Gabriela de Freitas Figueiredo Rocha wins the 12th edition of CES Award

July 2021

About the awarded work

This work analyses the indigenous resistance to the process of repetition of colonial schemes in the recent Brazilian political context, based on the struggle for identity and recognition that takes place in the homogenizing space of the city.

Insofar as the Brazilian State has historically forged a "place for the Indian" through violence, acculturation, miscegenation and ethnocide, the democratic conquests of the last thirty years, although significant, have not altered the monocultural logics in which the political is thought and lived, where the indegenous occupies a residual place, a uniform population to be tutored, integrated and protected. Colonial stereotypes are reinforced, especially in the current conjuncture, where the advance of fascism has strongly legitimised violence against ethnically differentiated peoples and colonial practices that endanger all recent democratic conquests.

I propose, in dialogue with post-colonial and decolonial literature, to shift our gaze towards the agency of indigenous collectives in reinventing their existences by appropriating the colonising language, the logics and normative apparatuses, creating fractures in the process of monocultural translation that indigenism has imposed. They do this from the borders they inhabit - those physical and symbolic borders that constrain them to remain in "their places". Translation is brought here as an essential procedure, epistemological and political in nature, because from it equivocation and uncertainty are established, hence its permanently borderline character. After all, it is at the border where cultural difference potentiates its possibility of decolonizing and establishing reciprocal relations and intercultural dialogues, since it changes from a passive object to a permanent relation of differentiation.

The research took place through the extended case study on indigenous resistance in the city of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, during the years 2015 and 2016, where I accompanied collectives and people involved in a series of situations, applying participant observation, the execution of interviews and documentary research. I tried to elaborate the study from a situated perspective, politically positioned in defence of the processes I sought to understand and to which I intend to contribute, in a critical way, but especially to potentiate the forces that this movement contains.

The conclusions of this work are based on the relationship between the disputes in institutional fields for spaces of negotiation and self-determination and their reflexes at a local level, in urban territory, marked by exclusions and violence which are the continuation of the violence that expels them from their original territories. Existing and resisting in the city thus means re-appropriating one's body, language and name, taking up roots that were thought to be extinct, assuming a permanently open place for the enunciation of difference. This is put into practice on the basis of different resistance strategies which I have summarized in three: the defence of the name and of authenticity, the cultural performance and the resumption.

Key words: Indigenous peoples in urban contexts; indigenism in Brazil; post-colonialisms; border identities; intercultural translation