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Constellations of InequalitySpace, Race, and Utopia in Brazil$
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Sean T. Mitchell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226499123

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226499437.001.0001

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Expertise and Inequality

Expertise and Inequality

Chapter:
(p.96) Four Expertise and Inequality
Source:
Constellations of Inequality
Author(s):

Sean T. Mitchell

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226499437.003.0005

Through an ethnographic analysis of a meeting in 2005, chapter 4 demonstrates how expertise and knowledge function in contemporary Brazilian politics. The chapter focuses on a meeting between government representatives, activists, and villagers in Mamuna, a village slated for expropriation since 1986, but not yet expropriated. Relying on anthropological studies of technology and expertise, the chapter makes the following three arguments about the role of expert knowledge: (1) participants in Alcântara’s conflicts frequently frame their arguments by placing boundaries around technical, natural, and social domains; (2) such framing privileges particular forms of expertise; (3) such expertise is a crucial force in establishing and contesting relations of inequality in situations where globally dispersed technologies are important (everywhere) and when ambiguous group-specific rights are involved, such as those of the quilombolas. In the chapter’s consideration of the ontological character of some political claims—their tendency to rely on statements about what is rather than what ought to be—the chapter briefly consider the so-called ontological turn in anthropological theory to argue against the construal of social and historical differences as ontological ones.

Keywords:   Brazil, Development, Anthropology, Inequality, Expertise, Ontology, Race

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