Accepted Paper:

Amazonian ontology in the Brazilian national political context  


Pirjo Kristiina Virtanen (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

This paper focuses on Amazonian indigenous political actors and interactions with governmental agencies. It brings Amazonian ontology to the Brazilian national political context that is increasingly shared with indigenous populations.

Paper long abstract:

This paper brings Amazonian ontology to Brazilian national political context that is increasingly shared by indigenous actors. My ethnography deals with the Manchineri, in a multisited approach, including those having a political authority both in forest and urban environments. Here I focus on Manchineris' recent employments in the local government in Brazilian Amazonia.

For the Manchineris working in governmental agencies, learning to act in urban offices contributes to their individual knowledge-making and can be understood in the context of their personal histories and transformations, while the government often has other expectations from these employments. The emphasis on the body of Amazonian perspectivist thinking has been one of my main keys to analyze the attempts to learn and negotiate in the state politics largely designed by the dominant society. In Amazonian social philosophies personhood is continuously produced in embodied relations with various human and non-human actors. Many Manchineri actors explain how their work in urban administrative environment is about new bodily practices impacting their subjectivity. This paper discusses especially how village communities often discuss these changed subjectivities. I will take examples from the situations when material sources of governmental agencies and projects are distributed in indigenous villages. Those members of community, who have been part of negotiations and interactions with local governments, come strongly identified with these sources. That also affects the practical use of the materials and even their renunciation. The paper points out that in order to understand differences between ontologies, it is also essential to understand the tensions and conflicts between those who share the same ontological ideas.

Panel P007
'Grounding': when multiple ontologies meet material facts