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Journal Article

The Power of Definition: Brazil's Contribution to Universal Concepts of Indigeneity

Jan Hoffman French
Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies
Vol. 18, No. 1 (Winter 2011), pp. 241-261
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/indjglolegstu.18.1.241
Stable URL:
Page Count: 21
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The Power of Definition: Brazil's Contribution to Universal Concepts of Indigeneity
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Abstract This article builds on discussions about the potential benefits and difficulties with developing a universal definition of indigenous peoples. It explores the spaces made available for theorizing indigeneity by the lack of a definition in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted in 2007. Specifically, this article addresses the challenge presented by the diversity of groups claiming indigenous status in Brazil. To what extent do distinct cosmologies and languages that mark Amazonian Indians as unquestionably indigenous affect newly recognized tribes in the rest of Brazil who share none of the indicia of authenticity? This article theorizes how to situate these newly recognized tribes within the context of the Declaration and addresses what the Brazilian experience has to offer in providing openings for claims that might have been made through alternative means, such as land reform and international cultural heritage rights.

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