In defense of the heart: An Amazonian politics of respect

Harry Walker


The concept of defense-respect is elaborated here as a cornerstone of Urarina ethics and politics and an alternative to the concept of respect inherited from the Kantian tradition. While similarly expressing a kind of liberal and egalitarian ethos, it is founded on very different premises, for the worth of an individual has little to do with their inherent dignity or membership in a common humanity, and emerges instead from concrete, practical knowledge in the context of an ongoing relationship. Defense-respect demands a willingness to take on responsibility for another’s well-being and to abstain from certain forms of evaluation or judgment. It is not opposed to love or care, but as an art of diplomacy and civility and vehicle of moral power, proves crucial for the successful management of social distance.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1086/723047