Society for Linguistic Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Erasure is a key component of anti-indigenous racism in the Americas. In Brazil, dominant racial ideologies link indigenous authenticity to the Amazon, and associate Northeastern Brazil with racial mixture and Brazil’s colonial heritage, Southern Brazil with a white gaucho or ‘cowboy’ culture, and urban centers such as Sao Paulo and Brasilia with whiteness and modernity. This racialized geography further contributes to the erasure of indigenous people in “unexpected places” (Deloria 2004), who often fail to meet what is an impossible standard of perceived authenticity by wearing clothes, speaking Brazilian Portuguese, and, to be frank, merely existing in the present (see Ramos 1998; for a discussion of racialized geography and indigenous erasure in Ecuador, see Smith 2015). Drawing on Barbra Meek’s (2006) “Hollywood Injun English”, Jane Hill’s (1995) Mock Spanish, and recent work on ‘português de arremedo’ (Silva 2019), or mock non-standard Portuguese, I examine links between language attributed to racialized metapragmatic stereotypes (Agha 1998) that circulate widely on popular media, including online blogs and YouTube videos, and ideologies of race and place that locate indigeneity in what is imagined to be a primitive past. Sometimes downplayed as merely jokes, these stereotypes inform common sense about what it means to be indigenous in Brazil and contribute to a folk standard of ‘real’ Indianness against which indigenous people are compared and inevitably come up short. At the same time, they become a metapragmatic resource that indigenous people can refer to in order to comment on and (re)define their own indigeneity.