Indigenous identity and environmental governance in Guyana, South America

Mistry, Jayalaxshmi; Berardi, Andrea; Tschirhart, Céline; Bignante, Elisa; Haynes, Lakeram; Benjamin, Ryan; Albert, Grace; Xavier, Rebecca; Jafferally, Deirdre and de Ville, Géraud (2015). Indigenous identity and environmental governance in Guyana, South America. Cultural Geographies, 22(4) pp. 689–712.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/1474474014560998

Abstract

In an era of increasing access to digital technologies, Indigenous communities are progressively more able to present sophisticated and differentiated narratives in order to maximise their long-term survival. In this article, we explore how Indigenous communities use participatory video and participatory photography as tools of Indigenous media to enhance, adapt and/or reinforce their collective social memory. This social memory is key for identity formation and self-representation, and the ways in which Indigenous representations are performed promote particular interests and worldviews to the local, national and global scales. Working with the Makushi and Wapishana communities of the North Rupununi, Guyana, the current social memory ‘in use’ was surfaced through the participatory video and photography process led by the Indigenous community. Through an iterative process of analysing images (photos and video clips) and text (written material, narration and spoken word), we identified key narratives of the communities’ social memory. We show how communities provide different messages to different actors through the way they use participatory video and participatory photography, revealing how self-conscious multiple identities shape differing purposes. We suggest that our ability, as non-Indigenous stakeholders, to perceive, appreciate and act upon these more complex and nuanced narratives is critical to help address environmental governance in a rapidly changing social–ecological context.

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