Date of Award

5-1-2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Hill, Jonathan

Abstract

This dissertation addresses the intersection of rhetoric and material exchange in the construction of political alliance and conflict between the Waraos indigenous population and the non-indigenous institutions and political actors in the Orinoco Delta, Venezuela. It deals with the discursive and material strategies used to construct political reality at the moment of the emergence of one of the so-called new South American left wing populist governments (Hugo Chavez presidency since 1998). These historical circumstances present an opportunity to open a discussion bringing together the recent developments of discourse-centered approaches to culture, language ideologies, and the most classical theories on material exchange. This research's aim is to understand how multiple sign systems (in this case language and material gifts) interact, contradict, and support each other. In sum, this dissertation uses the advances of discourse-centered approaches to culture and the anthropological theories of exchange to understand how language and gift giving has shaped history and political imagination in the Orinoco Delta and Venezuela.

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