Postgraduate Profiles

Claudia Franca de Abreu

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Thesis: Belonging in Postcolonial times: the Guarani revitalization movement as a means of achieving resilience and wellbeing in indigenous communities

Indigenous cultures are intrinsically connected to their landscape, developing a deep sense of belonging to ancestral territories in members of indigenous communities. Indigenous peoples however, have been forced to relocate or have had their lands considerably shrunken in size since colonial times, causing disconnectedness of the people with their land and culture leading to physical and mental illnesses. The Guarani of Santa Catarina, Brazil, have been for the past decades actively pursuing cultural revitalization with the aim of improving the overall health of their community and guaranteeing cultural survival. Indigenous wellbeing and community resilience are topics not usually discussed in revitalization movement (RM) studies, and this research intends to address that. Using a postcolonial lens the research will assess the RM of the Guarani with the focus on community roles, relationships, internal and external influences to the movement and power dynamics, while developing the concepts of social-ecological resilience (SER) and wellbeing to include these parameters. The research aims at developing SER as a form of measuring relational wellbeing contributing to the academic indigenous wellbeing discussion. The successes and failures of the Guarani RM, its universalities and subjectivities, will contribute as best-practices and constraints to empower the movements across the globe.

Why my research is important

Revitalization movements are widely studied with a focus on the success or failures of individual revitalization initiatives, or with focus of purely assessing the survival of cultures and indigenous knowledge. This research will however, assess a RM from a holistic perspective, analyzing not only the initiatives, or the end goal of the movement, but also the processes taking places within the community, such as the importance of relationships and the dynamics of power.

This research contributes to the academic discussion of wellbeing, indigenous and non-indigenous, and how to measure it (Dockery, 2010, 2011; Prout, 2011; Ruttenberg, 2013; White, 2008, 2015), It also intends to contribute to the notion of the importance of culture in measuring wellbeing (Pilgrim et al., 2010; Pretty et al., 2008).

Using a revitalization movement to evaluate resilience, will allow for a more rounded approach to the concept of social-ecological resilience, by adding parameters not greatly considered in resilience literature such as relevance of power dynamics, migration, community structure, agency, institutionalism (Brown, 2014), which are presumably important when applying resilience to a social context (Berkes & Ross, 2013).

Additionally, this research will hopefully identify best practices and constraints of the Guarani revitalization movement, with the aim of contributing to the global movement of indigenous empowerment and sovereignty, and address the need identified by many authors of sharing of universalities (Grenier, 1998; Hall & Fenelon, 2009; McCarter et al., 2014; Pilgrim et al., 2009; Smith, 1999).

I personally hope to contribute to the Guarani communities engaged within this research, by offering them tools through the analysis of their movement, of how to effectively proceed with the revitalization of their culture.

Funding

Revitalization project in 2007 - construction of shed for mussel farming equipment

Oct 2015

Oct 2018

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