The thesis is based on five months of fieldwork in Cumuruxatiba and the surrounding region in the south of Bahia, Brazil, among the Pataxó Indians and an indigenous association called Frente da Resistência e Luta Pataxó, FLP (the Pataxó Resistance Front and Struggle). The purpose was to analyze how they are able to achieve a certain amount of political influence, and to suggest the consequences of this.
Due to an international concern for preservation of biodiversity and a widespread belief in indigenous peoples’ knowledge as ecologically sustainable, indigenous peoples have been provided with important tools for strengthening their struggle within a national context. In Brazil, this struggle most often connects to Indians’ struggle for land and preservation of a specific way of life. It is however a rather paradoxical fact that achieving political influence necessitates promoting their people as one homogenized ethnic group. They must adapt to an enchanted romanticism of themselves as The Other in which they are portrayed as The Noble Savage. It becomes even more paradoxical when ethnic symbols are ambiguous and The Other does not entirely fit the dominant discourse. Consequently, indigenous peoples perceived as “acculturated” become hybrid creatures not fit to receive public benefits such as a territory. The themes addressed by this thesis will deal with this paradox within the theoretical framework of discourse analysis, suggesting how frontstage of ethnopolitics is indeed a conscious display of certain symbols, while simultaneously being based upon shared life experiences backstage.