Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
existed without the other since times immemorial. And the Xavante people struggle
today to maintain these strong connections alive, and forever.
Leaders Adão Top'tiro and Thiago Tseretsu, as well as Tseredzaró Ruri'õ,
president of the Associação Xavante Warã (Warã Xavante Association), recognize
that relationships between the environment and the Xavante, humans and animals,
food and people, men and women, parents and their children, are dynamic and fluid,
always subject to change. The Xavante people continue making choices in their
everyday lives that affect these relationships on a daily basis. In particular, intense
contact with the broader Brazilian society, following the process of colonization
of Indigenous Peoples throughout central Brazil in the 20 th century, has triggered a
chain of events that has altered the interactions between the cerrado and its peoples,
animals, plants and other beings. This is why, as the elders put it above, “today the
young men are no longer learning to love the Ró.” These changes affect mathematical
decisions the Xavante of the Sangradouro Indigenous Land make today in their
everyday lives.
This chapter is a philosophical inquiry into the foundations of Xavante
mathematical thought. I discuss details of the Xavante dialectical worldview and the
challenge it poses to Xavante community members inside and outside of classroom
situations today. The solutions to mathematical problems remain structured by the
reciprocal principle of gift-giving, as argued in Chapter 1, and by the notion that
for the Xavante people, a totality is always the sum of two fundamental parts. The
Xavante's decision to adopt a decimal number system for monetary transactions, in
addition to their traditional numerical system of base 2, illuminates the dynamism of
Xavante thought in view of the nation's insertion in the Brazilian and global market
economy at the turn of the 21 st century. Nonetheless, the number 2 continues to be,
for this Gê-speaking people, 2 “the 2 of us together,” that is, the unitary value for all
kinds of beings, human or not, material or symbolic. Here, the Western concept of
number, based on a one-to-one correspondence, rings as a partial truth, or a “lonely
self” mitsi - the Xavante name for the number 1.
Rather than mere quantifiers, Xavante numbers emerge as categories structured
by social relationships of their kinship system. In this respect, clans, moieties, age-
sets, and specific kin relations can be viewed as conventional symbols, or numerals,
representing essential constituencies of what I call the Xavante socionumerical
system. As in other Gê-speaking societies of the Brazilian Amazon, Xavante numbers
catalyze a set of presuppositions about dialectical mathematical systems whose
rationality is informed by the pervasive dualism that governs social interaction for an
estimated 15,000 Xavante today. Most importantly, for the Xavante people, a unit is
defined as the union of 2 fundamental parts, and numerical place value assumes the
significance of reciprocal social relationships. The dialectical association of beings,
human or not, material or symbolic, within the dynamism of Xavante dualism
synthesizes these and other key ideas about the philosophy of Gê mathematical
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