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Upriver

by Michael F. Brown

In this remarkable story of one manâe(tm)s encounter with an indigenous people of Peru, Michael Brown guides his readers upriver into a contested zone of the Amazonian frontier, where more than 50,000 Awajúnâe"renowned for their pugnacity and fierce independenceâe"remain determined, against long odds, to live life on their own terms. When Brown took up residence with the Awajún in 1976, he knew little about them other than their ancestorsâe(tm) reputation as fearsome headhunters. The fledgling anthropologist was immediately impressed by his hostsâe(tm) vivacity and resourcefulness. But eventually his investigations led him into darker corners of a world where murderous vendettas, fear of sorcery, and a shocking incidence of suicide were still common. Peruâe(tm)s Shining Path insurgency in the 1980s forced Brown to refocus his work elsewhere. Revisiting his field notes decades later, now with an older manâe(tm)s understanding of lifeâe(tm)s fragility, Brown saw a different story: a tribal society trying, and sometimes failing, to maintain order in the face of an expanding capitalist frontier. Curious about how the Awajún were faring, Brown returned to the site in 2012, where he found a people whose combative self-confidence had led them to the forefront of South Americaâe(tm)s struggle for indigenous rights. Written with insight, sensitivity, and humor, Upriver paints a vivid picture of a rapidly growing population that is refashioning its warrior tradition for the twenty-first century. Embracing literacy and digital technology, the Awajún are using hard-won political savvy to defend their rainforest home and right of self-determination.

Who Owns Native Culture?

by Michael F. Brown

The practical and artistic creations of native peoples permeate everyday life in settler nations, from the design elements on our clothing to the plot-lines of books we read to our children. Rarely, however, do native communities benefit materially from this use of their heritage, a situation that drives growing resistance to what some denounce as "cultural theft." Who Owns Native Culture? documents the efforts of indigenous peoples to redefine heritage as a proprietary resource. Michael Brown takes readers into settings where native peoples defend what they consider their cultural property: a courtroom in Darwin, Australia, where an Aboriginal artist and a clan leader bring suit against a textile firm that infringes sacred art; archives and museums in the United States, where Indian tribes seek control over early photographs and sound recordings collected in their communities; and the Mexican state of Chiapas, site of a bioprospecting venture whose legitimacy is questioned by native-rights activists. By focusing on the complexity of actual cases, Brown casts light on indigenous claims in diverse fields--religion, art, sacred places, and botanical knowledge. He finds both genuine injustice and, among advocates for native peoples, a troubling tendency to mimic the privatizing logic of major corporations. The author proposes alternative strategies for defending the heritage of vulnerable native communities without blocking the open communication essential to the life of pluralist democracies. Who Owns Native Culture? is a lively, accessible introduction to questions of cultural ownership, group privacy, intellectual property, and the recovery of indigenous identities.

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