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Title: The astonishing resilience : ethnic and legal invisibility of indigenes from a brazilian perspective
Authors: Silva, Cristhian Teófilo da
Assunto:: Índios
Issue Date: Jul-2007
Publisher: Associação Brasileira de Antropologia
Citation: SILVA, Cristhian Teóflo da. The astonishing resilience: ethnic and legal invisibility of indigenes from a brazilian perspective. Vibrant, Florianópolis, v. 4, n. 2, p. 97-115, jun./dez. 2007. Disponível em: <http://www.vibrant.org.br/downloads/v4n2_silva.pdf>. Acesso em: 19 dez. 2011.
Abstract: I start this paper by reviewing Bruce Miller’s book: “Invisible Indigenes: The Politics of Nonrecognition” (2003). What motivated me to write this essay was the opportunity to talk with Bruce Miller about his work while conducting a three weeks research experience in the city of Vancouver (Canada). 2 The non- recognition of indigenous peoples in Canada, United States and other parts of the World appear in Miller’s book as state mechanisms and policies carried on by state offcials to avoid indigenous demands and ultimately to erase ethnic diversity within national boundaries. It became evident throughout our conversations that the Brazilian case is no exception to the rule despite the indigenous Constitutional rights established in 1988 which indirectly portrait Brazil as a multicultural society. I will also present some complementary data regarding the issue of invisible indigenes in Brazil in order to extend Miller’s ideas, arguments and insights. First of all, I sustain that “resilience” is the core concept for the proper understanding of “Invisible Indigenes” and of several cases of “ethnogenesis” in the Americas. 3 “Resilience” is a concept developed by Physics to describe the characteristic of particular objects to reshape itself to its original form af- ter being stretched by an elastic force. In “Invisible Indigenes” the concept did not cover particular objects but human cultural and political practices and for that reason it is important to have in mind that it is to collective ideas of “original form” that one has to be concerned about when applying the con- cept of “resilience” to ethnogenesis. It happens to be so because concepts such as “ethnogenesis” and “resilience” derive from interdisciplinary exer- cise and for that reason they bare the potential to mistake social processes for natural processes. On the other hand, theoretical analogies constructed after “natural” sciences can become particularly clarifying of particular properties of social processes. 4 The idea of “resilience” associated with “invisibility” as used in “Invisible Indigenes” to grasp the political effcacy of collective narratives to (re)assure an indigenous identity despite or after the state failure to acknowledge it within the national society is an example of such successful interdisciplinary analogy. Actually, what is astonishing about this ethnic resilience is the abil- ity of individual Indians and First Nations (by such expression native peo- ples and individuals in Canada claim recognition of their cultural and politi- cal precedence over national societies) to face multiple strategies elaborated within states to simply ignore their collective rights and demands turning them invisible. In 1997, Brazilian anthropologist Oliveira Junior compared in a very sim- ilar perspective used by Miller the imposition of invisibility on Indians and Afro-Brazilians with their own strategies of self-invisibilization. In order to expose Oliveira’s argument for comparison I translate a passage from his text: To consider ethnic identity as a resistance phenomenon of Black social groups towards the “classifcatory pressure” imposed by the encompassing society im- plies recognizing also its organic relation with this same society; the social group structures itself in opposition to it, but also, in a certain way, in com- plementarity to it what determines the emergence of a feld of possibilities ofalternance of differentiated social roles by the group members. The indige- nous case, where this feld of opportunities has been long recognized as a con- stituent ingredient of their ethnic identity, particularly among the Northeast Indians of Brazil, inserted as they are for over two centuries within an interso- cietary system, may help revealing dimensions of the ethnic identity phenome- na among Black social groups ... (1997: 05) As presented by Miller, the “astonishing resilience” (2003: 06) of unrec- ognized indigenes in the U.S., Canada and other parts of the World origi- nates from recurrent past responses to assimilation policies that attempted to “stretch” indigenous peoples to assume European like cultural forms. The ethnic resilience of indigenous peoples (as well of Afro-Brazilian groups as seen by Oliveira Junior) therefore resumes to an expression of their historical refusal to be culturally, politically and economically assimilated by local, na- tional or global asymmetric social structures even (and specially) when they have decided to live as a part in it (: 09). Under such interpretation indige- nous peoples are turned “invisible” simply because others (or the state as an other) refuse to see them, to use Ralph Ellison’s well known phrasing. Before raising other assumptions, I would like to briefy summarize Miller’s arguments and examples that might help the unfamiliar reader of ethnic recognition issues to understand these introductory lines.
Licença:: Vibrant -Virtual Brazilian Anthropology - All the content of the journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons License (Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported (CC BY-NC 3.0)). Fonte: http://www.vibrant.org.br/. Acesso em: 19 dez. 2011.
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