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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 306-317

Limits to Knowledge: Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, and the Moral Economy in the Eastern Amazon of Brazil

1 Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, USA
2 Department of Anthropology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, USA

Correspondence Address:
Janet Chernela
Department of Anthropology, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0972-4923.145149

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Date of Web Publication20-Nov-2014


Despite widespread recognition of the importance of community-conservation partnerships, problems continue to emerge. In this paper we examine one such interaction to propose that outside organisations have wrongly associated the delimitations of the habitational space with the extent of community allegiances and moral economies. Such oversights can lead to project withdrawal, as they did in one case of an ecotourism proposal among the indigenous Kayapσ of the southeastern Amazon. The case study points to the challenges in the processes of partnering with local villages where histories of fissioning and factioning contain within them their own processual relations and moral obligations. These models, by which people group themselves into communities of loyalty, affectivity, and belonging, may be elusive to outsiders and account for many challenges in local-international collaborations. Western planners are often unprepared for the long reach of relationships relevant to project planning and benefit sharing. We suggest that in order to move forward with effective multi-participant community-based projects, project planners should take into account supra-spatial, and dynamic, moral economies.

Keywords: community-conservation partnerships, moral economy, indigenous, history, social organisation, NGOs, Kayapó, Amazon, Brazil

How to cite this article:
Chernela J, Zanotti L. Limits to Knowledge: Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, and the Moral Economy in the Eastern Amazon of Brazil . Conservat Soc 2014;12:306-17

How to cite this URL:
Chernela J, Zanotti L. Limits to Knowledge: Indigenous Peoples, NGOs, and the Moral Economy in the Eastern Amazon of Brazil . Conservat Soc [serial online] 2014 [cited 2021 Mar 5];12:306-17. Available from: http://www.conservationandsociety.org/text.asp?2014/12/3/306/145149

   Introduction Top

While much attention has been given to collaborations between local peoples and international environmental non-governmental organisations (NGOs), outcomes have been disappointing (King and Stewart 1996; Armitage 2005; Brosius et al. 2005). A 2004 survey by WWF on the effectiveness of protected areas worldwide, for example, found overwhelmingly unsatisfactory results for community involvement (Dudley et al. 2004; also see Brockington et al. 2006). The survey reports that a consistent problem for international conservation NGOs "is a failure to manage relations with local communities. Despite a wide recognition of the importance of social issues… the input and participation of local communities and indigenous peoples … are still not being addressed very effectively0" (Dudley et al. 2004:15, emphasis added). By analysing a thwarted attempt at a potential partnership between an international environmental NGO and an indigenous group in Brazil, in this article we identify the challenges that confront multiple actors, including indigenous villagers and NGO consultants in forging 'community-based' sustainable development projects.

We make the case that community-conservation partnerships may fail if they do not take into consideration the local moral framework. While great strides were made in devolving and decentering environmental management policies to community control in the 1990s, the goals of many projects fell short when practitioners encountered what they perceived to be a phenomenon of the 'burgeoning community' - one that would shift and grow depending upon circumstances (Brosius et al. 1997; Agrawal and Gibson 1999). This did not suit the approach of many conservation-driven projects where communities were thought to be finite, homogenous, and static (Gibson and Koontz 1998; Agrawal and Gibson 1999). Because project designers most easily define communities in spatial terms and because they require that these take place within a geographically identifiable locale, western planners are often unprepared for the long reach of relationships relevant to project planning and benefit sharing (Belsky 1999; Brockington et al. 2008). We argue that the problems encountered by Western practitioners stem, at least in part, from a primacy of things visible-in this case, geographic space-and the obstacles and limitations to projects resulting from this spatial bias that does not take into account moral relationships (Harvey 1969; Monmonier 1996; Sletto 2002). We suggest that in order to move forward with multi-participant community-based projects, project planners should not only take into account social relations and values but pay attention to the spatial and temporal facets of context dependent, moral economies.

Western socio-spatial history privileges this type of flattened reading of communities for bureaucratic or other project-related purposes (Scott 1998; Braun 2000). For example, in Seeing like a State, James Scott (1998) attributes the inability by twentieth-century states to carry out successful development programs to modernist dogma centred on rational design and technical progress. Scott argues that the technological order produces misleading results, as the formal, rational, scheme can never adequately account for practical reality, which, as he points out, is far more complex and unruly. The problem here, however, is not the imposition of an abstract, conceptual (modernist) model on a practical entity. Instead, it is the reliance on certain practical procedures that are incapable of articulating with local conceptual models, including the norms of expectation and obligation that tie together individuals and groups.

We point out that people create communities based on relations, exchanges and interactions, which shift over time and cannot be understood through concrete, spatial, perspectives alone (Harvey 1969, 2006; Soja 1989). Affinities among people are based upon meanings, values, and criteria that are not readily visible to an outsider. Community-conservation partnerships will have greater potential for success when attention is paid to that which we call the 'moral economy' - the set of expectations, norms, and obligations among persons and groups (Thompson 1966, 1971; Scott 1976).

In the case reviewed here, an international environmental organisation, which we call Society for the Conservation of Rainforests (SCR), began discussions with the Kayapó of Brazil to facilitate a plan for an ecotourism venture. 1 Indications of problems emerged early, and the proposal planning process was halted after its first year. In tracing the genealogy of events that led to withdrawal from the proposal process, we begin in 1999 when one author, Chernela, was asked by SCR to recommend an indigenous group in the Brazilian Amazon as an ecotourism project partner. Members of one village had contacted Chernela, who maintained long-standing contact with several Kayapó, to attract outside investment for such a project. Chernela contacted Barbara Zimmerman, founder of the then eight-year-old Conservation International (CI) territorial monitoring project among the Kayapó (Zimmerman et al. 2001:14; Chernela 2005). Through that linkage, Chernela was invited to a meeting among the Kayapó, which CI sponsored, to discuss possible project proposals for generating local revenue. At the meeting, Kayapó leaders again voiced interest in ecotourism, but several subsequent events led to the departure of the NGO from project plans.

In examining the processes that contributed to the withdrawal, we address the difficulties involved in recognising and assessing local participation and benefit; the complications in partnering with decentralised communities of the Amazon and elsewhere; and the challenges involved in coordinating and understanding multiple and complex epistemologies when designing a sustainable development project. Moreover, we point out that the requirements of community-conservation partnerships impact local moral economies in ways that stress already-established notions of relationship-making. Finally, in unpacking this case study, we attempt to tease apart the complex meanings in the notions socially or economically beneficial in order to subject them to further scrutiny and evaluation that result when the moral economy is not taken into consideration.

   Methodology Top

Our example also addresses the roles of anthropologists in proposal planning and development. The case is especially appropriate as anthropologists are involved in this study in three ways: (1) as consulting practitioners; 2) as academic scholars; and 3) as producers and consumers of accumulated knowledge. Together, these three sources of information became the foundation from which the complexities of the events that took place in 2000 to 2001 were teased apart and made understandable. To do so, we drew upon the complementary experiences of in-depth ethnographic fieldwork (see Zanotti 2008) and practice (see Chernela 2005) over a six-year period. 2

Author Chernela represents the practising anthropologist in the study; as noted above, it is she who is asked to act on behalf of an environmental NGO to investigate the possibilities of ecotourism among the Kayapó. In doing so, she drew on the rich body of anthropological data gathered by field researchers over time. Early on in the process it became clear that recognising the long history of fissioning patterns was critical to partnering among villages, villagers, and outside entities. Fissioning patterns in Amazônia and Kayapó communities have been extensively discussed in the ethnographic literature since the 1960s (Turner 1965; Fisher 1991; Verswijver 1992). These ethnographic sources provide a framework from which to emplace subsequent events into a historical trajectory. Through access to a literature and in-depth analysis based on years of long-term participant observation, the practising anthropologist was able to supplement the limited periods of consultation. It was on the basis of this literature and experience that fission appeared the likely key to events and decisions by the indigenous communities to configure project participation. A fundamental criticism of rapid assessment procedures for community development practitioners is that the short time frame for project assessment is inadequate for the multi-faceted historical, social, environmental, economic, and political aspects of projects and programs. As shown here, the use of ethnographic data to supplement the assessment process provides an important historical lens.

The analysis was further deepened by the participation of author Zanotti who was invited to join the process several years after the event took place. Zanotti had conducted field research in Aukre, one of the villages discussed in this paper, focussing on the interplay among conservation organisations, market forces, and Kayapó villages. Charting the present day landscape of sustainable development initiatives and mixed economies in Aukre provided information on continued negotiated politics of market entry and conservation-community relationships several years after the event took place. Triangulating these three different sources of information provides a more nuanced understanding of the moral economy of Kayapó villages and the ongoing mediation and negotiation of politics and programs between villages and external organisations.

   Argument Top

Moral economies and exchange

The idea of the moral economy that we employ emerges from two principal sources-the substantive approach in economic anthropology (Herskovits 1952; Polanyi 1957; Dalton 1961) which asserts that the immaterial aspects of the economy, such as networks of obligation, now considered social capital (Dasgupta and Serageldin 2000), must be included in any comprehensive understanding of economics; and the approaches of Thompson (1966, 1971) and Scott (1976) for whom the moral economy consists of behavioural norms and expectations of social justice.

In his 1952 book, Economic Anthropology, Melville Herskovits noted the importance "not only to have enough to eat to keep alive, but also to satisfy the demands of personal tastes, religious rules, and a multitude of social obligations, all as important to the life of the group as mere subsistence is to the life of the organism" (1952: 294). That which we refer to as the moral economy comprises the principles and normative dimensions of cooperation and exchange that permeate social life. These shared principles are fundamental to the expectations and standards of appropriate, fair, and reasonable behaviour, according to which persons and groups hold one another accountable. When Evans-Pritchard (1968: 122) argued that moral obligations are recognised 'among tribesmen', but not 'among tribes', he provided a fundamental contribution to the theory of community and its delimitations. Building on this insight, we hope to show that the reach of shared obligation is a fundamental factor in the extent and range of community.

Recent case studies related to conservation and development strategies point to different ways moral economies articulate with market mechanisms (Putsche 2000; Takasaki et al. 2001; Godoy et al. 2005; West 2006; Dove 2011). In their review of the effects of increased market activity on the well-being of indigenous peoples, Godoy et al. (2005) report that breakdowns in reciprocity frameworks are one possible outcome of market expansion. For the Shipibo of the Peruvian Amazon, Putsche (2000) finds that erosion of important exchange networks and reduced sharing accompany increased market dependency and the fragmentation of the moral economy.

Interestingly, Dove's (2011) research with smallholders in Borneo demonstrates that all sources of cash income are not always treated similarly within moral economies of exchange. For example, the Kantu (Dayak) consider the rubber that they plant in their swidden fields "dead," whereas pepper, also grown for the market, is "natural" (Dove 2011: 190). What is surprising about Dove's finding is that the Kantu's treatment of these two cash products is the converse of international conservationist perspectives. Within the Western conservation community, smallholder rubber cultivation is valued as a sustainable product whereas pepper is the "unsustainable" commodity (Dove 2011: 190). To explain this discrepancy, Dove points to Kantu moral economies and relations of exchange between people and trees as well as other "pervasive exchanges" that underlie notions of "distribution versus accumulation, and permanence versus impermanence" (Dove 2011: 171).

Two facets of Kantu reciprocity are important to consider. One is that for the Kantu swidden cultivation is balanced by different proscriptions and prescriptions between humans and spirits. Over-accumulation can "violate indigenous norms for redistribution and reciprocity" and go against the cosmic order (Dove 2011: 173, 175). However, rubber cultivation falls outside these principles. Rubber is 'dead' precisely because it is not part of an exchange system that orders relationships between people, spirits, and trees. Alternatively, pepper cultivation "fits with swidden cultivation" and therefore is "alive" (Dove 2011: 182, 183). In other words, the placement of the two market products, pepper and rubber, in the cosmological order affects the way the Kantu incorporate them into norms of exchange and distribution, impacting moral economies in divergent ways. In this way, Dove's research compellingly illustrates the complexities of moral economies, market products, and perceptions of sustainable practices between and among local villagers and the Western conservation community.

On the other hand, Paige West's (2006) work in Papua New Guinea shows that the Gimi people have incorporated conservation programs within local moral economies. West (2006: 46) explains, "Conservation-as-development actors... are seen as entities that can and should enter into long-term social relations with Gimi." This insight is key to West's analysis of the Crater Mountain Wildlife Management Area (CMWMA) project in Papua New Guinea, and her finding that for the Gimi not only objects and people are bound in exchange but also labour, services, and institutions (West 2006: 47). Yet, how the Gimi locate CMWMA actors and institutions within local notions of exchange diverges from the way in which CMWMA actors understand the relationship. Whereas CMWMA actors proceeded to carry out the project in accordance with an international conservation-development paradigm, the local people "read the actions, promises, and projects of conservation-as-development through the lens of Giminess" (West 2006: 49). What is important about West's finding is that conservation as development programs are not outside of local notions of exchange (as in the case of rubber above); rather they are firmly situated within local expectations of reciprocity.

Similarly, in the case reviewed here, we find that the obstacles between Kayapó villagers' ideas about ecotourism projects and consulting conservation organisations are mediated by local moral economies. Building on previous scholarship, we suggest that exchange patterns should not be read as place-bound, but rather considered within the larger matrices created by moral economies. This is especially important when forging sustainable development projects with multiple constituencies.

Ecotourism and the Kayapó

Since its 1987 usage by Hector Ceballos-Lascuráin, Special Advisor to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), ecotourism has been touted as an effective means to simultaneously accomplish environmental, economic, and social goals (Wight 1994; Blamey 1995; Stronza 2001; Higham 2007). Ceballos-Lascuráin's much-cited definition describes ecotourism as "environmentally responsible travel to relatively undisturbed natural areas, in order to enjoy and appreciate nature (and any accompanying cultural features) that promotes conservation, has low visitor impact, and provides for beneficially active socio-economic involvement of local populations" (Ceballos-Lascuráin 1996: 20, emphasis added). Since then, the definition and associated criteria have been stipulated by IUCN in its guidelines for ecotourism (IUCN 1997). Subsequent contributions have underscored its potential benefits to local communities, citing revenue generation, local economic development, and environmental impact (Wight 1994; Blamey 1995; Butler and Hinch 1996; Drumm 1998; Stronza 2001; Hall and Boyd 2005; Higham 2007). Others have criticised ecotourism, and included uneven local financial benefits, limited local involvement in project planning and execution, and failure to protect biodiversity as some of its pitfalls (Bookbinder et al. 1998; Kiss 2004; Kruger 2005). Despite these shortcomings, ecotourism projects are still popular as 'win-win' models of conservation and development (Ahebwa et al. 2012).

According to its proponents, responsible ecotourism must meet at least two types of criteria. First, it must preserve landscapes, and, second, it must enhance the social and economic livelihoods of local peoples (IUCN 1997). Conservationists view it as a promising means of preserving landscapes that are rich in biological diversity, particularly where alternative forms of income generation might provide motivations for environmental destruction. From the point of view of SCR and other conservation agencies, by converting the landscape into a revenue source, ecotourism is expected to motivate landscape conservation by providing material benefits to local residents (Buckley 1994; Blamey 1995; Honey 1999). While large-scale reconfigurations of the landscape produce short-term gains, ecotourism must rely on small-scale ventures that require the long-term investment and meaningful participation of local communities.

Two assumptions are at work here-one, that effective conservation programs should be linked to market-integration and secondly, that local communities are the appropriate partners to effectively enact sustainable development programs (Brandon and O'Herron 2004; West 2006). It should come as no surprise that the spatial assumptions underlying notions of 'local users', and 'communities' are also rooted in a Western perspective (Brosius 1999; Li 2005; West 2006). Nevertheless, despite the paradoxes entailed in conservation-development programs, indigenous groups, like the Kayapó, have been able to negotiate these partnerships in interesting ways. Here we outline the current and historical forces that have shaped Kayapó decision-making in regard to market-participation and involvement in conservation projects.

The Kayapó had seen ecotourism as a promising means of generating income that could allow maximal control over the venture, their land, and natural resources. At the meeting in 2000 they demonstrated their awareness of successes in indigenous ecotourism among the Pemon of Venezuela and the Kuna of Panama (Chernela 2011). Moreover, a financial arrangement with CI, one of the largest international environmental organisations in the world, provided incentive to explore revenue sources that were environmentally sustainable. 3 If the program could limit visitor numbers it might keep disruptive impacts in check, including the commoditisation and marketing of community, a danger recognised by the Kayapó and by Western critics (Honey 1999; West and Carrier 2004; Vaccaro 2006).

An ecotourism project held considerable value for the conservation organisations at the same meeting. Indigenous reserves constitute no less than 20% of the Brazilian Amazon-a portion greater than any other category of protected area (Lentini et al. 2003). Kayapó lands (here called, 'reserves,', 'territories,', or the Brazilian designation, 'Áreas'), legally demarcated in the 1990s, contain almost eleven million hectares of relatively intact rain forest and savannah (Zimmerman et al. 2001; Schwartzman and Zimmerman 2005). One of these, the Área Indigena Kayapó (AIK, or Área) in southern Pará, contains 3,284,005 hectares, and encompasses two of the largest and most diversified biomes in Brazil-the closed-canopy, seasonally dry rainforest and the naturally occurring savannic cerrado (Zimmerman et al. 2001). The implications for conservation are evident.

Approximately 7,000 Kayapó live in sparsely distributed villages along the headwaters of the Xingu River in the southern Amazon basin. Indeed, the preservation of the region's biodiversity is due in large part to the livelihood strategies of the Kayapó who are dependent upon the standing forest for their well-being (Posey 1985; Turner 1999). Most Kayapó rely on a subsistence-based diet that combines game, fish, fruit, insects, and honey with itinerant horticulture and silviculture 4 (Posey 1979; Zanotti 2009). The low-intensity land use methods, with relatively small gardens and short cultivation cycles have minimal impact on the natural dynamics of forest succession. The extent of intact landscapes in the Kayapó territory and conservation interest is especially remarkable given the relentless pressure from mining, logging, ranching, and agricultural interests within, surrounding, and encroaching upon the indigenous territory 5 (Fisher 1994, 2000; Turner 1995a,b; Sousa 2000; Cohn 2005; Gordon 2006). Today deforestation stops abruptly at the border of the Área.

A testament to Kayapó defence of their lands began in 1988 when Chernela invited two Kayapó (and anthropologist Darrell Posey) to attend a symposium on local knowledge and tropical forests in the U.S. The meeting led to the Kayapó campaign to stop World Bank funds for a hydroelectric project that would have inundated their lands (Chernela 1988; Posey 1996; Rabben 2004). At the time the Kayapó received worldwide attention as stewards of the rainforest and as savvy activists on behalf of their own interests.

The depiction of the Kayapó as Rainforest Stewards was soon challenged by reports that they had been involved in the mahogany trade. Worse, they had nearly depleted their mahogany reserves. By 1998, when mahogany was so near depletion that its extraction was no longer economically viable, the federal government began to enforce prohibitions on illegal logging in indigenous reserves. Local lumber companies left the reserves. Since the late 1990s, agro-industrial grain production, particularly soy, and ranching, combined to push the agricultural frontier into southern Pará (Schmink and Wood 1992).

During the 1990s-the same period in which Kayapó villages engaged in transactions with loggers and miners-several also earned income through harvesting non-timber forest products (NTFP) in cooperation with outside companies. In 1989 The Body Shop, a British firm specialising in body care products, contracted two Kayapó villages to supply Brazil nut oil (Turner 1995b; Morsello 2006). The results of the Kayapó/The Body Shop venture were mixed and it ended shortly thereafter. 6 We will return to these events later, as they impacted the proposed ecotourism venture in interesting ways.

It also was in the early 1990s that CI began partnering with the Kayapó of Aukre village. In 1992, Barbara Zimmerman, together with then Aukre chief Paiakan, worked with villagers in Aukre and CI to establish an 8,000 ha area of absolute preservation and an ecological research station (Pinkaití) that would allow researchers to monitor change and study plant-animal interactions (Zimmerman et al. 2001; Zanotti 2008). By 2000, CI was about to expand this relationship into a reserve-wide partnership that would contribute to Kayapó territorial surveillance by providing monitoring equipment, development alternatives and other assistance (Chernela 2005). The continued absence of large-scale agricultural activity inside the reserve is principally due to the close vigilance of the Kayapó, who with the help of FUNAI and CI, monitored the reserve with surveillance outposts, airplane overflights, and satellite imagery (Chernela 2005; Zimmerman et al. 2001; Zimmerman 2010). 7

CI and SCR program planners calculated that by defending the reserve against ranchers and other intruders, the Kayapó were protecting a large and strategically situated fragment of the threatened Amazon rainforest. From the point of view of conservation funders, Kayapó lands fit into long-term goals for ecological corridors and mega-reserves that cover large tracts of land rather than smaller, less sustainable, protected areas (Alcorn 1995; Peres and Terborgh 1995; Laurance 2001; Laurance et al. 2002; Peres 2005; Tabarelli and Gascon 2005). In conjunction with CI's role in providing development alternatives to the villages, it facilitated a series of planning meetings in the Área beginning in 2000. Other international NGOs would be invited to these meetings with the goal of lending economic value to the landscapes in order to increase prospects of their long-term viability.

In approaching the Kayapó as potential partners, it was also relevant to SCR that this group-widely recognised for their organisational and decision-making skills-could be expected to take a lead role in project planning. After fifty years of experience working with anthropologists, environmentalists, and others, the Kayapó were well versed in several types of discourse, including those of conservation and of contractual agreements (Fisher 1994; Turner 1995b). Given the history of Kayapó participation in environmental and territorial activism, and their expressed interest in ecotourism, the possibility of collaboration was approached with optimism. The ecotourism experience would have educational value for travellers, promoting, if successful, the area's natural and cultural heritage. Environmental advocates and potential ecotourists who see indigenous peoples as wise stewards of the forest would find ecotourism an attractive option to benefit forest conservation and indigenous peoples alike (Zanotti and Chernela 2008). It was within the interests of conservationists and the Kayapó, therefore, that these landscapes became a source of livelihood. It was reasonable that the Kayapó and SCR expected to work together in a mutually beneficial relationship of the kind envisioned in Ceballos-Lascuráin's original definition of ecotourism.

The meetings

The first meeting, in March of 2000, was held inside the Kayapó territory. This meeting was held at the request of (CI) and the village of Aukre, base of CI operations within the Kayapó territories. Representatives of all fifteen villages in the reserve were invited. The prospects seemed ideal. Yet, as we will see, misunderstandings emerged at the earliest stages of the planning process, producing tensions, the reverberations for which were felt even before the project could begin. These obstacles also highlight the tensions of finding a 'middle ground' despite long-term relationships with outside entities in the area (Conklin and Graham 1995; Chernela 2014).

Presided over by Paiakan, chief of Aukre, the first meeting was dedicated to discussing revenue-generating projects with CI and SCR. Chiefs and elders from villages throughout the territories attended. Over three days participants deliberated common interests, concerns, and problems. Attending chiefs and other village representatives presented proposals and questions to visiting NGO delegates. Acting on behalf of SCR, Chernela presented the responsibilities entailed in an ecotourism project, outlining potential advantages and disadvantages for a possible collaboration. Discussion and deliberations followed, with all communications conducted both in Portuguese and Kayapó through bilingual translators. Questions posed and answered on both sides were discussed at length.

Spokespersons representing all villages were present. In accordance with Kayapó forms of oratory and participating norms, turns at speaking were highly structured. Elder men spoke first, followed by younger men. 8 Women, along the outer periphery of the assembly, appeared attentive to the proceedings, and occasionally posed a question or provided commentary. Each male elder 9 could take as many turns as he wished until a consensual decision was reached, marked by a resounding call indicating agreement. After three days of deliberations and a decision-making process that appeared to be participatory and transparent, the assembled representatives approved moving ahead with a proposal for an ecotourism project. Together, they selected a village as a proposed ecotourism site; that village was Kuben-kran-ken.

Neighbouring Aukre, Kuben-kran-ken was a short air-taxi ride away. Kuben-kran-ken was well-known as an ancestral village of many present-day villages (Turner 1965; Verswijver 1992). In the following days, we visited the village to discuss the ecotourism proposal. At a meeting in the central men's house attended by all village residents, questions were alternately asked and answered. The proposed village would run the ecotourism venture in conjunction with its SCR partners. Managers, guides, and teachers would be Kayapó; tourist outreach would be organised by SCR with a third party.

The residents of Kuben-kran-ken appeared to be enthusiastic supporters of the proposal. From the perspective of ecotourism, the village, with its charismatic natural attractions and access to a variety of habitats, was ideal. Its clear, unpolluted river and gentle cascades could be expected to provide a highly satisfying ecotourism experience. Straddling the rain forest and cerrado, Kuben-kran-ken promised to provide a rich environmental, educational, and cultural experience to visitors. When the report was turned in to SCR, it was done so with the conviction that the process represented a model of community-NGO collaboration. Spokespersons from every village in the vast reserve had decided collectively and unanimously to proceed with a project in Kuben-kran-ken. The site appeared to be well suited to a positive ecotourism experience from numerous standpoints. Villagers were enthusiastic. The decision appeared to benefit all involved.

A year later, in 2001, a similar meeting was held to proceed with the proposal that had been formulated the year before. Chiefs and other representatives from villages throughout the reserve again gathered at Aukre with goals similar to those of 2000. The NGO representatives attended with the expectations of carrying forward decisions agreed upon in 2000. But those plans had changed. The meeting in 2001 differed from that of the previous year. Whereas representatives from all fifteen villages in the Área had attended in 2000, only fourteen of the fifteen villages were represented in 2001. The single village that lacked representation was Kuben-kran-ken, whose chief was said to be ill.

The absence of Kuben-kran-ken from the 2001 meeting inspired reflection. Turner (1995b) had proposed in an earlier study that market-integration could be a source of conflict between individuals living within the same village and among villages. The possibility could not be discounted that the chief of Kuben-kran-ken was not actually sick; instead, he had not been invited to the Aukre meeting. If that were so, less than a year after being the selected site of an ecotourism proposal, the other villages had isolated Kuben-kran-ken. Indeed, a rumour circulated that in the intervening year tensions arose between Kuben-kran-ken and Aukre, its neighbour and convener of the all-territory meetings. Those who were present were prepared for the change in plans. It was their hope, they said, that these events should not adversely affect an ecotourism proposal. A new village was hastily selected as an alternate site. The new site was Moikarakô, also a neighbouring village of Aukre.

Accompanied by friends and acquaintances from Aukre, Chernela visited Moikarakô. The village was apparently new, with many houses still under construction. Welcoming greetings from our hosts at Moikarakô indicated that they were close relatives of the visitors from Aukre. During the visit, Chernela noted that the founders of Moikarakô had been resident at Aukre until only five years before. Cuing in on these historical events and the socio-spatial connections between individuals and villages brought the proposed project into a finer grained focus.

Space, time, and community

We found ourselves in the presence of circumstances that were only understandable in terms of past events. This may be what Bourdieu (1990: 54) had in mind when he spoke of 'the active presence of past experiences' and demonstrates what we mean when we point out the invisibility of the moral economy. The 2001 shift in support away from Kuben-kran-ken and toward Moikarakô served as a reminder of the flexibility of village relationships. It convinced us that distributions of people-in-space, and historical fissioning patterns are key to understanding the relationships among villages and villagers, and subsequently, the constraints of 'community-based' partnerships in this context.

When one considers Kayapó village history over the long run, it becomes apparent that villages faction and move apart-a process known as fissioning-with relative frequency (Turner 1965; Fisher 1991; Verswijver 1992; Oliveira Jr 1995). Although some analysts say that size is the underlying factor in village splitting, most researchers agree that the immediate catalysts for such fissions are usually disputes between villagers (Carneiro 1961; Dreyfus 1966; Picchi 1995; Fisher 1998). When disputes occur the factions that form are often along the fracture lines of prior loyalties and alignments (Turner 1965; Fisher 1991; Oliveira Jr 1995). Yet, despite these fissioning histories, Kayapó villages are politically and economically autonomous. In contractual relations with non-Kayapó, the villages typically act as self-governing entities under the leadership of two chiefs, each with a loyal male following (Verswijver 1992; Gordon 2006).

Fissioning and factioning are influenced by moral principles of exchange. A moral principle of Kayapó society is the belief that no Kayapó should horde wealth without distributing it or loaning it among relatives and neighbours. Wealth in the form of names or ornaments is conspicuously displayed in ceremony. An essential aspect of the display of prestige is its transfer as it is bestowed or borrowed from one individual to another (Lea 1986, 1995). The terms àmnĩnhĩ, signifying something akin to 'envy' or unsatisfied desire, and imakin, which means 'I like' or 'I want', are frequently cited responses to perceived unequal apportionment. This sentiment is a form of justifiable indignation that one is not being treated with the respect and intimacy as expected. As a reaction to a perceived act of withholding, such as hoarding, àmnĩnhĩ or imakin can convey a sense of broken expectations, a breach of trust and mutual reliance. The experience of offense against one's self or family is profound and often leads to loud accusatory speech, disputes, and occasionally violence. But the terms àmnĩnhĩ and imakin are rarely used by those alleged to have experienced them. Instead, they are an attempt to rationalise and provide motivation for the attitudes and behaviours of others. Each view finds a breach in the assumed moral contract.

When moral obligations falter, or are ignored, animosities and accusations may build to the point where a subgroup sees no alternative but to leave and pioneer a new settlement. In this way-through animosities and avoidances-the landscape is socialised. Thus, village fissioning can best be understood as a colonising of terrain, through which family groups disperse, producing a complicated mosaic of people in space. As portions of one settlement cleave off and move away to a different location, the reach of kinship and other ties is extended. The newly separated units are at once autonomous and yet connected through feelings of social solidarity, collective experiences, and memory of place. When settlements fission they create distances between them that may obscure ongoing political and social proximities and influence decisions and leadership across the landscape.

Insofar as tensions may arise under any circumstance, market participation or other relations of imbalance-including outsider alliances-may exacerbate intra-village tensions and contribute to the pressures that lead to fissioning. These tensions play a significant, and sometimes surprising, role in partnerships linking outside entities with local ones. A fundamental concern, then, is how villagers relate to external organisations and how external entities define and partner with 'communities'. Where project constraints demand that NGOs define their notions of community to concrete, observable attributes, it disregards complex social and spatial histories that have shaped present-day villages. We argue that project members must take into account that spatiality is socially produced over time (Soja 1989). While observation may suggest that each spatially discrete village constitutes an autonomous, independent community, a deeper analysis reveals the complex relations that exist among residents of separate villages who share family ties, recall disputes and celebrations, and adhere or repel to differing degrees.

When the meetings with NGOs were called in 2000 and 2001, the villages Kuben-kran-ken, Aukre, and Moikarakô were spatially separate and autonomous. A long-term view, however, reveals a different picture. Thirty years ago neither Aukre nor Moikarakô existed. At that time the parents, grandparents, and some of the living members of these villages were residents of a large and thriving village at Kuben-kran-ken (Turner 1965; Verswijver 1992: 124). In the 1970s, disputes began to fester at Kuben-kran-ken, and factions formed. A faction led by Tikri and his son Paiakan left the village in 1979 to establish a new settlement at the site now known as Aukre. According to a leader of the departing faction, the reason for the village division was witchcraft aimed at his family-caused, he believed, by envy of the family's ample garden resources.

By 1995, Aukre had grown to about 280 residents; due in large part to migrants from other villages. At that point, sixteen years after its founding, it too divided. The departing faction moved nearby to establish a village at Moikarakô. When Peres and Nascimento conducted a study of hunting impacts in 1995, shortly after the division, the population of Aukre had diminished to 133 (Peres and Nascimento 2006). 10 By 2012, the population of Aukre was 365. The reasons given for the disputes leading to the fissioning of Aukre are associated with its market relationships, implicating logging and Body Shop activities.

In The Body Shop initiative, villagers collected Brazil nuts, husked them, and pressed the pulp to extract oil. The Body Shop provided all capital expenses, including equipment and transportation. The Body Shop purchased the processed oil at a unitary price per barrel, which they set, and paid wages determined according to 'fair trade' policies. In each of the two Kayapó villages where The Body Shop carried out activities-Aukre and Pukanu-disputes broke out over accusations of mishandled funds. A man who received pay from both the Body Shop and the government was accused of mishandling and hiding funds. Tensions associated with the Body Shop exacerbated existing ones over logging. In response to criticism and growing tensions within the village, a faction left Aukre to pioneer a new village at Moikarakô.

Pukanu also underwent fission in 1999. In similar circumstances a criticised leader and his followers left the village, taking the oil-pressing equipment with them, to settle at the northern extreme of the reserve where they had access to outside markets. After seven years, that pioneer settlement is still the smallest village in the Kayapó Territories and no longer has the same ties to The Body Shop. Similar phenomena were at play in the Gorotire mining and logging case described by Turner (1995a). Not surprisingly, we also find that disputes over logging played a role in Kuben-kran-ken's departure from the planning of the ecotourism proposal.

In 2000, shortly after the first assembly at which the ecotourism site was selected, it became clear that residents of Aukre and Kuben-kran-ken disputed the ownership of mahogany stands between the two villages. Prior to the logging years, boundaries between villages had been vague. Game that roamed the intermediary zones between villages, for example, was treated as common property. When fixed, non-renewable hardwoods replaced game as the most valuable resource on Kayapó lands, the borders that defined the ownership of trees gained new relevance. With the high market value of mahogany, its uneven distribution throughout the territory, and its increasing scarcity, the ill-defined borderlands between villages became sites of contest over land and resource rights. Ambiguities in the boundaries between settlements contributed to tensions and inter-village conflicts over competing claims to resources in disputed zones. This, we learned, was among the contributing factors leading to the change in alliances surrounding plans for the ecotourism project.

The connections and adhesions between bud and parent groups may explain the complicated interrelationships among Kuben-kran-ken, Aukre and Moikarakô. Seen in this light, the initial election of Kuben-kran-ken as the ecotourism site before relations between it and Aukre soured, and the subsequent choice of Moikarakô as its replacement, begin to make sense. Kuben-kran-ken appeared to outsiders to be a likely choice for an ecotourism site because of its charismatic landscape and undeveloped ties to outside revenue sources. Later, when Kuben-kran-ken and Aukre had a falling out, Moikarakô, a relatively new village that had not yet established market activities, was the suggested substitute. The logic behind the substitution of Moikarakô for Kuben-kran-ken becomes apparent when one considers the relations among the three villages.

In the sequence of village splintering and village formation, Kuben-kran-ken is the oldest in a line of villages in which Aukre is the second bud-generation, and Moikarakô the third generation. Although participants from throughout the territory made the decision for an ecotourism site, the influence of Aukre as host of the meeting and enabler of the prospective ecotourism venture by virtue of its ties to outside NGOs cannot be discounted. The role of Aukre as host of the deliberations meant that villages closely related to it were offered as candidates for the proposed revenue-producing project. The revelation points both to divisions that engendered the separation of the villages as well as to the solidarities and obligations that continue to unite them.

Thus, the justification for leaving Kuben-kran-ken (if not the cause) illustrates a moral economy at work in which no individual within the group or no group within the larger constituency is to amass wealth without displaying it or circulating it through expected channels. The accusations in Kuben-kran-ken portray the vulnerability of any village or individual to accusations of unfair accumulation-whether demonstrated or not. The experience of selecting an ecotourism site illustrates the alternating pulses of adhesion and aversion that typify parent-offspring villages and complicate the exercise of 'community-based' partnering; producing tensions between moral and other economies during the process.

   Conclusion Top

We have described how an attempt to identify a unit for purposes of partnering was complicated when multiple villages and actors attempted a community-based project. Complications arose in part because communities are vast, interconnected, networks of social relationships and topographical histories whose pasts and politics play key roles in the present. The experience points to the need for analysts and practitioners to be attentive to the social ties among peoples that lie within as well as beyond, geographical boundaries. It also asks us to conduct deeper investigations into social and political relationships within landscapes (Soja 1989).

As we have seen, the distribution of persons in space in one slice of time is inadequate to understand the processes at play in social formations. These processes are not always visible and may involve inter-village relationships that are undergoing change, creating challenges for the mutually agreed-upon, contractual, arrangements required in partnerships. Among the Kayapó, village fissioning is the most abrupt and dramatic manifestation of shifting residence membership. A number of researchers have remarked on the impact of outside factors on fissioning (Turner 1965; Bamberger 1979; Verswijver 1992). Thirty years ago Joan Bamberger (1979: 143) wrote, "the major catalysts influencing Kayapó choices are now located outside the aboriginal villages." Our findings supply important examples that support these predictions and suppositions as well as how they play out in this contemporary landscape of community-conservation partnerships.

Furthermore, the notions of àmnĩnhĩ and imakin provide a critical insight into the moral expectations of members of Kayapó society and the stress that is placed on these notions in ever changing contexts. Emotionally charged feelings of àmnĩnhĩ and imakin are often cited as a cause of dispute, division, and fissioning. These allegations (again, not causes) indicate a moral economy in which individual hoarding is criticised and sometimes punished. The act of withholding may be understood, in this sense, as shrinking the extent of the moral community. While the retrospective explanation for a rift given by those remaining may be to attribute motives of 'envy' to those who leave, the explanation for the same dispute offered by the departing critics is 'wrongdoing'. As such, conversations about àmnĩnhĩ and imakin constitute a discourse on the moral economy as it is perceived and experienced. Rather than an individual phenomenon, the offense is a social one, best described as intersubjective.

Given the frequency of charges of unfair exclusion-often described by local actors as 'envy' or 'want' and the unequal apportionment of project resources, the role of outsiders in contributing to the tensions that lead to fissioning is a concern. Indeed, as our brief survey suggests, outside economic ventures appear to have been among the factors that lead to internal disputes and subsequent shifts in the boundaries of communities. Well-intended and otherwise socially responsible outsiders may unwittingly contribute to conflicts within or between villages.

For the cases discussed we find that fissioning accompanied outside activities, and may have been caused or exacerbated by them. Moreover, the individuals involved with outside activities were, in each case, cited as directly related to the tensions leading to village splitting. While village tensions and the processes of fissioning are not new, no other approach to the subject has explored the processes that shape village relationships over time and the challenges these present for outsider involvement. As indicators of stress, village divisions call our attention to the strong likelihood that activities deemed sustainable or 'socioeconomically beneficial' require scrutiny if they are to be responsibly applied in local partnerships.

We therefore suggest that the notion of community that best serves the purposes of an outside partnering entity is the group within which moral obligations hold sway. This unit, which may be called the moral community, is fundamental to the ongoing social life of a group of people. When the social mechanisms of reciprocity, circulation, or honour are breached, offense is the result. The conditions that determine fair treatment within a community are specific to it. Understanding a society's moral economy-the values and expectations attached to the circulation, display, and accumulation of wealth-is fundamental for designing projects appropriate to local norms as exemplified in this example and explored in other contexts (West 2006; Dove 2011).

We find that the strength in anthropological approaches to community-conservation projects is their ability to identify key social processes that may affect the success of the partnership. Whereas environmental degradation may be accessible to conventional assessment, many social phenomena remain elusive (Stronza 2007; Ruhanen 2008; Stronza and Gordillo 2008; Jamal and Stronza 2009). Predisposed to consider individuals or households as economically autonomous, project planners may think in terms of income growth rather than income distribution. However, for many small-scale communities the first without the second would constitute a social unravelling-tearing at the ties that bind community solidarity. Indeed, as this paper shows, the former without the latter will be unsustainable. The historic processes that deal with conflict within and between social units are necessary calculations in considering the 'socioeconomic benefits' of any activity or project.

Networks of exchange, with their far-reaching webs of obligation and expectation, are a principal source of social capital for small-scale societies. If we agree that disputes may be ignited by invidious distinctions of many kinds, then a major consideration in any project is to ensure that benefits are spread as widely and equitably as possible. In order to accomplish these goals, as this case shows, the outside agency may find it necessary to tailor the partnering process to local needs. This would entail, at a minimum, to treat local villagers as equal partners by paying attention to local notions of exchange and reciprocity. Where other scholars have identified social transparency, trust, and building new social networks as key to community-based approaches, we argue that these cannot be met without considering the moral economies of local peoples and the potential impacts of any project. In a broader context, we argue that a successful project must consider long-term social and economic benefits by situating market activities and political events historically rather than viewing them in temporal or spatial isolation. A better understanding of these social factors of exchange that are context-specific will enable multiple constituencies to make community-conservation partnerships more successful in the future.

   Acknowledgements Top

The authors wish to thank the communities of Aukre, Kuben-kran-ken, Moikarakô, and the many other Kayapó whose reflections, along with those of Barbara Zimmerman and Adriano Jerozolimski, contributed to this work. We also wish to thank the NGOs involved; the authors recognise the structural and budgetary limitations faced by outside agencies in any local collaboration. The views presented here are solely those of the authors.[98]

   Notes Top

  1. The authors use a pseudonym to stand for the NGO referred to in the narrative. This is because the project was never approved (since it was recommended against), and because the authors feel that the problems raised in this account shed light on procedures followed by most or all NGOs rather than any single one.
  2. The authors lead an annual university field course to the Kayapó Reserve. The course, led by the authors with Barbara Zimmerman, emerged from the events recounted here (Zanotti and Chernela 2008).
  3. In 2009 the Conservation International-Kayapó relationship was restructured. Today, funded projects are coordinated by the Kayapó NGO, Associação Floresta Protegida with the following organisations contributing financially: the Wild Foundation, the International Conservation Fund of Canada, the Environmental Defense Fund, and Conservation International.
  4. Oral history accounts from elders in Aukre, collected by Zanotti (2008), mention trading in Brazil nuts and animal pelts to SPI functionary Calvacanti around 1948. Bamberger(1967) dates SPI sales of Brazil nuts and other forest products with the Kayapó during the time of her fieldwork in the 1960s.
  5. Báu IT (Pará) covering 89.48% of total area; Kayapó IT (Pará): covering 48.89% of total area; and Mekragnoti IT (Pará): covering 75.97% of total area.
  6. Body Shop project design resulted in variable outcomes. Lack of transparency and market instability contributed to its demise.
  7. Overflights and satellite imagery are most recently supplied through Associação Floresta Protegida (AFP), the local indigenous NGO established with CI assistance.
  8. the Kayapó age grade system, men who are grandfathers enter the highest category of seniors, or Mebenyet (alternate spelling mebenget). This position provides them with stature and voice within the community.
  9. Women's contributions are included indirectly.
  10. Researchers Peres and Nascimento (2006) conclude that the fission may have been a result of game scarcity.

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