First contact, Xinane, Brazil, alterity, isolated indigenous peoples


In 2014, the Xinane people of Brazilian Amazonia made international news after two videos showing scenes of their “first contact” were uploaded to the internet. This paper explores the ways in which different audiences reacted to news about this “first contact.” Local Peruvian and Brazilian settlers, the international public, and the Mastanawa, a people culturally proximate to the Xinane, had different readings of this event and expressed opposing views concerning what actions should have been taken following the events depicted in the videos. These differences in opinion are telling of the different ways in which each group thinks of “isolated indigenous peoples” and how to deal with situations emerging from encounters like those depicted in the videos. More specifically, these differences of opinion show how indigenous Amazonian understandings of alterity, and the praxis that goes with them, challenge conceptions of isolated peoples held by others as well as the policies put in place by national governments with the intention of protecting them.