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November 20: Environment

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ANTH 2200
Victor Barac

ENVIRONMENT ▯ The Shifting Middle Ground • new cultural alliance between the First and the Fourth world • new “middle ground” • neither a geographic territory nor a social space ◦ rather a political space • there really is no inert, benign “environment” ◦ the environment is conceived of in radically different ways depending on their position, goals, resources • a new appreciation for indigenous peoples has emerged • have become symbols of humanity in harmony with nature • this image of the Noble Savage in Western writing is not new; • philosophers idealized indigenous cultures against new civilizational norms ◦ Montaigne, Rousseau y r e L e D n a e J ◦ ◦ non-colonial anthropological ancestor, lived in the 16th century, French protestant pastor living in Brazil ◦ not allowed to missionize, what he did was purely observation scientific exercise ◦ wrote about the Tupinamba Indians ◦ he was the defender of the Indians against Hans Staden ◦ both writers, bestsellers ▪ Staden wrote about them as wild savage people, but De Lery provides one of the first ethnographies of a tribal people anywhere in the world ▪ described their cannibalism, exo-cannibalism ▪ interested about De Lery, in contrast to Staden, they were family people in the Garden of Eden type of image ▪ argued that their cannibalism was symbolic, didn’t eat to fill themselves up, ritual bonding of war parties ◦ even in the 16th century we have contrasting views of “savagery” ◦ Michel de Montaigne, one of the first modern philosophers, fierce critique of France and Western culture, used De Lery’s account in his critique ◦ essentially provided earlier works of ethnology, comparing Tupinamba cannibalism to French cannibalism ▪ during the wars of religion, when the Catholics and Protestants were fighting for supremacy; there were no ways of supplying these armies with food ▪ what we find in the historical record was that they raided the battle fields and were eating people for sustenance ▪ who’s more civilized, the French or the Tupi? • this debate of who the indigenous people are has an old history in Western writing, rumination on the Indigenous, the extreme Other • Xavante, one of the first to politicize on behalf of the indigenous peoples ◦ Mario Haruna (Xavante, became elected to congress, influential political figure, protege of Darcy Robero, most famous anthropologist of South America ◦ Haruna fizzles out, but Payakan (Kayapo) became an international celebrity, even though they were doing the same thing ◦ land rights ◦ everyone was concerned with the Amazon, the shrinking Amazon ◦ the Indians of the Amazon became symbolic of the Amazon, which is problematic ◦ there’s other people in the Amazon that are threatened by big business, mining interests, etc, but these people don’t count, aren’t as important as the Indians, in terms of publicizing the environmental problems of the Amazon ◦ there are mixed aspects to this, there is positive and negative connotations, and unintended consequences • The Body Shop, one of the first to latch onto the natives as something “pure” • Payakam, smeared with a rapist charge, wanted to clear cut parts of the Amazon to start his own business ventures ◦ not into saving the rainforest, wants to live a good life and the life of the people around him; if that means cutting down parts of the Amazon, that’s what it means • global imaginary, mythical creation as a result of this interaction between first world environmentalists and fourth world leaders • the fourth world, most of these people are from egalitarian societies; these leaders are not necessarily a representative of these groups of people • when you look at it from a national perspective, in the shoes of a Brazilian citizen, what the Brazilian government and media are doing is using these indigenous people as a pawn, show favouritism to the Indians at the expense of the majority of the people who live in the Amazon ◦ the national dynamic created a backlash where people saw the Indians as antithetical to the interests of the state • nationalist perspective is also propaganda, saying that the Amazon has to be protected from insurgents and foreign invaders Analyses and Interventions • particular theoretical perspective on the topic of environmentalism • what does it tell us? • tells us that it’s going to basically look at the discourse, what is said, about the environment; the narratives, the various theoretical positions • not looking at the environment, but talk about the environment ◦ problematize this reality ◦ provide a critical perspective • what he advocates what has happened in the anthropology of the environment and the ecological • anthropologists were literally doing research on the environment, starting in the 1980s with post-modernism ◦ the focus moves away from the object of study, the ecology ◦ went from studying ecology itself, how specific societies adapt to their environments and change their environments, to studying discourse ◦ for a lot of people, that was a
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