interculturality, writings, ethnicity, schooling, Ecuador, Shuar, Jivaro


In dialogue with Stephen Hugh-Jones’s work on Tukanoan writing, this article analyzes the boom in patrimonial writing among Chicham (Jivaroan)-speaking Shuar people. Patrimonial writing foregrounds collective identity and understandings of culture as group property common to the Tukanoan speakers of the Upper Rio Negro but foreign to the pre-missionized Shuar. We argue that the Shuar interest in patrimonial writing can be explained through the history of missionization and the recent shift to intercultural exchange within the plurinational project of state-building spearheaded by the indigenous movement. By analyzing the wider context of knowledge production and the forms of knowledge Shuar scholars mobilize to represent culture in the collective mode, we demonstrate how, for the first time in Shuar society, a group of specialists can make a profession out of reproducing heterogeneous forms of knowledge as unitary, uniformly shared collective patrimony. The comparison between the Shuar and Tukanoan appropriation of writing reveals important differences in the way Lowland Amerindians understand patrimony and the centrality of schooling in shaping a new “scholarly tradition.”