#356 Hair, cloths, and coca leaves: relational substances and life-forces in Northwestern Andean Argentina

Coresponding author's contact details

First name Daniela Middle name Last name Salvucci
Title Dr. Organization / Institution Free University of Bozen-Bolzano Department n/a
Address via Taramelli 33 Postal / Zip code 39100 Country IT
E-Mail Hidden Phone number Hidden Presenting author Yes

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Abstract title

Hair, cloths, and coca leaves: relational substances and life-forces in Northwestern Andean Argentina

Abstract text

Among the indigenous communities of shepherds and peasants in the Andean region of the Northwestern Argentina, a local culture of relatedness, one which includes both humans and non-humans, is produced and performed through ritual practices based on specific substances. These latter, such as the human hair and cloths, but also coca leaves, alcohol, and food, are conceived of as containing a life-force that enacts relationality and reciprocity. The presentation starts with an ethnographic analysis of these ritual practices of relatedness among kinship and family members, their animals, and the living entity of the Andean environment, called Pachamama-Mother Earth. On the one hand, it focuses on rituals of the body-person’s life-cycle, which are based on the human hair and cloths, such as the first baby’s haircut, called ruti or rupachico, and the second burial of a dead person. On the other hand, it reports on ritual offerings to the Pachamama and to the Dead that include coca leaves, alcohol, cigarettes, food, and animals’ bodily parts, which are buried to feed and relate to these non-human entities. Through these ethnographic examples, the presentation aims to discuss the epistemological value of the concept “substance”, one that has been so prominent in the Western philosophy as well as in several branches of sociocultural anthropology. Looking through the lens of local Andean practices and conceptions, specific substances are ritually performed and thought of as life-forces that produce relations and relatedness among people, animals and other non-human agents.

Conference topic

Panel no. 104 - Performing Substances, Transmitting Legacies

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Abstract Review

This abstract was reviewed on 2021-01-07 10:21h by Federica Juliana

Reviewer decision