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Demonic trade: debt, materiality, and agency in Amazonia

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This article examines Amazonian Urarina engagements with the system of debt peonage in light of the conceptual and ontological premises of the traditional subsistence economy. It argues that to view debt as a mechanism for harnessing indigenous labour is inadequate for comprehending the wilfulness with which Urarina indebt themselves to outsiders today, which should instead be considered in terms of local theories of agency and an aversion to immediate, market-style exchange. This relational and hierarchically distributed view of agency is further implicated in ideas surrounding industrial goods, which are ascribed to the Devil as their putative maker and owner, and who is seen as the source of their power over people in this life and the next. If this brand of commodity 'fetishism' expresses moral ambivalence towards capitalism, it also mediates otherwise contradictory forms of production and exchange, repudiating the possibility of total rupture between persons and things

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