Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412952453 | Print ISBN: 9780761930297 | Online ISBN: 9781412952453| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Meredith Dudley & James Welch
Amazonia . The name conjures western images of luxuriant vegetation, unbridled nature, and vast, unexplored lands. Whether envisioned as a tropical paradise or a “green hell,” the salience of the naturalistic and idealistic features associated with Amazonia has implications for the perception of its human inhabitants. From its inception, Amazonian anthropology has been a highly contested and fractured intellectual field, partly resulting from the manner in which Amazonia was imagined as a cultural category of colonialism centuries before the advent of modern ethnographic exploration. Early European encounters with indigenous Amazonians provoked debates about the nature of humanity in a manner that would inform subsequent centuries of colonial rule. Yet we can distinguish Amazonia from other colonized regions partly by the manner in which its native peoples were characterized as the prototypical primitive people. Long before ethnographic investigations of Amazonian societies, Westerners stereotyped Amazonians as savages, noble or otherwise, and considered ...