Indigenous Rexistance and Ethnographic Archives

Principal researcher: Rodrigo Lacerda

Research group: Practices and Politics of Culture


Indigenous Cinema | Digital restitution | Heritage | Collaborative museology

Funding Institution

Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (FCT)



Start date


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Ethnographic museums in Europe face several challenges, namely in terms of their relevance to contemporary Western societies and the imperative to be decolonized. Concomitantly, the archives in these institutions have attracted growing interest from the source communities and their diasporas, giving rise to projects of collaborative museology that are reassessing and reassembling the collections (Harrison et al. 2013; Krmpotich, Peers 2013; Deliss 2020) and producing restitution initiatives (Brown, Peers 2006; Sarr, Savoy 2018). This project aims to innovate by expanding the research and collaborative endeavor and ethos to the Indigenous peoples in the Lowlands of South America, specifically in Brazil, who have different colonial histories, sociopolitical structures, ontologies of personhood and things, conceptions of ownership and regimes of care (Santos-Granero 2009; Viveiros de Castro 2014; Brightman et al. 2016). In this context, these initiatives are part of movements of “rexistance” (Viveiros de Castro 2017), a neologism that stands both for the recognition that the immanent existence of other ways of being is a resistance against ethnocide, epistemicide, ecocide and assimilationist policies of the nation-state and late capitalism; and the realization that the knowledge embedded in the archives can “re-exist” as a means of existence and resistance through the transformative interaction with contemporary Indigenous collectives.
Innovation in this proposal will be fostered by researching 1) how archives are reassessed and re-existed by the Indigenous peoples; 2) the rapport, frictions and equivocations between Indigenous movements and national and international heritage and cultural property policies, protocols and laws; 3) the advancement of theoretical-practical collaborative methodologies and protocols to make the archives accessible to the Indigenous heritage stakeholders, including through digital restitution; and 4) the potentials and conundrums of the digitalization of collections through the collaborative development of an online database prototype with the source communities, other Indigenous representatives and international experts.
The project entails a twofold approach. On the one hand, it will research and reassess the archive at the National Museum of Ethnology in Portugal consisting of objects, photographs and films obtained in 1964-65 with two Indigenous peoples, who have social, cultural and historical differences relevant for a comparative analysis of the main ethical, legal, political and ontological challenges of this undertaking. On the other hand, the research will be bolstered by the expansion of my previous work with Indigenous collaborative cinema, this time centered on the re-existence of archive images. The proposal is focused, but not exclusively, on the visual aspect due to the proclivity of the source communities for this material and in order to produce synergies with other ongoing projects.