The University of Wisconsin Press

Anthropology / Latin American Studies


Ethnic Politics in Brazil
Alcida Rita Ramos

New Directions in Anthropological Writing

Indigenism’s timely, original, and a valuable contribution to the subject of interethnic politics. I can think of no other current book in English that brings together so many facets on this topic in Brazil.”—Catherine V. Howard, Vanderbilt University

A gem. The chapters work together beautifully to build up a sophisticated understanding of indigenism in Brazil. . . . Ramos provides vivid detail and anecdote, but also writes in a way that links the ‘indigenous culture wars’ of Brazil in the 1980s and 1990s to battles over citizenship and cultural difference in many parts of the world.”
—Jane L. Collins, University of Wisconsin–Madison

Indigenous people comprise only 0.2% of Brazil’s population, yet occupy a prominent role in the nation’s consciousness. In her important and passionate new book, anthropologist Alcida Ramos explains this irony, exploring Indian and non-Indian attitudes about interethnic relations. Ramos contends that imagery about indigenous people reflects an ambivalence Brazil has about itself as a nation, for Indians reveal Brazilians’ contradiction between their pride in ethnic pluralism and desire for national homogeneity.

Based on her more than thirty years of fieldwork and activism on behalf of the Yanomami Indians, Ramos explains the complex ideology called indigenism. She evaluates its meaning through the relations of Brazilian Indians with religious and lay institutions, non-governmental organizations, official agencies such as the National Indian Foundation as well as the very discipline of anthropology. Ramos not only examines the imagery created by Brazilians of European descent—members of the Catholic church, government officials, the army and the state agency for Indian affairs—she also scrutinizes Indians’ own self portrayals used in defending their ethnic rights against the Brazilian state.

Ramos’ thoughtful and complete analysis of the relation between indigenous people of Brazil and the state will be of great interest to lawmakers and political theorists, environmental and civil rights activists, developmental specialists and policymakers, and those concerned with human rights in Latin America.

Alcida Rita Ramos is professor of anthropology at the University of Brasilia. She has defended indigenous peoples, particularly Yanomami, acting as expert witness to the Brazilian Attorney General’s Office and as mediator between the Sanumá and emergency medical teams working to combat epidemic malaria. She is the author of Sanumá Memories: Yanomami Ethnography in Times of Crisis, also published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and two other books.

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Cover of the book Indigenism is purple and blue, with blue writing.

December 1998

336 pp. 6 x 9 17 illus.

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