Pataxó Hãhãhãe: Race, Indigeneity and Language Revitalization in the Brazilian Northeast
AuthorNelson, Jessica Fae
historical comparative linguistics
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractHaving pride in one’s mixed racial heritage has been seen as an important part of being a good and patriotic Brazilian since at least the early 1900s. Recently, however, as part of Brazil’s re-democratization and the rise of the New Left, communities have mobilized not only as landless (see Welch 2009) but also as indigenous and Afro-descendant (see Warren 2001, French 2009). Still, ideas about racial harmony in Brazil have remained much the same. Brazil’s self-concept as a mixed-race nation is predicated on indigenous erasure: all Brazilians are imagined to share indigenous, African and Portuguese heritage, an understanding of race that restricts indigeneity to the past and reinforces racist stereotypes of Indians as primitive. This dissertation explores the efforts of the Pataxó Hãhãhãe, a mixed-race indigenous group, to assert an indigenous identity and revitalize their heritage language in a state commonly considered to be “the most ‘African’ state in Brazil” (Weinstein 2015:226). Language is central to my approach. I compare the under-documented Hãhãhãe language with the Maxakalí language; explore the possibility that Hãhãhãe is a mixed language; and reconstruct some morphosyntactic and lexical aspects of Hãhãhãe for revitalization purposes. Then, I focus on everyday cultural and linguistic practices to explore how the Pataxó Hãhãhãe are reworking ideas about race and indigeneity in the Brazilian Northeast as they reclaim an indigenous identity and their heritage language.
Degree ProgramGraduate College