Turning Indios into Nationals. The Field of Indigenism in Brazil and Paraguay From the Beginning of the 19th to the End of the 20th Century

  • Darius Piwowarczyk Anthropos-Institut, Germany
Keywords: Indigenism, Brazil, Paraguay, nation-building, Catholic missions, Bourdieu, modernization processes


Indigenism is a particular Latin American version of cultural field (in Bourdieu's sense) whose various participants (most notably government agencies, missionaries, anthropologists, media people, members of non-governmental organizations, as well as political and religious leaders of indigenous communities) vie for the prerogative to determine and enforce a historically specific notion of “Indigenousness” as part of the process of defining the national self. This process includes, among other things, efforts to “convert” and incorporate indigenous population into national society in reference to four narratives: universalism, citizenship, ethnicity, and − beginning in the 1970s − the (frequently subversive) voice of indigenous peoples themselves. This article is a comparative analysis of this process in Brazil and Paraguay, in the period extending from the early 19th to the end of the 20th century.


Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. New York: Verso, 1991.

Bartra, Roger. Wild Men in the Looking Glass: The Mythic Origin of European Otherness. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1994.

Bockwinkel, Juan. Los héroes del Monday: Historia de la Mision Verbita en el Monday, 1910-1925. Asunción. Editorial Salesianito, 1993.

Bourdieu, Pierre. The Field of Cultural Production. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Bourdieu, Pierre, and Loïc J.D. Wacquant. An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Bronowski Jacob, and Bruce Mazlish. The Western Intellectual Tradition: From Leonardo to Hegel. New York: Barnes and Noble, 1993.

Chatterjee, Partha. Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse. London: Zed Books, 1986.

Dostal, Walter, ed. The Situation of the Indian in South America. Geneva: WCC, 1972.

Eley, Geoff, and Ronald G. Suny, eds. Becoming National: A Reader. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Escobar, Arturo. Encountering Development. The Making and Unmaking of the Third World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995.

Galinier, Jacques, and Antoinette Molinié. Les néo-Indiens. Une religion de IIIe millénaire. Paris: Odile Jacob, 2006.

Griffin, Charles C. “Enlightenment and Independence.”In Latin American Revolutions, 1808-1826: Old and New World Origins, ed. John Lynch. 247-257. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994.

Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity. Cambridge MA: Blackwell, 1990.

Heiberg, Marianne. “Basques, Anti-Basques, and the Moral Community.” In Becoming National. A Reader, eds. Geoff Eley, Ronald G. Suny. 325-335. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Holston, James. The Modernist City. An Anthropological Critique of Brasilia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989.

Johnson, Randal. “Pierre Bourdieu on Art, Literature and Culture.” In Pierre Bourdieu, The Field of Cultural Production. 1-25. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

Kasmir, Sharryn. The Myth of Mondragon. Cooperatives, Politics and Working-Class Life in a Basque Town. New York: State University of New York Press, 1996.

Kümin, Beatrice. Expedition Brasilien. Von der Forschungszeichnung zur ethnographischen Fotografie. Bern: Benteli, 2007.

Lynch, John. “The Origins of Spanish American Independence.” In The Independence of Latin America, ed. Leslie Bethell. 1-48. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

Martinez Novo, Carmen. Who Defines Indigenous? Identities, Development, Intellectuals, and the State in Northern Mexico. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2006.

Müller, Franz. “Beiträge zur Ethnographie der Guaraní-Indianer im Östlichen Waldgebiet von Paraguay.” Anthropos 29, no. 1-2 (1934): 177-208.

Piwowarczyk, Darius J. “Missionaries of the `Iron Cage'. The Indigenist Sector of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) in Paraguay, 1910–2000.” Anthropos 99, no. 2 (2004): 499-518.

Prieto, Esther. “Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay.” In Indigenous Peoples and Democracy in Latin America, ed. Donna Lee Van Cott. 235-55. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.

Ramos, Alcida R. Indigenism. Ethnic Politics in Brazil. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1998.

Said, Edward W. Orientalism. New York: Vintage, 1979.

Sušnik, Branislava, and Miguel Chase-Sardi. Los indios del Paraguay. Madrid: MAPFRE, 1995.