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Open access

Competing for the Future

Play, Drama, and Rank in Amazonia

Natalia Buitron


This article explores competition as a technique of social transformation in Amazonia. In recent years, the Shuar of Ecuadorian Amazonia have begun staging festivals to celebrate the unity and autonomy of their new sedentary communities. Festivals include sporting games and beauty pageants that create a positive spirit of competition through dramatization and ranking. In these competitions, the drama and ranking take place within a ‘play-frame’—a frame that separates the festival from everyday life, but also re-enacts new practices of commensuration that have become part of daily life via schooling, markets, and electoral politics. If commensuration works against Shuar autonomy, the play-frame of the festival creates future possibilities for autonomy and mutuality.

Open access

State Legibility and Mind Legibility in the Original Political Society

Natalia Buitron and Hans Steinmüller


In one of his last great provocations, Marshall Sahlins describes the ‘original political society’ as a society where supposedly ‘egalitarian’ relations between humans are subordinated to the government of metahuman beings. He argues that this government is ‘a state’, but what kind of state does he mean? Even if metahumans are hierarchically organized and have power over human beings, they lack two capacities commonly attributed to political states: systematic means to make populations legible and coercive means to identity the intentions of others. The nascent forms of state legibility and public mind reading that are present in Sahlins's original political society are not unified and tied to particular agents. A discussion of the limitations of state and mind legibility points to the fundamental correlations between those two forms of legibility and their co-implication in whatever might be called ‘the state’.

Free access


Liana Chua, Natalia Buitron, and Timothy Cooper

Welcome to the first CJA issue of 2023 and the first to be produced by the new editorial team of Liana Chua (Editor), Natalia Buitron (Editor from October 2023) and Timothy Cooper (Reviews Editor). We have learnt a lot while sliding into our new roles, and we are immensely grateful to Andrew Sanchez and Tom White for leaving the journal in such excellent shape, Claudia Luna for her editorial assistance, and Janine Latham, Sascha Berghahn and the rest of the Berghahn team for their cheerful support and patience.