Indigenous Multilingualism and Translation: The Creation of Intra- and Intersocial Hierarchies in the Communities of the Waorani People of Ecuador

  • Christina Korak
Keywords: Waorani, translation/transculturation, hierarchy-building processes, neocolonialism, Amazon rainforest

Abstract

The indigenous Waorani people of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest are immersed in a tightly woven net of neocolonial forces due to the presence of oil company workers, illegal loggers, and settlers pursuing individual interests in their territory. They also face the consequences of increasing bi- and multilingualism, resulting mostly from formal schooling in Waorani communities. This article addresses the institutions and individual actors exerting an influence on language use among the Waorani, and examines how language and translation foment intra- and intersocial hierarchies in the communities. Located at the interface between translation studies and cultural anthropology and based on empirical data and participant observation in the local community of Toñampari, the study highlights how bi- and multilingualism give way to the rise of “go-between” figures (Gondecki 315). The article shows that “go-betweens” display a crucial and often ambiguous position, which enables them to exercise a gate-keeping function in interpreting and translating events. This engenders possible conflicts of loyalty and on a larger scale contributes to aggravate unified action of the Waorani against the exploitation of the resources on their land

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