Anthropology and Environment Society
Oral Presentation Session
Inclusion and partnering are complex processes, carrying the potential for mutual misunderstanding. The complexities are compounded if the assumptions and goals of the subjects are not the same, even when conducted in an apparently common, negotiating, language. This presentation considers the David-and-Goliath relationship between one of the world's largest environmental NGOs, Conservation International (CI), and the native American Kayapó of the southeastern Amazon basin in Brazil, to monitor territorial lands against invasion and to manage the largest-ever dedicated fund to benefit indigenous peoples. It considers a series of meetings during which representatives of both entities deliberated goals and strategies in order to arrive at mutually agreed upon decisions. Analyzing the to-and-fro exchanges between these incongruous interlocutors over time reveals the convergences, contradictions, departures, fissures, imitations, distinctions, refutations, understandings, and misunderstandings that constitute the dynamic processes of building mutual understanding. If, as Bakhtin suggests, "understanding is a threshold phenomenon" (1986) at which meanings evolve by means of ongoing encounters with other meanings, the exercise should prove a productive site for rethinking that which has been called a common (or "middle") ground. In this dialogic encounter in which each contributor becomes an object for the other, we find the emergence of a linguistic landscape that is shaped by distinct, yet inseparable, visions of loss.