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Example research essay topic: Western Culture Public Opinion - 1,604 words

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The Three Quotes: In 1985 a young Brazilian photographer and filmmaker, Mitchell and two anthropologist friends started the indigenous video initiative Mekaron which means he who creates images in Brazilian language spoken by the Kayapo. During two years they worked with two groups of Kayapo: the Metuktire and the Mekrangnoty. Once the Kayapo had the video cameras in their own hands, initially they used it for the preservation of the cultural memory of the community, motivating the recording of their rituals. Afterward, video was utilised to communicate among villages and its chiefs, enabling relatives to see each other after many years. "Our observation of the use that the Kayapo did of radio, lead us to suggest that the video project originally limited to the Metuktire-Kayapo group could be expanded to other Kayapo groups living in the southern land of the State of Par, thus stimulating the exchanges of video messages among villages", recalls Monica Frota. The Kayapo had been exchanging messages between villages and documenting their own rituals and dances. However, they soon started to exchange political speeches and to document their protests against the Brazilian state.

The political dimension of the project was a logical development. The Kayapo showed a high level of understanding of how media interacted with public opinion. For example, they used video to document the agreements signed with government representatives and their demonstrations in front of the Presidential Palace. Their image of hi-tech indians quickly gained the front pages of important journals, including a cover of Time magazine when they denounced the construction of a hydro-electric dam in Altamira that would flood their land. The Kayapo became much more conscious of their own "culture" as an important component of their identity as a social group and a valuable political resource. Although in some cases they reinvented the content of that culture to appeal to non indigenous allies.

Representation has played a fundamental part in the Kayapo political and ideological offensive. To understand the ways the Kayapo have used representation it is necessary to understand Kayapo cultural notions of representation, above all the idea that representation is creative of the reality it represents. For the Kayapo the moral force of social solidarity or the power of strong leaders to compel consent and obedience is created and conveyed by symbolic performances, such as communal ceremonies or chiefly oratory and imbued in the symbolic acts, images and verbal expressions of which they are constructed. Representation, in sum, is not merely mimetic, but creative and compelling; and the act of producing representations is itself imbued with the power to create and compel. It was thus extremely important to the Kayapo to acquire and learn to use potent contemporary technologies of representation such as video, and moreover to make sure that their video camera people were on prominent display on occasions like political demonstrations and ceremonies being staged for Brazilian or international audiences and documented by non indigenous TV or video crews, according to Terence Turner. One important source of support was the increasingly positive evaluation of non-Western cultures, that was associated with anthropological teaching, and multicultural movements.

Another source of support was the growing movement in defense of human rights. Most important of all was environmentalism, also according to Turner. BACKGROUND & CONTEXT The Kayapo indians are one of a group of indigenous G-speaking tribes that inhabit the Amazon River Basin of Brazil. Their territory in the State of Par, made up of tropical rainforest, is mostly contained in six reserves that cover a combined area of some 100, 000 square kilometres, about the size of Portugal. Their villages lie all along the upper tributaries of the Xingu River. As of 1993 there were about 14 Kayapo villages left, with a total population of approximately 5, 000.

The name Kayapo means resembling apes; it wasnt picked by the tribe itself, but rather given to them by the neighbouring indian tribes; most likely given because of a ritual they practice where the men perform dances in monkey masks. Since gold was found in their land, the Kayapo's contact with the outside world has increased, leading to more dependence on consumer goods. This has led some of the Kayapo to abandon their fields, which have always been a central part of their traditions. In an effort to preserve their tribal culture the Kayapo also began, by 1985, to use portable video technology to record their rituals.

ASPECTS OF SOCIAL CHANGE The Kayapo had already integrated into their daily activities various tools and practices from the modern surrounding societies, such as managing medical instruments for basic treatments. Young people, duly trained, had been acting as health promoters. They also used radio to communicate with other Kayapo groups living within the Xingu Indigenous Park. Instead of just being subjects of documentary films, the Kayapo quickly understood the advantages of video technology as a communication tool for transforming their social and political reality.

Thus, the appropriation of video tools by the Kayapo strengthens the notion that people can master their own history, as long as they can master their own representation in the media. The control of the Kayapo on the manner they are represented, as "hi-tech" Indians, is also a culturally valid statement on their identity, as they conceive their culture both from the point-of-view of permanence and transformation, according to Frota. During the early 1990 s the Kayapo used video for numerous social struggles. They successfully sought political and financial support from non indigenous public opinion, NGOs and governments, both in Brazil and abroad to compel the Brazilian state to legally recognise their territory and their rights to control its resources. They have accomplished this by various means including: political lobbying of Brazilian governmental officials from the President down, demonstrations in major Brazilian cities, alliances with the environmental and human rights movements, and extensive coverage of Kayapo actions in print media and radio. By maximising the use of audio-visual communication they have managed to project representations of themselves, as well as appeals for political and monetary aid, partly through videos shot and edited by them, which have gained wide attention from global audiences in the First World.

The assimilation of Western ideas of culture through the interaction with the anthropologists and the use of modern technology like the camera gave the Kayapo a means of preserving their own culture in the face of opposition by the Brazilians. The Kayapo performed their "culture" as a strategy in their increasingly confident opposition to the state, according to Turner. By the 1990 s the Kayapo had obtained videos, radios, pharmacies, vehicles, drivers and mechanics, an airplane to patrol their land, and even their own missionaries. MEDIA & METHODS In third world countries, video has been embraced in much the same manner as radio was for a previous generation, as a technology for training, information gathering, political agitation and cultural preservation. The appropriation of video has been seen as a key way for economically deprived communities to gain some measure of democratic control over information and communication sources now controlled either by the state or multinational corporations. The term "indigenous media" is generally employed to cover those aspects of visual representation over which "indigenous" people and others have direct control.

Media helped the Kayapo people to get their message out to the rest of the world. The Kayapo people turned video around into a tool to make the public see their side of the situation. "As an anthropologist I had become a cultural instrument of the people whose culture I was attempting to document. How could this be done by people who many of us view as underdeveloped and inferior? Have we not underestimated their intelligence?" states Turner. The determination of the Kayapo to use video to document their own culture made them re-enact ancient dances and rituals that most of them had not seen.

Thus video became the tool for perpetuating and reaffirming their cultural values. The technical potential of video enabled them to immediately see the recorded material, and to strengthen the identity and the cultural bonds within the community. During their political struggle, the Kayapo recorded everything that was said, done, promised and agreed upon. The government wasnt able to deny any promises made because the Kayapo had a record on video. "From the moment they acquired video cameras of their own, the Kayapo have made a point of making video records of their major political confrontations with the national society", says Turner. CONSTRAINTS By bringing Western technology into their villages, the Kayapo are also allowing some of the western culture that they resist to infiltrate their own culture. The danger of losing their culture will increase for future generations who become more acclimated to western culture.

Yet, it is not the introduction of video that started that process; the Kayapo had already been exposed to several other aspects of modern life. In reality, the video project contributed to reaffirm the cultural identity that was at risk. Some Kayapo leaders sought to mask the extent of Kayapo involvement in ecologically destructive activities, such as mining and logging, to avoid alienating international support, particularly among environmental organisations. Issues of the "authenticity" of some aspects of Kayapo self-representation inevitably arise, and represent serious political problems for the Kayapo.

REFERENCES: Taking Aim e a Aldeia Global: A Apropriao Cultural e Policy da Tecnologia de Video pelo's nails Kayapo's by Monica Frota, at web Self-representation, Media and the Construction of a Local-global Continuum by the Kayapo of Brazil by Terence Turner. Website. Indigenous Media: Is it Hurting More Than It is Helping Their Cause? by Nafeesa T. Nichols. Web site web


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