Behold The Black Caiman: A Chronicle Of Ayoreo Life

Paperback | October 24, 2014

byLucas Bessire

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In 2004, one of the world’s last bands of voluntarily isolated nomads left behind their ancestral life in the dwindling thorn forests of northern Paraguay, fleeing ranchers’ bulldozers.  Behold the Black Caiman is Lucas Bessire’s intimate chronicle of the journey of this small group of Ayoreo people, the terrifying new world they now face, and the precarious lives they are piecing together against the backdrop of soul-collecting missionaries, humanitarian NGOs, late liberal economic policies, and the highest deforestation rate in the world. 

Drawing on ten years of fieldwork, Bessire highlights the stark disconnect between the desperate conditions of Ayoreo life for those out of the forest and the well-funded global efforts to preserve those Ayoreo still living in it. By showing how this disconnect reverberates within Ayoreo bodies and minds, his reflexive account takes aim at the devastating consequences of our society’s continued obsession with the primitive and raises important questions about anthropology’s potent capacity to further or impede indigenous struggles for sovereignty. The result is a timely update to the classic literary ethnographies of South America, a sustained critique of the so-called ontological turn—one of anthropology’s hottest trends—and, above all, an urgent call for scholars and activists alike to rethink their notions of difference. 

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In 2004, one of the world’s last bands of voluntarily isolated nomads left behind their ancestral life in the dwindling thorn forests of northern Paraguay, fleeing ranchers’ bulldozers.  Behold the Black Caiman is Lucas Bessire’s intimate chronicle of the journey of this small group of Ayoreo people, the terrifying new world they now f...

Lucas Bessire is assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Oklahoma. He is the producer and director of the documentary film From Honey to Ashes. 

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Kobo ebook|Nov 19 2012

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:296 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 inPublished:October 24, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022617557X

ISBN - 13:9780226175577

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Prefatory Note

Introduction: A New World

1 The Devil and the Fetishization of Tradition
2 The Lost Center of the World
3 Hunting Indians
4 Mediating the New Human
5 Apocalypse and the Limits of Transformation
6 Shame and the Limits of the Subject
7 Affliction and the Limits of Becoming
8 The Politics of Isolation

Conclusion: Behold the Black Caiman

Acknowledgments
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

“Bessire presents the reader with a plethora of unruly images and evocative vignettes of Ayoreo life which never surrender to a single, univocal narrative. His account is purposefully complex. In a world where sensationalized images of the “last contacted Indians” are regularly consumed to satiate our hunger for otherness, and in an academy where indigenous ways of life are increasingly emphasized as the only true political alternative to our world, Bessire’s book is a much-needed different voice.”