Through the Eyes of the Natives: Watching the White Sails of FIFA and IOC Approach the Urban Indigenous Occupation of Rio De Janeiro

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
David DHERT, independent researcher and filmmaker, Belgium
Hedda ASKLAND, University of Newcastle, Australia
As the world awaited the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games with anticipation, few were aware of the unfolding battle that took place in its shadow. An indigenous community was living on a piece of land located right next to the world-famous Maracanã sports stadium in Rio de Janeiro. The land, of great ancestral value for the Brazilian indigenous community, had been occupied by indigenous groups since 2006. Seeking a juridical and physical place for the indigenous people in the city, 35 representatives of 17 different indigenous groups then claimed the land as theirs with the aim of revitalising and reusing the abandoned mansion on the site. Their plans to develop an indigenous cultural centre dedicated to the preservation of indigenous memory and identity, as well as the first indigenous university of South America, were, however, attacked in the lead up to the World Cup and the Olympic Games. As the sports events got closer, authorities moved away from their role as social caretaker and instead adopted a sharper money-driven tactic where the indigenous community was placed under attack. Facing eviction, the indigenous suffered both discursive and physical threats, with politicians striving to support their eviction by discrediting the movement. On 22 March 2013, the indigenous community was evicted in a turbulent operation by the urban military troops with guns, gasbombs, fight dogs, helicopters and a supersonic weapon meant for anti-terrorist attacks during the World Cup and Olympic Games. In this paper, we discuss the events leading up to that eviction and present an alternative story of the international sports events. Based on film recordings and a participatory method this paper considers the indigenous voice in this clash and, drawing on postcolonial and neocolonial scholarship, explores how the case represents an example of continuous colonial hierarchies.