But the settlers won’t get the ontology: Vanessa R. Lea, ‘Ontological Conflicts Concerning Indigenous Peoples in Contemporary Brazil’, ab-Original, 1, 2, 2017, pp. 151-175

25Feb18

Abstract: Inspired by Mauro Almeida’s (2013) notion of ontological conflict, this article examines the current situation of the Indigenous peoples in Brazil. Various concrete situations are examined to exemplify the ways in which, at best, they are denied a voice unless their leaders adapt their discourse to concerns that resonate with those of their non-Indigenous interlocutors. Native ontologies relating to reciprocity and the use of natural resources for subsistence, without concern for creating a marketable surplus, are systematically subordinated to the vested interests of corporate capital, exemplified by the construction of hydroelectric dams and mining activities. The state stands by as Indigenous lands are subjected to arson attacks, and the judiciary fails to take action against the encroachment of Indigenous lands. The situation in Southern Mato Grosso borders on outright genocide. The economic and political crisis has worsened the situation, with dwindling resources for monitoring deforestation and for providing adequate health and educational services. The crisis in the industrial sector has favored advocates of the merits of large-scale monoculture of crops like soya for export on the commodity market. The wisdom of adaptation to the environment by the Indigenous peoples is ignored and their shrinking land base, coupled with their growing population, serves to make them increasingly dependent of governmental welfare benefits. This is then interpreted as evidence of the inevitability of capitalist globalization with disparagement of anything other than capital-intensive monoculture. The gap is constantly widening between the Indigenous peoples and the economic elite whose interests the state unabashedly represents.



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