Strategic alliance and the Plantationocene among the Makushi in Guyana

in Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale
James Andrew Whitaker Tulane University

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This paper examines how the Makushi Amerindians in Guyana use strategies of alliance in dealing with current threats associated with the Anthropocene that are linked to past engagements aimed at resisting slaving raids during the colonial era. The Makushi view logging and mining by outsiders as major sources of deforestation, which they see as a primary cause of ecological and climatic change. In the past and present, they have formed alliances and other relations of partnership with various outsiders – ranging from missionaries to eco‐tourists – to resist plantation‐derived and other extractive predations and excesses. These relations are rooted in shamanic ontologies and are central to Makushi engagements with outsiders during both the colonial and neoliberal eras. Combining ethnographic and ethnohistorical data, this paper will elucidate the past and present contexts of these relations and show how continuities can contribute to further conceptualising the Plantationocene as an alternative framework concerned with understanding the ecological and climatic changes of the Anthropocene. It incorporates the notions of alliance and resistance into the Plantationocene framework.

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