Indigenous People, Ethnic Groups, and the Nation-State
At the present time indigenous societies that believe it is immoral not to share with one's kin or with those less fortunate than oneself are considered backward, for this surely hampers capital accumulation and therefore 'progress' as the modern world defines it.
—David Maybury-Lewis, Indigenous Peoples, Ethnic Groups, and the State
Official statements frequently justify the extension of government control over tribal populations as an effort to bring them peace, health, happiness, and other benefits of civilization But, undoubtedly, the extension of government control was directly related to protecting the economic interests of nonindige-nous peoples moving into formerly exclusive tribal areas.
—John Bodley, Victims of Progress
There is a museum exhibit in
One of the casualties of the expansion of the culture of capitalism is cultural diversity. As noted in Chapter 4, one of the functions of the nation-state is to integrate, peacefully if possible, violently if necessary, the diverse peoples within its borders into a common culture. At best, minority cultures are integrated into the larger culture in superfi-
cial ways—dress, art, dance, music, and food are maintained and represented as the culture itself. At worst, however, policies of the nation-state may lead to ethnocide, the destruction of culture, or, in more extreme instances, genocide, the destruction of a people.
The dilemma of minority groups in
the modern nation-state is particularly evident in
According to Tsing (1993:41), however, the Indonesian government sees the Meratus as uncivilized, stuck in a timeless, archaic condition outside modern history. Furthermore, the government attributes their condition to their mobility and travel across the forest landscape. From the state's perspective, Meratus mobility constitutes 'seminomad-ism' and labels them as runaways from state discipline and a threat to national security. For the Meratus, however, mobility is a sign of personal autonomy.
While Indonesia officially recognizes and celebrates cultural diversity, the dominant culture is still Javanese, represented here in the wedding of the son of Indonesian ex-President Suharto (on the far left), Hutomo 'Tommy' Mandala Putra (third from left) and his bride, Ardhia 'Tata' Pramesti Rigita Cahyani (fourth from left).
The government also initiated nutrition programs to reorganize the eating habits of isolated populations. The Meratus were given a demonstration in which locally unavailable meats and vegetables were prepared 'the right way.' The Meratus were considered unordered in their eating habits; as one village head explained: '[Indonesians] drink in the morning,' referring to the typical morning diet of coffee or tea and a pastry, 'and then have two meals during the day. We [Meratus] sometimes eat five times a day and sometimes once a day. It's not ordered' (cites Tsing 1993:93). But eating habits are dictated by work schedules, and in farming or hunting communities one can eat at very different times. For government planners even the way food is prepared is supposed to follow national standards; one government official complained that the Meratus butchered a chicken but cooked it without sour spices or chili peppers. To please government authorities the Meratus leaders now see to it that the chickens are cooked 'properly when authorities visit.'
The government also exercised control over isolated populations by introducing family planning programs. Once again, there was a distinct difference in how the government saw the program and how the Meratus viewed it. The program was essentially an attempt by the nation-state to discipline the population into following state-mandated views of family form and reproductive practices. In the early 1980s the state began a program to encourage women to use IUDs or take birth control pills. To advance the program the government encouraged a local male leader, Pa'an Tinito, to enroll women in the program. He signed up women, but it became apparent that they had little idea of what the program was about and expressed shock when Tinito explained to the men the purpose of contraception. The men were shocked; how could the government possibly want them to limit the size of their population? Weren't communities already too small and weak? The program was ridiculous and there must be some mistake. Pa'an Tinito responded that the government only wanted a list of women; nothing was said about limiting reproduction. When the supply of oral contraceptives arrived some months later, Pa' an Tinito brought them back to his house and hung them in the rafters, where they stayed (Tsing 1993:109).
In developing relocation, nutrition, and family planning programs, the nation-state was, in effect, imposing standards of social structure and family authority. There should be a fixed and stable 'village' consisting of individual families, each with a family 'head,' generally a man. For the government, to get to women one must go through men.
But this is not the way the Meratus were organized, nor was it the way the Meratus saw the situation. Their view of the world differed significantly from that of the nation-state in which they are subjects. The dilemma faced by the Meratus, as well as other indigenous and ethnic groups, is whether one can be simultaneously outside and inside the nation-state. As Tsing (1993:26) put it,
Marginals stand outside the state by tying themselves to it; they constitute the state locally by fleeing from it. As culturally 'different' subjects they can never be citizens; as culturally different 'subjects,' they can never escape citizenship.
In this chapter we will examine the dilemma of minority cultures—indigenous and ethnic groups—in the nation-state. We need to ask why were indigenous cultures destroyed? How did their destroyers justify their actions? What is likely to be the fate of the indigenous cultures and ethnic groups that remain in the world? What is the cause of ethnic conflict?
The Fate of Indigenous Peoples
Who are indigenous or tribal peoples? They certainly
include the aboriginal peoples of
Indigenous people shall be people living in countries which have populations composed of different ethnic or racial groups who are descendants of the earliest populations which survive in the area, and who do not, as a group, control the national government of the countries within which they live.
The difficulty with this definition, said David Maybury-Lewis (1997:7), is that it assumes that should indigenous people gain control of the government they would no longer be indigenous; however, it is clear they are native to the countries they inhabit and that they claim they were there first and have rights of prior occupancy to their lands. They also have been conquered by peoples racially, ethnically, or culturally different from themselves; they generally maintain their own language and, most important, 'are marginal to or dominated by the states that claim jurisdiction over them.' That is, indigenous peoples are defined largely by their relationship to the state. Maybury-Lewis (1997:55) concluded that
Many people are stigmatized as 'tribal'because they reject the authority of the state and do not wish to adopt the culture of the mainstream population that the state represents. They are in fact stigmatized as being 'tribal' because they insist on being marginal.
Maybury-Lewis estimated that approximately 5 percent of the world's population fit the description of indigenous peoples; these are the descendants of peoples who have been marginalized in the global capitalist economy.
One of the problems faced by indigenous peoples, as we saw with the Meratus, is that their cultures often conflict with the culture of capitalism. Consequently, the first question we need to explore is how is the culture of indigenous peoples incompatible with the culture of capitalism?
Some Characteristics of Indigenous Peoples
The cultures of indigenous peoples are vulnerable to destruction from capitalist expansion partly because their way of life differs so significantly from that in the culture of capitalism. While there are significant differences among these cultures, they do tend to share certain characteristics. For example, they tend to be mobile; they may be nomads who threaten state integrity by traversing international boundaries or shifting agriculturists who require large tracts of land or whose frequent movements make them difficult to control.
A second characteristic of small-scale indigenous societies, and one that is quickly undermined by capitalist culture, is their communal ownership of valuable resources, particularly land. Communality creates all kinds of problems in the culture of capitalism. For example, communally held land is not as readily sold or purchased, requiring group consensus. Financial institutions cannot use communally held land as collateral for individual's debts, since it cannot be repossessed. Furthermore, contrary to some writers' view (see Hardin 1968; Hardin & Baden 1977), communally held lands tend to be more subject to conservation measures and less subject to exploitation for short-term financial gain. Finally, communal resources and discoveries that are not legally incorporated cannot be protected from capitalist exploitation. For example, the Urueu-Wau-Wau peoples of the Amazon developed from plant extracts an anticoagulant that Merck Pharmaceuticals 'discovered' and is attempting to develop, yet no benefits accrue to the Urueu-Wau-Wau, who are threatened with extinction. Thus, as Darrell Posey (1996:7) noted, traditional and communal knowledge that would be recognized as property if held by an individual or a legally designated 'natural person,' such as a corporation, is deemed in the culture of capitalism to be free for the taking.
A third characteristic of small-scale indigenous groups that is incompatible with capitalist culture is kinship-based social structure. In small-scale societies most relationships are defined by a person's kin links with others, and the primary social unit tends to be the extended family. The large network of relations that each person can call on for help promotes the sharing of resources and reduces the need to consume and to work to make money. The small, socially isolated nature of family units such as the nuclear family make them more susceptible to state control and discipline. As we shall see, one of the first features of indigenous societies to come under attack is the pattern of kinship relations. This does not mean kinship cannot be used as a basis for control and accumulation of capital; early business enterprises were family based, as noted in Chapter 3, and small family businesses still thrive. Yet, perhaps because of the need for a mobile and socially unattached labor force, extended family units do not do well in the culture of capitalism.
Fourth, most small-scale indigenous societies tend to be relatively egalitarian. As John Bodley (1990:4) noted, equality in social relations reduces the incentive and need to consume, since people have far less need to use material possessions to mark their status. Furthermore, nation-states require a political hierarchy to govern effectively. Without a
recognized local leader with the power to make decisions, who, for example, will collect the taxes? Who will enforce government directives? Who will ensure that the laws of the nation-state are enforced? As we shall see, one of the first things that nation-states do to control indigenous peoples is to impose a new pattern of authority.
Finally, and perhaps most important, indigenous peoples tend to control resources or occupy land desired by members of the capitalist nation-state or the nation-state itself. Thus, as John Bodley (1990:4) wrote,
The struggle between tribes and states has been over conflicting systems of resources management and internal social organization. Tribes represent small-scale, classless societies, with decentralized, communal, long-term resource management strategies, whereas states are class-based societies, with centralized management systems that extract resources for the short-term profit of special interest groups. Understandably, then, the political conquest of tribal areas often brings rapid environmental deterioration and may impoverish tribal peoples.
The Process of Ethnocide
In Victims of Progress, Bodley described the various ways nation-states acted to transfer the rights of resources from indigenous peoples to settlers wishing to exploit the resources for themselves. The process occurs in stages, generally beginning with the establishment of a frontier situation and advancing through military intervention, the extension of government control, and the gradual destruction of indigenous culture through land takeovers, cultural modification, and economic development. Bodley's analysis provides insight into why indigenous peoples have disappeared and gives ample evidence that their 'integration' into the modern world was neither voluntary nor beneficial to them.
Situation. Often the destruction of an indigenous culture begins with the establishment
of a frontier, an area perceived to be abundant in natural resources that can be easily
exploited but seems not to be controlled by a nation-state. Prior ownership
rights and interests of indigenous peoples are considered irrelevant by both
the nation-state and by invading settlers. For example, in 1909 the London
magazine Truth published the account of a young American engineer,
Walter Hardenburg, describing the brutality of the managers of a
British and Peruvian-owned rubber company in the Putumayo River region separating Peru and Colombia (see
Taussig 1987). The article, which described the enslavement, torture, and
killing of Indian rubber gatherers, caused a sensation and led the British government to send Roger Casement, then a
consular representative in
In his report to Sir Edward Grey, head of the British Foreign Service, Casement described again and again the horrors inflicted on the indigenous peoples of the Putumayo region, accounts that he collected from Black workers recruited by the rubber companies from Barbados, who themselves, under threat of death, had inflicted the horrors. For example, he wrote to Grey of the fate of Indians who did not fill the quota of rubber allotted to them (cited Taussig 1987:35):
The Indian is so humble, that as soon as he sees that the needle of the scale does not mark the ten kilos, he himself stretches out his hands and throws himself on the ground to receive the punishment. Then the chief [of the rubber station] or a subordinate advances, bends down, takes the Indian by his hair, strikes him, raises his head, drops it face downwards on the ground, and, after the face is beaten and kicked and covered with blood, the Indian is scourged. This is when they are treated best, for often they cut them to pieces with machetes.
Casement said that 90 percent of the Indians he saw carried scars from floggings. He described other ways the company managers disciplined and controlled their Indian workers, including deliberately starving them, burning alive those who tried to run away, killing children, and inflicting virtually every form of torture imaginable. Casement's report became the centerpiece of a British House of Commons Select Committee called to investigate the charges against British-owned rubber companies operating in the Putu-mayo region. Yet virtually nothing was done to change the situation, partly because the British could not assert political control over the region; in fact, one of the most brutal of the company managers later became a head of state.
The kinds of
frontier situations described by Hardenburg and Casement almost a century ago,
common in most areas of the periphery, still exist today. For example, consider what is
happening to the Yanomami Indians of Brazil. Yanomami is the name given the Indians
who live along the border between
In 1986 the
military enlarged a small airstrip that had been used by FUNAI and
missionaries, ostensibly to protect the borders against drug trafficking and
subversion, but resulting in intensification of the gold rush into
Yanomami territory. As a result, by 1988 at least one-fourth of the
Yanomami had died and the majority of survivors were sick and starving.
When the situation caused an international outcry, the president of
I didn't expect to be around, only ten years after my immersion into an autonomous and healthy culture such as I found among the Sanuma, to see one of the worst examples of cultural devastation in the recent history of Brazilian Indigenism.
Military Intervention. Military force was another means of destroying indigenous populations. Clearly the superiority of European weaponry made the difference in their confrontation with indigenous cultures, although not without some notable losses and de-
feats at the hands of less well-armed peoples. In 1860, when the Maori of New Zealand resisted the work of a survey team subdividing a large block of their land, the governor declared martial law and sent in the military to subdue them. The Maori managed to fight for twelve years against a force that at one time numbered 22,000 soldiers, costing the colony 500 people and 1.3 million pounds (Bodley 1990:50).
military intervention, of course, that finally subdued the Indians on the American Plains in the period from
around 1850 to 1880. When Plains nations resisted takeover by Euro-Americans of their land and resources, the
The Extension of Government Control. Once indigenous nations were militarily subdued, the next step in the process of cultural transformation was the extension of government control. When the nation-state is able to extend its authority, the indigenous society ceases being an autonomous 'nation' and becomes incorporated into the state. In most cases rulers of the nation-state justified control as bringing to indigenous peoples the benefits of civilization. As John Bodley (1990:58) noted, however, it was directly related to protecting the economic interests of nonindigenous peoples moving into indigenous territory.
Various techniques were used to
establish political control. One was simply direct rule, in which a person from
the dominant group was appointed, after the military had subdued a population, to administer the
subjugated group. The French did this in
The base camp
program used by
the patrols might kidnap old people left behind in the village until communications were established with resisters.
This process of peaceful penetration began in the 1920s and has continued uninterrupted, except during World War II, to the present. In 1950, for example, 168,350 square kilometers were not yet fully controlled. By 1970 only 1,735 square kilometers remained uncontrolled (Bodley 1990:66).
Policies. The policies of nation-states toward land ownership
are one of the more delicate issues in the process of incorporating indigenous
peoples or the resources they control into the nation-state. International law,
and most governments, generally recognize that aboriginal inhabitants
possess rights to the lands they use. For example, in 1787 the
[t]he utmost good faith shall always be observed towards the Indians; their lands and property shall never be taken from them without their consent; and in their property rights and liberty, they never shall be invaded or disturbed, unless in just and lawful wars authorized by congress.
However, that policy was honored only so long as the Native Americans had a viable political presence and only so long as there was land that Euro-Americans did not want. Most early treaties recognized Indian rights to land and designated large areas in the West as Indian land. However, as European migration increased and as Indian land became desired, the government pressed to renegotiate old treaties, generally finding someone to negotiate with who would sign such treaties. However, even treaties could not protect Indian land from the U.S. Congress, as we saw in Chapter 3; in 1887 Congress passed the Indian Allotment Act (Dawes Act), which led to the appropriation of almost 100 million acres of Indian land (Jaimes 1992:126).
Cultural Modification Policies. After destroying the autonomy of indigenous peoples and gaining control of their lands and resources, the next step for the nation-state is to modify the culture. Any native custom considered immoral, offensive, or threatening was abolished. Indigenous kinship systems and social organization were particularly threatening to colonists. At various times such things as the payment of bride price, infant betrothal, polygamy, levirate (a man marrying his brother's widow), secret societies, and traditional kinship duties and obligations in general were attacked or banned. The extended family was particularly criticized by economic development agents even into the 1960s as a 'drag on economic development and a serious obstacle to economic progress' (cited in Bodley 1990:96).
Unfortunately, in retrospect anthropologists played an important role, unwittingly or not, in the efforts to modify indigenous cultures and incorporate them into the nation-state. Even Margaret Mead (1961:19-20), one of the great spokespersons for tolerance and understanding of indigenous peoples, was convinced that tribal peoples she worked with wanted to 'modernize': 'We do not conceive of people being forcibly changed by other human beings. We conceive of them as seeing a light and following it freely.'
Development theorists (Goulet 1971:25-26) suggested that 'traditional people must be shocked into the realization that they are living in abnormal, inhuman conditions as psychological preparation for modernization.'
Ward Goodenough (1963:219), one of the most respected figures in anthropology, noted in his book Cooperation in Change, that
The problem that faces development agents is to find ways of stimulating in others a desire for change in such a way that the desire is theirs independent of further prompting from outside. Restated, the problem is one of creating in another a sufficient dissatisfaction with his present condition of self so that he wants to change it. This calls for some kind of experience that leads him to reappraise his self-image and reevaluate his self-esteem.
Education for Progress. One of the most effective ways indigenous cultures have been modified, as we noted in Chapter 4, is through formal education. As the French, British, German, and American governments used it to integrate those within their borders, so they used it to integrate colonial peoples. As John Bodley (1990:103) said,
In many countries schooling has been the prime coercive instrument of cultural modification and has proved to be a highly effective means of destroying self-esteem, fostering new needs, creating dissatisfactions, and generally disrupting traditional cultures.
Formal education often conflicted with indigenous teachings and served to undermine them. The schools established by the French in its African colonies taught two subjects, the
Indigenous students, carefully dressed in required
Western-style clothing, attend class at the
French language and
'morale,' meaning ideals of 'good habits' such as order,
politeness, respect, and obedience. In
I am happy to be
subject to the Italian government and I love
Help me, oh God, to become a good Italian.
first efforts at education were controlled by missionaries. It was a useful partnership
for both the church and the nation-state. The missionaries educated indigenous children
in the ways of the nation-state while at the same time converting them to whatever
religious faith they represented. Thus French Jesuit missionaries opened schools along
By the end of
the 1860s attendance at these schools was mandatory on many Indian
reservations. However, it soon became apparent to government observers that day
schools on the reservations left students too close to their family and culture.
Consequently the government initiated a program of Indian boarding
schools to isolate Indian students from the 'contaminating'
influences of their own society. In its final form the boarding school drew
heavily from the penal procedures used to break the wills of indigenous
resistance leaders and owed much to the efforts of Richard H. Pratt. Pratt was
an army captain who believed he could turn Native Americans into Whites; he
convinced the government to allow him to run an educational program at the
Indian children in boarding schools were isolated, given short haircuts, dressed in military-style uniforms, forced to maintain silence during meals, and forbidden to speak in their own language. Family visits were restricted and children were not allowed to return home, even during vacations. It was not unusual for a child who began at the school at the age of six not to see his or her home or family until the age of seventeen or eighteen. The boarding school program created individuals who, stripped of their own culture and language, did not fit into their culture of origin but were not accepted by the larger society.
People resisted. The Hopi, for example, hid their children from roving Mormon missionaries who wanted to gather the children and send them to the Intermountain
[t]he whole procedure conforms to one of the criteria—the forced transfer of children from a targeted racial, ethnic, national or religious group to be reared and absorbed by a physically dominating group—specified as a Crime Against Humanity under the United Nations 1948 Convention on Punishment and Prevention of the Crime of Genocide.
Economic Development. The next step in the destruction of indigenous cultures was integrating them into the national economy. This was sometimes achieved through violence, as in slavery and forced labor, and was sometimes far more subtle, coming under the rubric of 'economic development.' As Bodley (1990:114) pointed out, 'development' is a highly ethnocentric term denoting growth, inevitability, and progress; 'transformation' is a far more appropriate term in this context.
most common way of incorporating indigenous people into the capitalist economy
was through forced labor. Settlers and colonial governments found that many
people didn't want or need to work for wages—their consumption needs were
modest and they met their basic needs by growing their own crops or sharing
products among kinsper-sons or other groups. In
Another technique for forcing
indigenous peoples into the capitalist economy was through taxation; forcing people to pay taxes (head taxes, poll taxes,
etc.) in cash forced them to labor on White plantations, work in mines,
or raise cash crops to pay the taxes. These
measures were staunchly defended as necessary to 'civilize the
change was also fostered through technological development. A good example is
the Zande Development Scheme. The Azande were a large population of hunters and shifting
cultivators living in scattered homesteads in the southwest corner of
[h]appy, prosperous, literate communitiesparticipating in the benefits of civilization through the cultivation of cotton and the establishment of factories to produce exportable products on the spot. (cited Bodley 1990:123)
In 1944 the
government justified the project, saying 'We have a moral obligation to redeem its
The key to the project was the cotton growing, but the Azande had no desire to plant cotton; frustrated officials said the Azande had no 'realization of what money could do for them.' One solution was to force anyone who refused to grow cotton to do a month's labor on the roads as punishment. Yet, as remarkable as it seems, said Bodley (1990:124-125), the planners really did seem to have been driven by the best of intentions, 'to bring progress, prosperity, and the reasonable decencies and amenities of human existence to the Azande.' According to one district commissioner, 'The object throughout has been to interfere as little as possible with the people's own way of life.'
In 1965, twenty years after the project began, one Sudanese journalist
[r]eported enthusiastically that the standard of living in Zandeland was higher: consumption of sugar had doubled in just nine years; there were no naked people left; Azande women were dressed in the fashionable northern Sudanese style; and everyone had bicycles and lived in clean houses equipped with beds and mattressesbest of all, there were now swarms of children everywhere! (cited in Bodley 1990:125)
By the 1980s,
the decline of the cotton market and a civil war in
These kinds of projects, of course, are common today. Governments in the periphery turn to areas occupied by the few remaining indigenous cultures in order to raise cash to pay off the debts they accumulated in the 1970s and 1980s. The results, as we shall see, continue to be devastating.
The Guarani: The Economics of Ethnocide
It is difficult for any member of the culture of capitalism to take an unbiased view of indigenous peoples, that is not to view such groups as backward, undeveloped, economically depressed, and in need of civilizing. This, of course, is the way indigenous peoples have been portrayed for centuries. Theodore Roosevelt (cited Maybury-Lewis 1997:4), famous for his campaign to conserve nature, said, 'The settler and pioneer have at bottom
had justice on their side; this great continent could not have been kept as nothing but a game preserve for squalid savages.'
In the nineteenth century, 'scientific' theories of evolution and racial superiority allowed people to rationalize the enslavement, confinement, or destruction of indigenous peoples. As late as the 1940s, British anthropologist Lord Fitzroy Raglan (cited Bodley 1990:11), who was to become president of the Royal Anthropological Institute, said that tribal beliefs in magic were a chief cause of folly and unhappiness. Existing tribes were plague spots: 'We should bring to them our justice, our education, and our science. Few will deny that these are better than anything which savages have got.' While many of these attitudes have changed, indigenous peoples still tend to be seen as needy dependents or victims, largely incapable of helping themselves. We tend to see their destruction as a consequence of their weakness, rather than of patterns of behavior and exploitation built into the culture of capitalism.
It may help to change that view if instead of seeing indigenous peoples as needy dependents living largely outmoded ways of life we consider the resemblance between indigenous societies and a modern, socially responsible corporation that carefully manages its resources, provides well for its workers, and plans for the long term rather than the short term. Looking at indigenous societies in this way may help us better appreciate why they don't survive. The fact is that environmentally and socially responsible corporations do not fare well in the capitalist world; they fail not because of any inherent weakness but because they become targets for takeovers by individuals or groups who, after taking the corporation over, quickly sell off the carefully managed resources solely to make a quick profit, leaving the corporation in ruin and its workers unemployed.
Take the fate of the Pacific Lumber
Company. The family-owned company was known
as one of the most environmentally and economically sound companies in the
Indigenous peoples possess all the characteristics that make them prime targets for takeovers. Like responsible corporations, they have managed their resources so well that those same resources (e.g., lumber, animals, farmlands) become targets for those who have used up theirs or who wish to make a quick profit. The indigenous peoples themselves become expendable or resources to be exploited. To illustrate let's look at the case of the Guarani as described by Richard Reed (1997).
History and Background
Most of the 15,000 Guarani are settled in the
rainforests of eastern
are a minority population in a country in which most citizens are mestizo or criollos, descendants of Europeans who married Guarani.
arrived, over one million Guarani and related groups lived in the area
stretching from the Andes to the
[a]re the richest people of all the land and province both for agriculture and stock raising. They rear plenty of fowl and geese and other birds, and have an abundance of game, such as boar, deer, and dantes (anta), partridge, quail and pheasants; and they have great fisheries in the river. They grow plenty of maize, potatoes, cassava, peanuts and many other fruits; and from the trees they collect a great deal of honey.
In addition to their economic success, the Guarani were a relatively egalitarian society in which a person's place in society was determined by kinship. Leadership was usually determined by age, although political leaders had little or no power of coercion over others.
The Guarani engaged European markets soon after contact, managing to combine their traditional subsistence activities of swidden agriculture and hunting and gathering with the collection of commercial products from the forests such as yerba mate, a naturally growing tea, animal skins, and honey. Anthropologists call this combination of productive activities agroforestry, the active management of forest resources for long-term production.
To understand agroforestry as practiced by the Guarani, we need to understand a little about the nature of tropical rainforests. They are the most diverse biosystems on Earth, containing half the recorded species in the world, although only about 15 percent of these species have even been discovered. They are also among the most fragile ecosystems. A rainforest is a layered system, the top layer, or canopy, provided by large trees protecting the layers underneath it, with each species of plant or animal in lower layers dependent on the other's, and all surviving on a very thin layer of soil.
Guarani agroforestry focuses on three activities: horticulture, hunting and gathering, and commercial tree cropping. The agriculture is shifting or swidden agriculture, in which small areas of the forests are cut and burned, the ash providing a thin layer of nutrients for the soil. These areas are planted until spreading weeds and decreased yields force the farmer to move to a new plot. The old plot is not abandoned but planted with banana trees and manioc, crops that need little care and which produce for up to four years. In this way land is gradually recycled back into tropical forest. Furthermore, these plots provide forage for deer, peccary, and other animals, which the Guarani trap or shoot.
Fishing provides another source of protein. Usually the Guarani fish with poison. They crush the bark of the timbo tree and wash it through the water, leaving a thin seal on top of the water. They wait for the water to be depleted of oxygen, and the stunned fish float to the surface. The Guarani also fish with hook and lines. Other food sources are honey, fruit, the hearts of palm trees, and roots gathered from the forest floor.
Finally, to earn cash, the Guarani collect yerba mate leaves, animal skins, oils, and food. In these activities the Guarani use the forest extensively but not intensively. For example, they will cut leaves from all yerba trees but take only the mature leaves from each tree every three years, thus promoting the plants' survival. In addition, since the Guarani harvest from a number of ecological niches and since their consumption needs are modest, they never overexploit a commodity to earn cash.
The Guarani, therefore, use the forest to supplement their other subsistence activities, integrating this resource into their production system. It is a production system that is modeled after that of the rainforest itself; by incorporating trees the system preserves or recreates the forest canopy necessary for the survival of plants and animals below it. Crops grow in the shade of the trees. The surviving diversity of crops and animals ensures the recycling of nutrients necessary for their maintenance. In fact, as Richard Reed (1997:15) noted, 'agroforestry often increases ecological diversity.'
Agroforestry differs markedly from the typical exploitive forest activities in the culture of capitalism, such as intensive agriculture, lumbering, and cattle raising, activities modeled after factory production. First, indigenous production systems are diverse, allowing forest residents to exploit various niches in the forest without overexploiting any one niche. Second, unlike intensive agriculture, lumbering, or cattle raising, the Guarani production system depends on the resources of plants and animals themselves rather than on the nutrients of the forest soils. Thus by moderate use of the soils, water, canopy, and fauna of the forest the Guarani ensure that the whole system continues to flourish. Third, Guarani production techniques lend themselves to a pattern of social relations in which individual autonomy is respected and in which activities do not lend themselves to a division of labor that lends itself to status hierarchy. The basic work unit is the family, with both men and women involved in productive labor—farming, gathering food, and collecting commercial products—and reproductive labor—child care, food preparation, and the construction and maintenance of shelters.
Fourth, unlike the activities of the culture of capitalism, the Guarani mode of production is neither technology- nor labor-intensive. The Guarani spend about 18 percent of their time in productive activities; one-third of that is devoted to horticulture, slightly less to forest subsistence activities, and about 40 percent to commercial activities. Another 27 percent of their time is devoted to household labor. In all, about half their daylight time is spent working; the rest is devoted to leisure and socializing. Reed said that the Guarani workday is approximately half that of a typical European worker.
Finally, unlike capitalist production, which is tightly integrated into the global system, Guarani production allows them a great deal of autonomy from the larger society. When prices for their products are too low, the Guarani stop selling; if prices on store goods are too high, the Guarani stop buying. Thus they do not have to rely on commercial markets; their stability is in their gardens, not their labor.
This autonomy can be attributed in part to the Guarani's modest consumption needs. Food accounts for about 40 percent of the average family's monthly market basket—about two kilograms of rice, pasta, and flour; one kilogram of meat, a half liter of cooking oil, and a little salt. Cloth and clothing is the next most important purchase, perhaps a new shirt or pants (but not both) each year. Another one-fifth of the budget is spent on tools, such as machetes and axes, and an occasional luxury, such as tobacco, alcohol,
or a tape recorder. Thus, as Reed (1997:75) noted, the Guarani engage the global economic system without becoming dependent on it.
Contemporary Development and Guarani Communities
Guarani culture and their system of adaptation are,
however, being threatened. Since the 1970s
the rate of forest destruction in
of little economic growth, in the 1970s the Paraguayan economy began to grow at
the rate of 10 percent per year. This growth was fueled by enormous expansion
production, particularly cotton, soy, and wheat. Most of this growth came at
the expense of huge tracts of rainforest felled to make way for the new
cultivation. As Reed said, since 1970 every effort has been made to convert the
land of eastern
First, roads built into the forests
for military defense against
factor was international finance. The oil boom of the 1970s, along with changes
in currency, allowed core institutions to go on a lending spree as people
sought ways to reinvest their profits. Like most other peripheral countries,
The process of
environmental destruction soon followed. For example, the Guarani group Reed
worked with (the Itanarami) suffered their first major incursion in 1972, when the
government cut a road into their forest. It was built partly to control the border
The roads also brought into the Guarani forest impoverished Paraguayan families in search of land that they illegally cut to create fields in the forests, fields that will bear crops only for a short time before losing their fragile fertility. To complicate matters, Brazilian peasants, many displaced by large-scale agricultural projects in their own country, crossed the border seeking land on which to survive. The area even became home to a Mennonite community seeking to escape the pressures and problems of the larger world.
On the heels
of these colonists came agribusiness concerns clearing more forest on which to raise
soy and cotton. Within months of their arrival, thousands of hectares of forest were
cut down and replaced by fields of cash crops. The road that had brought in the
loggers, and peasant colonists was now used to haul out produce for foreign markets and for
cattle drives to deliver meat to consumers across South and
Thus in the same way that corporate raiders seize responsible corporations to turn a quick profit, often destroying them in the process, people seeking a profit from the lands of the Guarani quickly destroyed the forest. The logging companies cut the trees that provided the canopy for the forests as well as the trunks on which vines such as orchids and philodendron climbed. Without the protective cover of the large trees, the enormous diversity of life that thrived beneath the canopy, was no longer viable. Faunal populations declined immediately because their habitat was being destroyed and because they were being hunted to extinction by the new settlers. With the flora and fauna decimated, all that remained was a fragile layer of topsoil, which the harsh sunlight and rains quickly reduced to its clay base.
The rate of forest destruction was enormous. From 1970 to 1976, Paraguayan forests were reduced from 6.8 million to 4.2 million hectares. Half of the remaining forest was cut by 1984, and each year thereafter another 150,000-200,000 hectares has fallen to axes and bulldozers. At this rate, the Paraguayan forests will be gone by the year 2025.
More to the point for this discussion, with the rainforest went the way of life of the Guarani. When Reed first began working with the Itanarami in 1981 they were isolated in the forest, living largely as they had for centuries. By 1995 they were on a small island of forest in an 'ocean of agricultural fields.'
The Guarani had no legal title to the land they have inhabited for centuries, such title being claimed by the nation-state; those who bought the land from the government assume they have both a legal and moral right to remove any people occupying the land. Even when Guarani were allowed to retain their houseplots their traditional system of agroforestry was impossible because their forest was being destroyed and they were forced to seek new and smaller plots. Furthermore, the settlers destroyed their hunting stock, so the Guarani quickly came to depend for meat on the occasional steer slaughtered by ranchers in the towns, for which the Guarani had to pay cash. But the ranchers destroyed the stands of yerba mate, a source of cash for the Guarani, that they had cultivated for centuries.
Gradually, with their traditional production system destroyed, the Guarani were forced to enter the market economy as cotton or tobacco growers or as wage laborers on the lands they had sustained for centuries. Those who entered the agricultural sector found that the new system of farming was capital-intensive and required inputs of fertilizers, herbicides, and insecticides. Families went into debt becoming dependent on mestizo merchants and lenders. Those who chose to work found that wages were often too low to
support a family, forcing several or all family members to work. Furthermore, labor required people to travel outside their communities so that even those families who managed to gain access to land on which to garden had little time for it. Since wage labor demands the strongest workers, it is often the youngest and strongest who must leave their communities.
There are other effects. Illness and disease became more prevalent. Suicide, virtually unknown previously in Guarani communities, increased from a total of six in 1989 to three suicides per month in the first half of 1995. The leadership system collapsed, as religious leaders who earned their authority through their ability to mediate disputes found themselves helpless to mediate the new problems that arose between Guarani and mestizo or government bureaucrats. Today the government appoints community leaders, to make it easier for them to control and negotiate with Guarani communities. These new leaders derive their power from assistance programs that funnel resources to the Guarani, but which many leaders use to reward friends and relatives and punish non-kin and enemies.
In sum, the debt assumed by the Paraguayan government to foster economic expansion and the resulting expansion of capital-intensive farming and cattle ranching in the 1980s disrupted Guarani society more than had four centuries of contact; as a result its members are dispersing and assimilating into the larger society. It would be easy to condemn the Paraguayan government and other governments whose indigenous peoples are being destroyed. Yet the nation-states are only doing what capital controllers are supposed to do: they are choosing modes of production and ways of life that will bring the greatest immediate monetary return.
Ethnic Violence and the Question of Political Sovereignty
Indigenous peoples are not the only ones to suffer at the hands of the nation-state. Ethnic groups have also been subject to persecution and violence. Few if any nation-states do not have within their borders groups of people who, because of some characteristic— common language, religion, skin color, geographic origin, or mode of livelihood—claim to share, or are said by others to have, a sense of relatedness that resembles kinship (Maybury-Lewis 1997:60). However, ethnic groups, like nation-states, are socially created; thus, whether a particular group chooses to emphasize or ignore its own or another's distinc-tiveness is a social decision. Very often ethnicity is used as a political tool by 'ethnic entrepreneurs' to rally support for their own cause (Maybury-Lewis 1997); in other cases it is used to stigmatize groups so that others may gain an economic or social advantage. But however ethnicity is defined, it has proved to be a major factor in global conflict, particularly in violence by nation-states against its own citizens.
There are all kinds of rules and regulations established by the Geneva Convention on how citizens of one country may treat those of another country, and while they are frequently ignored they serve to some extent to limit arbitrary interstate brutality. However, other than the unenforceable Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations Charter, there are no internationally agreed on conventions on how individual states can treat their citizens, particularly those who are defined or who define themselves as
somehow distinct. Yet of the ninety-four wars recorded since the end of World War 11, sixty-nine were intrastate conflicts, resulting in the death of 17-30 million people, most of them civilians. Numbers such as these stagger the imagination and mask the individuality of the horror and the means of death.
After the U.S.-sponsored military
overthrow of an elected government in
In 1975, with
the tacit approval of the
Why does ethnic violence happen?
Why would Hutu want to slaughter Tutsi, some of
whom were neighbors, friends, even relatives? Why would Bosnian Serbs want to
massacre and rape Bosnian Muslims after centuries of coexistence? Blaming such violence on
'ancient hatreds' doesn't make much sense when these groups had lived
together peacefully for centuries. That's like blaming ancient hatreds for gang
violence between Irish and Italian or African-American and Hispanic youngsters
If we examine
cases of purported ethnic conflict we generally find that it involves more than
ancient hatred; even the 'hatreds' we find are relatively recent, and
constructed by those
ethnic entrepreneurs taking advantage of situations rooted in colonial domination and fed by neocolonial exploitation. In this
regard, the case of
Perhaps there is no better case
A country the size of
evidence suggests that the area that is now
were subject to the harsh colonial rule of
In the 1950s
the Tutsis began to campaign for independence from their colonial rulers. Since
Belgians believed the Hutu would be easier to control, they shifted their support to them
and began to replace Tutsi chiefs with Hutu. In 1959, when clashes between Hutu and
Tutsi broke out, the Belgians allowed Hutus to burn down Tutsis houses.
In 1973 a military coup d'etat
brought to power Juvenal Habyarimana, who promised to establish 'national
unity.' To this end he installed one-party political rule of the National Revolutionary Movement for Development
whatever progress Rwanda was making to climb out of the pit of its colonial past was
undermined by the collapse of the value of its export commodities—tin and, more
important, coffee. Until 1989, when coffee prices collapsed, coffee was, after
oil, the second most traded commodity in the world. In 1989, negotiations
over the extension of
the International Coffee Agreement, a multinational attempt to regulate the
price paid to coffee producers, collapsed
when the United States, under pressure from large trading companies,
withdrew, preferring to let market forces determine coffee prices. This resulted in coffee producers glutting the market
with coffee and forcing coffee prices to their lowest level since the
1930s. While this did little to affect coffee buyers and sellers in wealthy
countries, it was devastating to the producing countries, such as
If you are a coffee consumer,
especially one who likes the new premium, fresh-roasted varieties, you will pay between eight to ten dollars per pound.
Of that, fifty to seventy cents
represents the world market price, of which thirty to fifty cents goes to the farmer who produced the coffee. The remainder
goes to mid-level buyers, exporters, importers, and the processing plants that sell and market the coffee. For
The sudden drop in income for small farmers resulted in widespread famine, as farmers no longer had income with which to purchase food. The consequence for the Rwandan state elite was just as devastating; the money required to maintain the position of the rulers had come from coffee, tin, and foreign aid. With the first two gone, foreign aid became even more critical, so the Rwandan elite needed more than ever to maintain state power in order to maintain access to that aid.
Maintaining access to aid, however, particularly from multilateral organizations, required agreeing to financial reforms imposed by those organizations. In September 1990,
the IMF imposed a structural
adjustment program on
economy was collapsing, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), a group of Tutsi
In spite of
increased state oppression and the French-supported buildup of the armed forces,
in January 50,000 Rwandans marched in a prodemocracy demonstration in
By this time,
the coming crisis was becoming evident; human rights groups were warning about
the existence of the death squads, and members of Habyarimana's inner circle set up
a new radio station—a potent source of power in a country that is 60 percent
illiterate—using it to denounce attempts to forge a peace agreement between the
government and the
RPF and inciting racial hatred. Acts of violence against Tutsis increased after the president of neighboring
Habyarimana continued to negotiate with the opposition under international pressure to
reach a settlement, his plane (a gift from President Mitterrand of
Hutus being trained by the French military. Formed into special brigades, units such as this were largely responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.
mitted to genocide. Yet, even
when it was clear to most people that the genocide was orchestrated by
an authoritarian state, journalists as well as U.N. Secretary General Boutros
Boutros-Ghali would characterize the slaughter as 'Hutus killing Tutsis
and Tutsis killing Hutus.' Building on Western stereotypes of savage
Africans, Mayor Ed Koch of
As long as
the killing could be characterized as interethnic violence, the core states,
whose actions had created the situation for the killings and whose economic
policies precipitated the violence, could distance themselves from the
The slaughter did not end until the RPF finally defeated the government's armies and took control of the country. But the dying didn't stop. The fleeing Hutu elite used radio broadcasts to incite fear in the Hutu populace that to remain in the country meant certain retaliation from Tutsi survivors and the victorious RPF. Consequently, millions of Hutus fled the country, gathering in refugee camps in neighboring countries and becoming a country in exile for the Hutu extremists who fled with them, using their control over the fleeing army to maintain control of the Hutus in refugee camps. The press and media
coverage of the refugees also
served as a fund-raising bonanza for foreign aid organizations,
although some 80,000 Hutus died in cholera epidemics in the camps. It was not until 1996
that Hutu refugees began to return to
In sum, the Rwandan disaster was hardly a simple matter of tribal warfare or ancient hatreds. It was the case of an excolonial, core-supported state threatened with core-initiated economic collapse and internal and external dissension resorting to genocide to remove the opposition that included, in this case, both Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
Rights of Self-Determination
One of the features of the modern
world are the many ethnic and indigenous groups arguing,
sometimes violently, for greater recognition, autonomy, and control over
economic resources claimed by the nation-state. Some even demand the right to
their own nation-state.
The nation-state of which they are a part often responds with political
repression and violence. The multiethnic
Indonesian state suppressed East Timorese who were unwillingly included in the Indonesian state given
its independence by the Dutch. The Russians
recently fought an independence movement in Chechnia, while the Ethiopian government
battles its own independence movement. Almost half of the residents of Quebec want some kind of independence from the
rest of Canada, while Native Americans
in Guatemala, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Canada, the United States, and
elsewhere demand independence or
better representation. Tamils fight for independence in
people are given the opportunity to choose independence, the consequences can
be disastrous. In September of 1999 the people of East Timor, under a United Nations
mandate, were permitted to vote on whether to be independent from
This raises some crucial questions: What are the rights of a people, however defined, for independence or the right to form their own government? More specifically, does there exist a person who, by virtue of his or her humanity, enjoys a set of specific rights above and beyond the entitlements granted by the nation-state? (Nagengast 1994:128)
Article One of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations seems to be unambiguous in making political self-determination a basic human right. Yet while it recognizes the rights of individuals to self-determination, it does not give that right to societies or groups. The United Nations extends that right only in very specific cases in which there is also a territorial basis to the claim.
One way out of this problem has been to recognize limited rights of indigenous or ethnic groups within a state, rights to certain kinds of education, social affairs, culture,
while defense, international trade relations, and diplomatic affairs are left to the central state. But the question of self-determination can lead to some strange situations.
in 1994 the people of
Come (1996), then Grand Chief of the Cree Nation, in a 1996 speech at the
The issue of sovereignty and human rights raises the question: What are the rights of individuals vis-a-vis the nation-state? Is it possible for individuals to make appeals to justice above and often against their own state?
past fifty years there has been some recognition that individuals because of their ethnic group membership or
political views can appeal to international agencies or groups for physical and
judicial protection. Most influential are groups such as Amnesty International, the United Nations, Cultural
Survival, and Watch Committees. Amnesty
International, for example, was launched in 1961 by British lawyer Peter
Benenson with a newspaper appeal,
'The Forgotten Prisoners,' published worldwide in May 1961. The
appeal marshaled an international campaign to support human rights. Within a
year the organization had sent delegates to four countries to represent
prisoners in 210 cases. Today Amnesty
International has more than 1 million members, subscribers, and donors representing
over 190 countries and territories, as well as 4,341 local Amnesty International
groups registered with the International Secretariat, plus several thousand
school, university, professional, and other
groups in 93 countries. The central office, in
Amnesty International has a precise mandate outlined in an international statute: to free all prisoners of conscience, that is people detained anywhere for their beliefs or because of their ethnic origin, sex, color, or language, who have not advocated or used violence. Its members and staff also work to ensure fair and prompt trials for political
prisoners and to abolish torture, capital punishment, and cruel treatment of prisoners, along with extrajudicial executions and 'disappearances.'
As an international conscience for human rights and to protect individuals from the violence of their own states, Amnesty International not only sends representatives to investigate reports of government abuse but also attempts to enlist the commitment of states themselves to end abuses. One of its most powerful weapons is its ability to marshal international support, largely by publicizing what it deems to be human rights violations. In its Annual Report 2000, Amnesty International (Amnesty International 2000) reports extra-judicial executions in 38 countries, torture and ill-treatment by security forces or police in 132 countries, deaths in custody or inhuman prison conditions in 81 countries, prisoners of conscience held in 61 countries, arbitrary arrest and detention in 63 countries, and arbitrary killing of civilians, torture, and hostage-taking in 46 countries.
Anthropologists have been particularly active in seeking to end abuses against indigenous peoples and ethnic groups. Cultural Survival, founded in 1972 by David May-bury-Lewis to defend the rights of indigenous peoples, has been one of the leaders. It sponsors research, advocacy, and publications, such as Cultural Survival Quarterly, that examine situations that threaten indigenous groups, make suggestions to solve conflicts, and attempt to marshal international support to pressure nation-states to observe the rights of individuals and groups.
The American Anthropological Association, the major professional association of anthropologists, has adopted a more activist role in situations that threaten the integrity of indigenous people. One example is the letter written by the association's president, Yolanda Moses (president of City College of New York), to Brazil's president, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, protesting his government's plan to reopen to land claims the reserves of some 344 indigenous groups in the Amazon basin.
The extent to which these efforts will affect the policies of nation-states is questionable. We have reviewed the extent to which the power of capital drives the actions of the nation-states, along with the growing power of multinational corporations, whose interests almost always conflict with those of indigenous peoples and ethnic groups seeking to protect their resources and culture or claiming greater self-determination. Yet, as we shall see in Part III, protest against nation-states or the culture of capitalism itself is far more widespread than most people realize.
We observed at the beginning of the chapter that one of the casualties of the expansion of the culture of capitalism is cultural diversity. There are a number of reasons, including profound cultural incompatibilities between indigenous peoples and the culture of capitalism and the need of the nation-state to ensure political authority and control over economic resources desired by corporations or the nation-state itself. We also observed that the very features that make indigenous peoples excellent custodians of the environment make them susceptible, as are responsible corporations, to takeover and destruction.
Furthermore, we concluded that conflict between groups within nation-states, often characterized as ethnic violence, has more to do with the economic consequences of the
expansion of consumer capitalism and the actions of the nation-state. Finally, we examined the issue of national self-determination and the rights of individuals in the nation-state and the actions of groups such as Amnesty International and Cultural Survival.
Related to all of these issues is whether the incorporation of indigenous peoples or ethnic groups into nation-states and the culture of capitalism that they represent is beneficial or harmful to them. That is, as John Bodley (1990:138) asked, does entry into consumer capitalism increase or decrease a given culture's ability to satisfy the physical and psychological needs of its population or its stability?
Bodley (1990:138-139) concluded that a careful examination of the conditions of indigenous peoples before and after their incorporation into the world market economy,
[l]eads to the conclusion that their standard of living is lowered, not raised, by economic progress—and often to a dramatic decline. This is perhaps the most outstanding and inescapable fact to emerge from the years of research that anthropologists have devoted to the study of culture change and modernization. (emphasis added)
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