Ethnography as engagement: synergies of academic knowledge and advocacy in an indigenous land claim (Tupinambá of Olivença, Brazil)
(Institute of Social Sciences, University of Lisbon)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores the potentials of ethnography as engaged knowledge, focusing on the experience of research for the Tupinambá of Olivença and the department of the Brazilian Ministry of Justice that deals with indigenous affairs (FUNAI), following an indigenous land claim.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper I will discuss the possibilities of conceiving contemporary ethnography as engaged knowledge, following the general argument of this panel that engagement in anthropology should be understood in a wide sense, in order to encompass both the strictly academic attitude of engaging with the topics which concern the people themselves, and pure advocacy. The debate is sustained by the experience of conducting an anthropological research (2003-2005) for the Tupinambá of Olivença, and the department of the Brazilian Ministry of Justice that deals with indigenous affairs (FUNAI), following an indigenous land claim, sustained by the ethnographical arguments previously developed under the scope of a academic PhD thesis. The role of anthropology in indigenous land claims in Brazil is substantially different from, for instance, indigenous land claims in Canada where the anthropologist is considered more as an expert witness in the juridical process than as an expert fieldworker and ethnographer. In Brazil academic anthropologists became engaged in indigenous land claims mainly because of their expertise in fieldwork experience with a particular people and region. I will thus present one of the ethnographic arguments, concerning the justification of a small area of the Atlantic sea boarder as indigenous land for the Tupinambá of Olivença, in order to argue that academic and political processes are mutually constituted in contemporary ways of doing and conceiving ethnography in anthropology.
Anthropology and engagement