Self-Immolation Among the Suruwahá: A Case Study on Human Sacrifice

Braulia Ines Barbosa Ribeiro

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


This paper discusses the anthropological approach that undergirds the study of the practice of suicide, the ritual of self-immolation practiced by the Suruwahá an indigenous group of fewer than one hundred people living in the southwest of the Brazilian Amazon basin. I will argue that the interpretation offered by Amerindian Perspectivism, which is prevalent among scholars of Amerindian cultures does not describe the religious nature of such ritual thus leading to one-dimensional readings of it. I will examine the scholarly influences behind the exegesis of such ritual made by some anthropologists, that privilege a secular language isolating, therefore, the Amerindian phenomena from its relation to the religious literature of sacrifice hence ignoring its inherent mystic nature, and reducing the meaning of these practices to social processes of validation and individuation. This paper proposes a different look at the Suruwahá self-immolation ritual applying a religious hermeneutics and the taxonomy of sacrifice proposed by Evans-Pritchard.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropaeum Classics Colloquium on Sacrifice
Place of PublicationKrakow
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2019


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