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State Healthcare and Yanomami Transformations
A Symmetrical Ethnography
By José Antonio Kelly
280 pp. / 6.00 in x 9.00 in / 2011
Cloth (978-0-8165-2920-9) [s]
  - First Peoples: New Directions in Indigenous Studies

Related Interest
  - Anthropology

Amazonian indigenous peoples have preserved many aspects of their culture and cosmology while also developing complex relationships with dominant non-indigenous society. Until now, anthropological
Kelly's book provides a timely addition to the anthropological Amazonianist literature that is seeking to locate Indigenous peoples as active agents in contemporary society.


This introspective and comprehensive study in contemporary Venezuela is a prime example of a new turn taking place in twenty-first-century field anthropology. The most audacious, perspicacious, and practicable of the recent books in its genre.

—Roy Wagner, author of Coyote Anthropology

writing on Amazonian peoples has been divided between "traditional" topics like kinship, cosmology, ritual, and myth, on the one hand, and the analysis of their struggles with the nation-state on the other. What has been lacking is work that bridges these two approaches and takes into consideration the meaning of relationships with the state from an indigenous perspective.

That long-standing dichotomy is challenged in this new ethnography by anthropologist José Kelly. Kelly places the study of culture and cosmology squarely within the context of the modern nation-state and its institutions. He explores Indian-white relations as seen through the operation of a state-run health system among the indigenous Yanomami of southern Venezuela.

With theoretical foundations in the fields of medical and Amazonian anthropology, Kelly sheds light on how Amerindian cosmology shapes concepts of the state at the community level. The result is a symmetrical anthropology that treats white and Amerindian perceptions of each other within a single theoretical framework, thus expanding our understanding of each group and its influences on the other. This book will be valuable to those studying Amazonian peoples, medical anthropology, development studies, and Latin America. Its new takes on theory and methodology make it ideal for classroom use.

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