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How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance: the Guarani and Kaiowa Peoples in Brazil


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Recent international relations (IR) scholarship has developed a growing awareness of this discipline’s colonial roots, prompting a search for decolonising approaches. This article is about indigenous sovereignties and how they have been occluded in the currently globalised European system of states. The method employed is a case study of two of the most impoverished and bru- talised Indigenous Peoples in Brazil: the Guarani and the Kaiowa. In an attempt to transit between the world of Westphalia and non-European worlds, it starts by engaging in a conversation with Guarani and Kaiowa knowledge. Then, through a long-term historical analysis, it examines the main colonial processes that caused the occlusion of Guarani and Kaiowa sovereignty. Finally, it provides a broader perspective on how the diffusion of the European model of sovereignty, confronted with Indigenous resistance, has led to the social exclusion of Indigenous Peoples worldwide.
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How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 865
Contexto Internacional
vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016
João Nackle Urt
How Western Sovereignty Occludes
Indigenous Governance: the Guarani
and Kaiowa Peoples in Brazil
João Nackle Urt*
Abstract: Recent international relations (IR) scholarship has developed a growing awareness of this
discipline’s colonial roots, prompting a search for decolonising approaches. is article is about
indigenous sovereignties and how they have been occluded in the currently globalised European
system of states. e method employed is a case study of two of the most impoverished and bru-
talised Indigenous Peoples in Brazil: the Guarani and the Kaiowa. In an attempt to transit between
the world of Westphalia and non-European worlds, it starts by engaging in a conversation with
Guarani and Kaiowa knowledge. en, through a long-term historical analysis, it examines the main
colonial processes that caused the occlusion of Guarani and Kaiowa sovereignty. Finally, it provides
a broader perspective on how the diusion of the European model of sovereignty, confronted with
Indigenous resistance, has led to the social exclusion of Indigenous Peoples worldwide.
Keywords: Indigenous Sovereignties; Colonisation; Internal Colonialism; European System of
States; Social Exclusion.
It was ymã guare, ancient time. It was during the ird Earth, when white people entered
the territory now known as Brazil. Ñanderu was recreating the world, aer his father had
destroyed the Second Earth with darkness and re. In order to decide what the white
people and the Guarani and Kaiowa people would be like, he proposed a game. Ñanderu
put a series of objects on the ground: to one side, he put male adornments used during
religious Guarani rituals; to the other, he put pen, pencil, paper, and the Bible. Ahead, he
put the children: a Guarani boy and girl, and a white boy and girl. Ñanderu told them to
choose their preferences. While the Guarani children chose the objects related to learning
through the Guarani spiritual experience, the white children chose the objects related to
learning at school (Vietta 2007; Crespe 2015). As a result, the Guarani and Kaiowa ances-
tors decided to continue following their ñande reko, their own way.
at is one of the central narratives of Guarani and Kaiowa history, and one that
provides the foundations for their political sovereignty. As I will show, they are organised
as an anti-state polity, structured around three main forms of authority: religious leaders
(ñanderu or shamans), secular leaders (tendotá), and the great assembly (Aty Guasu) (Pi-
* Universidade Federal da Grande Dourados, Dourados–MS, Brazil;
866 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
mentel 2012). Each of these political actors, though contemporary, somehow refer to ymã
guare. rough the authorised narrative from the shaman, ymã guare provides ethical-
moral guidelines for the exercise of Guarani and Kaiowa self-government.
However, their sovereignty has not been fully exercised. Brazilian state and society
have limited this by imposing a colonial legal order over Guarani and Kaiowa lands, weak-
ening traditional leaderships, and denying and concealing the very existence of the colo-
nised as a political body. I characterise this practice of limiting an existing and legitimate
sovereignty to the point where it presents the appearance of a non-sovereignty as occlu-
is concept is proposed as a means of examining and characterising the political
aspects of colonisation. It is now widely accepted that the Indigenous presence is being
concealed in the master narratives of the global interstate system. But not only that: ‘Aer
being written out of history by selective processes of memory-making [ ... ], indigenous
peoples are silenced in political modernity’ (Picq 2013: 122). Occlusion is thus the con-
crete and specically political form of silencing Indigenous Peoples who resist colonisa-
tion. As a concept, it combines elements of subjugation, othering, denial of dierence,
and so on with an element of resistance. It recognises both the power of western colonial
institutions and the power of Indigenous polities, since occlusion signals the persistence
– both juridical and factual – of sovereignties that have been attacked over centuries with
immense physical, structural, and epistemic violence.
Occlusion takes place along a sequence of events, starting with fully exercised native
sovereignty and resulting in the prominence of the coloniser institutions. In order to fol-
low this progression, this article departs from the characterisation of traditional Guarani
and Kaiowa sovereignty by presenting a short summary of Guarani and Kaiowa history,
and a consideration of their world views. Next, it addresses the main processes that cul-
minated in the occlusion of their sovereignties, thus introducing the history of their colo-
nisation in Brazil. It shows that the Guarani and Kaiowa preserved themselves as fully
self-governed anti-state societies until the 19th century. Finally, it draws some conclusions
from this case study in order to add to a general understanding of how the diusion of the
European model of state sovereignty has led to the social exclusion of Indigenous Peoples
worldwide. My thesis is that political occlusion is a major piece in the puzzle of the subal-
ternisation of Indigenous Peoples.
I have opted to study the Guarani and Kaiowa peoples because theirs is an extreme
case of indigenous poverty and human rights violations, leading to a true humanitarian
crisis. Severe land dispossession is accompanied by high levels of child mortality and mal-
nutrition, alcoholism, unemployment, inappropriate housing, insucient access to water
or sanitation, low life expectancy, high suicide rates, and – to crown it all – the regular
assassination of Guarani leaders by hired killers.
In order to extract decolonial alternatives from this dismal situation, it is vital to un-
derstand the ways in which colonisation operated and still operates, and the complicity
between this practice and the European system of states.1 Such an attempt, from within IR,
faces a specic methodological challenge. e social sciences have long relegated relations
How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 867
between states and Indigenous Peoples to the realm of domestic politics. Since its incep-
tion, anthropology has collaborated with this process by depicting traditional societies as
peoples situated in a lost past, a time asynchronous with the modern world of western and
westernised societies. Critical studies by scholars such as Johannes Fabian (2013) have
sought to rescue anthropology from its (largely self-assigned) colonial role. A more recent
discipline, IR, has willingly inherited this role by stating that the world of international
politics is a world of modern nation-states, in which other polities do not or should not
have voice or space.
e separation of knowledge into strictly divided disciplines is part of the modern/
positivist project of constructing an academic building based on the premise that each
science should correspond to a well-bounded object and a specic method. J Marshall
Beier (2005: 60) argues that IR is a discipline only terms of the epistemological beliefs
of its practitioners, which are given ontological status through the disciplinary practices
those practitioners adopt, as if there was a clear division in the world of facts. Indigenous
Peoples have been le out of IR, despite their historicity as sovereign polities. is because
in the positivist process of the division of labour among the social sciences, societies have
been separated into ‘complex societies’, subjected to the study of economy, political sci-
ence, and sociology; and ‘primitive societies’, subjected to the study of anthropology. e
hidden premise is that ‘primitive societies’ were determined more by cultural aspects than
by economy or politics (Beier 2005: 67; see also Jones 2006: 4). Such a disciplinary division
of knowledge, according to Beier, is inseparable from the processes still under way in late
colonialism. erefore, disciplinary IR as well as anthropology is a colonial practice that
implicitly ‘speaks’ about the ‘primitive’ nature of Indigenous Peoples and their subaltern
place in the world. Only relationships among peoples civilised enough to constitute them-
selves as states could t into IR.
Recent IR scholars have developed a growing awareness of the colonial roots of their
discipline, and sought to develop decolonising approaches (Jones 2006). is article in-
tends to transit between the world of Westphalia and non-European worlds (Ling 2014),
thus engaging in conversation (Beier 2005: 221) with Guarani and Kaiowa thought. It
proposes to overcome the continuing colonial commitments in the social sciences and
to reinforce decolonial critiques in order to address one of the most urgent challenges in
contemporary global politics, otherwise kept invisible by disciplinary practices.
Guarani and Kaiowa history: from ymã guare to the time of law
In her study of world politics, Ling proposes a model of dialogics useful for a ‘world-of-
worlds’ in which a common world ‘emmanates [sic] from the interaction among Multiple
Worlds’ (: 2014: 14). Although Ling’s proposal allows taking into account the existence of
Indigenous worlds, ‘interaction’ is not the most eective way of describing the violence
of the friction between Europeans (and their heirs) and the Guarani and Kaiowa peoples.
eir perspectives seem to demand a framework able to deal with the destruction of their
world, and it is their own historical narratives that oer such a framework, particularly
868 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
some aspects on the ancient time and the genesis of the world, which will be presented
Guarani and Kaiowa tradition2 usually presents history in three periods: ymã guare,
or ‘ancient time’; sarambi, or ‘dispersal’; and the ‘time of law’ (Chamorro 2015: 24-25). An-
cient time dates to far before the time of colonial contact (Crespe 2015: 356). It can refer
to a time prior to the existence of humans on Earth, the life of spiritual ancestors, and the
many cycles that precede current existence on this planet. Many contemporary references
are taken from this historical period in the Guarani and Kaiowa political imaginations.
First, Earth was created to be the dwelling of the gods. at rst planet was destroyed
because Yrivera married his sister, Xaredy, which provoked the fury of Karai Papa, a high-
er god. Karai Papa ordered the destruction of the Earth with darkness, the fall of heavenly
bats and jaguars (mbopi’ete and jaguaru’i), and extreme events like oods and res. A
second Earth ensued, which was also destroyed with darkness and re, leaving room for
the creation of the third and current Earth. Spiritual and material ancestors of the Guarani
and Kaiowa have survived each of these Armageddons, and their hexakara – the highest
among shamans – have guaranteed the continuity of their special relations with the gods.
Every cycle of destruction and creation of the Earth occurs in order to promote purica-
tion (Vietta 2007: 137).
In the beginning of the ird Earth, the historical-mythical choice referred to earlier
took place. While there are many dierent versions in oral tradition, they all have largely
the same structure, and the same profound political meaning. In the version learnt by the
historian Aline Crespe (2015: 353), adult men make the choice. To the one side, Ñanderu
put ritual objects such as mbaraka, mymby and jeguaka; to the other, guns, gold and mon-
ey. Guarani man chose the ritual objects, while the white man chose the metal objects. In
this narrative, as told by the shaman-assistant Delno Borvão, it is clear that, even with
the understanding that their ancestral choice had made them poor, this was the correct
choice: ‘richness is deceiving [ ... ]. Only prayer can help ascending to heaven and knowing
the true world’; … ‘the white choice is mistaken. Gold is worth nothing. What is valuable
is the world, the land, and the prayer’ (Crespe 2015: 355).
Ancient time also refers to the life of material ancestors, the time when there was full
autonomy and freedom in their territories (Crespe 2015: 356), and when their traditional
social organisation prevailed. Guarani and Kaiowa ancestors were organised as peoples
against the state (Clastres 2013). eir institutions contradicted the idea of conceding
freedoms and powers to a central institution. e space of chiefdom was occupied by a
leader who exercised authority without any kind of policing power that might allow him
to sanction his decisions by means of a legitimate monopoly of force. e Guarani and
Kaiowa lived in extended families, formed by up to 60 nuclear families, in great communal
houses under the leadership of a grandfather. In the 16th and 17th centuries, those extended
families lived ve to 10 kilometres from each other, and generally did not establish vil-
lages. A group of allied extended families formed a territory of exclusive usage, or tekoha
(Cavalcante 2013: 58-61; Benites 2014a: 40).
How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 869
e main Guarani concept involving land is that of tekoha, which is still extensively
employed today. Its etymology sheds light on its meaning: teko is the Guarani way of
being, ‘the ethical-moral system, the set of principles, norms, and laws which guide a
community [ ... ] and which is usually translated as culture and religion’ (Chamorro 2015:
226); and ha is an indicative of place (Crespe 2015: 25); it is ‘where life happens. erefore
tekoha is the space – and the many resources it brings that make life possible – where
one can be and belong as Guarani. According to Maria Ladeira (2008: 97), the Guarani
notion of territory is connected to a geographical space where relations that dene their
way of life can be developed: ‘space [ ... ] implies other limits, dened by ethical principles
and values that match the people’s world view’. One of the values implied in the notion
of tekoha is the possibility of moving through the space, or mo ng u ’e (a Guarani word that
also designates ‘politics’). Although the tekoha was an area of exclusive usage, it included
routes of free circulation for members of other tekoha, which created the sense of a great
network established over that geographical area. According to Spensy Pimentel (2012:
104), one of the meanings of the tekoha ‘is the network of relations sewn onto the geo-
graphical environment, neither pure sociality, nor pure territoriality’.
In brief, ymã guare starts with the genesis of the world and reaches a time still alive
in the memory of the elders, about one century ago, when Guarani and Kaiowa lifeways
were preserved in the tekoha.
e second period of history was the sarambi, or dispersal. It roughly corresponds to
the 20th century.3 Movements outside traditional lands were mostly forced resettlements
in reservations, while some were migrations motivated by a fear of the growing number
of settlers (João 2011: 44-45). is period stands out in Guarani and Kaiowa memory, be-
cause it was the time of the loss of land. Being dispossessed of their lands meant a severe
blow to their autonomy and traditional lifeways. Both in reservations and in areas then
characterised as private farms, the combined power of settlers and the state apparatus
prevented the Guarani and Kaiowa from guaranteeing the proper usage of territory and its
assets (such as forests and rivers), or maintaining traditional trails and paths that provided
sociality. Reservations were subjected to the power of specialised state bureaucracies, and
farms were protected with private repower, backed by the settler judicial system as well
as the police. Guarani and Kaiowa lands were crossed by barbed wire fences and roads for
motorised vehicles, and their forests cleared with chainsaws and tractors. e growing in-
uence of and dependence on coloniser societies were no longer avoidable, and the paths
that materially structured the old social networks were no longer available.
By the end of the 20th century, this situation had reached a tipping point. When defor-
estation reached practically all the areas where Guarani and Kaiowa peoples had sought
refuge, it was necessary to ght back. e collective decision to promote more oensive
political struggles coincided with a wave of global treaties and laws protecting the rights of
Indigenous Peoples. Hence the third period of history is the time of law, a time of struggles
supported by international treaties such as ILO Convention 169 and the Brazilian Con-
stitution of 1988.
870 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
e expectations of the time of law are connected both to the ancient time of mythi-
cal-historical events and to the certainty of better days to come: ára pyahu, or a new ‘time-
space’. e hope of recovering the land and the old days should not be misunderstood as
a naive intention of bringing back the past: ‘[To the Kaiowa,] going back to the rst days,
however, is not repeating such past, but inspiring in it’ (Chamorro 2015: 25). Or, as Dipesh
Chakrabarty (2000: 250) states, ‘[a]ll our pasts are futural in orientation. ey help us
make the unavoidable journey into the future. ere is, in this sense, no “desire for going
back”, no “pathological” nostalgia that is also not futural as well.Ára pyahu is thus the
product of such mode of history. It is the future when Guarani and Kaiowa virtues will be
(re)enacted, made possible by the power of prayers chanted by the shamans.
e idea of ára pyahu makes the struggle for the tekoha something more than a strug-
gle for land. It is a struggle for the material conditions for the exercise of self-government.
Tekoha is not a territory that is frozen in time, but a space to be and belong to as Guarani,
where ‘other times’ can inform the present. Ideas once believed, that Indigenous societies
are ‘static’ or ‘cold’, or the more respectful version by Levi-Strauss that they are societies
against history that ‘cherish the dream of remaining as they were in the beginning of time
(cited in Goldman 1999: 4) seem wrong. Actually, their conception of a ‘timeless time
(Blaney and Inayatullah 2010: 197) is deliberately employed as the basis for an alternative
model of politics.
In their own versions of their history, Guarani and Kaiowa peoples are the central
agents of their fates. e white man’s technological and economic superiority derives from
the original choice of being Guarani, a cost the Guarani and Kailowa decided to bear in
order to preserve their spiritual bonds with gods. In a self-critical discourse, they believe
that the loss of land was also their responsibility: ‘If they lost the land, it was a consequence
of not praying as they should’ (Crespe 2015: 353). And taking the land back will also be
their responsibility. erefore, they struggle and pray (Benites 2014a), for both strategies
are indispensable for their political quest.
In the 1970s, Aty Guasu, the Great Assembly of Guarani and Kaiowa leaders, decided
that the Guarani and Kaiowa should reoccupy traditional territories (jeike jey). Jeike jey is
‘a response or reaction organised by Aty Guasu, faced with the violent expulsion of extend-
ed families from their territories, intending to reoccupy and recover the territories lost
to farmers’ (Benites 2014b: 233). is tactic was only adopted aer extensive discussions
among and the deliberation of chiefs from many extended families, only in the presence
of shamans. In a move that denotes a conscious political use of their cyclic conception of
time, Aty Guasu decided to call reoccupation camps tekoharã, or future tekoha (Chamorro
2015: 241).
ose camps lack state recognition or protection; families living in them endure harsh
material conditions, and their lives are endangered. But the mobilisation around the re-
covery of their lands put in motion mechanisms of social reproduction and the reconstitu-
tion of ways of solidarity that were damaged in the past. For the Kaiowa leader Ambrósio
Vilhalva (cited in Chamorro 2015:244), the camps have awakened children’s interest in
Guarani and Kaiowa culture. Reoccupations are the seeds of tekoharã, where renewed
How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 871
communities will rehabilitate the generative virtues of land, and recover traditional ways.
ere and then, a new lifecycle will begin. It will be ára pyahu. Woods, animals, and their
spiritual protectors will once again inhabit their lands.
Shamans contribute to the regeneration of tekoharã for, among other reasons, they
can recover ancient prayers. ey can transit across the spiritual world, establishing rela-
tions with deities, in a similar way as secular leaders constituted political relations across
the many tekoha trails. Crespe (2015) emphasises that, for powerful and experienced sha-
mans, such as her interlocutor’s grandfather, José Borvão, the timeline – which they call
tape guasu – is a trail he can walk with the power of his chants. By means of the discipline
of prayers learnt since early childhood, shamans can walk the timeline and revisit ymã
guare, ‘in order to learn how Guarani people used to live, how they used to pray, and how
they must pray now and here on Earth to re-establish the balance of life’ (Crespe 2015:
357). at makes the shaman a history-teller, a political authority, and an actor imbued
with the power to promote necessary change, all at the same time.
Finally, another signicant part of their struggle lies in daily strategies for survival.
Resistance, in this sense, corresponds to the art of ‘re-existing’ (Walsh 2013) in the face of
eorts by colonising states to ‘eradicate them culturally, politically and physically’ (Alfred
and Corntassel 2005: 597). eir pathways start ‘with people transcending colonialism on
an individual basis’ by generating ‘an authentic existence out of the mess le by colonial
dispossession and disruption’ (Alfred and Corntassel 2005: 612).
is mode of resistance deploys its full strength within an anti-statist polity, such
as the Guarani and Kaiowa: resistance is promoted despite little central co-ordination.
Everyone struggles to work out how he/she can contribute, whether by perpetuating re-
ligious rituals; speaking the Guarani language; retelling traditional Guarani-Kaiowa his-
tories; generating children; performing changa (temporary work for settler society); col-
lecting garbage; promoting land reoccupations; recording and playing Guarani protest
hip hop; enrolling in university programmes tailored for Indigenous students; teaching in
Indigenous schools; becoming anthropologists, lawyers and public health agents; speak-
ing to international media and organisations; and participating in Aty Guasu. What turns
these individual strategies into a collective strategy is the common identity and the com-
mon will to perpetuate as a people.
In Chakrabarty’s terms, this section was about a past and a future ‘that already “are”.
Here, the Guarani and Kaiowa are not ‘human embodiments of anachronism’ (Chakrab-
arty 2000: 238), but the authors of a specic form of worlding. Here, they can oer al-
ternative answers to the impositions of Eurocentric ‘progress. e next section is some-
what more connected to history as ‘the indispensable and universal narrative of capital’
(Chakrabarty 2000: 254). It intends to comprehend history by ‘recovering the process
which caused the present to be what it is’ (Goldman 1999: 3–4). Still, it is not merely a
footnote to the history of European expansion, because it counters nationalist and Eu-
rocentric versions, and indicates that the Guarani and Kaiowa peoples occupied a vast
territory up until the 19th century.
872 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
The colonisation of the Guarani and Kaiowa in Brazil: from traditional
sovereignty to territorial dispossession
e Guarani4 originally inhabited a vast territory ranging from the shores of Uruguay to
the Brazilian state of Rio de Janeiro, extending westwards up to today’s Bolivia and Para-
guay, and southwards towards Argentina. is article refers to the history and the current
situation of Guarani-speaking people living between the Paraguay and Paraná Rivers (see
Figure 1), in what is now the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul.5
Figure 1: The Plata River basin
Source: Kmusser 2015.
e colonisation of these Guarani peoples began in the 16th century. During the rst
four centuries of the Conquest, their lands were extremely peripheral from the viewpoint
of European powers: they presented little opportunities for obtaining resources that could
How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 873
be employed in the struggle for power. As a consequence, only peripheral groups from the
Portuguese and Spaniard colonies launched occasional assaults on their lands, with little
or no practical impact. Native peoples of the New World were entirely indigenised: in the
settlers’ minds, all those peoples were ‘Indians’, equally inferior to Europeans, although
some were allies and others were enemies.
Around 1540, the rst Portuguese and Spaniard travellers arrived at the upper Para-
guay River. During the second half of the 16th century, they formed alliances with Guarani
peoples at the bay where the city of Asunción was founded (1537), and with other Gua-
rani groups northwards. ese voyages were part of the search for the Eldorado. People
living in the lower Plata basin wore metal accessories which they claimed to have obtained
in the interior. Only in 1548, adventurers along the Plata River became aware that other
European groups had already conquered the mines they were searching for in the territo-
ries of Tawantinsuyu, the Inca Empire. e Portuguese Crown concentrated on ensuring
control over coastal territories, and gave little attention to these outlying areas.
Aer the 1580s, Spaniards from Asunción created encomiendas, land concessions to
be exploited with slave labour, and established a settlement called Santiago de Xerez in
the upper Paraguay, mostly with Jesuit missionaries. Neither this settlement nor the Para-
guayan encomiendas represented any eective territorial occupation. From the end of the
16th to the mid-17th century, Xerez was progressively abandoned due to disease and vio-
lent incursions by Portuguese subjects. ese were the Paulistas, groups of pillagers and
slavers later known as Bandeirantes (trailblazers) (Cortesão 1952: 100; Chamorro 2015:
61). eir social episteme, supported by theories of Just War, was based upon the idea
that non-Christian peoples could be legitimately killed or enslaved. e institutions of the
European system of states supported such a view, with a standard of civilisation that did
not take non-European peoples into account as political interlocutors.
Between 1632 and 1645, Guarani leaders broke the alliance established with mis-
sionaries, since the latter were unable to prohibit the entry of other Europeans into the
lands of the former. Paulistas continued their incursions throughout the rest of the 17th
century (Chamorro 2015: 66). ere was no reaction from the Spaniards, because they did
not have enough energy or interest to engage in direct conict with the Portuguese, but
also because they were enemies of the Jesuits, whose actions were interpreted as denying
access to Indigenous labour (Queiroz n.d.: 45).
e actions of the colonisers ultimately altered regional geopolitics: ‘the withdrawal
of the Guarani groups opened space for Indigenous groups from the Chaco, such as the
Mbayá-Guaikuru and the Chané-Guaná’ (Queiroz n.d.: 46), which had been traditional
enemies of the Guarani groups. But the territory between the Iguatemi and Brilhante
rivers (see Figure 2) remained a refuge for the Guarani resistance. A successful strategic
retreat took place: they abandoned river margins and hid in the woods, on ridges and
around springs, which provided better positions against Portuguese oensives.
In 1719, Bandeirantes discovered gold north of the Guarani lands, near the Cuiabá
River. e nature and geographic scope of their incursions henceforth changed. All their
eorts were directed at gold prospection, and the routes to the mines did not touch Guara-
874 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
ni territory. Other peoples, such as the Guaikuru, Payaguá, Southern Kaiapó and Bororo,
then suered the war waged by the Portuguese.
Figure 2: Major rivers in Mato Grosso do Sul
Source: Ambiente Brasil 2015.
e discovery of gold alerted the Portuguese Crown to the importance of regularising
colonial boundaries. Since the Tordesillas Treaty (1494), colonial domains were dened as
a strip of coastal lands that did not include Cuiabá. In 1750, the Portuguese obtained the
signature of the Treaty of Madrid, which conrmed their right to territories west of the
Tordesillas line. e south of the Mato Grosso remained an object of Paraguayan explora-
tion, mostly to collect mate tea, and of Guarani resistance.
Aer the independence of Paraguay (1811) and Brazil (1822), the new states adopted
institutional arrangements similar to those of their former metropolises, and those terri-
tories were recognised as the sovereign domains of the new settler states. is also enabled
the new-born states to be incorporated into the international system, although peripher-
With independence came neo-colonial bonds with Great Britain. Under the hege-
mony of free commerce brought by British imperialism, the Brazilian Empire continued
to perform a dependent role in the international division of labour as an exporter of agri-
cultural goods and importer of industrialised goods. is was functional from the point
of view of Brazilian elites, and met the minimum economic conditions that permitted
the exercise of state sovereignty. ese elites were progressively more capitalist, since cof-
fee farmers increasingly assumed the commercial functions related to coee production,
How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 875
and incoming European immigrants brought a capitalist rationale with them (Fernandes
Although independence represented the acquisition of a new status by settler soci-
eties, it did not bring a favourable outcome for colonised peoples. Independence in the
Americas were ‘movements for colonist-independence’ (Ferro 2005: 207), the most ad-
vanced stage of colonial expansion. Once settlers got rid of the legal and administrative
limits imposed by the former metropolises, they intensied the colonisation of Indigenous
lands and populations. It was the beginning of internal colonialism (Casanova 2002).
e success of coee plantations in the south east made cattle farming a viable activity
in Mato Grosso, and started its integration with the broader Brazilian economic universe
(Queiroz n.d.: 52-53). Aer the 1840s, a front of expansion that reached some Guarani
and Kaiowa lands was opened. Squatters established small homesteads, but claimed own-
ership of thousands of hectares. In practice, the Brazilian Land Law of 1850 favoured this
type of plundering. Farms thus obtained were later divided and sold, prompting the ar-
rival of more settlers. New attempts to remove Guarani and Kaiowa peoples were made, in
order to free their lands for private appropriation, and guarantee settlers’ safety of move-
ment. Guarani and Kaiowa people were oered protection in villages located in the São
Paulo province. e few families that accepted the ‘invitation’ succumbed to smallpox and
the attacks of Kaingang groups.
Renewed government attention was paid to Guarani and Kaiowa territory due to the
Paraguayan War (1864-1870). Also known as the War of the Triple Alliance, it was fought
between Paraguay on the one side and Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay on the other. Aer
the conict, the Brazilian state gave the Companhia Mate Laranjeira a concession of 5
million hectares, part of which fell in Guarani and Kaiowa territory (Vietta n.d.: 332), for
the extraction of mate tea. Most of the labourers were Indigenous people, with thousands
of Guarani and Kaiowa working in conditions akin to slavery (Ferreira and Carmo n.d.:
347, 349).
In the 20th century, the transformation of the geographic environment reached un-
precedented levels. Telegraph lines, roads and railroads were built as part of the modernis-
ing projects of the Eurocentric Brazilian Republic, founded in 1889. e Brazilian elite
fully embraced the triumphalist belle époque culture. While European empires fought over
Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe, the Brazilian state reinforced the occupation of borders
in order to guarantee ‘national security’.
In 1910, the Brazilian government founded the Service for the Protection of the Indi-
an (SPI), grounded on territorial nationalism, social Darwinism and positivism. In south-
ern Mato Grosso, the SPI promoted land demarcations that worked as forced territoriali-
sation. It restricted Indigenous groups to reservations, at once securing the liberation of
thousands of hectares for settlement, and imposing state control over Indigenous commu-
nities. Farmers started expelling or exterminating Indigenous communities (Cavalcante
2013: 84, 86). Life in the reservations represented the end of autonomy for those families,
and the decline of the traditional authority of shamans and other political leaders. Some
876 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
were still recognised as legitimate leaders, but the scope of their authority was severely
reduced by these state actions.
Indigenous labour was used to install telegraph lines, build roads, cut down forests,
and run cattle farms. e loss of traditional means of life and the advent of new needs
obliged Indigenous men to work for the settler society. Traditional customs became more
dicult to observe, and traditional social bonds were weakened.
With the decline of the mate extractive industry in the 1940s, the federal government
promoted new settlements. Brazilian nationalism demanded the eective occupation of
the country’s border regions. is was the time of the ‘March towards the West’, which
amounted to a great oensive against Indigenous Peoples who lived in the current Mato
Grosso do Sul. A National Agricultural Colony of 300 000 hectares was established, and
some 10000 families settled in it. Many Indigenous communities lived in the areas as-
signed for the colony.
For the Guarani and Kaiowa, it was the beginning of their ultimate land disposses-
sion. Actively promoted by the state, the new frontiers of expansion encouraged system-
atic deforestation. When new groups were reached, they were removed to reservations.
Until then, some of the Guarani and Kaiowa had preserved their sovereign traditional
institutions in territories settlers had not reached. Conned in reservations from then on,
traditional leaders had little or no capacity to defy assimilationist state authorities backed
by the police and the army.
Aer 1950, the establishment of private farms began a process of the expulsion of
Indigenous families from their territories. It was the time of the sarambi (dispersal). Many
extended families were disarticulated. Each family searched refuge where it could, in the
lands of distant relatives, in the remotest woods, in Paraguay, or in the towns. At some
point between the 1950s and the 1970s, they ran out of woods. Deforestation had de-
stroyed the last alternatives to life in the reservations. Most Indigenous lands had been
expropriated. Only 17 632 hectares were le, and these were the areas of the SPI reserva-
e Guarani and Kaiowa then tried to recompose extended families and, in the 1970s,
organised the Great Assembly (Aty Guasu) in order to ght the enforced dispersion of
Indigenous families from their traditional territory. In the 1980s, aer a huge eort and
the systematic use of reoccupation tactics, they achieved the demarcation of little more
than 6000 hectares. Not even in those lands, though, could they enforce their decisions
according to their sovereignties: demarcated lands were governed by the new indigenista
service, the National Foundation of the Indian (FUNAI).
As a consequence of the colonial process described above, the Guarani and Kaiowa
currently live in a dire situation. Prejudice and discrimination against them are extreme
and oen violent, reinforcing the destructive potential of poverty. Land scarcity is the
main cause of their exclusion. About 70 000 people occupy 0.19% of Mato Grosso do Sul,
amounting to an average of 1 hectare per person. Some reservations have been swallowed
by urban expansion and have become suburban ghettos, marked by drug and alcohol
abuse as well as violence.
How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 877
Processes for the demarcation of Indigenous lands, although prescribed by the Fed-
eral Constitution of 1988, have been obstructed by federal bureaucracies, resulting in
instability and violence around the unenforced rights of occupation. Procedures for the
demarcation of 59 pieces of land in Mato Grosso do Sul have not even started.
Fighting against land scarcity, many groups live in 25 reoccupation camps spread
around 14 dierent towns. In those camps, about 2 700 people live with no proper hous-
ing, water, food, access to health or education. Many suer constant intimidation by gun-
men hired by commercial farmers, while waiting for the state to demarcate their lands.
Farmers, though, are not willing to concede. According to current Brazilian law, if the
land is identied and demarcated as Indigenous, current possessors have practically no
rights to compensation. is places farmers on a collision course with Indigenous groups.
Moreover, farmers are not willing to let go of the areas where they produce soy beans and
sugar cane for export, which give them access to federal loans at low interest rates, and
elevate them into a regional economic elite.
For this reason, many Guarani and Kaiowa leaders have been killed by gunmen,
mostly in the course of reoccupations. In Mato Grosso do Sul, an average of 31.7 Indig-
enous people were killed every year between 2003 and 2012. Structural violence is mani-
fested in many ways: Mato Grosso do Sul is the state with the highest rate of Indigenous
incarceration in Brazil; the child mortality rate in 2010 was 38:1000 among Guarani and
Kaiowa, whereas the national rate was 25: 1000; and between 2000 and 2013, there were
684 suicides among the Guarani and the Kaiowa (Gomes 2008; Rangel 2011; Machado,
Alcantara, and Trajber 2014; Fasolo 2014).
In sum, Survival International (2010: 2) describes their situation as that of genocide:
a series of events that submit the members of these groups to conditions hampering their
physical, cultural, and spiritual existence, and humiliating experiences that breach the
principle of human dignity.
How European sovereignty imposed the occlusion of Indigenous
During the past ve centuries, a set of heterogeneous agent-structures (or actor-networks)
– the global interstate system, the Brazilian state, and the Guarani and Kaiowa peoples
– has become entangled in the same ‘time knot’ (Chakrabarty 2000: 243). e global
interstate system is a consequence of at least ve centuries of European expansion and
the diusion of its political institutions, particularly the European model of sovereignty.
While the Westphalian order implied that sovereignty was an attribute exclusive of states,
the jurists of the European colonial powers employed the doctrine of sovereignty to deny
self-government rights to non-European peoples (Anghie 2004). In the following cen-
turies, European political models were imposed as the only acceptable ones, part of the
standard of civilisation. e European system of states is now global precisely because of
the imbalance imposed by the world of Westphalia.
878 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
In Brazil, the war of the state against Indigenous Peoples was also inuenced by the
global spread of the Westphalian rationale. Both the Brazilian state and society incorpo-
rated the cosmological commitments necessary for international recognition as ‘civilised’,
and the legitimacy to exercise exclusive sovereignty over its territory. In the process, the
country destroyed the sovereignties of many Indigenous Peoples.
Despite this colonial oensive, many Indigenous Peoples in Brazil survived. ey
include the Guarani and Kaiowa. Although lacking recognition under the Westphalian
order, they are political units with specic decision-making institutions and particular
conceptions of well-being and the future. Indeed, they seem to prefer being loyal to their
lifeways over becoming reserve armies of labour on the peripheries of capitalism. eir
agency must thus be recognised as a precondition of their current situation: it is because
they do not accept a subaltern integration with the settler society that internal colonial-
ism reduces them to tiny reservations deprived from basic resources. e outcome is the
humanitarian crisis that has been inicted upon the Guarani and Kaiowa peoples.
is fact is related to a historical process that involves the expansion of the European
system of states with the establishment of Europeanised states in lieu of the former colo-
nies; the indigenisation of colonised societies which refuse to be assimilated; the occlusion
of indigenous sovereignties under regimes of internal colonialism; and their social and
moral exclusion in the colonial situation.
e rst phase of this historical process, culminating in the current social exclusion,
comprised the appearance and consolidation of the European model of the modern sov-
ereign state. From medieval political diversity emerged the absolutist monarchic dynastic
state. e clash between these polities engendered a conception of sovereignty based on
the principle that the actor who controls the territorial unit must have authority to take
all political decisions in that territory (Murphy 1996). Western European sovereign states
were thus invented.
During that process, some states launched colonial enterprises, both overseas and
over contiguous lands, in order to obtain resources in the European struggle for pow-
er. Colonisation was limited, in geographical terms, to places accessible to the means of
transport available at the time. But the violence of the rst wars of conquest was exem-
plary. Eventually, the colonial formula expanded worldwide, steadily conquering more
and more distant territories. With colonisation, European institutions, values, ideas and
rules were diused to European settlers on other continents and to non-European groups
willing to intermediate in colonial relations. ose cultural elements were exported, oen
through violence, or imported, as symbolic resources that could represent the dierence
between being completely enslaved and retaining a degree of autonomy.
During the establishment of new states in the Americas, the diusion of the Euro-
pean model stemmed from a dynamic of social selection marked by the survival of the
most Europeanised political groups. e independence of settler states represented the
onset of ‘internal colonialism’ (Casanova 2002). Europeans were replaced by their descen-
dants born in the colonies. Settlers continued exploiting Indigenous Peoples, just as they
did before. But the formers were now a class that had incorporated ‘the rationalization
How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 879
of colonialism, absorbed ‘bureaucratic-authoritarian predispositions derived from tradi-
tional society or the colonial experience’, and agreed to reproduce its practices (Casanova
2002: 83-84). In fact, in order to become independent, local settler rebel leaders assumed
an European political form: the territorialist modern state. No other form would exempt
the settlers from being recolonised.
In order to legitimise the occupation and government of expropriated territories, the
new states required the ‘collective delegitimation’ of native sovereignties (Strang 1996: 31).
Indeed, the agents of colonisation refused to perceive or accept native polities, authorities
and knowledge. By sticking to an epistemology grounded on exclusive binaries and essen-
tialisms, they characterised natives as primitives who lacked culture and, a fortiori, lacked
political institutions such as sovereignty. Designations such as ‘Indians’, ‘aborigines’, or
‘Indigenous Peoples’ imposed a homogenising umbrella identity that conveniently erased
the polities of the colonised. Indigenisation is therefore the imposition of an exogenous
and generic identity onto a colonised people (Pratt 2007: 398-399), as part of the binary
social classications useful to the colonial enterprise (Quijano 2000: 342).
Indigenisation resorts to what Chakrabarty (2000: 8) called ‘historicism’, and Fabian
(2013: 61) called ‘the denial of coevalness’, that is, refusing to accept that the colonised
Other lives in the same historical time as the coloniser Self. It is present, for instance, in
John Stuart Mill’s pronouncement that Indians and Africans were not civilised enough
to govern themselves (Connolly 2000: 186). According to Antony Anghie (2004: 4), this
dynamic of dierence’ – i.e., the ‘endless process of creating a gap between two cultures,
demarcating one as “universal” and civilized and the other as “particular” and uncivilized’
– supported the ‘development of many of the central canons of international law, most
particularly, sovereignty doctrine’.
So the very idea of ‘Indigenous Peoples’ is a result of the colonial enterprise. It is essen-
tially a relational idea, a category that has emerged from the confrontation of a colonised
people, which already lived in a particular space, and a coloniser people, who arrived sub-
sequently. e double standard of the international society (Suzuki 2005) – in which its
‘members were not obliged to treat non-members according to the norms that applied to
relations between themselves’ (Keal 2003: 84), thus originating two distinct moral regimes
– threatened with colonial war any non-European society unwilling to peacefully obey the
demands of European traders.
Colonial agents deliberately ignoring the political institutions of the colonised, dele-
gitimising their self-government experiences, trying to suppress their sovereignties, and
expropriating their territories caused the eective and violent concealment of Indigenous
sovereignties before the European system of states.
Such an oensive has a material and a formal component. e material component
is land deprivation. Colonisers physically removed Indigenous Peoples from their ter-
ritories where they had exercised their political sovereignty. e formal component is
legal internalisation. Colonial states internalised Indigenous Peoples, transforming them
into objects to be managed or governed ‘by some combination of hierarchy, eradication
by assimilation or expulsion, and tolerance’ (Inayatullah and Blaney 2004: 44). In that
880 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
way, even in reservations or state demarcated ‘Indigenous lands’, Law and public policies
prevent Indigenous sovereignties from being fully exercised, resulting in both social and
moral exclusion.
e idea of social exclusion usually implies that poverty happens because a group
of people is excluded from a given social order. However, in dialogue with the history of
Indigenous Peoples, this idea generates a paradox: the material hardship faced by those
groups results from their forced inclusion (not exclusion) on the margins of a colonial
order (Martins 1997: 28). Settler expansion leads to land dispossession. Without land,
Indigenous Peoples become vulnerable to impoverishment dynamics typical of class rela-
tions in capitalism, and they no longer succeed in preserving traditional patterns of nutri-
tion, housing, child care, etc (see Bodley 1988; Tauli-Corpuz 2004; Eversole 2005). is is
because land is not only the space where Indigenous groups exercise economic activities
that ensure their well-being, but also the territory where they can choose the best strate-
gies for promoting their material, psychological, and spiritual well-being.
But poverty is not enough to account for the situation of most Indigenous Peoples.
e idea of moral exclusion can help unravel the causes of genocide, linking it to specic
cultural-psychological dynamics. Indigenous Peoples are not only expropriated, but are
also forced to cohabit with settler societies. Because colonial ideology dehumanises the
colonised (Fanon 1968), settlers tend to exclude Indigenous Peoples from moral consid-
erations applicable among settlers themselves. erefore the colonial situation (Balandier
1993) forces Indigenous Peoples to live with settlers who do not consider the former to
be human or deserving of humane treatment. Moral exclusion then ensues. When settlers
distinguish among themselves, as ‘those entitled to the fullest privileges of membership in
the community’, and Indigenous others, ‘whose privileges are restricted or non-existent’
(Wilmer 1993:67), they are morally excluding Indigenous Peoples, with appalling results.
e Guarani and Kaiowa case provides a vivid example. As other indigenised peoples
all over the world, they are considered to be beyond the moral concerns of the settler
societies, ‘and [are] eligible for deprivation, exploitation, and other harms that might be
ignored or condoned as normal, inevitable, and deserved’ (Opotow, Gerson and Wood-
side 2005: 305). Indeed, for most settlers in Mato Grosso do Sul, considerations of fairness
do not apply to Guarani and Kaiowa people. Opotow, Gerson and Woodside (2005: 306)
have written that morally excluded people suer ‘rudeness, intimidation, and derogation’;
oppression and structural violence (e.g. racism, sweat shops, poverty)’; ‘persecution and
violence directed at particular individuals or groups (e.g. hate crimes)’; and ‘direct vio-
lence and violations of human rights’. is description ts the Guarani and Kaiowa as well.
Colonisation assaulted (and assaults) Indigenous lives in many ways. Yet many Indig-
enous Peoples are alive and politically organised around their common identities. Since it
is not accurate to state that Indigenous polities have been destroyed, and since it cannot be
ignored that they have been concealed and weakened, the concept of occlusion is neces-
sary. is section has sought to indicate how attempts to destroy Indigenous sovereignties
caused their occlusion, and how this produced social and moral exclusion as side-eects.
How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 881
Final considerations
As Beier (2005: 221) stated, ‘Indigenous people(s) and their knowledges should be of in-
terest not because we might suppose that they can inform our theories, but because what
they have to tell us is bona de international theory in its own right’.
Of course, Guarani and Kaiowa perspectives are much larger than the narratives I
have chosen to mention in this article. And I am no authorised voice invoking any special
legitimacy to interpret their ideas. But I intend to, in dialogue with their knowledges, un-
derline their profound political content.
First, the reading of their narratives reminds us how impoverishing the articial
separation between politics and spirituality advanced in the Westphalian conception of
sovereignty actually is (Inaytullah and Blaney 2004). Separating the elds of politics and
spirituality, and conferring prominence on the former, the Westphalian reading of the
world has restricted the inventory of political actors and the catalogue of how politics are
made, generating a reductionist ontology, perpetrating violence against dierence, and
producing a history of sameness in IR. e Guarani and Kaiowa teach us that the spiritual
is political, and that there are no politics outside spiritual commitments.
Second, the abovementioned narrative about their mythical ancestors choosing to re-
main loyal to their ñande reko tells us about their understanding of sovereignty. For them,
being sovereign is being able to choose to live according to their lifeways, and guarantee-
ing the enforcement of their cosmological commitments in a proper territory. It is not by
chance, therefore, that they insist on recovering the land. Tekoha is the place for governing
themselves, according to Guarani and Kaiowa ways. If the Brazilian state is to respect their
right to self-government, guaranteed in ILO Convention 169, it must not only complete
the recognition and demarcation of all Guarani and Kaiowa lands, but also review its as-
similationist laws and bureaucracies.
ird, there can be no dignity, either for the colonised or the colonisers, in the colo-
nial situation. Some form of decolonisation must take place, meaning that settler state and
society must learn to respect Guarani and Kaiowa rights in their own terms, as well as the
rights of all Indigenous Peoples in Brazil. Such awareness of our common future is stated
in Guarani and Kaiowa narratives in which they admit to be praying for destruction. As
long as these territories remain lost to them, shamans will continue to pray for destruc-
tion, be it in the form of res, storms, oods, droughts or frost. ey do so even though
they understand that such destruction will aect them as well, because ‘they are around
here as well’:
While we do not have our land back, ñanderu are praying to harm
the whites. ey are going to pray for a crisis to come, in the stock
market, to aect the money. Another says he will modify the rain, to
bring many storms or droughts. Another is praying for a disease to
attack soy plantations, something that nobody has ever seen like. A
new disease. [...] e Indians who are asking for their lands back are
praying for that indeed, for the rain, the storm, the ood to come,
882 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
and to cause them economic damage. But we know that it will hit
us to. Because we ask for it, but we are around here as well (Delno
Borvão, cited in Crespe 2015: 339-342).
Finally, this excerpt shows their clarity about the more structural causes of the colo-
nial violence directed at them: it is the money that ows from soy beans. e expansion of
global commodity chains to the last economic frontiers is the greatest historical force at-
tacking their territories. e Brazilian developmental state is legitimising and promoting
these attacks, while betting all its chips on deepening its dependent insertion into global
capitalism as an exporter of primary goods.
e empirical trait that motivated this attempt to understand the relation between
the expansion of European interstate system and the occlusion of traditional Indigenous
sovereignties is the moral and social exclusion of the Guarani and Kaiowa people. At the
time of writing, in June 2016, 70 men, including farmers and hired killers, attacked Gua-
rani and Kaiowa communities in the city of Caarapó in southern Mato Grosso do Sul.
Seven men were shot, including a 12-year-old boy. One of them died instantly. None of the
shooters has been arrested, so far. Local media have supported the farmers and the attack.
is article indicates that Guarani and Kaiowa peoples have had their own forms
of political sovereignty since immemorial times, and that the advancement of Brazilian
colonisation has reduced the territorial and social scopes of validity of their sovereignties.
e social exclusion experienced by Guarani and Kaiowa communities – manifested in
extreme poverty, discrimination and violence – is a direct consequence of the occlusion of
their sovereignties, and their submission to a colonial situation under the power of Brazil-
ian state and society.
Decolonisation requires the recognition of Guarani and Kaiowa sovereignties, em-
bodied in a model of shared governance among the state, settler society, and Indigenous
Peoples. Only such recognition, together with the restoration of previously pillaged lands
where Guarani and Kaiowa lifeways can be re-established, can bring some chance of pro-
ducing societies of material and psychological wellbeing, thus transcending the genocidal
state and society that currently exist in Brazil.
1 e ‘European system of states’ is taken to mean not only the complex of relations among European peoples,
but the system of relations that began in Western Europe and expanded to settler societies (as in Brazil and
Australia) and Europeanised groups in colonised societies (such as India and Indonesia), and eventually
became a global system of international relations, which Ling (2014) calls ‘the world of Westphalia’.
2 Guarani and Kaiowa conceptions of time deserve an entire article. is is a brief summary, based on the
anthropological sources given.
3 According to Chamorro (2015: 26), ‘Even the War [between Brazil and Paraguay] is not evoked as the
promoter of a rupture [in Guarani and Kaiowa memory], and the most frequent memories of the work
in mate extraction date to the last years of Companhia Mate Laranjeira’s actions. Hence, for Kaiowa, the
milestone between the rst and the second time [between ancient time and dispersal time] seems to be the
occupation of land by new proprietors, the moment when they started having more diculties to continue
living as they lived before.
How Western Sovereignty Occludes Indigenous Governance vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 883
4 When dealing with periods prior to the 18th century, it is more appropriate to refer to ‘classic Guarani’ or
‘Guarani-speaking peoples’ (since Guarani is also a language), or ‘peoples of the Guarani tradition’ (which
is more common in archaeology). at is because there were many Guarani-speaking peoples in the region
at the time of the Conquest, and thoroughly surveying their ethnic boundaries falls outside the scope of this
article. e Guarani-Ñandeva (or simply Guarani) and the Kaiowa are descendants of the classic Guarani.
e Guarani and the Kaiowa contemporary ethnic identities were produced at some stage in the 18th
5 e state of Mato Grosso do Sul was excised from the state of Mato Grosso in 1977.
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886 vol. 38(3) Sep/Dec 2016 Urt
is article is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation (Urt 2015), and some of its main ideas
were discussed in a paper presented at the International Political Sociology Doctoral Workshop in
Rio de Janeiro in 2015. For comments on this article or parts of the argument, the author thanks
Marta Fernández, Joanna Cordeiro, RBJ Walker, Narendran Kumarakulasingam, and two anony-
mous reviewers for this journal. e author would also like to thank Ana Flávia Barros Platiau,
Cristina Inoue, Graciela Chamorro, Xaman Korai Minillo and Tchella Maso for their contributions
and support.
About the author
JoãoNackle Urt is Professor of International Relations at the Federal University of Grande
Dourados (UFGD), Dourados, Brazil, and holds a PhD degree in international relations
from the University of Brasília (UnB). He was previously a professor at the Insikiran In-
stitute for Indigenous Education at the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR), Boa Vista,
Brazil, where he rst engaged in research with Indigenous Peoples. He is currently inter-
ested in contemporary forms of colonialism and struggles for decolonisation, the many
branches of post-colonial/decolonial thought and their impacts on international relations,
Indigenous Peoples as actors in global politics, and the ethics of research involving Indig-
enous communities.
Received on 10 January 2016, and approved for publication on 12 August 2016.
... Movement is so slow that there are few signs of change. Here I define this material and symbolic reality as a toxic one, not only because of the pesticides applied in the agribusiness sector, poisoning the land, the air, and water resources but also because of the toxic patterns and effects of racism, colonialism, direct and structural forms of violence, and human alienation (Urt, 2016;Ioris, 2020). Numerous research reports document the history of dispossession in the region; it is beyond the scope of this study to add to this detailed work (Benites, 2012;Brand, 2004;Pereira, 2012;Pimentel, 2012a, b). ...
... The original populations in this region of Brazil were left in relative freedom by colonisers until the end of the nineteenth century, when the first agro-company, Cia Mate Laranjeira, was established and the federal Indian Protection Service (SPI) begun displacing Indigenous peoples from their lands to newly created reserves (Urt, 2016). The Guarani and Kaiowá people's gradual dispersion away from their ancestral forests has been described as sarambi (Chamorro, 2015), meaning 'dis-order' in the Guaraní language. ...
... The agribusiness sector in MS developed following patterns of global emerging 'flex crops' and commodities (Borras et al., 2016), as well as national financial, statemaking, and geopolitical goals featured in the Brazilian version of the 'green revolution' (Oliveira, 2016). Through the 'March towards the West' from the 1940s onwards, cattle and soybean gradually expanded in MS (Urt, 2016). ProAlcool was a national public policy aiming for a transition from fossil-fuel based gasoline that gained momentum during the 1970s Military Dictatorship and brought sugarcane from highly exploitative plantations in North-Brazil to many of the country's regions (Sauer et al., 2017). ...
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How to re-member a fragmented world while climate change escalates, and green growth models reproduce coloniality, particularly in Indigenous territories? What can be the concrete contributions from different scholarly disciplines to a broader decolonial project? These questions are debated by decolonial scholars who call to re-think our practices within academic institutions and in the fields that we study. This article contributes with a decolonial perspective to sociocultural psychology and studies on Indigenous knowledges about climate change. Through ethnographic methods and individual and group interviews, I engage with indigenous Guarani and Kaiowá participants’ knowledges and practices of resilience opposing green growth models in the Brazilian state Mato Grosso do Sul. Their collective memory of a different past, enacted through narratives, rituals, and social practices, was fundamental to imagine different possible futures, which put in motion transformation processes. Their example opens a reflection about the possibilities in connecting sociocultural psychology’s work on collective memory and political imagination to the broader decolonial project, in supporting people’s processes of re-membering in contexts of adverse conditions caused by coloniality and ecological disaster.
... (Klausen,s/d,p. 12 (Urt, 2016). Em casos tão bem sucedidos quanto os Sami na Escandinávia, que são frequentemente considerados modelos para os povos indígenas, os analistas têm apontado para o fracasso do exercício da autodeterminação em face das práticas coloniais dos estados (Kuokkanen, 2009). ...
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Entretanto, conforme se buscou demonstrar nos textos que compõem a presente coletânea, embora tenha havido, por razões várias, uma profunda transformação no campo da Política e do Direito Internacional desde que Triepel asseverou aquele fenômeno – final do século XIX, em sua obra Völkerrecht und Landesrecht, e que serviu de base para seu Cours na Academia de Direito Internacional em 1923, nessa ocasião intitulada Les rapports entre Droit Interne et le Droit International –, não se pode afirmar, no mesmo passo, que eles sejam menos incógnitos que o eram à sua época. O estranhamento é ainda maior quando se apercebe que o Estado de Rondônia, embora se constitua em polo relevantíssimo das relações internacionais no Brasil, na América Latina ou mesmo no cenário da transnacionalização das relações econômicas – para ficarmos em alguns exemplos, da perspectiva histórica (Tratado de Petrópolis, anexação do Estado do Acre e consequente construção da Ferrovia Madeira-Mamoré, ponto de nascimento da cidade de Porto Velho), geográfica (região de fronteira com o Estado Plurinacional da Bolívia; rota de tráfico de substanciais estupefacientes e seus problemas decorrentes no plano da segurança nacional), ambiental (região amazônica e o Tratado de Cooperação Amazônica) e econômicas (produção agropastoril, integração energética etc.) –, salvo exceções realmente demarcadas, a Política e o Direito Internacional, quando aqui se fazem presentes, é na forma de produção intelectual exógena, no mais das vezes dissociada de uma compreensão sobre a necessidade de fixação e desenvolvimento de estudos próprios, e não necessariamente apenas sobre a Amazônia, mas desde a Amazônia e Rondônia. De fato, a região amazônica tem importância indiscutível, seja por sua riqueza natural, seja pelas questões político-estratégicas que suscita. É marcada por conflitos transnacionais, disputas por terra, demandas por desenvolvimento e dilemas na exploração de seus recursos, sendo uma realidade que instiga a reflexão sobre a política e o direito internacionais como um primeiro passo para compreender as relações sociais que se tecem tal território. Nesse cenário, os conflitos, as normas, os padrões de interação entre Estados e demais atores sociais, o papel das organizações estatais e internacionais, em termos de segurança e defesa, bem como de representação dos direitos humanos por movimentos sociais e as propostas governamentais de desenvolvimento, orientaram as reflexões que compõem o livro. A presente coletânea, intitulada Política e Direito Internacionais: um olhar interdisciplinar sobre a Amazônia, tem o aspecto positivo de reunir diferentes formações acadêmicas para promover uma verdadeira visão interdisciplinar sobre a região e os problemas inter e transnacionais inerentes à Política e ao Direito Internacional contemporâneos.
... (Cunha, 2002: 7) El discurso científico, representado por las vertientes modernas y coloniales de las RR. II., produce objetos de análisis a su imagen y semejanza (Urt, 2016). En sus formulaciones no se ocupa del ansia de ver el mundo a través de los ojos de los/las otros/otras. ...
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This paper aims to reflect upon peace and alterity in the field of International Relations (IR). This work builds upon the connection between peace-critical studies and postcolonial, de-colonial, and feminist perspectives. Following a literature review, reflections are made on the colonial, warmongering and patriarchal character of academic productions and political practices. Specifically, this study examines the realistic and liberal theories of IR and how they disqualify the Other as an active and diverse subject by treating nations with formal equality and as potential enemies. In this approach, the notion of alterity has much to contribute towards a more libertarian conception of peace.
Backround An inter-institutional task force was brought together in 2018 to evaluate the irregular institutionalisation of Guarani and Kaiowá Indigenous children with disabilities in Dourados, in central-western Brazil. Aims and objectives We draw on this case study to undertake a ‘situational analysis’ on the existence/absence and the use/non-use of evidence in the evaluation of public policies regarding Indigenous children with disabilities. By critically analysing concrete practices in the context of multilevel intersectoral dialogue and joint action of state bodies and civil society, we aim to highlight the effective and potential gains from using Culturally Appropriate Evidence (CAE) at the intersection of policies on children, Indigenous peoples and people with disabilities. Methods We used a case study approach to analyse the precedents, development and ramifications of the task force, examine the legal framework regulating the rights of Indigenous children with disabilities, and describe the process of institutionalisation of Indigenous children in the Dourados region in the first two decades of the 21st century. Findings We identified that inter-institutional and intersectoral collaboration enhances the development of CAE and the instrumentalisation of intersectoral alternatives. Discussion and conclusions Although entrenched institutional bureaucratic culture, and the absence of mechanisms for participation and consultation with Indigenous peoples, can create obstacles to the formulation and use of these kinds of evidence in public policies, the production of evidence through the articulated and collaborative effort of agents can offer, when there are political conditions for it, the necessary conditions to develop culturally appropriate solutions for complex scenarios.
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Tomando por base as perspectivas decoloniais, este artigo problematiza o caráter eurocêntrico das modernas categorizações de conhecimento ligadas ao conceito de política. Na primeira parte, empreende-se uma desmontagem dos fundamentos teóricos modernos das teorias das Relações Internacionais, com ênfase na perspectiva hobbesiana. Posteriormente, apresentam-se outras epistemologias, com destaque para as vozes indígenas do continente latino-americano. Sugere-se que estes saberes podem ser lidos como uma desobediência epistêmica indígena que convida ao reconhecimento de outras práticas políticas.
Roraima state has most of its territory, roughly 46% of it, officially demarcated and designated as Indigenous lands. Nearly half of the territorial area of the Roraima province, in northernmost Amazonia, is occupied by eight distinct Indigenous groups in order to ensure an area for physical and cultural reproduction. Throughout the history of these peoples, several schooling processes and changes at primary and secondary educational levels were observed, and later in higher education. The attainment of rights, such as the right to land and ethnically differentiated education, has ensured that these schools could work with individualized curricula which include culture, way of life, and world view for each ethnic group of the province. In this context, Indigenous peoples demanded higher education programs with specific courses at the Federal University of Roraima (UFRR), which resulted in the creation, in 2001, of the Insikiran Institute for Indigenous Higher Education. The offer of these higher education courses is expected to be duly permeated with ethnic–cultural visions in response to Indigenous demands. The creation of the Insikiran and the offer of Indigenous higher education undeniably represents an achievement in benefits provided for the traditional peoples. However, this has not been an achievement free of conflicts and contradictions. The implementation of higher education programs for Indigenous groups has resulted in enquiries and insights into the challenges, outcomes, and achievements that this type of education poses, not only to the UFRR, but also for the wider society.
The article reconsiders the concept of ecumene in anthropology, through a focus on Panoan‐language‐speaking indigenous peoples in Brazil. It explores the notion that ecumenes are intersubjectively forged space‐times and it critiques culturalist and evolutionist approaches to the ecumene concept. Drawing on ethnography of Yawanawá and Cashinahua, analysis treats ecumenes as dynamic space‐times within which amity and enmity arise and identity politics are forged or falter. These arise phenomenologically over time as bodies acquire knowledge, capacity, creativity, and agency, resulting in the sedimentation and fixation of humanness, seen as contingent and temporary in nature. It is argued that if ecumene is to be a useful category of analysis, it is necessary to put aside heuristic divisions between indigenous and anthropological conceptual and theoretical framing of global historical processes. Ecumene needs be framed with respect to an analysis of graduated sovereignty, predatory capitalism, and institutionalized racism, as Amerindians experience and frame these historically. La fabrique des écoumènes : ontogénie, amitié et résistance dans les parcours autochtones au Brésil Résumé L'article réexamine le concept d’écoumène en anthropologie en s'intéressant au cas des peuples autochtones de langues panoanes au Brésil. Il explore l'idée que les écoumènes sont des espace‐temps créés de façon intersubjective et critique les approches culturalistes et évolutionnistes du concept d’écoumène. À partir d'une ethnographie des Yawanawá et des Cashinahua, l'analyse traite les écoumènes comme des espace‐temps dynamiques, dans lesquels des amitiés et des inimitiés et nouent et des politiques identitaires se créent ou échouent. La naissance phénoménologique de ces espace‐temps se déroule à mesure que les corps acquièrent connaissances, capacité, créativité et agencéité, avec pour résultat une sédimentation et une fixation de la nature humaine considérée comme contingente et transitoire par nature. L'autrice avance que si l'on veut que l’écoumène soit une catégorie utile pour l'analyse, il faut se défaire, en ce qui concerne la conceptualisation et théorisation de processus historiques globaux, des séparations heuristiques entre catégories indigènes et anthropologiques. Les écoumènes doivent être délimités suivant les lignes d'une analyse de la souveraineté graduée, du capitalisme prédateur et du racisme institutionnalisé, que les Amérindiens subissent et retracent dans l'histoire.
State sovereignty is an inherently social construct. The modern state system is not based on some timeless principle of sovereignty, but on the production of a normative conception which links authority, territory, population (society, nation), and recognition in a unique way, and in a particular place (the state). Attempting to realize this ideal entails a great deal of hard work on the part of statespersons, diplomats, and intellectuals. The ideal of state sovereignty is a product of the actions of powerful agents and the resistances to those actions by those located at the margins of power. The unique contribution of this book is to describe, theorize, and illustrate the practices which have socially constructed, reproduced, reconstructed, and deconstructed various sovereign ideals and resistances to them. The contributors analyse how all the components of state sovereignty - not only recognition, but also territory, population, and authority - are socially constructed and combined in specific historical contexts.
This book argues that the colonial confrontation was central to the formation of international law and, in particular, its founding concept, sovereignty. Traditional histories of the discipline present colonialism and non-European peoples as peripheral concerns. By contrast, Anghie argues that international law has always been animated by the ‘civilizing mission’ - the project of governing non-European peoples, and that the economic exploitation and cultural subordination that resulted were constitutively significant for the discipline. In developing these arguments, the book examines different phases of the colonial encounter, ranging from the sixteenth century to the League of Nations period and the current ‘war on terror’. Anghie provides a new approach to the history of international law, illuminating the enduring imperial character of the discipline and its continuing importance for peoples of the Third World. This book will be of interest to students of international law and relations, history, post-colonial studies and development studies.
International Relations and the Problem of Difference has developed out of the sense that IR as a discipline does not assess the quality of cultural interactions that shape, and are shaped by, the changing structures and processes of the international system. In this work, the authors re-imagine IR as a uniquely placed site for the study of differences as organized explicitly around the exploration of the relation of wholes and parts and sameness and difference-and always the one in relation to the other.