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Journal Article

Amerindian Amazons: Women, Exchange, and the Origins of Society

Astrid Steverlynck
The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Vol. 14, No. 3 (Sep., 2008), pp. 572-589
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20203686
Page Count: 18
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Amerindian Amazons: Women, Exchange, and the Origins of Society
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Abstract

The Amerindian myths of Amazon-like women, widespread in lowland South America, refer to the primordial exchange of particular ritual objects between men and women: ciba, greenstones, flutes, axes. This primordial exchange represents the socially creative moment that led to the establishment of society and provides a general model for social relationships. The ritual exchange or circulation of these objects in other spheres involving male-male relationships turns ordinary exchanges into socially creative exchanges by ritually re-creating the exchange described in the myths. The myths shift the focus from male-male relationships to female-male relationships as the basis of society and provide a commentary on the significance of exchange and social relationships in lowland South America. /// Largement répandus dans les plaines d'Amérique du Sud, les mythes amérindiens évoquant des femmes comparables aux Amazones font référence à l'échange primordial d'objets rituels particuliers entre hommes et femmes: ciba, pierres vertes, flûtes, haches... Ces échanges primordiaux représentent le moment socialement créatif qui a débouché sur l'établissement de la société, et donnent un modèle général des relations sociales. L'échange ou la circulation rituels de ces objets dans d'autres sphères impliquant une relation d'homme à homme transforme ces transactions ordinaires en processus socialement créatifs en recréant rituellement l'échange décrit par les mythes. Il déplace l'accent des relations femmes-hommes aux relations hommes-hommes comme base de la société, et apporte un éclairage sur la signification des échanges et des relations sociales dans les plaines d'Amérique du Sud.

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