indigenous histories, memory, the future, Waorani, Ecuador


In this article I consider the impact of Peter Gow’s writing on indigenous histories as a key area of research on Amazonia. Building on his study of kinship as history on the Bajo Urubamba (1991) he presented a regional perspective on the dynamic social categories by which Amazonian people understand their relations with various “others.” Focusing on indigenous agency and modes of thought, Gow challenged certain lines of historical thinking that dominated anthropology at the time. I explore how his ethnographic approach to history has influenced a generation of regional scholarship, including my own work on memory and social transformation among Waorani people in Amazonian Ecuador. I look specifically at how Gow’s approach can help contextualize expressions of historical continuity and difference in indigenous politics. In contrast to relatively static views of history in a global politics of recognition, the categories of difference and their transformation he described remain central to how some Amazonian people relate the past to their hopes for the future. Understanding this process requires Gow’s sensitivity to radically different ideas of the past, as well as attention to the multiple histories that Amazonian people engage with today.