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Radio FieldsAnthropology and Wireless Sound in the 21st Century$
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Lucas Bessire and Daniel Fisher

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814771679

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814771679.001.0001

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“We Go Above”

“We Go Above”

Media Metaphysics and Making Moral Life on Ayoreo Two-Way Radio

(p.197) 10 “We Go Above”
Radio Fields

Lucas Bessire

NYU Press

This chapter examines the intensive use of a transnational, solar-powered, two-way radio network among recently contacted Ayoreo-speaking people of the Gran Chaco, located on both sides of the Bolivia–Paraguay border. Drawing on the author's months of fieldwork among Ayoreo-speaking people, the chapter shows how such people use two-way radio sets to build cross-border alliances around formulaic expressions of everyday emotion and news of suffering or ill bodies. It considers how such expressions catalyze the circulation of Ayoreo metaphysical theories predicated on the notion that radio circuitry both accelerates and regulates the movement of a soul-matter intrinsic to all forms of moral agency, particularly sympathetic speech, healing, and prayer. These radio metaphysics are aimed at transcending, rather than preserving, the practices and selves associated with a past “tradition” that is now considered dangerously immoral. In this sense, two-way radio becomes an effective technology for collective self-objectification by linguistically standardizing a unique Ayoreo vision of moral modernity around phatic exchanges in a transcendent acoustic space.

Keywords:   two-way radio, Ayoreo-speaking people, Gran Chaco, Bolivia–Paraguay border, radio circuitry, soul-matter, moral agency, radio metaphysics, self-objectification, acoustic space

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