Geography Reference
In-Depth Information
At the turn of the 21 st century, the mortality rate in Sangradouro was calculated at
87.1 per 1,000 inhabitants, strikingly higher than the Brazilian national average of
27.5 per 1,000 at the time. Recent studies indicate that chronic malnutrition and poor
health care are responsible for this dramatic picture (Graham 2000:94, Coimbra et al.
2004). Several Xavante communities, including the Idzô'uhu villagers, have taken
into their own hands the process of protection of ancestral lands, the provision of
health care, and bilingual liberating schooling practices.
Arriving all by myself on the Kuluene land in 1978 without a spouse, children,
or even a single friend made the Xavante suspicious. Where was my imro , my
husband? From their perspective I was a full-grown adult women, even though I
was only 19 years old. And no children? And how about my parents? To them I was
all alone, mitsire, poor old one and only me. Was I an orphan, and where was my
family? Mitsi is the name for number 1: re is a diminutive ending, making it the
“little one.” However, it is only half of a unit or a pair: maparané, which stands for
the number 2, means the two of us together.” Aracy's letter helped pair me up with
a family, since I was her little sister, so I was immediately invited into a kinship
system in which individuals become full persons because of their association with
others. Throughout my stay with the Xavante, most of the problems I faced in
everyday life (very little to eat, digestive problems, nightmares, bug bites, and so
on) were always attributed by the people to my being mitsi, a lonely self. There
were lots of young men willing to date or marry me, why wouldn't I? At the time,
I didn't quite understand the concept of dualism, and what it really meant when
anthropologists called the Xavante a “dialectical society.” Neither did I really
understand that for the Xavante people being alone, mitsire , and having nobody to
share with, sontire, go hand-in-hand. And this is the worst thing that can happen to
someone, Indigenous or not.
Like other Gê-speaking societies of Central Brazil, such as the Suyá, featured
in Part I of this topic, the fundamental structuring principle of Xavante cosmology
is dualism . 7 Dualism is a philosophical concept and a practical principle according
to which everything in life - death included - is divided into two opposed and
complementary forces. This movement of opposition and complementarity is what
helps define the concept of dialectics.
Dualism informs Xavante cosmology, that is, the ways in which the people
understand the cosmos they live in, and the different beings, human or not, they
interact with. Xavante social life is organized around a series of dual or binary
oppositions, which are the very warp of what being in the world means for this
dialectical society. Such binary groupings or pairs of moieties, which oppose
and complement themselves dialectically, express relationships between men
and women, children and adults of one's own, or of the other's, house, lineage,
Search WWH ::

Custom Search