Since five years, I’m studying anthropology in the University of Nice (French Riviera). Fascinated from the beginning by this discipline which tries to understand the mysterious human beings whom we are, my love and my curiosity for anthropology are still growing since. I’m decided to dedicate my work’ life to this discipline of human’s sciences.
At the beginning of this year 2013, I traveled two months in Brazil to realize my first real ethnographical work on the ground. For one year, I prepared this trip, within the framework of my first year of Master's degree. I wanted to go in the Amazonian town of Altamira, near which, since two years, the hydroelectric dam of Belo Monte is in building. People are fighting against this project for more than twenty years. The Belo Monte is announced as the third biggest work of this type after Three Gorges dam in China, and Itaipu dam in the South of Brazil.
The Belo Monte dam is the heart of complex politico-economic stakes. It’s the key project of PAC (Program of Acceleration of the Economic Growth). For many people, the Amazonia is the symbol of a beautiful and wild nature; the emblem of the ecological tragedies of our time. For many others who see the world like a big Monopoly, it’s just a vast territory full of natural resources that humans don’t exploit enough. For Brazilian government and industrial lobbies, the Amazonia has an economic potential, too long under exploited which has to participate in the national growth. By 2020, the plan is to make a real hydroelectric province of this country.
In the Medias and on the Internet, the social mobilization against the dam tries to make its voice heard. In 2008, a movement was born with vocation to unite all the local associations opposite to the project. Its name is Movimento Xingu Vivo Para Sempre (Movement Xingu Alive For Ever). It has the support of NGO engaged in the defense of native peoples, or the environment and of some associations as the one of the Indian leader Raoni. This cacique is known thanks to a movie of the French director Dutilleux, and because of the exploit, in 1989, to stop the dam project of Belo Monte while it was only in an embryonic state. By inviting his friend Sting (of the group The Police) to the First Meeting of the Xingu People, in Altamira, where diverse Indian communities of the region came to shout their dissatisfaction, he gave an international visibility to this cause. The result was the retreat of the World Bank which had to finance widely the project. Ten years after, the Brazilian government finally finds new financing and the company in charge of the project reduces its socio-environmental impacts. Galvanized by their past victory, the actors of the mobilization against Belo Monte don’t lose hope and continue their fight while the works of the dam move forward. The mediatisation of their protest take an important place. Through it, they hope to mobilize the international opinion and make the Brazilian government respects their rights.
Briefly, for the opponents of the dam, Belo Monte it is:
Approximately 500km ² of forest which are going to be flooded by the dam reservoir, Several tens of thousands displaced people whom many of Indian communities and Ribeirinhos (isolated people of the edges of river, living from fishing), The extinction of several endemic animal and vegetal species. The modification of the ecosystem of the region and the end of Volta Grande Falls. The arrival of 30.000 workers in a social space unsuitable for a fast migratory flow (increase of the violence, the drug traffic, the prostitution, the rise in prices and the difficulty of accommodation, services of health and security which don’t manage for it).
When I went to this region, I thought to stay in Altamira to study the implementation of the local mobilization. In reality, we don’t choose where we will be ethnographer; it’s the place which chooses us. It’s the first big lesson which this experience taught me. Finding another place that my humble budget can follow, I was allowed carried by the wind and went in another smaller municipality, situated downstream to the river Xingu. This small village of Senador José Porfirio is too concerned by the impacts of the dam of Belo Monte, but I didn’t saw the mobilization I wanted to study.
Adapting me to the ground and knowing that I had only few weeks to devote me to the ethnography, I had to straighten my objectives of research. The warm generosity of the inhabitants of Senador José Porfirio helped me very fast to feel me comfortable and to improve my Brazilian. I was lucky enough to go off to explore a community of Ribeirinhos, lost in the middle of a vast forest reserve along the small river Pracupi. I was also able to share the life, during few days, of a small farmer family around the town.
I could discover how life is, in various places of this municipality. There, everything seems to be quiet but nevertheless, the shadow of Belo Monte announces plenty of upheavals within this little social world. Over the years, I hope I can report the implementation of this change, sometimes wanted by the inside, sometimes compulsory from the outside.
I finalize at present the report which tells my ethnographic experience at Senador José Porfirio and the analysis which ensues from it with the aim of the context into which fit my observations (construction of the dam, future project of golden extraction with industrial scale on the territory of the municipality, the strategies of environmental protection and all which concerned the context global of our contemporary world).
From next November, I wish to leave for six months in the microregion of Altamira to pursue my study of the current changes behind the visible peace of the forest and the river. I thus intend to start into a doctoral thesis in anthropology for a minimal duration of three years. I need in first to pass eighteen months on the ground to validate my work. I’m impatient to plunge more profoundly into the complex social reality of this small part of Amazonia and in question notions which mean a lot for me: the questioning of the principle of development; the thinking around the principle of self-determination of peoples, the relation between the Man and his environment, the strengths and the weaknesses of the social movements in world of today.
I already have the contacts I need; with Ribeirinhos, Indians, wooden developers, farmers, fishermen, and actors of the fight against dam of Belo Monte etc. I know where I go and why I go there. The only real problem is in the financing of this work. There are sources of funding for PhD students but, they are hard to obtain, especially when we are not registered in a big University and when we make anthropology… In a world of productivism, the anthropologists are in a sense extraterrestrials!
You understand it, my hopes are in you. Your support would be more than precious. To thank you, I decided to give birth in a movie which will be turned on the spot with the inhabitants of the microregion of Altamira. Through a series of portraits I shall so make you discover the life of people with their words and their experiences. Helped by competent friends, we will make a movie which, I hope, will touch your heart.
So, as the photography is one of my passions and because I consider good to take with me my dear Reflex in this adventure, I shall provide you with a series of visionnables pictures on the Internet that you will be able to choose and that I will develop to your intention.
To finish, I plan to realize a musical clip with the inhabitants of Senador where will be integrated my most sincere thanks with your names. I reserve you the surprise as for its contents!
In advance, thank you very much.