Northwest Amazonia, Indigenous research, collaboration, anthropological theory


Stephen Hugh-Jones’s ethnographic and collaborative engagement with the peoples of the Pirá-Paraná and, more widely, the Vaupés and Upper Rio Negro today spans 50 years. In this Introduction we chart the evolution of Hugh-Jones’s hybrid identity as iconoclast scholar, knowledgeable elder, and long-term collaborator. A biographical sketch identifies phases in this anthropological life: that of the ethnographer and initiate, steeped in the intellectual world of Barasana shaman-priests; that of lecturer and theorist in anthropology; and that of areal specialist, developing a synthesis of the ethnography of North West Amazonia through an engagement with Brazilian and indigenous intellectuals. We characterize the enduring hallmarks of Stephen’s work through very numerous and varied thematic interventions as the holding of the cosmological and esoteric together with the mundane, practical, and necessary; the foregrounding of commonalities between Amazonians and Europeans; and the open character of abstract models that allow for dissension, individual variation and historical transformation. Finally we introduce contributions to the two thematic sections of the Special Issue, the first on the form and gender of the universe in Northwest Amazonia, and the second on the politics of Amazonian indigenous Knowledge.