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Géographie politique et géopolitique brésilienne au XXI siècle

Insecurity Territorialities and Biopolitical Strategies of the Guarani and Kaiowá Indigenous Folk on Brazil’s Borderland Strip with Paraguay

Territorialités d’insécurité et stratégies biopolitiques des peuples Guarani et Kaiowá à la frontière entre le Brésil et le Paraguay
Marcos Mondardo
This article is a translation of:
Territorialidades de insegurança e estratégias biopolíticas dos povos Guarani e Kaiowá na fronteira do Brasil com o Paraguai


This paper discusses the matter about the insecurity territorialities of the Guarani and Kaiowá indigenous folk on the context of indigenous territories demarcation in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, on the Brazilian borderland strip with Paraguay. It is discussed about the biopolitical strategies of alternative territorializing on camps and the territorial arrangements of struggle for land and human rights, especially the temporary closure of roads and the multi/transterritorial transit across the border.

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Territorialidades de insegurança e estratégias biopolíticas dos povos Guarani e Kaiowá na fronteira do Brasil com o Paraguai


  • 1 This article’s purpose is to present the results from the research project “The Guarani-Kaiowá’s st (...)

1Insecurity territorialities have increased on the field and the city under contexts of conflicts for land, territory, habitation and human rights. For this reason, it is analyzed on this paper, on the indigenous territories demarcation context in Mato Grosso do Sul, Brazil’s border area with Paraguay, the struggle of the Guarani and Kaiowá folk for their traditionally occupied territory and for human rights1.

2To do so, we reached to understand how the territory is a fighting tool for the indigenous folk, especially on their daily habits of survival and on the biopolitical strategies of resistance. In this sense, we produced a cartographic representation of these territorial devices on the fight for their traditionally occupied territory and for human rights, especially on the temporary closure of borders and the multi/transterritorial transit across the border.

  • 2 The brazilian border area with Paraguay attracted people from the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina (...)
  • 3 In a globalized world like ours, building identities and territories becomes much more complex, by (...)
  • 4 Considering the indigenous matter, the Brazilian federal constitution of 1988, in its 8th chapter, (...)

3The main focus was on the recent reflections and speeches about the “societies of control”, in a deleuze-foucaultian language, or the “state of exception” as states Giorgio Agamben. Through this approach, we analyze the role of the territories and borders on the dynamics of the conflicts between the farmers “gauchos”2 and the indigenous people, considering the increasing multi/transterritoriality3 that involves nowadays the fight for the traditionally occupied territories4.

4In the last decades, the State of Mato Grosso do Sul became a paradigmatic case because its space turned into an effervescence of actions and speeches in favor and not in favor of the indigenous territories demarcation. This research is an outspread of others works (MONDARDO, 2012 e 2013), with reviewed proposals, now considering the dialogue with the works of the philosophers Michel Foucault and Giorgio Agamben, and with the inspiring methodological and theoretical perspective from the works of the geographer Rogério Haesbaert (2014a e 2015).

Borders, insecurity and biopolicy in times of State of exception

5In an ambivalent way, the limits and borders seem to be, in a certain manner, more porous, fluid and open. They’re under actions of opening and closing, be it by fences or walls raised by the using of surveillance technology. If at one side the borders have never been more open to merchandise, tourists, information and money, on the other there’s surveillance and the selective opening with the control of certain people, objects and merchandise. We live in a time of uncertain ins and outs, uncertain fixes and mobiles, in which the borders, under this logic of ambiguity have never been, at the same time, so flexible and so rigid.

6In this process, the border as a strategic component (or device) of the state’s sovereignty (POLANYI, 2000) is being actioned on regimentation for, at one hand, turn more fluid the merchandise displacement, and on the other, stablish control over human mobility at the society of “security” and of the “biopolicy” (FOUCALT, 2008a) in a time of diffusion of “control” (DELEUZE, 1992). In an ambiguous way, proliferate in this scenario many kinds of risks and “insecurity”, leading to “out of control territories” (HAESBERT, 2008). It seems that even in the borders, as component of the territories constitution, we lost the “power” over life, making death something banal, in times of “naked life” (AGAMBEN, 2002).

7For this reason, the border, nowadays, is an emblematic space of population’s controlling devices. Foucault (2008) states, even though in a different level of analysis, that population’s mobility control involves the multiplicity of subjects that are not only part of it, but also interfere and might constitute a particular view of the phenomenon. In this way, we might consider that there is an association of the Foucault’s idea of population and the Giorgio Agamben’s idea of naked life (2004).

8However, according to Haesbaert (2012), this extreme existence condition of men, be it as natural entity and/or “animalized”, as in Foucault’s view, is a mere biological vision as human race:

What in fact exist, are the situations, sometimes a lot circumstantial in which human groups are noticed pretty much only by their capacity of physical reproduction and that, in this condition (…) simply “occupy spaces”, circulate and transport in space. They turn to be seen, primarily, as literally a “mass” phenomenon – another idea brought by Foucault to describe the population (HAESBAERT, 2012, p.80).

9Agamben (2004) recognizes on these changes a regime of “state of exception”, based on laws of exception that, related to the sovereign power, become regular rules, “initially introduced as measures related to exceptional facts, destined to specific situations on space and time, become rule.”

  • 5 Tânatos was the Greek God of nonviolent death. In our work, its meaning is adopted, based on Agambe (...)

10To the philosopher, the state of exception should no longer be seen as a regime adopted at a circumstantial and/or extraordinary situation, mainly adopted at a moment of emergency. This regime is to be understood as a “governing technique” that works for the “administration of life” and, consequently, of death itself by a kind of Tânatos-power5. The “biopolicy might convert into Thanatos policy, displacing this line to even more large zones of social life”, “in which the paramount enters more and more in a symbiosis process not only with the jurist, but also with the doctor, the scientist, the clergyman” (AGAMBEN, 2004, p. 128).

11Bringing back the Walter Benjamin’s famous idea that the “oppressed” always suffered under the condition of “state of exception”, Agamben (2004) seeks to demonstrate that we live nowadays an undetermined condition, a gap, between democracy and absolutism, a sovereign power that rules to the exception leading to “naked life” or homo sacer (juridical figure of roman right) to demonstrate that in the days we live a “permanent exception” policy which might lead to the death of characters considered to be irrelevant, making it necessary to “administrate life” through “rules of emergency”.

12We propose to consider the “border” starting from Agamben’s discussion when analyzing, especially, the “concentration camps”, that are the juridical-gap territories between the exception and the regular rules. This way, the “camp” is a prototype territory of exception in its condition of juridical-gap, because it includes the ones that are “out of regular ordainment”, according to the author’s idea of “exclusion by inclusion”. The “camp” produces the “border” in this juridical and political gap which pretend to exclude by inclusion the one that, by its own nature, can’t stay out of state ordainment, but ends being “captured on the outside” which creates an undefined figure.

  • 6 The indigenous territory was created in 1917 as a colonial biopolicy, embracing an 3.539 hectares a (...)

13This contemporaneous policy produces, according to Haesbaert (2006) “territorializations of exception”, which might be noticed on our study by thinking the inclusion and exclusion frontier on the spatial conditions of part of the Guarani and Kaiowá at the indigenous territory of Dourados6 and, especially on the camps located on areas of traditionally occupied territories recovery. These spaces became nowadays, through the biopolicy of “insecurity” as a governing tool, “territories of exception” permanently, or juridical and political gaps on the state’s ordainment in the middle of the twentieth first century.

14This Brazilian border with Paraguay is characterized by its ambivalent deterritorializations (of exclusion by inclusion), because the “confinement” mechanisms, the disciplining and the “territorial restraint” (HAESBAERT, 2009) were historically developed to the Guarani and Kaiowá folk under a space of exception logic. The “society of control” turn the emergency measures into the rules of the sovereign power through the game of “in and out”, where the “nexus between localization and ordainment in definitively broken” (AGAMBEN, 2004, p. 27).

15This way, the border is built on strategies or mechanisms of “territorial restraint” on processes of “inclusive exclusion” in an attempt to “stop” the fluxes of those who are a part of the indigenous folk because, not being able to regulate them under the state’s territorial ordainment, they are “captured on the outside” only as “naked life” par tout of their reproduction and biological and physical displacement.

16This analytical power of the “state of exception” is what puts the question involving borders (limits of legal and illegal, for example) as a matter in the agenda. The “confines” are also part of the state. The legal and the illegal are in the field of the state’s exceptions and this recalls to the questioning or even the relative loss of sovereignty of the state in certain areas for the lower groups.

  • 7 The conception of tekoha, according to Pereira (2009), is a combination of the guarani words Teko + (...)

17In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, the conflicts between the indigenous people and the farmers assumed that “permanent exception” condition lived by the Guarani and Kaiowá folk that, even under poor conditions of security, keep resisting on camps on the side of the roads under improvised tents struggling to return to their tekoha7. The “border”, through the surging of these “spaces of exception” is built on a juridical and political gap by the ambivalent actions taken by the Brazilian state on the matter involving indigenous territories demarcation.

Insecurity territorialities and biopolitical strategies of the Guarani and Kaiowá folk

18During this research, we updated our studies about the “insecurity” territorialities of the Guarani and Kaiowá people. “Insecurity” is for the ambiguity which they live in, that’s because at the same time they are seeking security through the struggle for their traditionally occupied territories, they live in an insecurity condition for the vulnerability and social and territorial precariousness that these people have been through historically.

19With the Guarani and Kaiowá initiatives of “territories recovery” and the power held by the farmers, which are considered one of the main characters in the territorial conflict in Mato Grosso do Sul, we are lead to consider a state of “insecurity” or “exception”. With the inefficiency or slowness on the indigenous territories demarcation politics by the state, the multiplicity of actions from the Guarani and Kaiowá folk about the fight for territorial autonomy became a way to keep their resistance alive.

20The “insecurity” theme became central in many discussions involving indigenous territories demarcation. On the news, on the speeches, on the actions of the farmers and those involved in the rural business, on the defense of life and the return of the indigenous people to their traditional territories, this matter is in evidence. With the spreading of an exception policy that turns the “insecurity” into a mark of this frontier space, the characters in focus-indigenous and farmers-look up to mobilize themselves aiming to set up their battle fronts, organizing in multiple scales of action.

  • 8 The period between 1915 to 1928, the indigenous protection service (nowadays the Indigenous Nationa (...)

21The territorial conflict between the Guarani and Kaiowá and the farmers started on the ending of the nineteenth century when, by one side, the “gaúchos” migrated from a colonizing front from Brazil’s middle west and, by the other, the government developed an indigenous policy through the Serviço de Proteção ao Índio (SPI), indigenous protection service. With mainly economic reasons, a real apartheid has occurred on the beginning of the twentieth century involving the indigenous people and the non-indigenous people with the creation of indigenous territories on this Brazilian border strip8.

22The indigenous territory of Dourados is one of these territories that is characterized as an space of exception built by actions of the state that imply the denial or suspension of rights. Through colonialist projects, actions of “territorial restraint” from the Guarani and Kaiowá folk (HAESBAERT, 2008) have been taken by the state in order to control these territorialities by damaging their way of live. This colonial biopolicy of territorial restraint and the attempt of disciplining and controlling the indigenous in Mato Grosso do Sul (State of Mato Grosso until 1977) gotten worse, especially, after the decade of 1970, as an area of expansion from brazilian agrobusiness.

23The Guarani and Kaiowá camps that spread out through the states on sides of the roads or at the bottom of farms are part of a contemporaneous deterritorialization movement which looks up to do the inverse way, with the reconstruction and ethnical affirmation of the multiple territorialities damaged by the civilizing process of the modern-colonial society. In the name of the “juridical security”, the Mato Grosso do Sul social space management is made, at one side, by a very complex process that articulate attempts of territorial restraint on the life and actions of the indigenous folk, and at the other, of a multiplicity of actions that aim for the return of the indigenous to their traditional territory and/or demarcation of indigenous territories.

24At one hand, the restraining policy of the traditional territories recovery initiatives is periodically fed by fear. The risk of economic production reduction on the field and on the commerce, the well know “land invasions” which might affect “anyone”, the image of the “dangerous Indian”, the “Paraguayan Indian” among others, serve to spread a certain terror to the farmers. This landowner class uses these speeches to brake the demarcation process of indigenous territories. Considering this, the state take measures of exception in a controlling attempt to enlighten the situations of risk/conflict.

25In Mato Grosso do Sul, a historical and geographical dynamics has articulated itself around the occupation and dominance of the land by the non-indigenous people. The increasing and unequal agrobusiness production started in the decade of 1970 has damaged socially, culturally and economically the Guarani and Kaiowá folk, with violent separation of these people now confined in official indigenous territories. From the state’s colonial biopolicy point of view, the denial of rights ensured by the 1988 brazilian constitution and the brazilian indigenous statute, for example, allowed the exploration of the indigenous work with the dominance of farmers – with or without the state’s connivance.

26All this process, attached to a “legal” system of economic development and a state policy for brazilian agriculture lead the indigenous to be seen as unproductive and retrogressive. For this reason, this deterritorialization movement promoted on the Guarani and Kaiowá way of survival and reproduction has counted on a juridical, political ground, involving even police forces. The “territorial restraint” of these native populations was violent, aiming to confine these people on territories where the exception biopolicy became rule. In this complex game between mobility and immobility, the Guarani and Kaiowá survive in the Mato Grosso do Sul state under a “territorial restraint” process.

27Especially far from the city, the Guarani and Kaiowá should be “included by exclusion” to the urban habits of life, mainly through work. This has become the modern-colonial territorial project for this border area regarding the control over the others. This physical and symbolical violence is associated with power over life, or biopower, according to Foucault.

28Foucault (2008b), states the biopolicy as a process which submitted life to power technologies. On the political field, life, on a human species dimension, became a first order matter for its discipline and control character, consequently leading to control over space.

What is claimed and works as an object is life, understood as the fundamental necessities, the concrete essence of men, the realization of its virtualities, the fullness of possible. It does not matter much if it is or isn’t utopia, there we have a very real process of struggle; life as a political object has somehow been taken to its fullest meaning and turned to the system that tried to control it (FOUCAULT, 2008b, p.158).

  • 9 Biopolicy as a power strategy is adopted by contemporaneous state as a kind of population’s multipl (...)

29In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, regarding human condition of the indigenous people, there is a declared state of exception. Many of the civil rights are suspended or denied, such as: territorial rights, traditional territory, education, health services, not to mention the “security policy” matter directed to these people. That’s because due to the indigenous territories demarcation process, they became violence target, receiving death threats and all kinds of social intimidation and coercion. The genocide is a characteristic of a “racism of state” (FOUCAULT, 2002). The state became “terrorist” for its posture of extermination, population’s censorship, and for “making die”9 a few segments of the Guarani and Kaiowá.

30In a stricter sense of “security”, tension highlighted the speech and the practice of “insecurity” on that situations about life itself - or the relation between life and death -, involving, this way, the risks of violence, murder, suicide and genocide, gambling with the indigenous people survival.

31This conflict of territories and territorialities involving farmers and indigenous people on the struggle for land reveal the faces of the “power and knowledge coloniality” (MIGNOLO, 2003) which, as we observe, is part of the historical formation of this brazilian border with Paraguay. However, many of these conflicts were highlighted recently on media and got new political dimensions of struggle and resistance with the FUNAI’s project that in November 12th of the year 2007 created six new ordinances (numbers 788,789,790,791,792,793), marking the beginning of the process which looks up to demarcate the traditional territories of the Guarani and Kaiowá.

  • 10 The municipalities of Antônio João, Amambai, Aral Moreira, Bela Vista, Bonito, Caarapó, Caracol, Co (...)

32In this same year, FUNAI signed an conduct adjustment term with Brazil’s public ministry and created seven groups of work looking up to actuate in 26 municipalities of the state (In the figure number 1, below, we present, based on FUNAI data from the year of 2016, the situation of the Guarani and Kaiowá territories in Mato Grosso do Sul according to their phases on the demarcation process, being it lands under study, regulated lands, demarcated lands, delimited lands or declared lands) to do the identification, delimitation, demarcation and homologation of the traditional Guarani Kaiowá territories10.

Figure 1 - Municipalities with areas under study for demarcation in Mato Grosso do Sul

Figure 1 - Municipalities with areas under study for demarcation in Mato Grosso do Sul

Data source: ESRI 2015 (Borderland strip), FUNAI 2016 (Indigenous territories) – Organizer: Marcos Mondardo – Cartography: Alice Lucas Gomes - 2016

33The territorial conflict started to earn space in national and international media on the last decade due to the elevated number of suicide, homicide and trampling in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The violence against brazilian indigenous people report, by the “Missionary indigenist council” states, for example, that in the period of 2003 to 2010 the situation of territorial precariousness/instability faced by the Guarani and Kaiowá people could be noticed through the 250 homicides, 176 occurrences of suicide (especially amongst the younger), 190 homicide attempts and the 4000 children suffering with malnutrition.

34The same research points out that only in the year of 2003, for instance, child’s mortality rate by malnutrition reached the number of 93 dead children out of 1000 births (this is the biggest children mortality rate amongst all indigenous people in Brazil). It also brings more than half of all murders between indigenous people in the whole country: in the year of 2008 were 42 of all 60 assassinations occurred, and in 2009, 33 out of 60. In the year of 2010, of all 1.015 occurrences involving aggression suffered by indigenous in Brazil, 1.004 happened in the state, and of all 152 death threats, 150 were in Mato Grosso do Sul.

35The report elaborated by CIMI (2012) points out that most ways of violence against the indigenous folk, in comparison with 2011, have increased in 2012. An increase of 237% was noticed only this year in the “violence against the individual” category, which involves death threats, homicide, attempts of murder, racism, body injuries and sexual violence. The “victims of violence” had an increasing of 76%.

36Still according to this research, 60 murders were committed against indigenous individuals in Brazil in the year of 2012, representing 9 more deaths comparing to the year before. The largest number was in Mato Grosso do Sul, accumulating 37 cases, followed by the state of Maranhão and state of Bahia, with 7 and 4 cases, respectively. In the last 10 years about 563 indigenous were murdered in Brazil.

37The authority’s omission and the slowness on the processes of land regulation (the big diminution on the indigenous territories demarcation rhythm in Brazil), the territorial restraint of numerous populations at small reservations and their precarity situation are some of the most practiced kinds of violence against the indigenous folk. The research also points out that the lack of respect to the indigenous rights is part of a insecurity policy adopted by the state. This “racism of state” is in the core of all violations. This situation shows a permanent state of exception living condition to these communities.

38On this direction, the right to live is conditioned to a population’s subdivision by the “racism of state” in different segments separated by what is called “civilization level”. This way, some lives turn to be considered “unworthy of living” (AGANBEM, 2004, p.146) in an ambivalent game that allows, depending on the forces relation, make it live or make it die, for example, a certain number of indigenous:

This articulation does not ensure the right to live of the indigenous populations, it only serves as tool to invest or not in the ways to live. Even though it’s about incentives to life, this won’t keep indigenous folk of dying, as the “civilizing” ways of life also represent mechanisms of life annihilation, as it is observed in the camps, that trapped the indigenous in a confining condition. It is specifically this game that characterizes the state of exception (BERNARDES, 2011, p. 161).

39The state might invest and let live a few segments of indigenous populations when it is interesting to it, or let die when these lives are not amongst the interests of the nation. However, we cannot forget that the rights conquered by minorities are related to the capacity of organization and mobilization in the form of indigenous movements, as the Guarani Kaiowá example on the fight for land and human rights in Mato Grosso do Sul.

40Another element that contributes to perpetuate the violence lived by the Guarani and Kaiowá is the neodevelopmental policy of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul’s government that sees the indigenous populations as an “obstacle” to “progress”, through the “agrobusiness world”. Then, in many opportunities the violence against the indigenous is coming from who’s about to protect them: the state. In this sense, the condition of “state of exception” that these populations live under become alarming, because the state itself became a source of “terrorism”. About that terrorism condition of a state, Agamben states that:

Nowadays we face one of the most extreme and dangerous thoughts on security. Through a gradual neutralization of policy and the progressive capitulation of the state’s traditional tasks, security became a basic principle of the state’s activity. A state which has security as it’s only task and legitimacy source is a fragile organism, it might be provoked by terrorism to become, itself, terrorist (AGAMBEN, 2002, p.22)

  • 11 According to UOL news website (15/-7/2009), in march of 2009 “On the 3rd region federal court, ther (...)

41The Mato Grosso do Sul’s state space, field of agrobusiness territorialization, is today in an exception situation as since its territorial and institutional ordainment, even its politic practices, including “security”, turned exception measures into rule, which leads to a democratic state crisis. This enlighten that the “emergency” measures taken by the state to mediate the territorial conflict or bring peace to the region became rule, as the innumerous juridical processes drag themselves at the slow and inefficient scenario of indigenous territories demarcation11.

42In face of these transformations, the social movements organization, especially the indigenous populations Guarani and Kaiowá started to fight the traditional ways of political representation for a “biopolicy” of traditional territories recovery. This mobilization considers articulation on multiple scales of action, the struggle for human rights, and, above all, the indigenous return to their territory, an urgent demand considering the “lack of land” in Mato Grosso do Sul and Brazil.

43According to Instituto Sociombiental (Social and environmental organization) (2013), the areas claimed by indigenous populations in Brazil combined are equivalent to almost 2 million hectares and include areas on the states of Mato Grosso do Sul, Rio Grande do Sul and Santa Catarina, where the claiming for demarcations are urgent. There are at least 21 indigenous territories demarcation processes stuck on the judiciary slowness. From that amount, 14 are waiting for the national president Michel Temer’s signature for homologation and 7 depend on the minister of justice’s ordinance.

44The urgent demand due to the “land insufficiency”, according to Instituto Socioambiental (2013) is located in the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. The state only has 2,2% of its territorial extension or 815,9 thousand hectares occupied by indigenous territories, in a totality of 51 areas. Even in “territorialization of exception” situation, the state is home for 77 thousand indigenous, equivalent to 8,5% of its population, second largest number of indigenous in Brazil per state. The indigenous territories in Mato Grosso do Sul’s space combined are only 0,7% of the national amount.

45With all this territorial precariousness situation, of violence and insecurity, the life expectancy among the Guarani Kaiowá is 45 years (comparable the Afghanistan), while the brazilian life expectancy in general is 73 years. According to FUNASA (2012) 80% of these families depend on help for food. The majority of Guarani and Kaiowá people became dependent on the social programs of brazilian government due to this deterritorialization they been through. These programs seek to soften the “hunger” of 500 years of exploration and, at one side, as well, they serve to control or contain this population.

46Mato Grosso do Sul is, as well, on this society of insecurity, control and territorial restraint, the brazilian state with the largest indigenous prisoners population. A research made by the indigenist work center from the Dom Bosco catholic university (2008) analyzed the indigenous inmate’s situation in the state and identified 252 processes on the criminal courts. The majority involved internal conflicts on the reservations and indigenous territories directly related to the limits of each one’s space inside the reservation, the “land insufficiency” and the precarious conditions of reproduction of these people. This survey pointed out that from 211 prisoners, 97 were in the Dourados prison unit.

  • 12 Foucault (2002, p. 289) states that the control mechanisms changed the purpose of the sociability c (...)

47According to Foucault (1994, p. 210) “for the capitalist society, the biopolicy is what matters the most, the biological, the somatic, the physical”. If we consider nowadays what Deleuze (1992) baptizes as “society of control”, the “biopolicy” imposes itself as a paradigm where “population” should be every time more and more under control, not only by discipline12, but also its mobility and especially on its actions, notably the “day-by-day resistance” (SCOTT, 1990) or subversion of social hegemonic order based on the logic of the dominant classes or social groups.

48The emerging questions about certain social groups mobility, the new and old kinds of genocide, racism and contemporaneous precariousness might be associated to a biopolicy, especially when we think of processes involving struggle for land, the affirmation or rescue of territorial identities, not to mention the human rights defense processes.

49In this sense, on the society of “security”, the mobility problem become central, because the biopolitical control must be, roughly speaking, working in service of a spatiality that ensures all kinds of mobility. The indigenous “population”, for instance, in their displacement, turn into a security matter cause the individuals now need, beyond being watched by their individualities, be controlled biologically as “species” and, in this case, represented by a dominant portion of the population, the farmers, as “dangerous species”, or, the ones that are represented as “land invaders”.

50In our case, the Guarani Kaiowá folk use the biopolicy strategy on the “two extreme opposites”, for the intense reproduction – being in the last years the most increasing indigenous population in Brazil – and as well for some kind of “self-extermination” induced by the precarious condition of living as in a letter spread on the internet in which they announced in the Iguatemi municipality, in Mato Grosso do Sul, collective suicide in reacting to an eviction order by the federal justice.

We know we have no more chance to live with dignity here in our ancient territory, we have suffered a lot a we’re all being massacred and dying in a fast rhythm. We know that are going to be removed from the river shore by justice, but we are not leaving the river. As a historical native people, we merely decided to die collectively in this place. We have no other option and this is our last and unanimous decision in face of the federal justice order from Naviraí – Mato Grosso do Sul. (Part of the Guarani-Kaiowá letter, Tekoha Pyelito Kue/Mbarakay – Iguatemi, Mato Grosso do Sul, October 8th 2012).

51The “insecurities” of a “juridical” nature, the so called “right to property”, much boasted by the farmers, the “insecurities” and the risk of life by threats, persecution, violence and genocide suffered by the indigenous are part of the tense scenario of traditional territories demarcation. These matters put, in a certain way, the “biopolicy” as a central point of the debate even when the exception, today, the contemporaneous political rule for a kind of re-strengthening of the state through emergency measures, look up to control the population’s multiplicity, especially, of certain groups.

52In the state of Mato Grosso do Sul, our research have made, among other surveys, a series of maps showing the territorial dynamics regarding the conflicts on indigenous reservations demarcation associating to the survival conditions of the Guarani and Kaiowá folk. As we could observe, the notion of conflict that we have is very large, starting from the one directly involved with the fight for land in camps and traditional territories recovery on the line of roads or rivers, till the temporary closure or obstruction of fluxes on roadways. As we will see, some cases involve the fight for land and for human rights such as health, education, and others, till the fight for survival considering the indigenous assassinations that have been occurring.

53This way we could notice some of the most important spatial consequences in field violence events, which does not discard the existence of occurrences related to urban violence. We centralized the conflicts involving farms and camps of traditional territories recovery analysis on a zonal distribution. As for the actions involving roadway or camp accesses closures we characterized in a linear distribution. This does not mean that in certain moments both won’t be articulated.

54According to Haesbaert (2004b), the zonal logic is that one modeled by the way the area is organized, relating to limits, fixes and the continuity of space; the linear logic prioritizes the networks organization, relating to connections, mobility and fluxes. Nevertheless, not only the hegemonic groups, like the state or companies rebuilt their strategies under the zonal logic. Subaltern groups also articulate manners to notice and live the space through continuity/contiguity, integrating different dimensions (political, cultural, economic and natural) to their struggles. The indigenous folk’s fight for their traditional territories demarcation is inserted on the zonal logic.

55On the fight for their traditional territories, however, the Guarani and Kaiowá articulate a complex game of power, in which the recognizing and legitimacy of their territoriality is part of a linear process on the strengthening of their demands. The combination of zonal and linear logics is part of the resistance biopolitical strategies construction on the building of multi/transterritorialities through geometries of power (MONDARDO, 2012).

56On this research, we have used as primary sources of information, on the period of January 2014 to December 2015 the O Progresso and Diário MS journals looking to compare two communication instruments directed to the population of city of Dourados and the southern portion of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul. Although both journals are located in Dourados, we might say that this choice is due to the differences noticed on the manners to inform about the Guarani Kaiowá matter, especially on the question involving indigenous territories demarcation. The news scale of these journals, notwithstanding concentrated on the southern portion of the state, also variate, as we might observe in the resultant maps.

57After two years of systematic and daily survey for these information, we managed to represent cartographically the territorial conflicts between the farmers and indigenous people. This led us to a typology that detailed a series of processes that presented the territorial effects of at least three big characters involved in the traditionally occupied territories matter: The Guarani and Kaiowá people, the farmers and the state. The last presents itself by the entities and public agencies associated to the many of scales management of the state’s territory.

58These data organization translates the spatiality in this conflict that takes place in the central and southern portion of the state of Mato Grosso do Sul’s territory, in which many events occur close to the brazilian border with Paraguay, as we can see on images 2 and 3. The acts of violence are more common on the rural areas, notably on camps located in territory recovery areas, on farms and on indigenous reservations. However, insecurity against Guarani and Kaiowá individuals also leave its mark on the urban space, especially in cities where the indigenous presence is bigger, such as: Dourados, Itaporã, Caarapó, Amambai, Rio Brilhante, Ponta Porã, Antônio João, Paranhos, and others.

59We observe that the actions of territories recovery are articulated on traditional occupation areas by indigenous leaders. The actions of road and accesses closure look up to get the society’s attention to the territories demarcation necessity, the precariousness of heath services, the attacks by farmers or militias putting these leaders or groups lives in danger. We can say that these territorial closures are forced by the Guarani and Kaiowá folk as a kind of self-protection, search for their struggles visibility and their urgent demands.

Figure 2 - Territorial conflicts involving Guarani e Kaiowá in the Mato Grosso do Sul State.

Figure 2 - Territorial conflicts involving Guarani e Kaiowá in the Mato Grosso do Sul State.

Figure 3 - Territorial conflicts involving Guarani e Kaiowá in the Mato Grosso do Sul State

Figure 3 - Territorial conflicts involving Guarani e Kaiowá in the Mato Grosso do Sul State

Data source: Jornal O Progresso / MS – Organizer: Marcos Mondardo – Cartography: Alice Lucas Gomes - 2016

60Other than that, we have organized with the collected data from the local journals, the Guarani and Kaiowá folk strategies of fight for the temporary closure of accesses and roads resultant from their conflict situation.

Table 1 - Temporary closure of roads or accesses due to the conflict situation


Total of occurrences

Roads or accesses closure by the Guarani and Kaiowá: Urban and rural ways


Road closure for indigenous territories demarcation


Road closure against indigenous deaths and trampling


Road closures for better health assistance for the indigenous


Road closures for the end of violence against the indigenous


Road closure against eviction orders


Road closure for rights claiming and Indigenous territories condition improvement


Public spaces closure (Squares and streets)


Sources: O Progresso e Diário MS.

61Observing the information that we could collect throughout the research organized on the table above, even if at a first moment from a quantitative perspective, we can notice the closure of roads and urban and rural accesses by the Guarani and Kaiowá motivated by the situations of conflict or violence. These relations are presented in the security biopolitical society in a complex manner and at every time a bigger manifestation scale. They are part of the indigenous resistance actions in Mato Grosso do Sul that lead us to think about a “neocolonial biopolicy” (LIFSCHITZ, 2011) of fight for territory and human rights. This way we identify struggle strategies through the road closures that have a very interesting network effect, especially because many actions are part of strategy at local, national and international scale for the consequences they have.

62This spatial biopolicy involves the closure of intense transit roads considering people and merchandise (especially in Mato Grosso do Sul where these roads play the role of the main corridor for agrobusiness exportations and the connection between the cities and the farms) and also of urban accesses on some cities, especially on the state’s largest cities like Campo Grande and Dourados, and also marginal roads of circulation inside the field space connecting one farm to another, also camps and indigenous reservations. This way, it’s been possible to quantify on the period of two years 57 road, accesses, urban and rural ways closures by the Guarani and Kaiowá and 7 public spaces closures (streets and squares occupation).

63It is important to highlight that the same strategy used by the Guarani and Kaiowá is also used by the farmers, be it road closures or public spaces occupation. For this reason, due to this research’s limits, we could not count the farmers action on their road blocking actions against the demarcation of indigenous territories for the Guarani and Kaiowá folk.

64Even though the resistance strategies are about one same struggle movement, some kind of closures present different contents, according to the adopted strategies. In them, the elements are the level of urgency on the Guarani and Kaiowá folk demands, the game involving the related characters and the scale level of actions. The demands urgency are about the necessity to cease the camp attacks and the deaths by trampling, the improvement on health assistance and the claiming for celerity on the indigenous territories demarcation, among other situations.

65One of the character’s game is the one that occurs due to the conflict, depending on the alliances that the indigenous stablish with the non-indigenous people, entities, and how their actions affect the population and how they turn possible an increasing on the visibility to the indigenous demand for territories, health, security and others. According to Haesbaert (2012), we can call these “territorial restraint on exception conditions”. The demand’s urgency put these accesses closure actions under exception condition. The exception that, more and more, for giving the indigenous cause some visibility, become rule on the resistance life of the Guarani and Kaiowá folk.

66That way, the indigenous create their own biopolicy strategies and their resistance actions. They make their political action strategies, from a local scale on an articulation movement with entities/organizations, till larger scale alliances of political action (pressure/resistance). On the network elaboration of these alternative territoriality, with virtual or physical displacement, it is stablished a muti/transterritoriality be it by the connection and/or insertion on other territories, which potentializes the strength of the transit transteritoriality resistance.

67We observe that in Mato Grosso do Sul the kinds of reterritorialization in times of exception are many, since the increasing processes of multi/transterritorialities on the border strip of Brazil and Paraguay (MONDARDO, 2012), till the complex dynamics of what we call “contingent camps” on the territorial recovery movements. This way, in an articulated manner the reconfiguration of territorialities occurs, in political and identity alternatives of resistance on multiple spatial scales (MONDARDO, 2014).

68Ahead we have some examples of what we call “territorializations of exception”, discussed by Mondardo (2012), to highlight the situations in which “the exception became rule”, in this case, as a biopolicy of the traditional territories recovery actions in multiterritorial reproduction strategies of the indigenous people in Mato Grosso do Sul.

  • Contingent camps: built on strategic places on the sideline of state and federal roads or at the bottom of farms, looking up to recover the traditionally appropriate territories.

  • Temporary closure of roads: mobilization acts on state and federal roads looking up to pressure brazilian state to demonstrate to its society the insecurity and precariousness lived by the indigenous and the need of social reproduction at the tekohas.

  • Multi/transterritorial transit across the border: strategical mobility on the brazilian border with Paraguay that articulates, on the brazilian side, indigenous territories and contingent camps with indigenous territories on the Paraguayan side of the border.

69Further than dissociated, or side by side, we must see that these processes occur in articulation, interaction, building in a certain way an alternative multi/transterritoriality for the Guarani and Kaiowá folk, especially regarding their fight for land, human rights and symbolic-identity valorization.

Final considerations

70We consider that the Guarani and Kaiowá people from nowadays seem to have another perspective from their territoriality. They know they have the right to their traditional territory, the “return” to their traditional way of life, to security, health and public policy of ethnical and social affirmation. They also know that they are considered a numerous group in Mato Grosso do Sul, that their places of political representation are increasing, their alliances and allied groups, and that they have force enough to fight if they are together and organized.

71They also know that living on precarious conditions, with vulnerability and insecurity became a fighting strategy of survival in the adversity, as resistance. These concrete actions are manifested in territory recovery movements, in acts at visibility spaces such as squares, roads, streets and public agencies headquarters. For this reason, they acknowledge that they have no place to go without their daily struggle. They suffer with physical and symbolic violence on camps on the sides of roads or in the bottom of farms or reservations. Some families, however, choose moving to the city, insert themselves on other struggle movements, some of them start going to college and manage to get prominent places on areas like politics and education.

72In this policy and/or “state of war” that this territorial conflict became, the speeches proliferate along with the biopolitical strategies of concrete actions that both sides (indigenous and farmers) use to legitimate their actions/positions regarding the defense or reconstruction or their territories. So, we observe that the indigenous territories demarcation is involved in a group of interests that participate in a multiplicity of characters articulated on the most different scales of action and spatial interaction.

73The indigenous is at a condition of “territorialization of exception” because they remain in a gap between the state’s territorial ordainment created to themselves (the indigenous territories demarcation) and the condition of “deterritorialized” for the precariousness which they live without the least condition of physical-biological reproduction. The state, so, “denies” or suspends in large scale their social and territorial rights and assume a “terrorist” posture with emergency measures that become the contemporaneous political rule for these people.

74Even on the condition of state of exception, these people created daily actions of resistance. These actions might flee from the juridical field, because they don’t organize at the law perspective but in political life organization in a further large sense which is the affirmation of their own existence. Especially as a social movement, the Guarani and Kaiowá articulate multiple fronts of fight, damaging the exception condition which they’re in when subverting in an anthropophagic manner the neocolonial biopolicy in a territory recovery policy. In this fight, the Guarani and Kaiowá life representability produces new sensibilities and spatial experiences, which consequently edifies new senses on the indigenous territories rebuilding.

75This way, the traditional territories might allow that these people be able to control their own space in a sense of building another relation with nature. Through an authentic (and non-forced) territoriality they might ensure a further human condition and more worthy or human existence and also autonomous in a multiterritorial reproduction sense.

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1 This article’s purpose is to present the results from the research project “The Guarani-Kaiowá’s struggle for their traditional territory: insecurity, biopolicy and state of exception in Mato Grosso do Sul” carried out in the period between 2013 and 2015 and funded by CNPq.

2 The brazilian border area with Paraguay attracted people from the states of Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul (informally named as “gauchos”) that migrated looking up for land, work, riches and a territory for (re)production. The “Gaucho” farmers analyzed in this paper are the ones that personify in the most radical manner this “modern condition” of agribusiness, big land owners in their majority, they assume the most intense opposition the indigenous territories demarcation processes (MONDARDO, 2009a, 2009b and 2012). It is important to recall that this dynamics involves the “gauchos” mobility processes and, as well, of capital, which dislocated agricultural cooperatives from the southern states of Brazil (Paraná, Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul) and, from 1970 on, under the state’s and large land “offers” impulsion, they “invade” the interior portions of Brazilian territory seeking to expand the agriculture frontier (HAESBAERT, 1995 e 1997).

3 In a globalized world like ours, building identities and territories becomes much more complex, by a mixture of territorial multiplicity/transculturation/hybridism and “essentializing” cultural enclosures. The processes of territorialization characterized by multiterritoriality can be associated, especially in Latin America and, more specifically, Brazil, to what we propose to call “anthropophagic” transterritoriality, the capability to assimilate and transform Other's territoriality. All this process has huge political implications and do not mean just, a priori, a “good” openness or a “bad” cultural and territorial closure.

4 Considering the indigenous matter, the Brazilian federal constitution of 1988, in its 8th chapter, article 231, recognizes the indigenous right to land when states that all indigenous territories in the country should be identified, delimited, demarcated and homologated by the Brazilian state. The juridical acknowledgement, denominated “origin rights” has been an important step for the state to recognize the traditional occupation territories, and to be responsible for the processes of identification, demarcation and homologation of these areas. The law states that “To the indigenous people and their social organization are recognized their habits, languages, beliefs and traditions, and the origin rights over the lands they traditionally occupied, being the state’s prerogative to demarcate, protect and ensure to respect to its goods” (BRAZILIAN FEDERAL CONSTITUTION, 1988, art. 231 [our appointments]).

5 Tânatos was the Greek God of nonviolent death. In our work, its meaning is adopted, based on Agamben, as part of the state biopolicy for “death management”, “to lead unwanted individuals to death”.

6 The indigenous territory was created in 1917 as a colonial biopolicy, embracing an 3.539 hectares area looking up to restrict the Guarani and Kaiowá traditional occupation and circulation space. At the time, the indigenous territory of Dourados belong to the municipality of Ponta Porã, nowadays, due to the creation of new municipalities the same is located in Dourados and Ponta Porã. This was the second of eight reservations created by the indigenous protection service at the southern portion of the state of Mato Grosso (Mato Grosso do Sul nowadays) and it came out from the Francisco Horta Barbosa indigenous post (local administrative unit where the state indigenous agency transferred the individuals to the reservations) (MONDARDO, 2012).

7 The conception of tekoha, according to Pereira (2009), is a combination of the guarani words Teko + Ha the first one is about their way of living, and the second one to the spatiality that materializes and shapes these habits. This way, the phrases “with no tekoha there is no teko” and “There is no teko without tekoha” demonstrate the inseparable relation between the symbolic and material (essential for any human group) structures and the Guarani and Kaiowá culture and way of living, leading to the understanding that with no culture there is no tekoha. As it is analyzed in Mondardo (2012), these days the tekoha is a space of symbolic reference to the territorial identities reconstruction for a portion of the Guarani and Kaiowá folk in Mato Grosso do Sul under the fight for demarcation and regularization of indigenous territories context. For this reason, the tekoha assume a geographical dimension for the emphasis given to the land as an indispensable factor of their “way of living” that in the present conditions of the reservations and camps is limited and precarious; a historical dimension for the temporal nature community’s connection with a spatiality built by identification, affectivity and religiosity and we might add a third dimension, the political dimension which refers to the resistance essence and for the update of historical struggles of access to territorial rights such as land and territory, and as well the improvement on stable conditions of health, education, habitation and others.

8 The period between 1915 to 1928, the indigenous protection service (nowadays the Indigenous National Foundation) created eight reservations for the Guarani and Kaiowá with the intention of reunite and confine the indigenous people on the delimited territories. This action’s aim was to liberate lands in the present days Mato Grosso do Sul for the advance of the expansion fronts. In the first moment there was the advance of extractives exploration of herbs and the first extensive livestock farms formation.

9 Biopolicy as a power strategy is adopted by contemporaneous state as a kind of population’s multiplicity bio-regulation that is practiced on the relation with the right and life: “right to intervene to make live, and on the living manner and on life” (FOUCAULT, 2002, p. 296)

10 The municipalities of Antônio João, Amambai, Aral Moreira, Bela Vista, Bonito, Caarapó, Caracol, Coronel Sapucaia, Dourados, Douradina, Fátima do Sul, Iguatemi, Japorã, Jardim, Juti, Laguna Carapã, Maracaju, Mundo Novo, Naviraí, Paranhos, Ponta Porã, Porto Murtinho, Rio Brilhante, Sete Quedas, Tacuru e Vicentina. This measure previews the homologation of at least 34 areas pointed as traditionally appropriated territories.

11 According to UOL news website (15/-7/2009), in march of 2009 “On the 3rd region federal court, there were 87 processes involving conflicts between farmers and indigenous which the main question is the conflict for land”

12 Foucault (2002, p. 289) states that the control mechanisms changed the purpose of the sociability control when changed the “individual body control” to the discipline for biopolitical control of the population’s “life”: “discipline tries to rule the men’s multiplicity as its multiplicity might and should redound in individual bodies that need to be watched, trained, used and eventually punished (…) the new technology (…) is addressed to the multiplicity of men, not resuming itself only in bodies, but as it forms, on the contrary, a global mass affected by processes like birth, death, reproduction, disease etcetera. (…) a human species biopolicy.

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List of illustrations

Title Figure 1 - Municipalities with areas under study for demarcation in Mato Grosso do Sul
Credits Data source: ESRI 2015 (Borderland strip), FUNAI 2016 (Indigenous territories) – Organizer: Marcos Mondardo – Cartography: Alice Lucas Gomes - 2016
File image/png, 768k
Title Figure 2 - Territorial conflicts involving Guarani e Kaiowá in the Mato Grosso do Sul State.
File image/png, 337k
Title Figure 3 - Territorial conflicts involving Guarani e Kaiowá in the Mato Grosso do Sul State
Credits Data source: Jornal O Progresso / MS – Organizer: Marcos Mondardo – Cartography: Alice Lucas Gomes - 2016
File image/png, 289k
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Electronic reference

Marcos Mondardo, « Insecurity Territorialities and Biopolitical Strategies of the Guarani and Kaiowá Indigenous Folk on Brazil’s Borderland Strip with Paraguay », L’Espace Politique [Online], 31 | 2017-1, Online since 18 April 2017, connection on 13 December 2017. URL : ; DOI : 10.4000/espacepolitique.4203

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About the author

Marcos Mondardo

Program of Postgraduate in Geography of the Federal University of the Grande Dourados - UFGD

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Licence Creative Commons
Les contenus de L’Espace politique sont mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d’Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 3.0 France.

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