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A long-pending Indian question: Consequences of agribusiness expansion and ambiguous national borders for the Guarani- Kaiowás in Mato Grosso do Sul (Brazil)

The project will investigate, analyse and theorise about the cultural geography, place-related experiences, elements of racism and multi-scale mobilisation of indigenous groups in the southern tracts of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, in the Centre-West of Brazil and on the border with Paraguay (both areas of intense agribusiness production).

Activities will include visits and training of the Primary Investigator (PI) in Cardiff, fieldwork research conducted by the PI, the Co-Investigator and a research assistant, lectures, mini-courses and primary school support, sustained engagement with authorities and social groups, and the organisation of two regional events.

Activities will focus on the historical and geographical trajectory of the various communities of Guarani-Kaiowás, which is a first nation in constant and violent conflict with agribusiness farmers and seriously misunderstood by segments of the public sector and urban populations about the vital importance of their ancestral lands.

The long-lasting misfortune of the Guarani-Kaiowás has deteriorated in recent years due to the advance of export-oriented soybean production and the marked increase in the price of rural land. Related to economic pressures, there is evident inability or unwillingness of government agencies to resolve or mitigate the trend of neglect, oppression and social exclusion. Tensions have been badly managed and resulted in the reported murderer of more than 400 Indians in region in the last decade.

In 2016, the European Parliament passed a resolution (2016/2991(RSP)) that strongly condemned the violence perpetrated against the indigenous communities of Brazil and deplored the poverty and human rights situation of the Guarani-Kaiowás population.

However, despite the great socio-spatial relevance of those processes of conflict and collaboration, there is still limited contribution by human geographers to the understanding of local, community specificities and shared experiences of social learning and mobilisation of Indian groups.

In that challenging spatial and political context, the overall aim of the project is to assess and discuss the socio-cultural complexity of the lived reality of Indian groups in areas of consolidated agribusiness at the international frontier of the State of Mato Grosso do Sul, focusing on the gap between official, all-encompassing narratives and local perceptions, subjectivities and social practices, which will inform the search for social inclusion, environmental justice and sustainable development.

Taking into account the pending Indian question, the main objectives of the project are to:

  1. Provide advanced training and an high-quality international experience to the PI
  2. enhance the North-South collaboration between UFGD and Cardiff University, which will later expand to other universities
  3. conduct qualitative research in three contrasting locations (Dourados, Pirajuí and Amambai reserves, which have been contacted and are willing to take part in the research)
  4. organise two regional events that will include academics, Indians, policy-makers, public authorities (including judges and public attorneys), agriculture sector and general civil society to discuss past legacies, current trends and possible alternatives to the mounting problems
  5. support primary schools in the three indigenous communities
  6. jointly prepare future research projects and publish books and papers with the results of the fellowship.

The project team


This research was made possible through the support of the following organisations: