Bessire, Lucas Britton

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Preliminary abstract: The Ayoreo Video Project is an experiment in Indigenous empowerment through collaborative video-making by Ayoreo-speaking people, members of a small, cross-border, recently contacted and severely marginalized Indigenous group of the Bolivian and Paraguayan Gran Chaco region. Threatened by the massive destruction of their ancestral homelands, the impoverished Ayoreo now struggle to survive in widely scattered rural villages and urban slums. Building on a decade of field-based research with Ayoreo, the project examines the intersection of Indigenous media, performative subjectivity and ethnographic advocacy. It does so by means of ethnofiction, a genre famously described by Jean Rouch 'as an art of the double ... the passage from the world of reality to the world of the imaginary' (Piault 2007: 364). The project involves three stages. First, I will train a team of Ayoreo in two communities to write, direct, co-shoot and co-edit a series of ethnofiction short films on topics of their choice. Then I help put these films into motion, with filmmakers presenting their works in other Ayoreo communities. Both processes will be chronicled on video. Finally, the films and the sensibilities emerging from these interwoven mediations will be the subject of one 60-minute ethnographic documentary, focusing on the constitutive tensions between Indigenous and anthropological knowledge-making practices. In sum, the project aims to develop a visual anthropology of Indigenous self-fashioning, extend the legacies of indigenous media and ethnographic film into a context of extreme oppression, and ask how audio-visual media production articulates new terms that contribute to Native struggles for self-determination.