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Using Color in Amazonian Kichwa

Year: 2023

Presenter Name: Addy Mangum

This ethnographic thesis discusses color within Ecuadorian Amazonian Kichwa and aims to establish the ways in which color may (or may not) be abstracted, problematize the western imposition of hue as a cultural category, and propose that color is not its own category in Kichwa, but a subset of a cultural category of analogy.
Data was originally collected at the Iyarina Research Station in Tena, Ecuador. Methodology included ethnographic interviews with native speakers of Kichwa, participant observation (particularly during the painting of bowls and faces), and elicitation using color wheels and color boards. Color wheels were based on HSV color space controlling for lightness to test for the role of hue and saturation in dividing color space. Color boards were based on those by Munsell (1913), though altered to account for hue, saturation, and lightness, taking an even sampling from the Natural Color System (1979).
The thesis includes an overview of color terms, and use of color in communication by native speakers of the Napo and Pastaza Lowland dialects and is divided into two parts. The first part provides an updated, comprehensive list of current color terms, basic and otherwise, including physical and cultural traits with which each term is associated. The development of color terms in Kichwa is compared to the hue model proposed by Berlin and Kay (1969), which is critiqued as problematic, especially in the case of the metonymic term ushpa. The second part examines color in the context of Kichwa cosmology, particularly the relationships between persons, plants, and animals. Analogy is established as a predominant and highly valued cultural category. This thesis concludes that most basic terms are unnecessary and inefficient to Kichwa speakers, who prefer an analogical method to categorize color. It challenges cross-cultural and -lingual assumptions about how color is named, abstracted, and categorized.
University / Institution: Brigham Young University
Type: Poster
Format: In Person
Presentation #C36
SESSION C (1:45-3:15PM)
Area of Research: Social Sciences
Faculty Mentor: Gregory Thompson