Life as a process of making in the Mixe Highlands (Oaxaca, Mexico): towards a ‘general pragmatics’ of life
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Perig Pitrou CNRS, Laboratoire d’Anthropologie Sociale
n contrast to Western philosophy, which has considered the distinction between life and the living to be fundamental, anthropology seems not to have given much thought to the difference between the two. However, the existence of an entity called ‘The One Who Makes Live’ among the Mixe, an Amerindian group living in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, proves that ethno-theories of non-Western peoples often make the distinction between the characteristics and vital processes of living beings (growth, degeneration, reproduction, etc.), on the one hand, and the more or less personified causes that produce them, on the other. Given these circumstances, this article pursues a two-fold objective. First, based on the results of ethnographic inquiry, it tries to describe the categories of nonhuman agents with which the Mixe understand this production or making of the living. Second, it suggests that, in parallel with numerous approaches developed by anthropologists past and present, the anthropology of life would benefit from an approach based on a ‘general pragmatics’ in order to better understand the diversity of conceptions of life.