Language and Riverscape in Indigenous Brazil: Mapping Cosmology and Politics of Place


ACLS Fellowship Program




This project investigates the relationships between language practices and the meanings of the riverscape among indigenous peoples of Amazonia. It focuses on how Wauja people in Brazil’s Xingu Indigenous Park use language to talk about places in their territory, to perform ritual connections to ancestral, spirit, and animal beings who share their spaces, and to make political claims in defense of their land to state and non-state actors who threaten its integrity. The research brings together audiovisual digital recording and analysis of narrative discourses with fieldwork-based ethnography and collaborative digital GIS mapping. Indigenous epistemologies of place emphasize connections between moments of speaking, what linguistic anthropologists call “interdiscursivity,” as constitutive of territory. This perspective informs the project’s approach to the ways that people relate to their environment and the ways that they relate their environment to one another.