chapter  1
25 Pages

Kinship and the Child

WithCecilia McCallum

Making kin, through procreation, childbirth and childcare, is for the Cashinahua the archetypal process whereby real people are made. The fluid and permeable separation between living persons and supernatural entities means that sex with spirits in corporeal form may also result in conception, though these babies are malformed or born as twins. Women give birth inside their own houses, in the privacy of their mosquito-nets, with the help of at least one other woman, usually the mother or any close female friend. A newborn child receives its ‘true name’, kena kuin, within a week or so of birth. The naming system works according to a principle of ‘parallel transmission’. The Cashinahua idea of nabu kuin corresponds to the notion of bilateral kindred. The nabu kuin are Ego’s cognatically reckoned relations, to the level of two ascending and descending generations. Girls spend most time with their chichi, maternal aunts, mother and eldest sisters.