Socio-environmental justice: traditional communities renewing musical cultures in the Bocaina, Brazil

Levidow, Les (2021). Socio-environmental justice: traditional communities renewing musical cultures in the Bocaina, Brazil. In: Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM) Newsletter, Society for Ethnomusicology (SEM), USA, 55(2).



Brazil's Bocaina sub-region exemplifies many coastal areas where traditional communities face threats from development-as-modernisation. This has colonised their everyday lives, e.g. by treating them as threats to nature, degrading their natural-resource base, expanding real-estate interests and shifting land use towards the profit-driven economy. Those colonial roles have been theorised by several Brazilian writers in engagement with subaltern groups. Informed by such concepts, the Bocaina’s resistance activities have broadened what had been separate traditional identities. Under the motto of socioenvironmental justice, the Fórum de Comunidades Tradicionais (FCT) has brought together the Bocaina’s three traditional communities, namely: indigenous Guaraní, quilombolas and caiçaras. They opposed the dominant myth of ‘untouched nature’; they eventually gained a formal role in sharing the management of Conservation Areas, as a basis for both using and conserving natural resources there. They developed agroecological agroforestry systems and extended them to commercialise food products, both traditional and new. Based on workers’ cooperatives, they further developed Community-Based Tourism and a juçara-based popular culture, both conserving and harvesting the tree. In those ways, FCT initiatives have linked agrobiodiversity with socio-cultural diversity, contrary to the neocolonial nature/society binary. They have at once renewed their agri-food and musical cultures, which express mutirão, a communal tradition of mutual aid. Strongly grounded in dance, the songs have metaphorical, ironic or allusive lyrics, expressing pleasurable, playful and solidaristic relationships. Recent territorial conflicts have given new meanings to old songs and have stimulated new ones, e.g. about racism, predatory tourism and resource plunder. Music training helps youths to build individual discipline for acting responsibly towards the wider community. Agri-food and musical cultures have been integrated within a culturally Differentiated Education of each community. Through all those activities, inter-community bonds help to create an alternative solidaristic development. Their cultures together strengthen a decolonial resistance-conservation, a communal sense of territorial belonging and thus long-time claims on the land.

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