pilot turned off the engine. The boat glided into the rocky port. On dry land, a
hundred people were waiting for the FUNAI boat’s arrival. At that time, the boat came
once a month from Altamira, bringing back people who had received medical treat-
ment in the Amazonian city. Goods were also a frequent and eagerly awaited cargo:
hooks, fishing lines, machetes, axes, and the like.

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As I made my way through the people, babbling some incomprehensible words, I

met Gerson, the FUNAI employee responsible for the Indigenous Post.1 He welcomed
me in his own gentle way, and taught me how to say emenypy, ‘wait.’ Surrounded by
people curious about myself and my stuff, I began repeating emenypy like a mantra.
Finally I installed myself in the infirmary located 200 metres from the Apyterewa village
where around 150 Parakanã Indians lived.
Days passed and turned into months. Initially the Parakanã were contemptuous of
my obvious lack of practical skills. I was a lousy fisherman, a worse than lousy hunter,
and even an inept horticulturalist. They watched me writing ceaselessly, but initially
saw no use in this behaviour. But when I started to grasp the language, they attributed
my quick learning to writing and became curious about it. By October, ritual activity
was intensifying. I spent every night on the village patio, listening to the new songs
transmitted from older to younger men. I taped these sessions and listened to the songs
over and over the next day so as to be able to repeat them at night.
The elders began to give me songs, and after a couple of days I was asked to rehearse
these on the patio. I had no idea what was happening until finally I realized that I and
five other men were training to perform at the tobacco festival. This came a fortnight
later. We danced for three days and three nights, each of us in our own solitary
performances. I was a guest and an anthropologist so I did what they told me, though
entirely unaware of the significance of my actions.
The performances were executed in a precise sequence. I always took the stage after
Japokatoa, a man about my age. Japokatoa had been a somewhat troublesome young-
ster, responsible for a conflict occurring a couple of years before my arrival. He had
stolen the pubescent third wife of a well-established adult man. By the dry season of
1988, this girl had become pregnant, Japokatoa was about to become a father, and I had
become his ritual friend – his pajé.
In the months after the ritual, whenever he passed me, he would stare with a
threatening gaze and an open smile, announcing: ‘I’m gonna kill you’.

Formal friendship
In this paper, I address the meanings implicit in this apparently straightforward state-
ment. At the time, the mixture of aggression and intimacy conveyed by Japokatoa left
me perplexed. I indeed felt threatened, but his smile was reassuring. We had become
friends, -pajé, and we were expected to walk, hunt, and do things together.
As a solitary anthropologist in the field, I was in want of friends, and my own ideas
of friendship were uppermost in my mind. These ideas were based on a concept of
friendship as ‘a mutually intimate, loyal, and loving bond between two or a few persons
that is understood not to derive from membership in a group normally marked by
native solidarity, such as family, tribe, or other such ties’ (Konstan 1997: 1). An achieved
relationship, not an ascribed one: a bond implying generosity, intimacy, and trust.
Although, as the saying goes, ‘gifts make friends’, obligatory reciprocity is not meant to
be any part of a true friendship.2 A friend is an alter ego of sorts, an exteriorized version
of ourselves, someone from whom we expect the proximity, loyalty, and frankness that
we possess with our own selves – or imagined ourselves to possess until Freud.
When we prefix a qualifier like ‘formal’ or ‘ritual’ to the term ‘friend’ we obviate all
these features, switching off connotations such as spontaneity, gratuity, and free choice,
transforming friendship into its opposite: an institutionalized and obligatory bond.
Relations of this kind are well known in indigenous Amazonia. However, it is mainly

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among Ge-speaking peoples that friendship appears in a highly formalized manner,

implying strongly conventionalized behaviour, and a series of obligatory ceremonial
services. Formal friendships among the Ge form part of an extremely complex social
organization in which they assume the guise of collective and inherited relations.3
Among many other Amazonian peoples, by contrast, formal friendship involves a lesser
degree of sociological institutionalization and ritual formalization, often being estab-
lished individually (Descola 1993: 178).4
As Santos-Granero observes, different spheres, or social spaces, exist ‘in which rela-
tions of amicability can be established with “others” ’ (2007: 2). Among the Ge, formal
friendship primarily interconnects different social and ritual segments within a single
village, whereas elsewhere in indigenous Amazonia it connects the inside and outside of
social aggregates. The Carib commercial partners sustaining the network of inter-
village social relations in the Guianas are ideally friends (pito) (Rivière 1969: 78-9), as
are the Kanamari tawari, also classed as potential foreign partners (Costa 2007: 79-83),
or indeed the Jivaro amik, who provide each other with shelter and protection in times
of war (Descola 1993: 177-84). These latter forms of friendship are reminiscent of the
Greek xénos, the guest-friend (Benveniste 1969: 341-2; Konstan 1997: 34). They imply a
formal pact, generally taking the form of gift-giving, which establishes the relationship
and turns the partners into reciprocal guests in each other’s territory.
However, ‘spheres of amicability’ determined by social distance are hard to define in
Amazonia. The other and the stranger are not coterminous (Derrida 2000: 15). The
Ashaninka, for instance, push all but their very closest kin into the position of other-
ness, allowing them to establish friendship relations at a short distance (Killick 2009:
709). Moreover, most of the terms translated as ‘friends’ in the literature span from the
nearest other (the cross-cousin) to the most distant (non-indigenous others). During
initial inter-ethnic contacts, many Amazonian peoples employed the vocative ‘my
friend’ to address the latter.5
This latter usage should not be confused with the Euro-American practice of
addressing strangers as ‘my friend’ in ephemeral urban interactions to demonstrate
goodwill. The Euro-American notion of friendship does not imply a constitutive
otherness; it tends towards fraternity rather than enmity. A friend is an unrelated
brother or sister, a meta-consanguine; a relationship given neither by blood nor law, but
based on a diffuse sense of shared identity (of values, tastes, social environment,
political opinion, etc.), and associated with loyalty, sharing, and intimacy. Amazonian
formal friendship, by contrast, is not only different by being ‘formal’, but also based on
a distinct notion of the person as a plural entity split between selves and others (Fausto
2007; Taylor 2000; Vilaça 2002).6 Amazonian friendship is grounded in a particular
understanding of plurality and selfhood, implying a notion of agency at odds with
Western conceptions of autonomy and authenticity.

Masters and pets

The Tupi-Guarani-speaking Parakanã live in two separate Indigenous Lands in Pará
State, Brazil. During my fieldwork, the population numbered 500 people distributed
between three to five villages. Prior to contact in the 1970s and 1980s, they inhabited the
interfluvial zones between the Tocantins and Xingu Rivers, relying on the hunting of
big mammals, foraging, and manioc cultivation.
The Parakanã split into two groups, which I name East and West, at the end of the
nineteenth century. By this time, a regional multi-village social network no longer

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existed. The indigenous population had fragmented into small groups weakly con-
nected mainly through warfare. There was no peaceful mediation between communi-
ties, making any form of hospitality between different groups unlikely. Inter-village and
inter-ethnic visiting with specific welcoming techniques can still be observed in some
areas of Amazonia (Alès 2000; Clastres 1972; Franchetto 2000; Rivière 1971). Among the
Parakanã, however, hostility took precedence over hospitality in all interactions
between different communities, including those speaking the same language.
Parakanã relationships with foreigners were not limited to warfare, though. Sha-
manism offered another venue for relating to others. Interestingly enough, in dreams,
relations with ‘enemies’ (akwawa) are marked by the absence (or more exactly the
deferral) of predation.7 Dreamer and dreamed akwawa establish an asymmetrical
relationship in which the former is the ‘master’ (jara) and the latter the ‘pet’ (te’omawa).
Owners have greater volitional power than their pets since they hold the latter under
their sway, as the verbal form of te’omawa indicates: e’omam, ‘to be completely pow-
erless’ (Fausto 2001: 347). Once ‘tamed’, a powerful dreamed enemy ceases to act as an
adversary and gives everything to his master, demanding nothing in return.8 These free
gifts come in the form of new songs and new names.
This relationship is highly ambivalent, though, since it is impossible to know exactly
who controls whom. The dreamed enemy works in the dreamer’s service, but the
former possesses a superior shamanic science and is responsible for curing diseases.
These enemies may come to the dreamer’s village or alternatively take him to their own,
hosting him for a brief period. Theirs is the hospitality of a hospital where the dreamer
is the patient and treated as an adoptive son. The hosts’ intention is to convince the
guest-patient not to return to their kin and thereby convert him into one of their own,
inverting the relation of control in which the latter is the master.9
Not all dreams are therapeutic, but all include the giving of songs, the latter
usually called ‘jaguars’ (jawara). The dreamer is a ‘master of jaguars’ (jawajara), con-
taining the enemy’s predatory potential in the form of these jaguar-pets. The typical
fate of the songs is to be executed in the tobacco festival, the opetymo, named after
the long cigar smoked by the dancers on the patio. This festival lasts for three to
four days and engages five to ten soloist dancers. Reasons for performing the ritual
vary: the celebration of a raid, abundant game, the smoothing of internal tensions.
Preparations begin fifteen days earlier when an experienced man decides ‘to stand up’
Initial meetings are dedicated to giving songs: the men sit in a circle, armed with
bows or shotguns. An elder begins to chant in a low, deep voice, subsequently announc-
ing which dreamed enemy (akwawa) gave him this jaguar-song. The song is repeated
numerous times accompanied by the other men until finally memorized. This act is
designated -pyro jawara, ‘to raise (nourish) the jaguar’. Several songs may be given each
night. After two or three nights, dance rehearsals begin. At this point the songs are
offered to those individuals wishing to participate in the ritual.
The dreamer sings and then says: ‘Here is your jaguar, my nephew [or friend,
brother-in-law, etc.]’. The recipient formally accepts the song, which he now calls ‘my
jaguar’ (jejawara) or ‘my prey’ (jeremiara). When standing up to dance, he may say: ‘I’m
going to kill the great bastard’ (ajokapota awarawerohoa). The audience praises the
execution, encouraging him: ‘That’s a true killing’ (eipo ijokatawa-eté). The musical
pieces performed in the run-up to opetymo cannot be reused in the festival as they have
already been ‘killed’.10 Some therefore need to be kept for the ritual itself.

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Giving songs is obligatory. The dreamer receiving songs from the akwawa cannot
execute them since they are his pets. Instead he has to give the song to a third party, who
finishes the jaguar-song off in a public execution during the opetymo. Here each
performer typically chants one of his two songs slowly in a very deep, laryngealized
voice. The women then sing together at a quicker tempo in very high-pitched voices.
Each dancer produces a dramatization of the akwawa he embodies: for example, one of
the musical pieces sung by a man called Koria in 1989 was given by the red-tailed catfish
(Phractocephalus hemioliopterus). The audience threw imaginary hooks for him to
swallow, initiating a struggle between fishermen and fish. The festival continues with
the repetition of this and other motifs for three or four days, during which time a
number of relationships between the performer and the audience are played out
(Fausto 2001: 431-46).
The focal relation in opetymo, however, is the relation between the performer and
himself – or, more precisely, between the two aspects of his personage: executioner and
victim, predator and prey. The song he chants is the dreamed ‘enemy’s double’
(akwawa-ra’owa) and the vocal act a homicide. In the synthetic language of the ritual,
the terms of the predatory relation merge: the pairings of killer-victim and hunter-
game are amalgamated in a single person, producing a complex ritual personage
(Houseman & Severi 1998; Severi 2004).
So let’s pause and ask: what were the implications of me, as a foreign-guest, dancing
in the opetymo? Another twist was added to an already convoluted ritual act: I was an
actual foreigner embodying another other, executing the latter’s jaguar-song (which
was his double) as though a member of the group. But I was also a very specific kind of
foreigner: a non-indigenous person, a Toria, from whom the Parakanã expected to
receive manufactured goods. I recall Waka’ima, an old woman, repeatedly asking me to
leave the patio where I was dancing and enter her house. If an enemy is a hero’ara,
‘someone who brings things’, then I could, perhaps, cause the white goods they wanted
to arrive in greater quantities. After all, this was why they had accepted ‘pacification’
four years earlier, deciding to live Toria-popé, ‘within the whites’ domain’.

Friends and affines

The tobacco festival, known as opetymo, is also called pajé. The latter is a widely
disseminated Tupi-Guarani word meaning ‘shaman’ and/or ‘shamanic power’. Opetymo
was a warfare ritual performed by the Parakanã after a raid and to mark the end of the
killers’ seclusion. But it also was and is still a shamanic ritual intended to develop the
capacity to dream. The ritual killing and the ingestion of tobacco ‘make one dream’
(-mopoahim), a precondition to encountering enemies who are subsequently familiar-
ized. Among another nearby Tupi-Guarani people, the Asurini, opetymo is indeed a
ritual for transmitting shamanic curing powers to novices.
But why is the Parakanã friend also called pajé? The word is polysemic, designating
shamanic power, the tobacco festival and its songs, enemy-friends and kin-friends, as
well as lovers. As a Tupi-Guarani term originally signifying shamanic power, its meaning
must have drifted to include the warfare ritual and from there to achieved relations with
close or distant others. Among the Parakanã, the ritual executors in opetymo ideally
form a group of paired -pajé: the friend of the man who ‘stood up first’ is the second to
dance; a third man then stands up, followed by his friend, and so on. Dancing together
also forges new friendship relations. This is what happened to me. Since I took the lead
just after Japokatoa, he started to call me ‘my friend’ and I responded in kind.11

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To explain the multiple connotations of the term pajé, I turn now to its role within
the relational terminology. The Parakanã have no specific terms for cross-cousins
(Fausto 1991; 1995). When older than ego, they are equated with the mother’s siblings
(totyra for a male alter, -’yra for a female alter), and when younger with sister’s children
(tekojara for a male ego, tejomemyna for a female ego). In other words, the classification
of cross-cousins is inflected by a parameter of relative age, pushing older cousins up a
generation and younger cousins down a generation. Hence there is no such thing as a
cross-cousin among the Parakanã. There is, though, a structural position of symmetri-
cal affinity of the kind occupied elsewhere by cross-cousins.
Among the Western Parakanã, the terms for real affines are supplemented by ten
terms for male egos and alters, and five terms for female egos and alters, all of which I
call ‘reclassification terms’ since they modify a previous kinship classification. Most of
these terms substitute the pair totyra-tekojara (between men) or -’yra-tejomemyna
(between women),12 though some can also modify relations between classificatory
siblings. In both cases, the reclassification avoids the asymmetry imposed by the relative
age distinction.13
The self-reciprocal -pajé implies a symmetrical opposition between same-sex con-
temporaries. Contemporaneity is a marked feature of the relationship: cross-cousins
separated by a short birth interval are defined as -pajé by their parents even before they
speak.14 The idea of birth simultaneity is also manifested in the application of the term
to fruits that ripen in the same season: plantain, for example, is Brazil nut’s pajé.
In contrast to the analogous Trio category, pito, described by Rivière (1969: 77-81), the
Parakanã category applies to people at a minimal genealogical distance.15 This difference
expresses an important sociological distinction:the Parakanã do not produce a social field
in which affinity is masked by a cognatic veil, manifested in etiquette, teknonymy, and the
reclassification of co-residents. There is nothing similar to the Guianese endogamic
monad eliding the explicit content of affinity between spatially proximate kin. On the
contrary, the Western Parakanã reclassifications obviate the asymmetrical relation
between close affines, reinforcing symmetrical opposition and alterity.
The -pajé category may also be compared to the famous Tupinambá tobajara, a term
meaning ‘the one from the other side’, applied to both enemies and brothers-in-law. In
fact, Parakanã friends are often real affines: during my research, 50 per cent of friends
among the Eastern group and 20 per cent among the Western group were also brothers-
in-law. While kin-friends can become brothers-in-law, enemy-friends are also potential
brothers-in-law since, if alliance does become possible, they will exchange women. A
-pajé is always and necessarily an ‘other’ (amote) and, as we shall see, a potential enemy.

Friends in war
Although the opetymo ritual is ideally executed by sets of friends, these pairings also
structure the war band. In the past this could include as many as four dozen armed
men, as well as the wives who accompanied their husbands until the group neared the
enemy target. As the men advanced, surveying the enemy territory, the warriors split
into pairs of formal friends, walking together, ‘buttock to buttock’, as the Parakanã say.
War narratives contain many stereotyped formulas to express this joint venture. When
shooting an enemy, the killer would turn to his pajé and say: ‘You for me, my friend’, to
which the other replied, ‘I for you, my friend’ and then released his arrow.16 A new
friendship relation could actually be formed on the basis of this war partnership, as the
elder Pi’awa told me when narrating an attack on the Asurini in the 1940s:

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So my future friend arrived; my late maternal uncle.

– Where are my victims talking, nephew?
– Look, in the river, uncle, your victims are in the water.
So we co-operated. We went together.
– I’ll go ahead of you, nephew, I’ll kill the enemy alone. Wait for me here.
– I’ll go too so I can shoot for you, uncle.
So we went together.
(Pi’awa, tape 30, 1995)

After this collaboration, the asymmetrical relation between Pi’awa and his maternal
uncle was replaced by the symmetrical relation between friends. Among the Eastern
Parakanã, this kind of relationship built upon joint participation in a killing is marked
by the self-reciprocal tywa, a term designating those who ‘help each other seek out the
enemy’ (ojopotywo akwawa-rehe). Tywa is a classic Tupi-Guarani word found in the
sixteenth-century chronicles, where its cognates were employed in the sense of ‘formal
friend’, ‘trade partner’, and ‘guest’ (see Viveiros de Castro 1992: 357).
Enemies as friends
In war, the Parakanã not only formed friendship relations with people on their own
side, they also established them with their foes. The pajé category equally defined a
partnership between enemies. When two rival groups met and sought to avoid any
direct confrontation, each warrior would seek out an adversary and embrace him,
thereby becoming his pajé. Embracing was a way of neutralizing the adversary through
bodily proximity. In four of the ten confrontations occurring between the Parakanã
blocs, this is precisely what happened. The first of these encounters took place in the
1910s, more than a decade after they split in the wake of a conflict over women.
Following many years without any further contact, the Western Parakanã ventured
into Eastern Parakanã territory, where they came across an unoccupied village and stole
manioc flour stored there. But the theft was came across and the Eastern Parakanã went
in pursuit of the invaders. They managed to surround them and conversed with them
at a distance. At first the hostile bands addressed each other collectively as ‘friends’,
expressing a generic relation of friendship: ‘Go there,’ a Western Parakanã man said to
his son, ‘and give these arrows to our friends, so they can take them to their wives’.17
The long-distance conversation ended. The Eastern Parakanã then sang to the invad-
ers, who replied with another song. Both parties left, agreeing to meet again with their
women. The Eastern Parakanã wanted to exchange wives because ‘there were no women
to marry’ at that time. They arrived at the rendezvous the next afternoon. Each group
announced their arrival while still some distance away, initiating a stereotyped dialogue
of goodwill: ‘Are you going to have a truly good talk with me, great brother-in-law?’,
‘Let’s have a good talk with each other, my pajé’, or ‘I don’t have teeth for you [i.e. I’ve
come in peace], I don’t get angry with people’ (Iatora, tape 12, 1993).18 They sang and
danced until dawn.
As first light approached, the Eastern Parakanã invited the Western Parakanã to visit
their swiddens. On the way, the Western group stopped in an area they had chosen
previously as a favourable site were a conflict to erupt. Each warrior hugged his enemy
pajé and took him to the spot. They spread out over the area in pairs, but, extremely
tired, everyone decided to sleep. But before they slept, conflict broke out, leading to the
death of six Eastern men and one Western man.
In the 1930s, a similar event had an unfavourable outcome for the Western bloc.
Caught stealing flour again, the war party was pursued by Eastern warriors, who

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encircled them and, after preliminary dialogues at a distance, walked into the open and
embraced their adversaries in pairs. They danced and sang all night and in the morning
invited the invaders to the village ‘to see their wives’. A dozen Western warriors accom-
panied their friends. As evening approached, they arrived at an abandoned village
where the Eastern group had hidden axes and machetes. The partnership between
enemy-friends demands constant bodily proximity – the two individuals should even
urinate together – making bows useless as a weapon. Hence the need to have a means
of killing at close range ready to hand.
Tired, the Western Parakanã were overwhelmed by sleep.

– I’m going to sleep, my friend, my uncle said.

– Why don’t you sleep, my friend? Look at me. My bottom is soft [i.e. I’m calm], he replied.
He sat down and opened his legs for my uncle:
– Lie down here between my thighs, I’ll wake you in the morning.
He lay down, the late My’a also slept between the legs of his friend, my grandfather Te’a’y’yma also
slept between the thighs of his friend. They slept.
(Iatora, tape 4, 1993)

When an enemy-friend wants to sleep, the other cradles him protectively between
his legs.19 The friend shields the partner to prevent the others from killing him, as if he
were a sanctuary (Pitt-Rivers 1977: 113). But here resides the ambiguity: if one group
decides to kill the other, it is up to the partner to kill his own friend. The -pajé is not
only the guardian, he is also the executioner. And this is precisely what happened back
in the 1930s. After the Western Parakanã had fallen asleep, their hosts began to kill their
guests, each warrior attacking his own pajé with an axe or machete stashed away earlier.

Friends as foes
Friendship is a bond as intimate and ambiguous as the relationship between killer and
victim. My friend is either ‘my future victim’ (jeremiaroma) or ‘my future executioner’
(jeropiaroma). This applies not only to enemy-friends, but equally to friends connected
through kinship. When a faction decides to kill someone during an internecine conflict,
it falls to his pajé to perform the task. The victim’s friend perpetrated most of the
internal killings among the Western Parakanã in the twentieth century. One such
homicide took place just three months before my first field trip in 1988. A young man
with no mature wife had disputed the second wife of an adult man, just as my friend
Japokatoa had done a couple of years previously. But having fewer brothers and close
kin than Japokatoa, he end up being killed. His own friend invited him to go hunting,
asked him for an arrow, and ambushed him a little further on.
Likewise, another man killed a friend during an internal conflict in the 1960s. He
then went to meet another friend, Karaja, also a friend of the victim, to tell him what
he had done. With a mixture of boastfulness and sorrow, he said: ‘I just killed our great
friend, my friend ... I took him from us’ (Karaja, tape 46, 1993). This paradoxical
sentence displays all the ambiguity of the friendship relation, split between companion-
ship and treachery.
But why should a relation based on a constitutive tension and an underlying sense of
otherness be translated as ‘friendship’? My choice results both from adhering to the
habitual translation of the indigenous terms in the specialized literature, and from the
fact that this is the only non-exclusively kinship-based relation to imply a deep sense of
intimacy and proximity. Parakanã friends are close to each other. Friends remain near

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at hand throughout their lives and at the moment of death. Slashed by his enemy pajé’s
machete in the 1930s, Koria’s father failed to survive his injuries as he fled from enemy
territory. He collapsed to the ground, and as he died, as his son told me, ‘There,
standing right by his side, was his little friend’ (Koria, tapes 11-12, 1993). The Parakanã
extol this proximity. In such situations, the -pajé must bury his companion out of
nostalgia. Nostalgia is also the sentiment typically evoked when enemy-friends meet
again after some time apart: ‘We came in peace, brothers-in-law. We are not angry with
you. We just came to see you. I said to myself: “Let me go to see my friend” ’. Even in the
1990s, a hundred years after the conflict that split the Parakanã blocs, people still
recalled the attitude of Iatora’s grandfather, who had refused to take part in the killing
because ‘he was too attached to his friend’.
The term pajé also designates the relationship between lovers, but never that
between husband and wife. This seems to be a further extension from its original
meaning. While pajé originally meant ‘shamanic power’ and was subsequently applied
to the opetymo ritual and to jaguar-songs, and later still to friendships between same-
sex affines and strangers, it was further extended to lovers because of the intimacy and
non-ascribed character of the relationship.20 When it comes to cross-sex and cross-
group relations, therefore, pajé seems to function more as an ‘institutionalized non-
institution’, to use Paine’s definition of friendship in middle-class Western culture
(1969: 514), than as a typical formal friendship.

Symmetry and otherness

So far I have discussed friendship among the Parakanã as a male institution, skipping
over the fact that pajé relations also exist between women. I have done so on purpose,
reproducing one of the major assumptions of the classical notion of friendship: that it
was ‘only possible between men’ (Caine 2009a: xii).21 This also holds true for the
anthropological discussion on the ‘laws of hospitality’, in which the master of the house
and the guest are always male. This applies equally to the Parakanã. Female friendship
is less conspicuous than male friendship.22
This contrast was even more pronounced among the Eastern Parakanã, where
women rarely established friendship relations. Here the Eastern Parakanã were much
more restrictive, possessing only two ‘reclassification terms’ (-pajé and -tywa), with
nobody able to have more than one living -pajé and one -tywa simultaneously and
necessarily belonging to different moieties. Women were excluded from the public
arena, the tekatawa, where all the adult men met each night to converse in a circle
around their headman. The rehearsals for the opetymo also took place in the tekatawa,
a clearing located some distance from the houses where women were unable to listen to
the conversations and songs. In line with this strict gender division, only men could
execute the soloist performance during the opetymo.
Among the Western Parakanã, however, gender differences were gradually effaced
during the twentieth century and the difference between public and domestic
forms of sociality was eclipsed. Women began to perform the opetymo ritual, some
even participating in raids against enemy peoples.23 This explains why they began to
establish more friendship relations, though not as many or as conspicuous as those
formed between men.
The general proliferation of ‘reclassification terms’ among the Western Parakanã
reflects their distinct aversion to social asymmetries. In the decades following the split,
while the Eastern Parakanã developed a segmentary system based on three patrigroups

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organized into moieties and politically hierarchized, the Western Parakanã progres-
sively dissolved all forms of inequality to the point where any asymmetry in male-to-
male relations became virtually intolerable. They started to evade the asymmetry
contained in the totyra-tekojara pairing, which resulted from the mechanics of the
kinship terminology. The end result was a remarkable reconfiguration of the entire
social field, one which led most adult males to interact with each other equally and
marking these relations through the use of a ‘reclassification term’.
In a sense, while alterity remained the basic feature of Western Parakanã friendship,
symmetry gained prominence as an internal social operator in redefining public rela-
tionships. This is an intriguing development, comparable perhaps to our contemporary
experience of friendship as a voluntarily achieved bond superior to ascribed blood
relations. In the egalitarian ideology of the late twentieth-century middle class, friend-
ship came to be seen as a model counteracting the inauthentic and hierarchical rela-
tions contained within the traditional family (Pahl 2000). Spouses became partners,
parents were expected to treat their children as friends, and siblingship became mod-
elled on friendship (rather than vice versa).24
Among the Western Parakanã, however, even though symmetry gained ground over
the twentieth century, the fundamental tenet of friendship – otherness – was firmly
retained. The Parakanã would thus probably agree with Aristotle’s sibylline motto: ‘O
friends, there are no friends’.

Friendship among the Parakanã spans from minimal to maximal distance, from first-
degree cross-cousins to strangers, modelling one relation on the other and crossing the
amity-enmity divide. In contrast to other Amazonian peoples who reserve friendship
for relations between people who are genealogically, socially, or geographically distant,
the Parakanã transformed it into a tool linking the near and the far, preserving the
protection-predation ambivalence as friendship’s defining feature across its entire
range. Underlying intimacy and protection is the irreducible fact that the -pajé is an
affine, an other, the nearest enemy, the prey closest to hand.
This intimate other is not a ‘frienemy’ in the contemporary urban American sense of
the term. It has nothing to do with the kind of competitive strategies, hidden feelings
and deception that, for instance, rapper Jim Jones depicts in his lyrics for the song
‘Frienemies’ (from the 2009 Pray IV Reign album). Parakanã friendship is defined by
the very fact of containing contradictory connotations. The friend’s identity is as plural
and complex as that of the opetymo executioner, simultaneously predator and prey, kin
and stranger, hospes and hostis (Benveniste 1969: 92). The Parakanã -pajé is a complex
personage, and it is no coincidence that this concept drifted from shamanic power to
the opetymo ritual and later to friendship. A chimerical chasm underlies all these
meanings (Severi 2007). The -pajé is another self only insofar as the self to which he is
another is always other to himself. Although the ambivalence of the friendship relation
derives from ‘the fact that it represents a confrontation between the internal and
external aspects of the host’s social unit’ (Pitt-Rivers 1977: 113), it counteracts the very
possibility of a unit, of a space of sovereignty, even at the level of the person.
The Parakanã -pajé therefore seems to meet one of Derrida’s requirements for
overcoming the hospitality of invitation: ‘[P]ower (despotic sovereignty and the virile
mastery of the master of the house) is nothing other than ipseity in itself, the same of
the selfsame’ (2000: 15). The Parakanã prefer to remain before the threshold, crossing it

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only through killing and dreaming, both of which favour a modality of mastery that, as
I have shown elsewhere (Fausto 1999; 2008; 2012), implies a movement towards the
other, rather than its assimilation to the selfsame. It is still a mode of mastery, though,
and therefore far removed from Derrida’s symmetrization of the host-guest relation
(and even further from Kant’s Perpetual Peace).
Now, over twenty years later, I can fully appreciate Japokatoa’s grave jest: had they
decided to kill me, it would have been his task to finish me off. Fortunately enough, the
Parakanã, though quite bellicose, were never fond of killing white people, believing it
wiser to familiarize them. I therefore became their white pet, a strange(r)-guest willing
to exchange gifts for words.

This paper was written during my stay as Nabuco Visiting Scholar at the Center for Latin American
Studies, Stanford University. I thank my (true) friend Herb Klein for his kind invitation and apologize for not
always following the golden rules of friendship in order to finish this piece. I am also grateful to Giovanni da
Col for our fruitful dialogue, and to Aparecida Vilaça, who also commented on the manuscript. Finally, I
thank David Rodgers for revising my English.
Funai is the Brazilian Agency for Indigenous Affairs, while the Post is the institutional and physical
spearhead for the administration and protection of indigenous peoples.
Nor of Derrida’s hospitality of visitation, a notion through which he aims to overcome the ‘aporetic
paralysis’ of the hospitality of invitation. The latter would imply a self-contradiction, since it necessarily
defines a space of sovereignty in which being generous to the guest signifies the reaffirmation of the mastery
of the host. Derrida’s notion of an unconditional hospitality resonates with the anthropological notion of the
free gift and the Christian idea of grace and gratitude (Derrida 2000), even if this implies, as Levinas put it,
une ingratitude de l’Autre: that is, a radical movement towards the Other (Derrida 1997: 29). On the ‘ideology
of the pure gift’, see Parry (1986).
For a discussion of formal friendship among the Ge, see Coelho de Souza (2002).
As Bell and Coleman state with regard to the Icelandic friendship depicted in the Sagas, ‘it combines its
elements of choice with a strong and brooding sense of inevitability’ (1999: 8).
The Ge-speaking Kraho, for instance, used to address indigenous and non-indigenous others to whom
they wished to convey a friendly disposition as hõpin, formal friend (Carneiro da Cunha 1978: 75).
Here I would note the difference between this ethnographically grounded statement and a similar idiom
found in moral philosophy. I refer to Helm’s notions of plural agency and plural personhood, both connected
to his analysis of friendship. Helm’s explicit intention is to undermine the hegemonic individualist concep-
tion of autonomy, thus making a new sense of Aristotle’s ‘puzzling claim that a friend is “another self ” ’ (2010:
40). Helm’s minimal instance of a plural person is two friends, whose mutual care transforms them into a
plural agent: ‘the third, unified entity that nonetheless does not involve the sort of unification that would
destroy their separateness as individual agents or persons’ (2010: 284). Though they exercise a joint autonomy
as they possess ‘control over their joint identity’, plural personhood does ‘not come at the expense of their
individual identities or autonomy’ (2010: 287). What remains unanalysed here is the plural constitution of the
self in itself, so much so that the ‘social nature’ of the person appears external to him or her. This is quite
different from Agamben’s interpretation of Aristotle’s catchy phrase. According to him, to say that the friend
is ‘an other self [heteros autos]’ does not mean that he or she is another I with whom I share my existence via
our common intersubjectivity. It means that the friend is ‘an otherness immanent to selfness, a becoming
other of the self ’ (Agamben 2009: 34). The self itself is divided and never self-identical. I have no idea if
Agamben’s understanding, with its distinctively Deleuzian flavour, is closer to Aristotle’s ideas. What I
do know is that it resonates more closely with current views of the person in Amazonian anthropology
(see Viveiros de Castro 2012).
Akwawa is the general term for any entity classed as a person that is outside the social circle the
Parakanã recognize as te’ynia (roughly ‘kin’). Humans, animals, astronomical bodies, or artefacts may all
be akwawa so long as they display intentionality and are capable of communicating. The concept can be
translated as either ‘foreigner’ or ‘enemy’. I usually employ the latter alternative since I take enmity to be its
default value.
Here I employ the male gender in accordance with Parakanã conceptions of dream experiences
(see Fausto 2001: 341-2).

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In many dream narratives, the emphasis falls on the enemies’ intention to make the patient change his
viewpoint and see his kin as adversaries. Thus in one dream therapy experienced by my ‘father’ Iatora, the
enemy said to him: ‘Come to my house so we can live together. Perhaps it’s your kin who are hurling
ensorcelled objects at you’ (Fausto 2001: 362).
Once dead, the jaguar-song can only be chanted again in ordinary situations. The song preserves the
memory of the ritual killing, but subsequently becomes void of content and no longer conveys the enemy’s
The establishment of a ritual friendship is not particularly formalized. It simply involves the older
partner telling the younger one: ‘Call me “my friend”, my sister’s son’ (wepajé ere jeopé, wetekojan). The
Parakanã describe this as a voluntary invitation, not an obligatory act.
A mother’s brother-sister’s son and a mother’s sister-sister’s daughter relationship.
Some reclassification terms offer an ironic comment on this asymmetry by casting it beyond its original
context: there are, for example, men who call each other ‘parrot’ (-taja) or ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ (-mena;
taty’a), and so on (Fausto 1991: 158-71). The use of relational terms out of context, or words belonging to other
semantic fields, was also observed among the sixteenth-century Tupinambá (Fausto 2001: 290).
In Apyterewa village, of the twenty-eight male-male -pajé relations for which I obtained sufficient data,
eighteen replaced a previous totyra-tekojara classification, while six were ascribed to the pair by their parents
while they were still infants.
Around 20 per cent of the thirty-eight male occurrences that I recorded among the Western Parakanã
were first-degree cousins. This proportion rose among the Eastern group, representing around 35 per cent of
the nineteen recorded cases.
According to Alès, the only ‘true friendship’ for the Yanomami is that existing between ‘battle compan-
ions’ (2000: 147).
Swapping arrows signals a peaceful disposition. Formal friends used to swap arrows at the end of the
tobacco festival, when meeting after a long time apart or simply whenever they left together to hunt. After
contact, the Western Parakanã started to swap rifle barrels, but abandoned this practice since barrels tend to
get stuck when used in another rifle, even one of the same calibre and brand.
In war narratives, the most frequent address for individual adversaries is ‘brother-in-law.’ The term -pajé
is reserved for one-to-one relationships between individuals or for the group as a whole (taking the collec-
tivized form -pajetoa).
During contact with the Eastern Parakanã in 1970, each member of the FUNAI team had his own
indigenous friend. When they went to the village, each of them slept with his pajé in the same hammock. Jean
de Léry observed an analogous form of hosting behaviour among the Tupinambá (1980 [1553]: 237).
Parakanã intimacy has little in common with our current notion of ‘being close’, the kind of mutual
disclosure of private thoughts and feelings that Jamieson (1998) calls ‘disclosing intimacy’.
This changed, of course, and by the early nineteenth century friendship among women had acquired a
new place as it began to be addressed by novelists like Jane Austen (see Caine 2009b).
In 1989, in the Western Parakanã village of Apyterewa, there were as many as thirty-nine pairs of male
friends compared to sixteen female relationships of this kind. Taking into consideration the other ‘terms of
reclassification’, the disparity was even greater: ninety-five relationships were designated by one of the nine
other terms existing for men, whereas twenty-two were designated by the four other terms existing for
The female opetymo is performed by symmetrically inverting the gender roles. However, it was rarely
executed in the twentieth century. Among the Eastern Parakanã, women never staged the ritual.
See Paine’s discussion of the modern construction of friendship as a ‘Woodstock’ phenomenon (1999: 42,

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L’ami, l’ennemi et l’anthropologue : hostilité et hospitalité chez les

Parakanã (Amazonie, Brésil)

L’auteur étudie ici une relation particulière entre les Parakanã, un peuple amazonien locuteur du tupi,
que l’on traduit habituellement par « amitié » et qui implique des attentes d’hospitalité. Le domaine
d’application de cette notion va de l’autre le plus proche (le cousin croisé) au plus éloigné (l’ennemi).
L’article montre que ce type de relation est intrinsèquement structuré autour d’une polarité proie-
prédateur instable, dans laquelle l’autre le plus intime est aussi la proie la plus à portée de main. Cette
ambivalence de la relation d’amitié s’oppose à la possibilité d’un espace de souveraineté au niveau de la
personne et des collectivités, mais elle n’implique pas une « hospitalité de visitation » telle que l’envisageait

Carlos Fausto is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the Museu Nacional, Universidade Federal do Rio de
Janeiro. He published Os Índios antes do Brasil (Zahar, 2000), Inimigos fiéis: história, guerra e xamanismo na
Amazônia (EDUSP, 2001), Warfare and shamanism in Amazonia (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and
coedited with Michael Heckenberger, Time and memory in indigenous Amazonia: anthropological perspectives
(University Press of Florida, 2007).

Museu Nacional, PPGAS, Quinta da Boa Vista s/n, São Cristovão, Rio de Janeiro/RJ, 20.940-040, Brasil.

Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (N.S.), S196-S209

© Royal Anthropological Institute 2012