[This article is crossposted at FirstPeoplesNewDirections.org.]
In Native and National in Brazil: Indigeneity after Independence Tracy Devine Guzmán examines the contested process of constructing Indianness from Brazil’s independence to the present. Engaging issues ranging from citizenship and national security to the revolutionary potential of art and sustainable development, Devine Guzmán argues that the tensions between popular renderings of Indianness and lived Indigenous experiences are critical to the unfolding of Brazilian nationalism, on the one hand, and the growth of a Brazilian Indigenous movement, on the other. In the following excerpt from the epilogue, she discusses contemporary Indigenous assertions of sovereignty and self-representation, especially in the context of opposition to the controversial Belo Monte hydroelectric dam.
###Although much work remains
to educate nonindigenous peoples about Brazil’s indigenous past, present, and future, and to offset the ever-popular lore of benevolent colonialism, racial democracy, and Indian grandmothers “caught with lassos,”
many indigenous scholars and teachers choose to prioritize first the educational needs of their own communities. This impetus has inspired national-level conferences aimed at improving the content and delivery of indigenous education and the intensified production of pedagogical materials in Native languages authored by or in collaboration with Native speakers of those languages.
Likewise, university-level programs offering specialized training in bilingual and intercultural pedagogies for indigenous teachers exist in at least nine states, and research centers for the study of indigenous languages, cultures, histories, and philosophies are expanding beyond the domain of state-backed indigenist institutions like FUNAI and the Museu do Índio.
Vital changes are taking place, for example, among Terena communities in Mato Grosso do Sul, where instruction in the Terena language is offered to Terena children and adolescents, as well as to Terena adults who may have never had an opportunity to read or write in their Native tongue.
Notwithstanding such positive initiatives, the broader configuration of political, social, economic, and cultural power in which they take place reveals a steep road ahead. As a result of the intensified and institutionalized disempowerment of indigenous peoples and interests during the first decade of the twenty-first century, which culminates in state sponsorship of Belo Monte, it seems unlikely that a substantial number of nonindigenous politicians or citizens will in the near future embrace or even begin to consider the ideas and projects of indigenous intellectuals and communities seriously enough to assess their practical and theoretical implications for the future of national development policy, educational reform, environmental protection, governance, or international relations.
Founder of the Movimento Indígenas em Ação (MIA), Ysani Kalapalo (fourth from the left) leads a demonstration against the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam in downtown São Paulo, 20 August 2011. Also pictured (from left to right): Yamuni Barbosa, Samantha Aweti Kalapalo, Mariana Aweti Kalapalo, India Tikuna Weena Miguel, Guayra Wassu, I. Wassu, and Tayla Kalapalo. Photo by the author; reproduced with the permission of Ysani Kalapalo.
Native Brazilians’ efforts to counter the privatization of the indigenist bureaucracy and the deleterious effects of contemporary indigenist policy through intensified demands for land demarcation, ethnodevelopment, intercultural education, and other empowering social programs, as well as through heightened cultural activism and political participation at all levels of government indicate, indeed, that the struggle for indigenous self-representation has in some ways just begun. Nonetheless, the viral proliferation of indigenous political commentary and cultural production via the Internet in the form of journalism, fiction, film, video, blogging, and election campaigning (for example) continues to revolutionize the relationship between Native peoples and visual representation, on the one hand, and Native peoples and the written word, on the other. Continue reading ‘Excerpt: Native and National in Brazil, by Tracy Devine Guzman’ »