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12073 - ¿Da Lídia compramos televisão¿. Social Populism and Indigenous Agentivity in the Brazilian Amazon

One of the most popular accomplishments of the (moderately) socialist Lula administration has been a welfare program that sought to remedy the unbearable situation of almost complete exclusion of large portions of the society from modern consumer culture through poverty. It is self-understood that this program included also the indigenous peoples of Brazil.

This paper argues that providing access to consumerism not only largely failed to resolve any of the prevailing problems in Brazilian Indigenous Areas, but furthermore threatens to rob indigenous cultures of the political agentivity that characterized their struggle for ethnic affirmation some decades ago.

The paper illustrates the consequences of welfare money among the Sateré-Mawé, an indigenous people of the Brazilin Amazon. The acceptance of welfare money not only has profound immediate social consequences, but lays open a dilemma of indigenous cosmography. On the one hand welfare connects easily with a seemingly “archaic” mode of relations between humans and their environment based on the unconditioned generosity of an Animal Mother. On the other hand welfare is in stark contrast to differential, but equally traditional notions of productivity and agentivity as elaborated in the myths about the origin of cultivated plants.

Through the loss of capacity to “produce production” (Terence Turner), as elaborated in these narratives, in favour of an integration into a modern welfare state, political agentivity and autonomy is also at risk.

Author: Kapfhammer, Wolfgang (Germany / Deutschland)

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