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Cultural Autonomy vs. Hegemonic Knowledge in the Peruvian Amazon: The Case of an Egalitarian Community Facing Globalized Discourses on Development

This project focuses on the process of maintaining the cultural autonomy of the egalitarian social system of Mestizo-Ribereños in the Alto-Momon (Peruvian Amazon). Their system is based on a specific regime of collective "social speech". Although the analysis of any rural subaltern population cannot be isolated from the analysis of the bigger society they belong to andbecause this society imposes social, economic, and political structural conditions. I demonstrate in my thesis the importance of recognising the originality of thought and knowledge of these subordinate groups even though they are subject to the direction and domination of the group in power. Indeed, the recognition of this uniqueness opens new opportunities for studying, especially for understanding social inequalities in their local management and their entanglement in the global world system. For nearly a century, the Mestizo-Ribereños have gradually colonised the Momon river and constituted themselves into “headless” societies (without a chef) that neutralise the emergence of social inequalities at a local level. Nowadays, the balance of their social system is threatened by the action of two international actors: NGOs and oil companies, conveying a global discourse on knowledge. Observing the actions of these actors will allow us to study the entanglement of cross-regional inequalities. In both cases, one central question remains: What are the local consequences of the globalisation of discourse on knowledge? We will analyse how this hegemonic knowledge denigrates the local social reality, considering the globalized economic and sociocultural ideal as the only reference to define what is “desirable” for the “poor” and for the global interest.

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