Predatory Economies: The Sanema and The Socialist State in Contemporary Amazonia

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Predatory Economies: The Sanema and The Socialist State in Contemporary Amazonia

Thursday 9 March 2023, 4-5.30pm

Desert Room, School of Geography and the Environment

All welcome


Speaker: Dr Amy Penfield (University of Bristol)

A Yanomami language group known as the Sanema inhabit the rainforests of southern Venezuela; they hunt, fish, forage, trek, and heal through shamanism. Much of their life centers around relations with the surrounding forest that is governed by a predator-prey dynamic. Yet there is more going on here too; the Sanema are becoming increasingly integrated into broader national and global economies, encounters that are likewise shaped by their deep-seated cultural categories of predation. In this talk I will outline these themes that make up the central premise of my new book Predatory Economies. This book provides an ethnographic account of a rapidly transforming Amazonia, where a rapacious gold rush, a pervasive oil economy, a deepening dependence on gasoline, participation in party politics, and a set of smothering bureaucratic procedures increasingly form part of everyday life for Venezuela’s indigenous peoples. Much of these new experiences emerge from their rapid incorporation into the initiatives of the socialist Venezuelan state led by the charismatic and populist president, Hugo Chavez. Sanema people can “hunt” resources from the state as much as fall prey to its manifold forms of trickery, and as such a complex story unfolds in which it is not always so easy to distinguish between predator and prey. This talk will reflect, in particular, on predation as an economic modality of the global economy at large, bringing to light what Sanema experiences might contribute to a new way of contending with this contemporary era of precarity, inequality, and ecological catastrophe.


Part of the Critical Indigenous Studies Network events.