“In 2015, we are all indigenous”: Indigenism and the World Games of Indigenous Peoples

Principal Investigator: Isabelle Schulte-Tenckhoff

Research Assistant: Barbara Bravo

The project benefitted from a research grant from the Ecole polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) under the FLASH Research Programme and saught to explore the World Games of Indigenous Peoples through the lens of indigeneity.

Background and Project

The first edition of the World Games of Indigenous Peoples (JMPI, I Jogos Mundiais dos Povos Indígenas as per the Brazilian acronym), was held in Palmas (Tocantins, Brazil) from 23 October to 1 November 2015. The JMPI were chosen as an object of study in connection with a wider research endeavour devoted to the significance of indigenous migration to Brazilian cities, especially with regard to the complexities of indigenous rights and ‘Indian identity’ in a non-traditional setting.

In this project conducted in cooperation with Professor Sarah Silva Telles from the Pontifical Catholic University at Rio de Janeiro, the JMPI are explored from the vantage point of mutual (self)representation, performance of indigeneity, and construction of Indian identity.

Research Dimensions

The main objective of the anthropological research was to explore the JMPI through the lens of indigeneity, especially its performative dimension as it ties participants, spectators and commentators into a global movement, as well as through Indigenism as understood by Alcida Ramos who models it on Orientalism. In looking at the JMPI through the lens of indigeneity and Indigenism simultaneously, it becomes possible to combine two levels of analysis that are crucial for this project, namely the global stage where indigeneity – and the debate over indigenous rights – has been unfolding over the last forty years, and the national stage where global indigenous mobilisation has had an impact and whence various local manifestations have fed into the international debate in turn.