Maria Bonome Pederneiras Barbosa

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro

Grant number

Gr. 10096

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Barbosa, Maria (Museu Nacional, Rio de Janeiro) "Finding oneself in the loss: an Arapaso perception of their lost culture"

More than ever, the problem of cultural borders is a prominent theme in political and social debates around the world. The perception of culture as an object has effects on the emergent cultural conservation and restoration policies, as well as generating disputes concerning their authenticity and origin. Contributing to this debate, this research project explores the question of ‘culture loss’ from the atypical perspective of the Arapaso, an indigenous people from the region of the Uaupés River in Northwestern Brazilian Amazonia. This small group is an unknown within the multiethnic and multilinguistic system that distinguishes their region, shared with another twenty much more numerous indigenous groups. In a mythic episode of collective suicide, the Arapaso relate how they abruptly lost a large portion of their population and with it their language and traditional knowledge. Since then, their position as an exogamic group within the regional system, characterized above all by the linguistic exogamy between groups, is defined precisely by what they have lost. Thus, the Arapaso offer us an exceptional perspective of the problem of the objectification of culture and incite us to think about how loss can be treated as an ethnographic object, rather than the absence of such.