The Beauty of the Forests and the Dirt of the Cities:An ethnography of the Guarani-Mbya people and rats in the Jaraguá Indigenous Land (São Paulo, Brazil)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


This study main subject are the relationships between the Guarani-Mbya people and rats in the Jaraguá Indigenous Land - a small territory surrounded by the city of São Paulo, Brazil’s largest metropolis. This paper describes ethnographically how the Guarani-Mbya perceive and relate to these “companion species”, even though their companionship may sometimes be disturbing or unwanted. According to Guarani-Mbya people, the relationship between the indigenous, non-indigenous, urban rats, and wild rats are linked by the fundamental opposition between pollution and dirt, which are characteristic of non-indigenous cities, and the traditional Guarani-Mbya way of life, which preserves and cares for the forest and its creatures. Through an ethnographic approach to indigenous conceptions on health, illness and disease issues related to rodents, this paper suggests that the Guarani-Mbya people do not conceive rodents as a disease reservoir, and, despite their noisy and messy habits, rats are not framed by them as a zoonotic threat that requires eradication or surveillance. In this way, from the stories that Guarani-Mbya people tell about rats, diseases, non-indigenous people, and cities, emerges a broad indigenous critique of the non-indigenous way of life and its destructive effects to humans, animals and environment.
Event titleReframing Disease Reservoirs: Histories & Ethnographies of Pathogens & Pestilence
Event typeConference
LocationSt Andrews, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational