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For the Suya, a Ge-speaking tribe of Central Brazil, nature and culture are perceived as fundamental opposites. Yet surprisingly few basic principles seem to underlie both Suya cosmology and society on their various levels—from the construction of villages and the classification of animals and humans to body ornamentation, dietary restrictions, myths, and curing chants.
In this integrated and far-reaching analysis, Anthony Seeger makes a significant contribution to the structural inquiry into lowland South American cosmologies begun by Lévi-Strauss. He delineates various strata of the Suya world—perceptions of time and space, kinship, politics and medicine, groupings of animals, plants, and humans—and evolves a simple set of beliefs about nature and transformation that seems to govern all of them. His is an extremely rich and lucid account of the field methods, experiences, and observations that comprised the exploration into a hitherto unfamiliar tribe.