cover of book

Predatory Economies: The Sanema and the Socialist State in Contemporary Amazonia
by Amy Penfield
University of Texas Press, 2023
Cloth: 978-1-4773-2707-4 | Paper: 978-1-4773-2708-1 | eISBN: 978-1-4773-2709-8
Library of Congress Classification F2520.1.G68P46 2023
Dewey Decimal Classification 305.898087


A study of the modes of predation used by and against the Sanema people of Venezuela.

Predation is central to the cosmology and lifeways of the Sanema-speaking Indigenous people of Venezuelan Amazonia, but it also marks their experience of modernity under the socialist “Bolivarian” regime and its immense oil wealth. Yet predation is not simply violence and plunder. For Sanema people, it means a great deal more: enticement, seduction, persuasion. It suggests an imminent threat but also opportunity and even sanctuary.

Amy Penfield spent two and a half years in the field, living with and learning from Sanema communities. She discovered that while predation is what we think it is—invading enemies, incursions by gold miners, and unscrupulous state interventions—Sanema are not merely prey. Predation, or appropriation without reciprocity, is essential to their own activities. They use predatory techniques of trickery in hunting and shamanism activities, while at the same time, they employ tactics of manipulation to obtain resources from neighbors and from the state. A richly detailed ethnography, Predatory Economies looks beyond well-worn tropes of activism and resistance to tell a new story of agency from an Indigenous perspective.

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