Vinicius de Aguiar Furuie

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Princeton U.

Grant number

Gr. 9403

Approve Date

April 18, 2017

Project Title

de Aguiar Furuie, Vinicius, Princeton U., Princeton, NJ - To aid research on 'Xingu River Trade: An Ethnography of Value in the Belo Monte Dam Area,' supervised by Joao Biehl

VINICIUS DE AGUIAR FURUIE, then a graduate student at Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey, was awarded funding in April 2017 to aid research on “Xingu River Trade: An Ethnography of Value in the Belo Monte Dam Area,” supervised by Joao Biehl. How do goods and people circulate in the Amazonian rivers far from towns and marketplaces? Riverside dwellers (ribeirinhos) and indigenous people in the upper Iriri river, in the Xingu valley of Eastern Brazilian Amazon, live a week by boat from the city of Altamira. They do business with river traders (regatão) to whom they sell mostly Brazil nuts, cocoa beans and fish but with whom they may trade chickens, cassava flour or even gold. The traders and the peoples that live in these remote places are bound by their complementary activities and have a complex relationship that encompasses kinship, affinity, economic calculation and feelings of mutual responsibility. In this project, the researcher lived with these families and travelled on trading boats to document how business is done in the absence of usual market institutions such as competition, regulation and arbitration. This ethnographic work examines the inner workings of debt and patronage and how they are discussed, performed and realized in Amazonian riverbanks, many times in contradiction to outsider’s expectations of exploitation, bondage and slavery. Close attention to relations revealed that successful transactions are often full of affects of care and broken deals become stories of their own, involving threats and refusals to cooperate that will sometimes last for decades.