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Between Will and Thought: Individualism and Social Responsiveness in Amazonian Child Rearing

Mezzenzana, Francesca (2020) Between Will and Thought: Individualism and Social Responsiveness in Amazonian Child Rearing. American Anthropologist, 122 (3). pp. 540-553. ISSN 0002-7294. (doi:10.1111/aman.13345) (KAR id:79331)

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This essay provides an ethnographic account of how moral dispositions towards independence and social responsiveness are forged during infancy and toddlerhood among the Runa, an indigenous people in the Ecuadorian Amazon. I will show how two local concepts, munay (will) and yuyay (thought) shape children’s early experiences of the self and the self in relation to others. In particular, I will argue that, unlike middle class Anglo-Americans who repute paternal responsiveness to be necessary for a “healthy” child development, Runa adults strategically chose not to respond to children’s will in order to make them “thoughtful”. Such state of thoughtfulness, I argue, emerges from socialization practices which stress a child’s unique will while at the same time forcefully encourage the development of social responsiveness.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1111/aman.13345
Uncontrolled keywords: Child-rearing, individuality, responsibility, attachment, indigenous Amazonia
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Human and Social Sciences > School of Anthropology and Conservation
Depositing User: Francesca Mezzenzana
Date Deposited: 17 Dec 2019 18:08 UTC
Last Modified: 06 Apr 2022 22:08 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Mezzenzana, Francesca:
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