Bureaucratic anxiety: Asymmetrical interactions and the role of documents in the Orinoco Delta, Venezuela

Olivier Allard


This article, which focuses on relations between Warao Amerindians and nonnative agents, describes documents as an opaque medium of interaction whose meaning is far from being shared, and which also create doubts as to the identity of the people involved. It suggests that such uncertainty is integral to the Warao’s involvement in asymmetrical relations with outsiders, which are inextricably political, economic, and moral. The current situation largely results from past administration by Spanish Catholic missionaries, and from the later involvement of Venezuela’s native population in national politics. Nowadays, documents are used by the Warao to switch between appeals to personal compassion and claims to administrative rights, and bureaucratic dealings are primarily articulated around the performative nature of writing. This also accounts for the mix of hope and anxiety that pervades the Warao’s interactions with nonnatives, when they use the latter’s own technology to impinge on them.



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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14318/hau2.2.013