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The river echoes with laughter: a child-centred analysis of social change in Amazonia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)137-154
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number1
Early online date12 Jan 2017
DateAccepted/In press - 1 Jun 2016
DateE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jan 2017
DatePublished (current) - Mar 2017


This article examines radical social, cultural, and political changes taking place in Amazonia from the perspective of indigenous children and youth: a group who, despite their demographic prevalence, have received limited attention in the regional literature. Drawing on fieldwork with Matses people in Peru, I consider how children and youth are playing a critical role in the transition from a hunter-gatherer, forest-based society towards a riverine lifestyle that is increasingly engaged in trade, the market economy, and exchanges with chotac, or non-indigenous people. I argue that by engaging with their surroundings through playing and working, Matses children are becoming affectively attached to some parts of the world rather than others. This represents a purposeful shift from the lifestyle and worldviews of older generations and highlights how children are active agents who shape possible future directions of Matses society and transform the community's relationships with the world. Accordingly, I propose a child-centred view of social change that seeks to demonstrate the implications of children's creativity and agency for society at large and its future development.

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