Joanna Overing



Joanna Overing has spent a lifetime studying Amazonia. A major concern over the past several years has been directed toward understanding a set of issues on egalitarianism and individualism‚ among the indigenous peoples of Amazonia, which has led her to study Amazonian knowledges. Specifically her interest has been the explicit philosophy of power, modes of equality and materiality expressed by Piaroa in their cosmology, shamanic exegesis, daily living, myths, and rhetoric. Currently, she holds the title of Professor Emeritus at the University of St Andrews, Department of Social Anthropology.


  • 1975 The Piaroa; a People of the Orinoco Basin: A Study in Kinship and Marriage. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 236p.
  • 1977 Social Time and Social Space in Lowland South American Societies, Organizer (editor, with „Introduction‰ and „Conclusion) pages 7-394, Actes du XLIIe Congrès International des Américanistes, Vol. II, pp. 7-394. Paris.
  • 1985 Reason and Morality, ASA Monograph 24 celebrating the Malinowski centennial year, Editor. London: Tavistock Publications. 277p.
  • 2000 Key Concepts in Social Anthropology, Joint Publication with Nigel Rapport, London: Routledge Press.
  • 1998 Anthropology of Love and Anger: the aesthetics of conviviality in native South America, edited with Alan Passes. London: Routledge.
  • 2007 (in press) Key Concepts in Social Anthropology, 2nd Edition, joint publication with Nigel Rapport. London: Routledge Press.

Selected Articles and Chapters:

  • 1972 'Cognation, endogamy and teknonymy: the Piaroa example', South Western Journal of Anthropology 28, pp. 282-297
  • 1973 'Endogamy and the Marriage Alliance: a note on continuity in kindred-based groups', Man, 8(4): 555-570 (available on internet: JSTOR)
  • 1977 'Orientation for paper topics' and concluding 'Comments' in Symposium on 'Social Time and Social Space in Lowland South American Societies' J.Overing Kaplan, organizer, pp.9-10; 387-394 in Actes du XLLLe Congrès International des
    Américanistes, 1976, vol. II
  • 1981 Review article: 'Amazonian anthropology' in Journal of Latin American Studies, vol. 13, Part 1 May.
  • 1983/4 ' Elementary structures of reciprocity: a comparative note on Guianas, Central Brazilian and North West Amazon socio-political thought', in Themes in Political Organization: the Caribs and their Neighbours, pp.331-348. A. Colson and D. Heinen (eds.)in two special editions of Anthropologica, and in a separate volume, Caracas. Translated into Portuguese, 2002: "Estruturas elementares de reciprocidade: uma nota comparativa sobre o pensamento sócio-políticao nas Guianas, Brasil Central E Noroeste Amazonico". Cadernos de campo: Revista dos
    Alunos de Pos-Graduacão em Antropologia Social da USP, Ano 121-138.
  • 1984 'Dualisms as an expression of difference and danger: marriage exchange and reciprocity among the Piaroa of Venezuela', pp. 127-155 in Marriage Practices in Lowland South American Societies, K. Kensinger (ed.) University of Illinois Press.
  • 1985 'There is no end of evil: the guilty innocents and their fallible god' in The Anthropology of Evil, D. Parkin (ed.) pp.244-78, Blackwell Publications.
  • 1985 'Introduction' in Reason and Morality, in J. Overing (ed.) ASA Monograph 24, pp. 1-28, Tavistock Publications.
  • 1985 'Today I shall call him, "Mummy": Multiple Worlds and Classificatory confusion', in Reason and Morality, J. Overing (ed.) ASA Monograph 24, pp. 152-179, Tavistock Publications.
  • 1986 'Men control women? The 'Catch 22' in Gender Analysis' in International Journal of Moral and Social Studies, Vol. 1, part 2, pp. 135-156. Oxford.
  • 1986 'Images of Cannibalism, death and domination in a "non-violent" society'. Journal de Societe des Americanistes, LXXII, pp.133-156. 1986. An earlier version in D. Riches (ed.) 1986 The Anthropology of Violence, pp.86-102, Blackwell; and in D. Riches (ed.) 1988, El Fenomeno de la Violencia (Ediciones Piramida, S.A. Madrid)
  • 1987 'Translation as a creative process: the power of the name' in L. Holy (ed.) Comparative Anthropology, pp.70-87. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  • 1988 'Styles of manhood: an Amazonian contrast in tranquility and violence' in S. Howell and R. Willis (eds.) Societies at Peace pp 79-99. London: Tavistock Publications. (Available on Internet:
  • 1988 "Wotuha": In Los Aborigenes de Venezuela Vol. III, pp 307-412. Fundacion La Salle de Sciences Naturales, Caracas. Jointly with M.R. Kaplan.
  • 1989 'Personal autonomy and the domestication of self in Piaroa society' in G. Jahoda and I.M. Lewis (eds.), Acquiring Culture: Cross Cultural Studies in Child Development, pp.169-192. London: Croom Helm
  • 1989 "The aesthetics of production: the sense of community among the Cubeo and Piaroa" Dialectical Anthropology 14: 159-175. Portuguese translation: 1991 "A Estética da produção: o senso de comunidade entre os Cubeo e os Piaroa". Revista de Antropologia. São Paulo, USP, n.34, pp. 7-33. (available on internet, as RIS/text,
  • 1990 "The Shaman as a Maker of Worlds: Nelson Goodman in the Amazon", Man (N.S.) 25, 601-19. (Available on Internet: JSTOR), also translated into Portuguese: 1994 "O xamã como construtor de mundos: Nelson Goodman na Amazônia", in Idéias, Revista do Instituto de Filosofia e Ciencias Humanas, UNICAMP, Ano I, no 2, pp. 81-118.)
  • 1992 "Wandering in the market and the forest: an Amazonian theory of production and exchange", in (ed) R Dilley, Contesting Markets: Analyses of Ideology, Discourse and Practice, pp.182-200. Edinburgh University Press.
  • 1993 "The anarchy and collectivism of the "primitive other": Marx and Sahlins in the Amazon", in (ed) C Hann Socialism: Ideals, Ideologies, and Local Practice, pp. 43-58. ASA Monographs 31, Routledge. Translated into Russian: 1993 "Anarhiya i kollectivizm "primitivnogo drugogo": Marks i Sahlins o plemenach Basseyna Amazonki", In ŒVoprosy Teoriyi‚, Etnografitcheskoye Obozreniye, Otdelniy Ottisk, Rossiyskaya Akademiya, Moskva 1992 g. EO:6, pp. 31-46.
  • 1993 "Death and the loss of civilised predation among the Piaroa of the Orinoco Basin", L'Homme, Vol(s): XXV1-XXV111 (April-December), entitled "La Remontée de l'Amazone". pp. 195-215. (Available on internet: cached)
  • 1995 O mito como historia: um problema de tempo, realidade e outra Questoes. („Myth and History: the problem of time, reality, and other matters‰.) MANA, Estudos de Antropologia Social, Vol 1, Numero 1: 107-140. Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro. (Available on Internet)
  • 1996 "Aesthetics is a cross-cultural category: Against the motion", in Key Debates in Anthropological Theory, Tim Ingold(ed), pp. 260-265; 276-293. London: Routledge.
  • 1996 Who is the mightiest of them all? Jaguar and Conquistador in Piaroa images of alterity and identity." In Monsters, Tricksters and Sacred
    Cows, J. Arnold (ed), New World Studies, University Press of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, pp. 50-79. A latter version published in 1996: "The
    conquistadors of the jungle: images of the Spanish soldier in Piaroa cosmology.‰ Indiana, 14:179-200. Berlin.
  • 1997 "The Role of Myth: An Anthropological Perspective, or 'the reality of the really made up'". In Myths and Nationhood, George Schöpflin &
    Geoffrey Hosking (eds.), pp. 1-18.C. Hurst & Co: London.
  • 1998 "Is an anthropological translation of the 'unhomely' possible, or desirable?" ASCA :Intellectual Traditions in Movement (The Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis Yearbook), pp.101-116.
  • 2000 "The efficacy of laughter: the ludic side of magic within Amazonian sociality." In The Anthropology of Love and Anger: the aesthetics of
    conviviality in native South America, J. Overing and A. Passes eds. London: Routledge.
  • 2000 "Introduction: the opening up of Amazonian Anthropology‰, with A. Passes, in J. Overing & A. Passes (eds., The Anthropology of Love and Anger: the aesthetics of conviviality in native South America.
  • 2003 "In Praise of the Everyday: Trust and the Art of Social Living in an Amazonian Community". Ethnos, Vol, 68:3, Sept, (pp. 293-316). (Available on internet ˆHttp/ Originally published in Portuguese in 1999: "Elogio do cotidiano: a
    confiança e a arte da vida social em uma comunidade amazônia", Mana: Estudos de Antropologia Social, Vol 5, Numero 1:81-108,
    Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro. (Available on internet, HTML)
  • 2004 "The Grotesque Landscape of Mythic 'Before Time'; the Folly of Sociality in "Today Time': an Egalitarian Aesthetics of Human
    Existence", pp. 69-90, in E. Mader & E. Halbmayer, eds., Kultur, Raum, Landschaft, Frankfurt am Main: Brandes & Apsel/ Südwind.
  • 2004 "El "yo consciente", la "vida de los deseos" y el apego a las costumbres: una teoría piaroa de la práctica" ("The 'conscious I', 'the
    life of desires', and the attachment to custom: a Piaroa theory of practice".) In C. Ales & J. Chiappino, (eds) Caminos Cruzados: Ensayos
    en Antropología Social, Ethnoecología y Etnoeducación, pp. 241-254, IRD Editions/ ULA GRIAL (Institut de Rechereche pour le Développement
    Universidad de Los Andes, Grupo de Investigaciones Antropológicas y Linguisticas, Mérida, Venezuela.
  • 2006 "What's the difference between a Peace Corps worker and an anthropologist?: A millennium rethink of anthropological fieldwork". In
    D. Posey and Michael J. Balick, (eds), Human Impacts on the Environments of the Amazon, pp. 286-306. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • 2006 'The Backlash to Decolonizing Intellectuality‰, in Anthropology and Humanism, Vol. 31, No 1, pp. 11-40. Original version in Portuguese: 2004"A Reação contra a descolonizaçao da intelectualade", Ilha: Revista de Anthropologica, Florianopolis, Brazil.
  • 2007 (in press) "The stench of death and the aromas of life: poetics of ways of knowing and sensory process among Piaroa of the Orinoco Basin‰, in Fernando Santos-Granero and George Mentore (eds.), Special Issue in honor of Prof. Joanna Overing: In the World and About the World: Amerindian Modes of Knowledge. Tipití: Journal of the Society for the Anthropology of Lowland South America, and Sao Paulo: Revista de Antropologia.