Praying and Preying offers one of the rare anthropological monographs on the Christian experience of contemporary Amazonian indigenous peoples, based on an ethnographic study of the relationship between the Wari’, inhabitants of Brazilian Amazonia, and the Evangelical missionaries of the New Tribes Mission. Vilaça turns to a vast range of historical, ethnographic and mythological material related to both the Wari’ and missionaries perspectives and the author’s own ethnographic field notes from her more than 30-year involvement with the Wari’ community. Developing a close dialogue between the Melanesian literature, which informs much of the recent work in the Anthropology of Christianity, and the concepts and theories deriving from Amazonian ethnology, in particular the notions of openness to the other, unstable dualism, and perspectivism, the author provides a fine-grained analysis of the equivocations and paradoxes that underlie the translation processes performed by the different agents involved and their implications for the transformation of the native notion of personhood.
Aparecida Vilaça is Associate Professor at the Graduate Program in Social Anthropology at the Museu Nacional, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. She is the author of Strange Enemies, Quem somos nós, and Comendo como gente and coeditor of Native Christians.
"Praying and Preying is a remarkably original and important study."—Anthropology Review Database
"This volume is an outstanding model of how ethnography and theory can illuminate each other. Drawing on a sophisticated command of anthropology’s central debates and decades of careful research with the Wari', Aparecida Vilaça’s masterful discussion is a real gem."—Webb Keane, author of Christian Moderns: Freedom and Fetish in the Mission Encounter
"This book will be something of a milestone in the long journey anthropology has made in the company of people facing vast changes in their lives. Vilaça brings to a new level recent probings of Christian practice: as it becomes a vehicle through which the Amazonian Wari' give shape to their world, Christianity itself shifts, and it is no longer quite the perspective on change an outsider might have thought. Frankly and lucidly written, this is a superb testimony to the openness of first-hand inquiry." —Marilyn Strathern, University of Cambridge