27 Jul 2023  |  Diego Muñoz

Rapanui memorial practice of Indigenous and National sovereignties. (Easter Island and Chile)

DGSKA Conference (LMU Munich, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology)

On September 9, 1888, the Chilean State incorporated Easter Island through a treaty of annexation, a text written in two languages: Spanish and Polynesian. For many years, only the Spanish content of the treaty circulated in the press and books. In this text, the chiefs of the island ceded their sovereignty to the Chilean state ‘forever and unconditionally’ while, at the same time, ‘maintaining their titles of chiefs’. However, the Rapanui people have always contested this official narrative with an Indigenous version transmitted through chants, gestures, narratives, and particular material expressions. These memorial practice and knowledge acquired renewed relevance when the bilingual version of the treaty was rediscovered, thus opening this history to a fundamental misunderstanding about the notion of ‘sovereignty transfer’.
In this presentation, I analyze the Rapanui version of the annexation and its memorial practices and knowledges. First, I focus on the fundamental aspects and supports of the Indigenous version of the event. Second, I analyze the bilingual text of the treaty, focusing on the Polynesian part to identify and understand the underlying Indigenous concepts, epistemologies and knowledges. Finally, I discuss the theoretical and methodological relevance of Indigenous memorial practices and its authenticity for the analysis of a particular historical event.

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The paper will be presented as part of the conference workshop no. 10 "The Knowledge we live by: Authenticity and its Contestations as Epistemic Process", hosted by Maike Melles and Jeanine Dağyeli.

The conference of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologieon, DGSKA (German Anthropological Association, GAA) “Contested Knowledge: Anthropological Perspectives“ will take place in Munich from 25 – 28 July 2023. It is organised and hosted by the GAA together with the Munich Institute for Social and Cultural Anthropology.