Indigenous Ethnology

Research Projects:

The Amerindian political action and its characters

Description: This research aims to ponder on what we tend to call politics in Amerindian terms. This means resuming the political anthropology project in the sense given by Pierre Clastres: an anthropology that does not reduce the Amerindians to societies ‘without’ State (unrelated to the problem of political power), nor subsume their political action to an interaction with national State and segments of modern society. In other words, anthropology that allows to perceive properly indigenous motives in processes such as the constitution of leaders and groups, as well as its dissolution, emitting to the very reducing mechanisms of ‘against the State.’ Starting from questions by Pierre Clastres and going through some decisive discussions of other ethnologies (melanesist, for example), we propose to examine the current situation of reflection in ethnology on the problem of action and political forms in ethnography and summaries on Amerindian populations (which also requires consideration of certain questions posed by history and archaeology). Moreover, we intend to question certain recurrent antinomies in the analysis, such as equality/hierarchy, individuality/collectivity, simple/complex, reversible/irreversible, sociopolitical/cosmopolitical, traditional/modern. A special focus that has been given to this research is the investigation of the relationship between shamanism and politics, especially considering the Tupi-Guarani cases, old and current, as well as the cases of sub-Andean Arawak and Caribbean of Western Guyana.

Professor in charge: Renato Sztutman (


Anthropology of the Capuchin Missions of the Empire (1850-1889)

Description: Last stage of the research developed within a Thematic Project of FAPESP (2002-2005) and associated post-doctorate, carried out in CEBRAP (M. Amoroso 2003-2005), the current research inquiries about the relationships established between Capuchin missionaries and the first European immigration flows in the late 19th century. By tracing the framework of Capuchin equipment of the empire and indigenous populations articulated to it, the aim was also to compare the universe of religious and scientific references that guided the missionary practices in the 19th century. From this stage of the research, we start the systematisation of the missionary statement on intercultural relations, taking into account shared consensus between science and religion on the subject of adaptation of European immigrants and the fate of indigenous populations of the South American continent.

Professor in charge: Marta Rosa Amoroso (


Amerindian political forms

Description: Indigenous societies in the Americas: relationships and transformations. Based on the investigation of indigenous concepts of society, identity, and humanity, and the forms of organisation and classification of cosmos and its components, the research aims to deepen our understanding of the forms of organisation of Amerindian societies and their relationships with their others, including in their historical transformations, since the colonial period.

Professor in charge: Beatriz Perrone Moisés (


Kinship models and practices: comparative study of alliance systems in Tropical South America

Description: This research project has a threefold purpose: one of ethnographic nature, the other of comparative nature, and the third of methodological nature. In ethnographic terms, it is the study of the actual operation of private marriage alliance systems seen in Tropical South America in native populations of different regions and linguistic traditions. As for the comparison, it aims to form hypotheses that take into account the multiplicity of empirical solutions observed in each case, as variations of one structure or more structures related to each other by transformation rules. In turn, its methodological purpose establishes the need for adaptation and evaluation of computational resources of promising use in researches aimed to kinship and small-scale demographics.

Professor in charge: Marcio Ferreira da Silva (


Amerindian film narratives in transformation

Description: This project aims to analyse the production of films made by indigenous people of South America, having as its problem the relationship between what we are used to call ‘documentary’ and ‘fiction’. (This certainly leads us to a classical discussion of both cinema and anthropology.) In indigenous films, the boundary between these genres seems to dissolve in a very unique way, and this is the point that should conduct the investigation. Films that are documentary in principle bring fictional elements, and fiction is emerging as a genre that still brings direct references to the social and everyday reality of the people who film and that are filmed. Note that this proposal is, in principle, comparative: starting from a set of films and indigenous filmmakers to search for, in the woven network between them, recurrences and peculiarities. However, in the process, the focus on one or more specific cases - and also specific filmmakers - is expected, to deepen the analysis.

Professor in charge: Renato Sztutman (


The Mura and the Environment of Lakes, Channels, and Cities of the Madeira River

Description: The project intends to conduct an ethnographic and documentary study on the Mura population inhabiting the Indigenous Land of Cunha-Sapucaia, in the municipalities of Borba and Autazes, Amazon. The research focus on the forms of sociality, mobility, and material production of social life in harmony with the landscape of rivers, channels, and lakes in the Madeira river system. The landscape theme indicates the particular history of the Mura united with this particular environment, whose marks are printed, for example, in the way the native populations of the region engaged in extractive industry activities from the late 19th century.

Professor in charge: Marta Rosa Amoroso (


Amerindian landscapes: abilities, mobility, and sociability in rivers and cities of the Amazon

Description: The project combines three axes of investigation: 1) the ethnographic work among indigenous populations and neo-traditional inhabitants of the river systems of Purus-Madeira, Alto Juruá, and Rio Negro, to observe the material conditions of social life; 2) a systematic survey of documentation and literature on extractive activities in the Amazon in the 19th and 20th centuries, also aiming to reflect on the material conditions of social life and the social implications of changes in agriculture and extractive economy in the region; and finally, 3) an ethnography of forms of leisure and free time usage modes in sociality spaces of the indigenous population in Amazon cities, as an innovative approach of processes of urban life incorporation by native populations.

Project developed under the PROCAD agreement, which articulates the areas of indigenous ethnology and urban anthropology at USP and UFAM.

Professor in charge: Marta Rosa Amoroso (


Amerindian Networks: Generation and Transformation of Relations in South American Lowlands

Description: Study of the relation networks in the Amerindian universe of the South American lowlands, focused on the generation and transformation of these networks to produce a comparative summary of how they organize subject networks, speech networks, and knowledge networks in representative regional groups.

Professor in charge: Dominique Tilkin Gallois (


Amerindian knowledge: creation, appropriation, and circulation in networks

Description: This research project aims to: a) detect and analyse the Amerindian transformations and uses of the notions of creation, authorship, obtainment, and circulation of knowledge; b) develop an approach centred on the connections of network, knowledge, and subjects of this knowledge; c) discuss the impacts of some indigenous training programs (school, college, and others) on the current production of the so-called indigenous knowledge as they has been consolidated in Brazil. Thus, we hope to contribute to the urgent critical evaluation of public policies aimed at indigenous people, debating the issue: what [indigenous] training for which knowledge?

Professor in charge: Dominique Tilkin Gallois (