9169 - Listening to the Yanomami. Can we help out?

In the past decades it has become a priority to allow indigenous peoples to have their own voice. For many years, the Yanomami have been documented by several people: anthropologists, medical doctors, missionary, photographers. All of them outsiders, however, their many versions have later informed and influenced policies, projects, and the general public’s idea of the Yanomami. The Yanomami should be able to speak about their life situations and their expectations for the future without intermediaries, it is proposed. This is not always possible or easy to accomplish, and I suggest that certain ways of thinking about Yanomami ‘voices’ might be misleading. Some Yanomami might not really want to say the kind of things social scientists perhaps think is giving a ‘voice’ to them. From another point of view, the ways in which we think the Yanomami are currently speaking, could actually be muffled voices, not free of intermediaries, and silenced by those who do not really want to listen. I will present situations where there is tension between the idea of the Yanomami expressing through their own ‘voice’, and what is actually being said, or heard. Examples of what I will present are an attempt of work on sexual and reproductive health and gender amongst the Yanomami, the development of a course for Yanomami health workers, and the beginnings of a new Yanomami organisation in Venezuela. My main question centres around the role of anthropologists in a place with complex national and local politics, and with the negative background of a longstanding controversy on anthropologists.

Keywords: Yanomami, health care policies, politics of representation, engaged anthropology

Author: Goncalves Martín, Johanna (University of Cambridge, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)


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