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10115 - Raising children in an Amazonian gold rush: Young indigenous parenthood and environmental activism among the Wayana of French Guiana.

The Wayana of the headwaters of the Maroni River on the border between Suriname and French Guiana have in recent years experienced increasing environmental degradation and social tension resulting from an illegal gold-rush. Reactions to this have been dramatically expressed through indigenous activism focusing on youth suicide and child health problems caused by pollution. This paper brings together two fields of inquiry: on one hand, it focuses upon the perspectives of those directly affected by water pollution, especially on maternal and infant health (mercury pollution is most dangerous for the foetus), investigating changing perceptions of bodily health, conception, pregnancy, childbirth and childrearing in order to analyse how profoundly the fabrication of human beings is being altered by environmental degradation. On the other hand it discusses how the environmental and health concerns surrounding change on the Maroni have precipitated a new phenomenon of indigenous youth solidarity, between Wayana, Kali’na and Arawak Amerindians and Boni and Aluku Maroons. Finally, bringing these two fields of analysis together, the authors address the subject of teenage suicide, which is increasingly common. Transcending the bracket of ‘health problems’, it is at the heart of indigenous political concerns as well as possibly constituting their most extreme form of expression.

Keywords: Amazonia, youth, parenthood, mining, suicide

Author: Grotti, Vanessa Elisa (Oxford University, United Kingdom/Ver Königr)
Co-Author: Brightman Marc

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