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“Not mere objects of study”: The Declaration of Barbados (1971) and the Remaking of Brazilian Anthropology

João Pacheco de Oliveira

Museu Nacional/Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

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Oliveira, João Pacheco de, 2023. “‘Not mere objects of study’: The Declaration of Barbados (1971) and the Remaking of Brazilian Anthropology”, in Bérose - Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie, Paris.

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Publié dans le cadre de HITAL - Histoire transatlantique des Anthropologies d’Amérique Latine / International Research Network - INSHS (CNRS), dirigé par Christine Laurière ; Équipe du Departamento de Antropologia/Museu Nacional/UFRJ, LACED, sous la direction d’Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima.
Publié dans le cadre du thème de recherche «Histoire des anthropologies au Brésil», dirigé par Stefania Capone (CNRS, CéSor) et Fernanda Arêas Peixoto (Universidade de São Paulo)

Résumé : En 1971, de jeunes anthropologues réunis sur l’île de la Barbade dénonçaient la situation dramatique dans laquelle vivaient les peuples indigènes. Compris dans le contexte des histoires des sciences sociales en Amérique latine, le manifeste qui en résulta critiquait les gouvernements conservateurs et les missions chrétiennes, tout en appelant à une nouvelle attitude en anthropologie. Les études sociales ne devraient pas se fonder uniquement sur les programmes théoriques des sociologies et anthropologies hégémoniques, mais aborder les questions éthiques et politiques liées aux processus de libération et de décolonisation des populations indigènes. Au cours des décennies suivantes, des coups d’État militaires et une répression politique intense ont placé l’enseignement et la recherche en sciences sociales sous haute surveillance dans plusieurs pays d’Amérique latine. Repoussé aux marges de l’horizon intellectuel et politique, le manifeste de la Barbade n’a eu qu’un impact limité dans plusieurs espaces universitaires, à quelques exceptions près, notamment au Brésil. Le présent article explore les trajectoires de l’héritage politique de la Barbade dans l’anthropologie brésilienne, à travers des débats et des pratiques durables autour de thèmes tels que l’agenceité indigène, la décolonisation et les anthropologies dialogiques. La pluralité actuelle de l’anthropologie exige une nouvelle lecture du manifeste de 1971, qui constitue à la fois un jalon historique et une source d’inspiration pour les générations à venir.


From January 25 to 30, 1971, a symposium on interethnic conflict in South America was held on the island of Barbados. It brought together young anthropologists who conducted research with Indigenous peoples and who were committed to a collaborative relationship with these populations. The organiser of the meeting was Austrian anthropologist Georg Grunberg, [1] who had the support of the World Council of Churches and the Institute of Ethnology at the University of Bern, Switzerland. The meticulous reports of each participant highlighted the dramatic situation in which these peoples lived, harassed by national integrationist and developmentalist policies, and by religious missions that oppressively imposed ethnocentric and assimilationist principles.

At the close of the meeting, a relatively short but incisive statement was drawn up, criticising conservative governments and missions, as well as signalling the need for anthropologists to adopt a new research posture. This document circulated more widely than the reports on the specific situations that had been discussed and analysed during the symposium, and it soon assumed the character of a manifesto, with immense repercussions in the construction of the anthropologies of these countries over the following years.

Unlike ruptures and innovations aimed at the academic universe, the most salient objectives of the Barbados manifesto were practical and direct. The ruling elites, and in particular the military governments that proliferated in South America during that decade, reacted to it with extreme violence and truculence. Published in book form the following year in Uruguay, the entire edition was burned in a public square by military authorities. Several of the signatories later became exemplary references for these Southern anthropologies, [2] but they made their careers in exile, far from their own countries and the peoples they researched, while others suffered threats and reprisals, including their exclusion from university and academic circles. Despite this and that fact that it amassed extensive visibility, the Barbados document had a profound impact, making it almost impossible to find any practitioner of the discipline who was unaware of it and had not been influenced by it in some manner.

For the present-day reader, though, the document appears to be coherent and confluent with a broad international movement for decolonisation with roots in different continents. However, while no claims were made for it as the offspring of this movement, its focus and impacts were directed at the Indigenous peoples of Latin America. In later meetings (1978 and 1993 in Rio de Janeiro), in documents produced therein and in the majority of interventions and discussions by the members of this group, there is no allusion to criticisms of colonialism existing within anthropology and the human sciences – by key figures such as Eric Wolf, Gerard Léclerc, Victor Turner, Aimé Cesaire, Frantz Fanon and Robert Jaulin, among others – nor is there any reference to the theoretical and methodological alternatives constructed in Britain and France (for example, by Max Gluckman and Georges Balandier) or to analytical and intervention experiences conceived in Latin America, particularly by Orlando Fals-Borda, Roberto Cardoso de Oliveira and Pablo Gonzales Casanova, among others.

Indeed, what this manifesto proposes is a new attitude [3] towards Indigenous peoples, in line with the vision of the ethnographic encounter as a strongly dialogical experience, broadly interactive and resulting from a joint, construction, both personal and collective, expressed in the powerful notion of liberation. The focus of the Barbados message, however, was not directed towards theoretical innovations or academic uses, but rather the establishment of a new set of ethics for the exercise of ethnography and for the subsequent use of data, including the interpretations resulting from them.

The present article was born out of the surprise I felt when I realized the enormous difference in the importance and influence of the Barbados document between Brazilian anthropologists and those from other countries, namely Spanish-speaking colleagues working in Latin-American countries. I hope that my tentative answer to this question can be useful for debates on the contrasting trajectories of anthropological theories and methods in different national settings. In other words, this text may contribute to the discussion concerning the multiplicity of forms and meanings which, in comparative terms, the work of the anthropologist effectively assumes on a global scale (Ribeiro and Escobar, 2006).

The Particular Condition of Indigenous Questions in Brazil

The Declaration of Barbados (1971) criticised the way in which nation states, religious missions and anthropologists related to Indigenous peoples in Latin America. [4] However, each country displayed distinct trajectories and characteristics in relation to these three stakeholders, as well as in their interconnections. In Brazil, for example, in addition to an indigenous agency – Fundação Nacional do Índio/FUNAI (National Indian Foundation) – dating back to the early twentieth century, there was a specific, broadly supported ideology – the so-called Rondonian indigenism – acknowledging the state as being primarily responsible for humanitarian protection vis-à-vis Indigenous peoples, which enabled the legitimisation of tutelary practices and the naturalisation of paternalistic domination. In Brazil, the Catholic Church also maintained a very hierarchical and conservative stance, but some innovative initiatives of missionary work – such as the Conselho Indigenista Missionário/CIMI (Indigenist Missionary Council), created in 1972) and Operação Amazônia Nativa/OPAN (Native Amazonia Operation), launched in 1969) – were specifically associated with Indigenous people and were based on the theology of liberation.

Although the number of anthropologists in Brazil was relatively small in the decades following the Second World War, they had been organised as a professional association since 1953 and were active in universities, including two postgraduate programmes in anthropology (1968) at the Museu Nacional in Rio de Janeiro and the University of São Paulo. The 1964 military coup, which lasted for over two decades, drastically redesigned these areas of anthropological activity and their internal interconnections. A new approximation began between Brazil and Latin America. It resulted, on the one hand, from the military dictatorships in several countries and the imposition of an economic and political alignment with the United States ; and it was due, on the other hand, to the national liberation movements and counter-hegemonic actions that occurred at a global level. Preceding the demise of the dictatorial regime in Brazil in 1985, this complex historical contextualization of the Brazilian case eventually puts the Declaration of Barbados of 1971 into perspective.

Brazil in 1971

In 1971, Brazil was living under a military dictatorship. Trade unions, student guilds and cultural associations were prohibited or under intervention ; newspapers and the media were under rigorous censorship. Political groups that opposed the regime were imprisoned, dead or missing, while some were abroad. Student struggles and urban protests had been silenced through strong repression. The congress was unable to legislate on budgetary or ‘national security’ issues. Civil rights issues, when they arose, were resolved by military courts. Apparent economic development, expressed in increased GDP, was presented by the media as ‘the Brazilian miracle’ and anaesthetised the middle class.

Indigenous politics consisted of the sedentarisation of Indigenous people under the administration of (often military) officials in small units, called Indigenous Posts, where they would remain separated from the expansion fronts and enter a process of “acculturation” considered to be both slow and spontaneous. Such actions were described in a highly idealised manner through the saga of contacts made in the first decades of the century by Cândido Rondon (1865–1958) – also known as Marechal (Marshal) Rondon. A military engineer and follower of the philosophy of Auguste Comte, he was the creator of the Serviço de Proteção ao Índio/SPI (Indian Protection Service) and reached the title of marshal in the Brazilian army. The Parque Indígena do Xingu (Indigenous Park of Xingu), established in 1955, was the first large area reserved exclusively for the habitat of indigenous peoples. A natural sanctuary formed by tributaries of the Xingu River, it has become the showcase of indigenism, visited by ambassadors, artists, and documentarians.

Contrary to this romanticised national self-representation, in 1968, a parliamentary commission of inquiry reported hundreds of cases of officials involved in the sale of land, coercive forms of labour exploitation, and the imprisonment, torture and death of Indigenous people. This led to the extinction of the SPI and the creation of a new indigenous agency, the Fundação Nacional do Índio/FUNAI,) ; however, this would have a similar structure and purpose.

Universities continued to operate, but were subject to rigid administrative control and deeply affected by the dismissal of leading researchers in different areas of knowledge. The climate was one of fear and insecurity. One relatively acceptable alternative of expansion was the implementation of specialisation courses of a technical nature, aimed at providing professional qualifications. Proposals for the creation of postgraduate courses tried to occupy this space in the best possible manner, investing in a new standard of professionalisation inspired by scholarly themes and literature from hegemonic centres in Europe and the United States. Anthropology was no exception, and followed this alternative, creating postgraduate programmes in Rio de Janeiro (1968), São Paulo (1968) and Brasilia (1972), associating teaching and research. These postgraduate students faced enormous administrative difficulties and suspicion from the military authorities.

Given this scenario, it was very difficult for Brazilian anthropologists to have a more active presence in the dissemination of ideas from the Barbados document or its developments and implications, either through debates in the classroom or by quoting the resulting document in their texts and research projects. The indigenous issue, as well as the Amazon, were classified by security organisations as matters of military interest ; the use of expressions like ethnocide and genocide led to the immediate classification of the document as ‘subversive’ and made it a subject of persecution for anyone who mentioned it or kept copies. The impact of Barbados on Brazil can in no way be measured according to citation management tools or bibliographic references since the Declaration of Barbados could not have an explicit, direct, and immediate repercussion among practitioners of anthropology at that juncture.

Darcy Ribeiro’s Particular Position

Anthropologist Darcy Ribeiro (1922–1997), the only Brazilian signatory to the Declaration, was living a long, bitter period of exile at the time, beginning with the 1964 military coup, during which he resided and worked in different Latin American countries. His eventual return to Brazil only happened in 1976, but even after this his activities and contacts continued to be monitored and severely restricted by the intelligence service of the dictatorial regime.

Even in discussions and interviews which touched on the indigenous issue, Darcy Ribeiro rarely referred to Barbados, and always expressed immense admiration for the former official indigenous agency, the Indian Protection Service (SPI) and its creator, Marshal Rondon, to whom he dedicated one of his foremost books. He was an advocate and convinced disseminator of a tutelary and state indigenism, implemented by republican governments prior to the military coup. For the Brazilian reader, one passage from the Barbados document seems very familiar and explicitly contemplates Brazilian indigenist politics : ‘The state must define the specific national public instance that will be responsible for relations with the surviving ethnic entities in its territory’ (The Declaration of Barbados, 1971, pp. 3–4).

Within a gradual process of amnesty, Darcy Ribeiro’s political rights were re-established and he began a trajectory linked to labour party politician Leonel Brizola (1922–2004) and the Democratic Labour Party (PDT), which led him to become a senator and deputy governor of Rio de Janeiro. Only decades later was Darcy Ribeiro reintegrated into the university faculty and immediately retired due to his age, without ever exercising the role of professor and without participating in postgraduate programmes, tutoring, or coordinating research in anthropology.

Darcy Ribeiro had been actively involved in the creation of the Brazilian Association of Anthropology (ABA) in 1953, but due to the military regime he spent more than a decade without appearing at ABA meetings after his return to Brazil in the 1970s, and never played an active role in it again. Even though his books (in particular the long and well-documented study on the history of indigenous peoples in Brazil and their current condition – Ribeiro, 1970) circulated among a lay audience, at that time they were not frequently read in in master’s or PhD programmes.

Reaching Indigenous Villages

The impact of the Declaration of Barbados on Brazilian anthropology came indirectly through the action of the Indigenist Missionary Council (CIMI). This body was linked to the Conferência Nacional dos Bispos do Brasil/CNBB (National Conference of Brazilian Bishops,), an entity that, together with other organizations such as the Order of Brazilian Lawyers (OAB) and the Brazilian Press Association (ABI)), sought to defend individual freedoms against arbitrary actions by the executive branch. Inspired by liberation theology and left-wing thinkers, the CIMI held courses and seminars, published books and journals, and quickly identified with the Barbados document based on its criticism of the nefarious action of conservative churches. The first publication I was able to locate on the document in Portuguese was made in a volume from 1981 by the theologian Paulo Suess, who was general secretary of the CIMI.

Such discussions were not limited to the intellectual and university environment, but rather were based on a national structure of the Catholic Church and were expressed in elementary actions of the ‘basic ecclesial communities’. Thus, the CIMI was at the root of the first mobilisations of Indigenous peoples in the country, acting through the organisation of dozens of indigenous assemblies in different areas of Brazil. The first indigenous assembly took place in Mato Grosso in 1974 and the last, at the end of military rule (1985). The Barbados ideals were present in initiatives that had as their theme : ‘the liberation of indigenous populations has to be accomplished by themselves, or it ceases to be liberation.’ [5] (Declaration of Barbados, 1971, p. 8).

The tutelary regime imposed on villages a domination that was paternalistic and monopolising in nature, which avoided informing Indigenous people of anything beyond the interests of the administration. It exclusively used old chiefs as mediators, with whom officials maintained a relationship of tutelage and whom they certified as ‘traditional authorities’.

In contrast, the indigenous assemblies organised by the CIMI sought to mobilise the entire collective, informing the inhabitants about their rights and stimulating discussions on their needs with the broadest participation. The issue of land always played a central role, as did education and medical care. This approach coincided with the recommendations of the Barbados document, and the way in which these issues were dealt with – without the intervention of officials or other white people – became commonplace in the political life of the villages, remaining a permanent inspiration for the Indigenous movement.

Developments in Anthropology

Also present at the Barbados meeting were three young Brazilian anthropologists, who for reasons of personal security did not sign the Declaration. They were Silvio Coelho dos Santos (1938–2008), from Florianópolis (Santa Catarina), who was quite close to Roberto Cardoso de Oliveira (1928–2006) with whom he trained in the specialisation course organised at the National Museum-Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (1963) and who was pursuing his doctorate at the University of São Paulo (1972) ; Pedro Agostinho da Silva (1937–2022), Portuguese by birth but based in Bahia, [6] who completed his master’s degree at the University of Brasilia (1968) ; and Carlos de Araújo Moreira Neto, very close to Darcy Ribeiro, and who worked in the FUNAI, but who had little presence in the university. Following the trajectories of the first two can help us understand the indirect impacts that the document had on Brazilian anthropology, as well as showing how the discipline was structured in the country, while indicating regional specificities.

The first, Silvio Coelho dos Santos, always had ties to the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC), which he entered in the 1960s and had a prominent presence, introducing the area of anthropology. Much later, in 1985, he was the coordinator of the postgraduate programme (master’s degree) in social anthropology at UFSC. He conducted field research with the Xokleng Indians (Santa Catarina) and published several studies on them (Santos, 1973 and 1997). He also participated in applied projects oriented by environmental issues, particularly the impacts of dam construction on Indigenous people. In the 1980s, he organised two major meetings on anthropology and law at UFSC, which resulted in important compilations for the approximation of the two disciplines. He was very active in the ABA and was its president from 1992 to 1994.

The second, Pedro Agostinho da Silva, was professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA) from the 1970s onward. He was one of the creators of a commission to support Indigenous peoples, the Associação Nacional de Ação Indigenista/ANAI-Bahia (National Association for Indigenous Action, Bahia, and with his students (and later professional colleagues), he organised a research centre (Research Programme on Indigenous Peoples of the Brazilian Northeast (PINEB)) on the Indigenous peoples of the state. He was the editor of the first compilation of articles on the Indigenous people of Bahia (Agostinho, 1988), though he conducted his initial research in the Parque Indígena do Xingu [Xingu Indigenous Park] (1968) and then studied many aspects of Bahian folk culture. There he initiated field research with the
Pataxó Hã-hã-hãe in the 1980s, continued in the following decades by his main disciple and collaborator, Maria Rosário Gonçalves de Carvalhos.

As early as the 1970s, the third, Carlos de Araújo Moreira Neto, became the director of the Museu do Índio [Indian Museum], an organ linked to the FUNAI, where he created an Indigenous documentation centre, gathering materials related to the old SPI located in the scattered regional units. He produced a thesis on indigenous administration and legislation in the empire (nineteenth century) and published a book on the incorporation of Indigenous people into Amazonian society in the eighteenth century (Moreira Neto, 1988).

An approximation between the first two trajectories is of particular interest. Both were professors at public universities outside the Rio–São Paulo–Brasília axis, where the first graduate programmes were created. [7] They developed or stimulated research linked to the defence of the interests of Indigenous peoples in their states : Silvio Coelho through direct research with the Xokleng, Pedro Agostinho through a team of PINEB students and colleagues. Both shared an acute awareness of ethical commitments in the exercise of anthropology, a topic that – anticipating Barbados by two decades – was present in the discussions that led to the creation of the Brazilian Association of Anthropology, above all through the interventions of Darcy Ribeiro and Roberto Cardoso de Oliveira.

The most active and influential Brazilian anthropologist of this period was Roberto Cardoso de Oliveira, creator of the postgraduate programme in social anthropology (PPGAS) at the National Museum, coordinator of the PPGAS in Brasilia for 15 years, and following his retirement, also a professor at Campinas (São Paulo, SP), at the University of São Paulo (USP) and CEPPAC-UNB [8], and president of the ABA (1984–1986). He was not present in Barbados, although in his works it was possible to perceive (in addition to the ethical concerns mentioned above) many important aspects of convergence between the Barbados document and his own work.

Circumstantial reasons may have caused that absence : during this period, he was moving from Rio de Janeiro to Harvard, where in February 1971, he would begin a one-year postdoctoral fellowship with British anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis (1929–2007). At the time, the latter was a central figure in American anthropology, and was the founder of Cultural Survival, an entity constituted to call anthropologists to account concerning their social responsibilities with the studied populations. In 1976, Roberto Cardoso talked about a collaboration between anthropologists and the communities they studied through an ‘action anthropology’, as imagined in the frameworks developed by Sol Tax (1975).

In 1981, Roberto Cardoso participated in the meeting organised by UNESCO on the rights of Indigenous peoples, in which the Declaration of San José [9] was drawn up, which he signed together with some of the participants of the First Meeting of Barbados, including Mexican ethnologist and writer Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, Colombian journalist and historian Victor Daniel Bonilla and Peruvian anthropologist Stefano Varese. Therein ethnocide, characterised as ‘cultural genocide’, is defined as a crime under international law and referred to in the United Nations Convention on Genocide (1948). In a written paper on indigenism (1972), he repeatedly refers to this document, to which he attaches special importance.

Seeds : New Experiences in Ethnography

A younger generation of researchers, who began their studies in the aforementioned postgraduate programmes, had dilemmas and responses very similar to those advocated by the Declaration of Barbados in their careers. On the other hand, as a way of exercising anthropology, these young people shaped a new experience of long field research, establishing a strong awareness of and commitment to Indigenous people. A different horizon began to be drawn regarding research conducted with Indigenous people, mobilising graduate students not only on strictly academic issues, but also on initiatives that sought the well-being of these populations.

This is true in my case, since in 1971, I was still pursuing an undergraduate degree in sociology at the Pontifical Catholic University (PUC) of Rio de Janeiro. In 1973, I entered the master’s degree at the University of Brasilia (UNB) and the following year I started research with the Ticuna people (Amazonas, AM). For a short period of two years, FUNAI showed interest in collaborating with UNB anthropologists. Thus, intervention projects were carried out by some of my teachers, all of them foreigners : David Price for the Nambikwara (Rondonia, RO), Peter Silverwood-Cope (Rio Negro) and Kenneth Taylor (Yanomami). Relying on these programmes, FUNAI’s intention was to capture resources from the Programa de Integração Nacional (National Integration Programme, PIN) for its actions in indigenous areas that would be traversed by the Transamazonian and Northern Perimeter highways. Due to the international oil crisis, the construction of these roads made little progress and the budgets allocated to them were suspended ; in fact, closure of these projects was demanded by sectors of the indigenist agency, uncomfortable with the objectives and methods they had established.

In my fieldwork, I was able to verify the heavy domination by merchants under which Indigenous people suffered who claimed to be the owners of the lands inhabited by them since the eighteenth century, as well as hearing the dramatic stories of my interlocutors about the violence and terror of the rubber tappers. On the occasion of an extensive census of the Ticuna population, I was able to learn about the diversity of situations that they lived in, [10] which led to the outline of an alternative assistance programme that the indigenous official agency, FUNAI, undertook to fulfil, the so-called Ticuna Project (1975–76) (Pacheco de Oliveira, 1987). Therein, almost all the recommendations of the Barbados document regarding the desirable form of action of the Brazilian State were included in the paper.

This project generated some important changes in the status of Indigenous peoples and created an immense programme which, despite its slow and disorderly implementation, replaced the absence of administrative planning and made it difficult to exercise a misguided, tutelary posture. Due to its direct impact, [11] establishing a unit of assistance for Indigenous people within the most powerful and violent seringal [12] in the region, it instituted a strong bond of trust, collaboration, and friendship with leaders of many indigenous villages. Many of them would later form the Conselho Geral da Tribo Ticuna (General Council of the Ticuna Tribe, CGTT) (1981), the first locally and ethnically based indigenous organisation created in Brazil. It was this association that led to the struggle for land, eventually concluded in 1992 with the demarcation of almost one million hectares (Pacheco de Oliveira, 1987), the parallel development of education programmes in an indigenous language, and the founding of the Maguta Museum. [13]

A short time later, a new demand arrived at the UNB. The government of the newly created state of Acre had asked the FUNAI for information and intervention in indigenous affairs. The indigenous agency, which had been almost completely absent in that state, became interested in supporting preliminary research on the Indigenous populations. The study conducted on the Kaxinawá by Terri Vale de Aquino, a former colleague from PUC-RJ, who was also studying for his master’s degree at UNB, was essential for all the indigenist actions realised in Acre, official or otherwise. The Acre Pro-Indian Commission (CPI-AC), founded in 1979 with his participation, began to conduct important projects to support the indigenous movement in the area of intercultural education, and more recently in the area of environmental management.

Terri de Aquino also had great influence on the development of ethnographic works and research in collaboration with Indigenous peoples (Aquino, 1977), as well as through those who continued to consolidate a new pattern of indigenous research and action. He also put a rather original narrative experience into practice about the indigenous peoples of Acre, as a result of chronicles and articles produced over almost two decades (Aquino, 2013).

Seeking to resolve administrative problems that were being outlined in other regions, the FUNAI contacted the USP. A few of Professor Lux Vidal’s [14] students were encouraged to conduct research in regions where the indigenous administration was faced with some new challenges.

In one case it was the tenacious insistence of Guarani families from Mato Grosso do Sul (MS), relocated by the FUNAI to existing indigenous reserves, to return to their former lands, now under the control of farmers who claimed to have property titles. Rubem Thomaz of Almeida (‘Rubinho’) was initially visiting the Guarani of Paraguay and got to know the Paî-Tavyterã Project (PPT). There he established strong bonds of friendship with George and Paz Grunberg, thus making contact with the principles of Barbados.

Interrupting his studies, Thomaz de Almeida established himself in Mato Grosso do Sul, where he created a non-governmental organisation (NGO), known as the Kaiowá-Ñandevá project (PKÑ), which supported agricultural activities developed by Indigenous people through the distribution of seeds and subsidies, and contributed to making the stabilisation of local groups (‘tekoha’) viable.

He later entered the master’s degree of the National Museum and his dissertation consisted of a dense analytical restitution of that experience (Almeida, 2001). His research continued through the work of Fabio Mura (Mura, 2019), Alexandra Barbosa and, in particular, Indigenous anthropologist Tonico Benites (2012), all PhDs from the PPGAS-National Museum, under the academic supervision of João Pacheco de Oliveira. Rubinho died in 2018 and, in fulfilment of his wishes, was buried in the indigenous land of the Kaiowá (Barbosa da Silva, 2018).

In another case, the issue that initially prompted the approximation of the FUNAI was the passage of railways and electric transmission lines, derived from the extraction of minerals in the Grande Carajás region, through indigenous areas of Maranhão (MA) and Pará (PA). In these types of circumstance there were resources for FUNAI and for Indigenous people from the compensation paid by Vale do Rio Doce, a state-owned company responsible for the Carajás steel project. The young students involved were Gilberto Azanha, Maria Elisa Ladeira and Iara Ferraz, who conducted research and indigenist action, the first two among the Krahô (MA) and the third among the Gavião (PA).

Similarly, in this case an NGO was created, the Centro de Trabalho Indígena (Indigenous Work Centre, CTI), transferring resources for small projects carried out with these and other peoples. [15] Gilberto Azanha defended his master’s dissertation at the USP on the Krahô (MA) (Azanha, 1984) and María Elisa Ladeira defended her doctoral thesis in sociolinguistics on aspects of Terena education (Ladeira, 2001). Iara Ferraz, also oriented by João Pacheco de Oliveira, continued her work on her PhD at the PPGAS-National Museum (Ferraz, 1998). [16]

In 1978, an initiative by the Home Affairs minister of General Geisel’s government proposed by decree the ‘emancipation of the Indians’ (in fact he intended to withdraw their rights of access to collective lands). The political context was already very different from that of the beginning of the decade, with greater freedom of expression and association, and relative strengthening of political parties and electoral processes. The text of the decree provoked extensive public reactions, especially among university students, journalists, and lawyers, all concerned with the protection of civil rights against an authoritarian and repressive government.

In the following years, several Brazilian cities strengthened or formed permanent indigenous support groups and commissions, which assumed the most diverse forms. Some of these, over time, became the main indigenous NGOs (ANAI-RS, CTI-SP, ISA, ANAI-BA, CPI-Acre). The CIMI was a fundamental part of this mobilisation, together with other associations linked to the Catholic, Lutheran and Ecumenical Churches, as was the case with Operation Anchieta (OPAN, more recently renamed Operation Native Amazon), the Ecumenical Centre for Documentation and Information (CEDI, whose indigenous group created the ISA, Socio-Environmental Institute) and the Mission Council among Indigenous Peoples (COMIN).

Due to the negative reactions it aroused at the national and international level, the emancipation decree was suspended and was never approved or implemented by the government. However, the responses it generated created an important political banner – the demarcation of indigenous lands – that was very well received by public opinion, becoming a collective and unquestionable right of these populations. Likewise, the young students of anthropology and social sciences no longer aligned themselves with the principles of indigenism defended by the former SPI and disseminated by Darcy Ribeiro, much less with those put into practice by the FUNAI.

Post ’88

The new generation of those interested in indigenous issues began to create alternatives to official indigenism through NGOs and research related to indigenous demands. The so-called ‘democratic transition’ (1980–1984) ended in 1985 with the establishment of the first civilian government. A period of reorganisation of democratic institutions followed, with the convocation of a national constituent assembly. The 1988 Constitution inaugurated a new judicial order that would impact the establishment of complementary legislation and progressive adequation of administrative norms and procedures.

In the following two decades (1990s and 2000s), new forces came to act in defence of indigenous demands. The Office of the Attorney General of the Republic (Procuradoria-Geral da República, PGR), now transformed into a monitoring body for law enforcement (and of the executive itself), began to closely monitor compliance with indigenous legislation, especially demanding commitment and adjustment from the FUNAI in the realisation of constitutional precepts.

In parallel, European environmentalism put increasing pressure on environmental protection for the Amazon, which led to the establishment of international cooperation programmes for the demarcation and protection of indigenous lands (including within FUNAI itself). Indigenous peoples and organisations, recognised as full subjects of rights, began to appear in large numbers and become eligible for funding in projects by international cooperation agencies.

Non-governmental organisations became the potential mediators in these connections, allowing them to compete with state agencies. To adapt to new financing demands, which were no longer focused on the protection of human rights, but on the defence of environmental resources and ethno-development, NGOs were encouraged to gradually professionalise their key staff and to frequent international arenas of debate.

Obviously, such social and political change had consequences for universities, research, and the teaching of anthropology. During the military regime, field research with Indigenous people was difficult to conduct : it was expensive, involved fieldwork, and there were no funding channels specifically for social science research. [17] At the end of the 1980s and continuing into the following decade, specific sources for the financing of more ambitious, collective scientific projects emerged. This happened at the National Museum (Ford Foundation, FINEP and CNPq) and at USP (FAPESP). [18]

However, the paths frequented by the newly formed research teams were highly distinct. Some anthropologists returned to strictly academic guidelines, particularly in dialogue with French structuralism, seeking the insertion of the new Brazilian production (preferentially classified as ‘ethnological’ in an effort to differentiate it from other lines of research in Brazilian anthropology) within the international circuit of ‘Americanism’. In most cases, such works had little or no interference in the public sphere, did not bring about any changes in the work of anthropology, and had no implications in the construction of new themes, objects, or research methods, which continued to be dictated by the orientations and agendas of the metropolitan anthropologies.

Others, in contrast, stimulated by Barbados, by various movements within world anthropology outside the circuit of Americanist studies, by national thinkers, and naturally by the Brazilian experiences of the 1970s and 80s, developed an historical approach and maintained an acute syntony with the political situation. For a generation of anthropologists that began their academic life in the 1980s, a new continent for scientific research opened up as a result of political and intellectual challenges, completely different from the culturalist approaches implemented in the past or put into practice in arbitrary, superficial research dictated exclusively by international agendas and idioms.

An Anthropology Inspired by the Challenges of its Time

A passage from the Barbados document goes so far as to postulate just that : ‘It is up to the anthropologist [...] to turn to the local reality and theorise from this, in order to overcome the subordinate condition of mere verifiers of alien theories’. [19] This is an issue that was frequently addressed by Darcy Ribeiro in interviews and debates. [20]

It is important to emphasise, however, that studies such as those he then demanded were in fact conducted within universities, in dialogue with other thematic areas of world anthropology, such as political anthropology, ethnicity, anthropology of colonialism, history of science, and critical thinking. In this text, it is worth remembering some of the new objects and research topics developed by this second group to which, naturally, I belong.

The most encompassing issue was the disputes and social processes that involved the formation of ethnic territories. At the National Museum, from 1986 to 1994, with the support of the Ford Foundation and the CNPq, a project to monitor indigenous lands – Projeto de Estudo sobre Terras Indígenas (PETI) – was conducted, which involved a broad survey of all the documentation related to the matter that was in the archives of the FUNAI, the SPI, the National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform (INCRA), other public entities, and newspapers. Books and journals were published, four atlases and a dozen dissertations and theses were conceived within this broad research movement.

The general focus was on processes of territorialisation, that is, how indigenous families and groups relate to the territory, transforming it based on a political community, a cultural identity, and shared resources (Pacheco de Oliveira, 2016). This instituted a new field of study within Brazilian anthropology, as opposed to a synchronous, objectifying approach, strictly related to the isolated study of cultures.

As was evident in a recent dossier that contains studies on ten Indigenous peoples throughout the country (Pacheco de Oliveira, 2018), researches on the broader political context of the struggle to establish ethnic territories reveal aspects that are completely absent in Americanist studies. Therein, culture and social organisation no longer appear as manifestations of the sheer resilience of an ancestral tradition, but rather as complex processes of updating memories in transformed social contexts, in other words, as dynamic phenomena that require referral to conflicts that have occurred on multiple scales, as well as the study of strategies and political-identity projects designed by these collectivities.

It can be considered that the important process of ethnogenesis of Indigenous populations in various regions of the country helped radically alter the representation of Indigenous peoples in Brazil ; these can no longer be confined to small, isolated populations in the Amazon rainforest, but rather require encompassing peasant populations that reassume cultural identities and become political subjects of great importance to the current indigenous movement (Pacheco de Oliveira, 2004).

A second point was the emergence of another genre of academic production, so-called ‘reports’ and ‘anthropological expertise’. The demand for these studies arose from the administrative processes for the recognition of indigenous lands, which required that the proposed delimitation of a parcel of national territory was carefully justified in anthropological studies that unequivocally demonstrated the right of an indigenous community to the claimed area.

Since such studies sought to subsidise decisions of executive or judicial power, they were made public and discussed extensively by lawyers and specialists hired by those who opposed these demands. Frequently, the so-called ‘indigenous land identification reports’ were pieces containing very strong ethnographic data and analyses of extreme relevance about the social organisation and culture of that population. Because of their length, ethnographic consistency, and compiled documentation, such works were similar to or greater than master’s dissertations.

In the majority of cases, the ABA had some involvement in these processes, recommending the most qualified anthropologists to provide such expertise, as well as organising debates in universities, symposia, and conferences, from which various publications resulted (Pacheco de Oliveira, Mura and Silva, 2015). Similar studies were also conducted for the definition of areas belonging to quilombola communities [21] and traditional populations.

The third focus of study sought in-depth understanding of the relations of domination. The ties of economic and political dependency forged between the indigenous communities and the indigenous agency were considered through the notion of ‘tutelary regime’ (Pacheco de Oliveira, 1988), whose specificity resulted from a benevolent rhetoric of ‘protection and assistance’, referring to supposedly fraternal and humanitarian principles. If its apparent legitimacy was derived from this, its power derived from a radical division of humanity into ‘contemporary’ and ‘primitive’, between national and tribal subjects, which assured the former the exercise of an autocratic, arbitrary mandate conceived as natural.

The uniqueness of the ‘tutelary regime’ derived from a constitutive paradox, in which indigenists sometimes protected, sometimes repressed, and sometimes defended the interests of the ward, or those of third parties, such that for any of these alternatives, they were immune to the reactions of those who they allegedly represented.

Reflections on tutelage also inspired numerous ethnographic works and analyses on various aspects of Brazilian public administration. The notion of ‘tutelary power’, initially applied to the study of the SPI by Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima (Souza Lima, 1995), was later applied by students he supervised in various studies on government institutions self-represented as philanthropic (to protect minors, women, and peripheral populations), and even international cooperation agencies. An anthropological understanding of the past and a dynamic awareness of the present are the marks of a Brazilian anthropology that is thought to be necessarily historical.

A fourth aspect to highlight is that the history of Brazil itself is being rethought based on studies on Indigenous peoples. A recent volume clearly formulates that national formation can only be understood beginning with the relationship with Indigenous peoples, in a long chain of frontier situations that shape the institutions and practices that have come to characterise the country at present. The perplexities of the theories on Brazil, elaborated by historians and sociologists, can only be surmounted when Indigenous peoples are no longer the blind spot of these interpretations (Pacheco de Oliveira, 2019).

Transforming national self-representations is not something that can be achieved by a book or a theoretical approach. As a great collective task, an inter-institutional and interdisciplinary project proposes a re-examination of the other support we can uncover concerning the national memory. [22] This is an activity that unites anthropologists, historians, writers, and educators, but that is being vastly potentiated with the incorporation of indigenous intellectuals, teachers, and students.

Today, the number of Indigenous people who participate in teaching in university institutions already exceeds 50,000 (corresponding to around 6% of the Indigenous population). We already have some Indigenous anthropologists who have completed their doctorates and there are many more walking this path. For anthropology and science produced in the country, this provides an immense possibility for seeking original scientific development.

Repercussions of Barbados in Brazilian Anthropology

The Declaration of Barbados strongly opposed state policies and missionary actions that directly or indirectly caused the genocide or ethnocide of the Indigenous peoples of Latin America. It indicated guidance on how to move towards more just and democratic forms of coexistence, which would allow for changes in the status of Indigenous people within national states marked by structural racism and intolerance towards ethnic diversity. Today Indigenous peoples are much stronger and have more robust legal instruments for the protection of their rights. [23]

The document also contained harsh criticism of a culturalist, conservative anthropology, which ignored the drama specifically experienced by Indigenous people. It defines scientism as that ‘which negates any link between academic research and the fate of those peoples who constitute the object of this very investigation, thus evading the political responsibility that this knowledge entails’. [24] This critique goes far beyond the dominant attitude in some universities and museums that existed during the South and Central American dictatorships, and also applies to hegemonic centres of anthropology production, established in ancient or new colonial empires.

The Brazilian experience provides certain aspects upon which we can reflect with some benefit. The emergence of anthropology in the 1950s, materialised in coordination between researchers that resulted in the founding of the ABA (1953), had already clarified the dimension of the responsibility of scientists and the ethical concern that should guide their work. [25] The most overt evidence of this was the suspension of ABA activities after the 1964 military coup ; ABA congresses were only initiated again twelve years later (1976).

Despite persecution and restrictions within the same universities, teaching and research in anthropology continued as individual, isolated activities. In some places, at the National Museum, at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), and in Brasilia, the opening of postgraduate courses constituted a new flourish. Links with hegemonic anthropologies were activated, providing many benefits in the training of anthropologists, and stimulating new research. In contrast, the originality of the experience of the 1950s was left behind, its pioneering character rarely highlighted in terms of contemporary metropolitan anthropologies.

It is urgent for the development of the discipline in Brazil to revisit its creative project, and not to disregard rich experiences, like those of action research from the 1970s and 80s – too often dismissed as extracurricular – that can indicate distinct ways of doing ethnography and producing anthropology. Incorporating this heritages, in parallel with the practice of anthropology as a university discipline, only contributes to enriching it as a process of knowledge and transformation.

In some parts of Brazil where participants of the first Barbados meeting settled, the practice of the discipline acquired distinct marks. This is the case in the UFSC, which even today, with its diversification of objects and research topics, continues to reaffirm its ethical and political commitment to research as a feature of its programme ; and that of the UFBA, which continues to value the collective nature of the research and the social and political repercussions that arise from it, much like that which occurred in the ethnographic studies conducted at PINEB or the Centro de Estudos Afro-Orientais CEAO (Centre for Afro-Oriental Studies).

Experiences that associated anthropological research with indigenist action, conducted by young graduates of the first postgraduate courses (1970s/80s), enabled the emergence of alternatives to the tutelary regime, instituting NGOs that had a long life and strong local roots, such as the Pro-Indian Commission in Acre, the PKÑ and the CTI.

However, repercussions at the academic level were limited, with difficulties in establishing a dialogue between their rich field experiences and the most critical debates held in metropolitan anthropologies or Brazilian postgraduate courses. Some work continued without direct communication with the anthropology practised in postgraduate studies and did not become absorbed by public universities, nor even regional institutions. The exercise of an ‘activist’ stance (as it is called in the United States) continued to be translated in the teaching of the discipline as ‘militant’, ‘committed’ or ‘practical anthropology’ and was seen as less important than that for strictly academic purposes. [26]

An exception to this is the National Museum, where a research laboratory (formerly known as the Projeto Estudo de Terras Indígenas (PETI) [Study Project of Indigenous Lands 1985–1994], later renamed Laboratório de Pesquisa em Etnicidade, Cultura e Desenvolvimento (LACED) [Research Laboratory in Ethnicity, Culture and Development – 1997 to the present], coordinated by João Pacheco de Oliveira and Antonio Carlos de Souza Lima, has established a favourable niche for the transmission and exercise of this type of anthropological knowledge which combines research practices, teaching and social uses of anthropology. On the one hand, this has led to the emergence of successive generations of researchers who inherit work protocols and a common history, to the extent that ethnography recently crossed the ethnic barrier, with research being conducted by young Indigenous anthropologists (such as Tonico Benites, Kaiowá ; Luiz Eloy Amado, Terena ; Bartolomeu Cicero da Silva, Pankararu, among others). On the other hand, these new work patterns have fertilised research in other areas of anthropology beyond the Indigenous theme, including public policies, government institutions and NGOs, the study of youth, women, ethnic-racial relations, and urban peripheries.

Final remarks

Anthropology has changed a great deal over the past five decades and there has been tremendous progress in how we conceive and talk about the Other. These days, the exercise of the discipline allows for an active effort to incorporate and provide density to the voice of the Other, making it possible to create more respectful, polyphonic texts.

To what extent can the criticism of scientism made in the Barbados document inspire us today ? Even the important changes of recent decades in anthropology seem timid in light of the challenge set out in 1971. ‘The anthropology now required in Latin America is not that which considers Indigenous populations as mere objects of study, but rather that perceives them as colonised peoples and commits to their struggle for liberation’. The category of ‘liberation’, common in the political and philosophical lexicon of the 1960s and 70s, sounds powerful and seductive. It reminds us that anthropology requires not only an openness to the Other, but also a transformation of the act of knowledge itself, departing from an objectifying stance towards one that could be dialogical and libertarian.

The construction of anthropology in England as a research practice and university discipline recommended moving the moral and administrative aspects away from ethnographic work (Malinowski, 1922 and Fortes & Evans-Pritchard, 1939) as a means of freeing oneself from the ethnocentric postures of Western religions. In radical contrast, important efforts to build a social science in Latin America put very different choices into operation. In these cases, the consolidation of anthropology went hand in hand with an ethical approach to ’others within the nation’ and efforts to build more inclusive citizenship. This is a crucial hypothesis for understanding the construction of anthropology as a plural historical process.

In this sense, the Barbados Declaration is not a unique and dissonant fact in the formation of scientific communities in these countries, but feeds on analytical formulations and research that took place in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil, but also in other Latin American countries.

It would not be possible to forget the contributions of Orlando Fals-Borda (1925–2008) and a whole perspective of “investigación acción participativa” (participatory action research) initiated by him, which led to the founding of the Sociology Faculty (1959) at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and many other initiatives in social science and activism.

In Mexico, several authors from different areas of knowledge have developed other references for social research, such as the anthropologist Angel Palerm (1917–1980), the philosopher Enrique Dussel (1934–), the political scientist Pablo Gonzales Casanova (1922–2023), and the sociologist Rodolfo Stavenhagen (1932–2016), among others.

In Brazil, something similar has happened with the work of the anthropologists Darcy Ribeiro (1922–1997) and Roberto Cardoso de Oliveira (1928–2006), the educator Paulo Freire (1921–1997), the sociologists Guerreiro Ramos (1915–1982) and Florestan Fernandes (1920–1995), and the geographer Josué de Castro (1908–1973), just to name a few. It should also be noted that anthropologists’ commitment to the fate of the Indigenous populations surveyed was repeated, expressed in the early meetings of the ABA/Brazilian Association of Anthropology (1957).

An important, in-depth investigation into the work of Orlando Fals-Borda and the participatory action research was recently carried out by Joanne Rappaport (2020). It should be reiterated, however, that these are not isolated facts, but broad intellectual and social movements that referred to the criticism of the political dependence of these countries on the United States and their insertion in an international system of division of labour and hegemonies.

Another horizon for anthropology and the social sciences was the subject of debate in Latin American congresses and initiatives. There were dialogues and mutual influences between many of the above-mentioned authors.

This was directly reflected in the Barbados meeting through the presence of Victor Daniel Bonilla [27] and Gonzalo Castillo Cárdenas, [28] deeply linked to La Rosca de Investigación y Acción Social, [29] in which Fals-Borda also actively participated (Bonilla, Cárdenas, Fals-Borda & Libreros, 1972). Stefano Varese [30] was the author of a magnificent ethnography of the Campa indigenous people of Peru, La Sal de los Cerros (Varese, 1968), a work that presents in full force the creativity of these indigenous people in the politics and in exploitation of environmental resources.

Also, Darcy Ribeiro had already written works with a very different orientation from metropolitan traditions and expectations (Ribeiro, 1970, among others). In particular, in later texts and interviews, Ribeiro polemicized against anthropologists linked to postgraduate courses (consolidated in the country in the 1970s) which were generally focused on foreign bibliographies and mostly came from hegemonic anthropologies.

In this sense, the Barbados Declaration is not a unique and dissonant fact in the formation of scientific communities in these countries, but feeds on analytical formulations and research that took place in Colombia, Mexico and Brazil, but also in other Latin American countries.

There is much research to be done on the works and authors of this social science that preceded the Declaration of Barbados and that, in a way, underpinned it, allowing it to have a wide repercussion in various areas of knowledge and social life. Its presuppositions, announced by the rhetoric of Barbados, must be re-examined as they raise questions of contemporary interest.

Ethical issues and the political dimension are essential today for the practice of ethnography and for the use and publicization of the results of anthropology. The Barbados document and its repercussions contributed in the context of Latin America to shaping attitudes and establishing exemplary research that was in complete contrast with Americanist ethnology, which paid little attention to the colonial situation and the drama it entailed for the indigenous populations incorporated there. The declaration called the attention of anthropologists working in Latin America to the ethical dimension and political aspects of research and debates that were apparently purely academic.

The processes of concealing the Other, of annulling their history, and the many forms of objectification that accompanied the institutionalization of anthropology must be rigorously investigated. Far from being intended as an exclusive exercise of reason, capable of inferring laws and making predictions, anthropology can be thought of as an instrument of cultural criticism and the decolonization of knowledge practices.

The challenge for the future is to seek to construct an anthropology that is conceived as a radically dialogical experience and that is in fact aware of its historical, situated character. May it aid a more global view of world history and a rethinking of the Eurocentric foundations of anthropology itself.

Image 1
Record made by the anthropologist Estevão Palitot (UFPB) of a meeting of the indigenous movement in Ceará in 2005. The photo is part of the collection of the digital exhibition Os Primeiros Brasileiros, curated by João Pacheco de Oliveira, also containing an English version (The First Peoples of Brazil). It is interesting to note that the photo has historical value, as the young indigenous man who appears in the foreground is Weibi, from the Tapeba people, an important member of the indigenous movement, appointed in 2023 as national coordinator of the Special Secretariat for Indigenous Health/SESAI, which coordinates the actions of the Lula government regarding medical care for the entire indigenous population.


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[1An Austrian anthropologist who conducted field research in Brazil (in 1966, with the Kayabi) and shortly thereafter with the Guarani in Paraguay. In association with the Spanish Jesuit Bartolomeu Melià and his then wife, Friedl Grunberg, he wrote a landmark monograph on this people (Melià, Grunberg & Grunberg, 1976). For several years he co-ordinated an innovative programme to support Indigenous initiatives. In 1971 he was teaching at the University of Bern but his later academic affiliation is with the University of Vienna.

[2The following anthropologists signed the document : Miguel Alberto Bartolomè (Argentinian), Guillermo Bonfil Batalla (Mexican), Victor Daniel Bonilla (Colombian), Gonzalo Castillo Cárdenas (Colombian), Miguel Chase Sardi (Paraguayan), Alberto Chirif (Peruvian), Georg Grünberg (an Austrian who worked in Brazil and Paraguay), Nelly Arvello Jimenez (Venezuelan), Esteban Emilio Mosonyi (Venezuelan), Darcy Ribeiro (Brazilian), Scott S. Robinson (an American who worked in Mexico) and Stefano Varese (an Italian who worked in Peru). Among these, some lived in exile abroad for prolonged periods, such as Stefano Varese (in the USA), Miguel Bartolomé (Mexico) and Gonzalo Castillo Cárdenas (USA) and Darcy Ribeiro (Chile and Peru).

[3The notion of attitude must be understood in the sense proposed by Johannes Fabian (2001), when he highlights the decisive role that a set of ideas and assumptions acquire in defining choices regarding actions of a cognitive nature. The group of signatories to the Barbados declaration never intended to form a school of thought or to adhere to a specific theoretical perspective, though they did aim to influence practices related to Indigenous peoples and the direction of conducting such anthropological research.

[4Translated by Philip Badiz.

[5Here I use a translation of the original text of the document, written in Spanish. The translation that has been widely circulated from a book in English is different, and to me it seems less faithful to the strong tone of the Declaration of Barbados : ‘That Indians organize and lead their own liberation movement is essential, or it ceases to be liberating’ (Dostal, 1972).

[6Not to be confounded with his father, Portuguese philosopher Agostinho da Silva.

[7As mentioned earlier, the master’s degree in anthropology at UFSC was implemented in 1985, while at UFBA, the master’s degree in social sciences only began in 1990, and that of anthropology in 2007.

[8CEPPAC : Centro de Pesquisa e Pós-Graduação sobre as Américas [Research Centre and Postgraduate Programme on the Americas], now the Department of Latin American Studies (ELA), University of Brasilia (UNB).

[9Declaration of San José, UNESCO, Digital Library. Accessed on Aug. 30, 2020.

[10This experience was also essential for proposing an ethnographic approach to historical situations, which in my master’s dissertation (1977) was intended to combine the study of variations in culture with ecological contexts and interethnic domination.

[11In addition to the academic products, see Pacheco de Oliveira, 1977 and 1987.

[12A seringal is an area of Hevea Brasiliensis extraction, named after of the most extracted species in Brazil, seringa.

[13Maguta were the first men fished from the Evare creek by cultural hero Dyoi. During the mobilisations of the 1980s, the term was assumed as a self-denomination, and later used to name the museum created in 1991. For a history of this museum, see Pacheco de Oliveira, 2012.

[14For a profile of the activities of Lux Vidal’s activities and his students, see Tilkin Gallois, 2010.

[15Other then students, María Inês Ladeira, Virginia Valadão and the photographer Vincent Carelli, among others, also participated in the CTI at different times. Consequently, the CTI undertook indigenous activities among other peoples in Mato Grosso do Sul, the Amazon, and in the south-east. Among these, it is worth highlighting Maria Inês Ladeira in particular, who conducted extensive research with the Mbiá-Guarani on the Atlantic coast.

[16I apologize for not mentioning other rich experiences that combined research and intervention, due to the present article being an overview on the subject.

[17A reflection of this was that the area with the highest concentration of dissertations in the PPGAS-National Museum was that of urban anthropology, which used the very city of Rio de Janeiro as a laboratory.

[18The Funding Authority for Studies and Projects (FINEP), the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq), and the São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). All of these are public agencies.

[19Here too, I preferred, for reasons already mentioned above, to follow a direct translation from the original Spanish. The version circulating in English reads : ‘anthropologists have an obligation […] to generate new concepts and explanatory categories from the local and national social reality in order to overcome the subordinate situation of the anthropologist regarded as the mere “verifier” of alien theories’ (Dostal, 1972).

[20In a recent article entitled ‘Protegendo os índios e descolonizando a pesquisa’ [Protecting Indians and decolonising research] (Pacheco de Oliveira, 2020), I return to the heated debate established in the early 1980s between Darcy Ribeiro and Roberto da Matta, then coordinator of the PPGAS-National Museum. For the former, a portion of anthropologists were mechanically transplanting the production conditions of their metropolitan colleagues, trying to repeat scientific patterns and theories that did not provide answers to Brazilian dilemmas.

[21These are Afro-Brazilian communities that, according to Article 2 of Federal Decree 4887 of 2003, are considered to be remnants of the quilombos : ‘ethnic-racial groups, according to self-attribution criteria, with their own historical trajectory, endowed with specific territorial relations, with the presumption of black ancestry associated with resistance to the historical oppression suffered’.

[22See : for more than two hundred indigenous biographies available online.

[23However, the political and economic situation which we are entering in the third decade of the new millennium unfortunately brings back many threats similar to those of the 1970s. Perhaps that is why the document continues to cause such an impact on us and should serve as reading for the generation of students who seek anthropology.

[24Here again, a direct translation from Spanish was inserted in the text. The translation circulating in English reads : ‘which negates any relationship between academic research and the future of those peoples who form the object of such investigation, thus eschewing political responsibility which the relation contains and implies’. By changing the term ‘destino (fate) to ‘future’, this translation really seems to weaken the sentence.

[25See Pacheco de Oliveira (2016) for an analysis of the ethical component present in the interventions of Darcy Ribeiro, Roberto Cardoso de Oliveira, and Eduardo Galvão, on the occasion of the first meetings of the ABA, and the subsequent social commitment that would become a constant brand of this entity, which always functioned as the place of creation of a collective subject and of the political voice of anthropologists as citizens.

[26Today there is a curious association between research that defines itself as strictly academic and local support for highly professionalised NGOs, which establish practical mediations between researchers and indigenous communities. The ethnographic encounter is thus doubly distilled from its political dimension, because of restrictions on the agenda imposed by the NGOs, which Ferguson (1995) describes as ‘anti-political machines’, and the directions of an exclusive academic nature.

[27Victor Daniel Bonilla is a Colombian writer and journalist born in 1933. His book about the relations between the Capucin mission and the Amazonian Indians had great impact (Bonilla, 1968).

[28Gonzalo Castillo Cárdenas was a Protestant theologian and social activist. He wrote about Manuel Quintín Lame Chantre (1880–1967), a Colombian indigenous leader who in 1914 tried to form an independent indigenous republic (Lame Chantre & Cárdenas, 1971).

[29Group of researchers and activists that functioned in the early 1970s in various locations in Colombia, with the purpose to cooperate with indigenous and peasant organisations in the reconstruction of memories and in the defence of land rights. “La rosca” is a Spanish (Catalan) expression to indicate a movement that inexorably entwines and brings together two activities, in this case research and social action.

[30For a careful biographical trajectory of Stefano Varese, see Favier, 2023.