Cultuvating the Real at the Edge of the Forest: A Cine-Ethnography of Embodied Knowledges and Entangled Selves among the Shuar and Wampis in Northwest Amazonia

  • Akimi Ota

Student thesis: Phd


The film, Kanarta, and the accompanying text Cultivating the Real at the Edge of the Forest are the outcome of a multimedia research inquiry into the praxis, perspectives and desires of Shuar and Wampis forest people living in the Amazonian region of Southern Ecuador and Northern Peru. The film and text combine to produce a sensory exploration of the entanglements of diverse ecological, environmental and socio-political forces that characterise this region. While critical of approaches that posit a generalised Amerindian ontology, the work also recognises the importance of not discarding or dissolving a sense of Amerindian authenticity. Rather, the research shows how a sense of Amazonian reality emerges in heterogeneous processes of unfolding and negotiation. To this end the film and written text focus on the lifeworlds of indigenous Amazonian forest dwellers, demonstrating how indigenous knowledges emerge and are articulated in times of uncertainty, with particular attention given to how practices and relationships are continually rewoven, enmeshed and constituted as real. Grounded in considerations of the body and of perception at the intersection of phenomenology and specifically Amazonian theories of corporeality, I unravel the complex arts of relating with Others, both human and non-human, including plants, animals, spirits, and other features of the natural environment. The concrete practices and events considered in this research (such as communal works, plant-induced dreaming, experiences of illness, knowledge-making and relations of care) are related to a quest for the real Amazon-ness that arises at a time when such authenticity is seen by local inhabitants as elusive and un-assured. The audiovisual material forms the core of the thesis, rather than serving as a secondary element to illustrate the text. Approached in this way, the film Kanarta (147) presents at once an assemblage of potentialities that nurture the sensory, experiential and synesthetic apprehension of relevant ethnographic moments, and a standalone cinematic endeavour that engages with the lifeworlds of the two main protagonists, Sebastian and Pastora, a Shuar-Quichua couple living in Ecuadorian Amazonia. By appropriating techniques of filming and editing largely inspired by cinema verite, the film shows how the immersive and inter-subjective storytelling of cine-ethnography can open new perspectives on indigenous knowledge practices.
Date of Award1 Aug 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorPenelope Harvey (Supervisor) & Angela De Souza Torresan (Supervisor)


  • Taste
  • Human-Plant Relationship
  • Food
  • Drink
  • Eating
  • House-Building
  • Medicine
  • Ayahuasca
  • Datura
  • Deforestation
  • Subjectivity
  • Performativity
  • Dreaming
  • Peru
  • Amazonia
  • Senses
  • Shuar
  • Ecuador
  • Jivaro
  • Visual Anthropology
  • Ethnographic Cinema
  • Wampis
  • Materiality
  • Conviviality
  • Sociality
  • Perception
  • Sensory
  • Phenomenology

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