Mobility, Gender, Knowledge, Makushi, Guianas, Amazonia


Exploring the journeys of some Makushi women, this article highlights the relevance of gender in the question of (im)mobility and female engagements with the world as central to contemporary Makushi life. Departing from the understanding that the category of space has proven crucial in the theoretical groundwork of the Guiana ethnographic area and drawing on the region’s classical ethnographies, it explores everyday practices of movement of the Makushi people who live along the triple frontier of southern Guyana. Rather than disruptive, these in and out journeys—collective or individual—prove to be crucial to the weaving of community. They are also central to the production of knowledge, acquired on the move and when travelers exchange stories, and highlight the value the Makushi attribute to their encounters with others. The experiences of those on the move and their encounters with the unpredictable and unknown can therefore be said to occupy a significant role in taming the other and in bringing back new interpretations of the world outside. Whether in the form of shamanic journeys or hunting trips, mobility in lowland South America is commonly assumed typical of men. Revisiting female mobility, however, unveils subtle nuances of the static and stable image of women’s trajectories and shows that women’s agency and learning derive from the outside just as much as men’s.