The Terms of Culture - Anthropological Quarterly, Special ... Image 1

The Terms of Culture - Anthropological Quarterly, Special Collection, vol. 95 n°3

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Depuis plusieurs décennies, les groupes autochtones d’Amérique latine ont non seulement été conduit à se présenter comme les détenteurs d’une « culture », mais aussi à s’appuyer sur cette objectivation de soi pour faire respecter leurs droits collectifs. Si l’on a beaucoup écrit sur l'omniprésence d’un idiome culturel mondialisé, lié à une technocratie transnationale, aux agences d'État et aux ONG, ou encore à l’imposition d’une culture-marchandise, on s’est en revanche assez peu interrogé sur les emplois concrets et situés du terme de « culture » tel que le mobilise les Amérindiens, et en étant attentifs aux circonstances de son usage plutôt qu’aux usages de circonstances. C’est à combler cette lacune qu’entend contribuer ce dossier. Soucieux de comprendre l'interface terminologique entre des mots imposés par les langues nationales tels que « culture », « tradition », « patrimoine » ou « coutume », et les ressources linguistiques vernaculaires mobilisées en acte par les Amérindiens, ce dossier permet de reconsidérer l’appropriation du terme-concept de culture par la pratique. Que ce soit au prisme de problèmes de traduction, en s’intéressant à des processus historiques marqués par la christianisation, ou encore à travers l’examen de subtilités grammaticales, il propose ainsi de nouvelles pistes d’analyse qui démontrent que les groupes autochtones d’Amérique sont loin de parler l’idiome mondialisé de la culture de la même manière.


Vincent Hirtzel, Anath Ariel de Vidas
Introduction: The Terms of Culture: Idioms of Reflexivity Among Indigenous Peoples in Latin America

From the mid-1980s, indigenous groups in Latin America gradually began using the expression "our culture" in general reference to the practices, skills, or artefacts particular to them. In so doing, they were mirroring the parallel expression "your culture" that served to designate them from an outside perspective. These possessive expressions, in the first or second person—initially used in the national languages (Spanish or Portuguese)—emerged from a closely interconnected institutional, national, and international context. They passed thus into mainstream discourse, and even, in some cases, into indigenous languages themselves, with the help of two successive "boosts." The first of these came in the 1980s, in the political and legal domains: driven by indigenous political activism, the emergence of these expressions benefitted from the normative impact resulting from the work of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in regard to "indigenous and tribal" peoples, particularly through the enactment of Convention 169 (1989). Whether in Mexico, Brazil, or Bolivia [End Page 513] (where the case studies in this special collection are taken from), this first phase also coincided with constitutional recognition by these States of their pluricultural makeup. This shift was further encouraged, in the background, by the not too insignificant support of the Catholic Church (historically a major player in relations with indigenous groups in Latin America) following the "culturalist turn" advanced by the missionary commitments of the Second Vatican Council.

• Marie Chosson
From Talel to Cultural Rights: The Challenge of Translating Transnational Discourse on Indigenous Rights in the Tseltal Area

This paper explores the tensions and problems in the translation process of the terms "culture," "tradition," and "custom" in different versions of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples produced in Tseltal, a Maya language. Mirroring these translations with the meaning of all terms related to these concepts and used in the local's everyday life allows assessing important semantic divergences between the source and target languages. These concepts became indispensable tools for intercultural dialogues in socio-political claims. A careful attention to their translation reveals the creation of intermediary semantic spaces using neologisms or attributions of new meaning to existing forms. It also underlines the desire of their authors to adapt universal discourse to local context, in a complex cross-cultural translation that meets external expectations and actors' interests.

• Anath Ariel de Vidas, Vincent Hirtzel, Dominic Horsfall
From Custom to Culture: The Archeology of Two Identification Terms Among Bolivian and Mexican Amerindians

Latin American multiculturalist policies have increased the visibility of Amerindian groups through the term "culture," which has become the key for these groups to enter the national and international scene. Although this term is now often used strategically at the interface between indigenous and non-indigenous groups, another comparable term exists more specifically in Hispanic America. This is the term "costumbre," widely used among Amerindian people to designate a set of endorsed practices or those of others. Moreover, some Amerindian groups have incorporated this Spanish word into their own indigenous languages to refer to this type of practice. What then does the relation between these two terms within Amerindian groups indicate? Drawing on the ethnographic examples of two distinct and geographically separate contemporary groups—the Nahuatl-speaking people of La Huasteca in Mexico and the Yuracaré of the Andean foothills in Bolivia—this paper proposes a conceptual archaeology that demonstrates that, far from being interchangeable, these two terms are part of distinct logics stemming from two historical phases of institutional policies designed to integrate Amerindian populations. Their analysis reveals different forms of governance as well as different forms of appropriation of these terms by Indian populations.

Valentina Vapnarsky, Cédric Yvinec, Cédric Becquey
"Culture:" Say it with grammar!: The Expression of Notions Related to "Culture" in Amerindian Languages

Amerindian languages have often borrowed the lexical terms of colonial languages that refer to "culture," "tradition," or "heritage," or else created neologisms for them. Amerindian languages, however, express related notions through grammatical forms, rather than with lexical terms. In contrast to lexical terms, grammatical elements are normally more constrained, less open to reflexivity for the speaker but nonetheless manipulable while also being the product of recurrent verbal and interactional practices. This article focuses on three grammatical domains: temporal configurations, expressions of person and agency, and epistemicity. For each of these, we study the contextual use of relevant linguistic constructions, especially in situations in which speakers can resort to different expressions to refer to "cultural" practices, each of which implies different attitudes towards "culture." The study is based on three languages—two Mayan languages from Mexico (Yucatec and Chol), and one Tupian from Brazil (Suruí of Rondônia)—whose speakers experience very different situations regarding the definition of their "culture," by themselves and by others.

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