Lucas Bessire

Visiting Research Associate


Behold the Black Caiman: Modernity and Indigeneity among the Ayoreo of the Chaco

Lucas BessireLucas BessireVisiting Research AssociateLucas BessireVisiting Research Associate

In March 2004, seventeen of the world’s last “voluntarily isolated” hunter/gatherers who called themselves Ayoreode left Paraguay’s Gran Chaco forest as it was being bulldozed by ranchers. Less than five months later, they had been taught by their more settled Ayoreo relatives to be contemporary “indigenous people” by cutting their hair, converting to evangelical Christianity, and relying on wage labor. Lucas Bessire’s research aims to foster an understanding of how recently contacted Ayoreo envision viable futures within daily realities of poverty, disease, and violence in a region where Indians are severely discriminated against.

Bessire focuses on how Ayoreo articulations, specifically indigenous appropriation of radio technology, transnational discourses of indigenous rights, and local understandings of evangelical Christian doctrine change Ayoreo imaginations of possible futures, and both expand and condition Ayoreo political agency. In the book project he will be working on at SAR, Bessire elaborates on the premise that internal colonization and the politics of “becoming indigenous” entails embodying uneven global power relations as collective feelings of trauma, shame, and hope, and addresses changing Ayoreo concepts of such social sentiments. This book will be the first ethnographic study of the Ayoreo based on long-term participant observation by someone with a working knowledge of the language.

Affiliation at time of award:
Postdoctoral Fellow, Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowship Program

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