Participants at the Mercosur Anthropology Conference in Rio de Janeiro have declared their solidarity with the Palestinian people and the necessity to raise awareness of the crimes against the indigenous population of Palestine since the 1948 Nakba. The conference brought together anthropologists from countries across Latin America at the Fluminense Federal University, south of Rio de Janeiro, earlier this month under the theme “Reconnections and challenges from the global south”. The participants shared research experiences and professional anthropological practices from Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and other countries.
“We affirm the commitment to remember the damage caused by ethnic cleansing in the 20th century, and declare our solidarity with the Palestinian people,” they said. “This is a public and academic commitment to the fight against racism. The construction of walls, checkpoints and everyday means of occupation and the subordination of autochthonous populations represents a perverse 21st century repetition of apartheid´s heinous practices.”
Debate at the conference focused on decolonisation of societies taxed by permanent war, suffering the processes of dehumanisation wherein there is a “constant threat” to dignity and life.
This was the fourteenth such gathering of anthropologists under the banner of the South American trade bloc known as Mercosur. The conference sought to celebrate and strengthen the ties between people, groups and institutions and was attended by anthropology researchers, students and professionals from Brazil and other countries across Latin America.
“New connections have also become necessary to overcome the existing ‘walls’ between the academic community and society in general,” it was pointed out, “in addition to the exchange of knowledge and experiences between academics, public managers and social movements.”
Ever since its creation in 1991, Mercosur’s main objective has been to promote a common space that generates business and knowledge through the competitive integration of national economies into the international market. As a result, it has established multiple agreements with countries or groups of countries. The “Southern Common Market” between Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay and Paraguay make up 76 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Latin America.
The anthropological study of the relationship between society and nature in Brazil has been revitalised. With a society characterised by diversity; Brazil is a land of coexistence between civilisations which has opened its doors to visitors from all over the world. The acceptance of differences and respect for all, regardless of race or creed, are fundamental Brazilian values which have enabled immigrants to enter Brazil and blend into society with relative ease.
Brazil is a multicultural society and most citizens are open to foreign cultural influences, which has probably helped their acceptance of newcomers. It’s a positive example in a world where there is so much intolerance of the culture and habits of others. Latin American countries have helped the Arabs, especially the Syrians, Lebanese and, more recently, Palestinians, to integrate into their local communities in an exemplary way. Today, millions of Latin Americans of Arab descent are proud of their ancestry.
While playing an important role in society, though, the Palestinian community in Brazil is facing many challenges, not least the disappearance of their language and sense of identity among the second and third generations. A conference such as XIV RAM is thus an important step in order to build bridges between the Palestinian communities in Latin America, and help to solve their problems. While it is important for the people of Latin America to know more about Palestine and Palestinian culture, it is also important for Palestinians in the Middle East to learn more about Latin America.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.