Get access
American Anthropologist

Kalapalo Biography: Psychology and Language in a South American Oral History



Kalapalo warrior biographies are concerned with dialogical processes of challenge, resistance, debate, and the negotiation of meaning—with the struggles that take place as people try to understand and experience anew. Although warriors were trained to aggressively defend their communities against enemies, these narratives describe how they attempted to refashion ideological forms connected with ethnic allegiance and moral community. The personalities of warriors, closely connected to the training they underwent in adolescence, are particularly important in this regard. While biographies are often understood as texts in which history is merely a context surrounding the progress of individuals, descriptions of personal development are shown here to constitute testimony about historical processes themselves, in this case the experiences of refugees fleeing from centers of European expansion in lowland South America.

Get access to the full text of this article