Changing livelihoods and language repertoires: hunting, fishing and gold mining in the southeast Peruvian Amazon

Sheila Aikman 1
  • 1 University of East Anglia, NR4 7TJ, Norwich, UK
Sheila Aikman

Abstract

This article investigates how over the space of three decades the language repertoires of the Arakmbut people of the southeast Peruvian Amazon have shifted from being predominantly Harakmbut language based to Spanish language based. It asks not how one language has come to replace another in the daily lives of the Arakmbut, but what this shift represents in terms of changing lifestyles, social relations, desirable affiliations and the changing value Harakmbut and Spanish language resources have for them in furthering these relationships. Drawing on long term ethnographic research, it presents four scenarios over this period through which the changes in Arakmbut livelihoods from hunting and fishing to gold mining are discussed and what these changes mean in terms of their social, cultural and spiritual relationships with their territory. As their livelihoods have become more entwined with the gold economy and new national alliances and international networks, they have sought to reshape their communicative repertoires to respond to and ensure their continuing access to resources for their health and stability as a community in an intense and fast moving social, economic and cultural landscape.

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