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University of Iowa News Release

Oct. 18, 2004

Graham To Explore Links Between Westerners, Native Amazonians Oct. 23

In the 1990s, an unexpected "meeting of minds" occurred when Western environmentalists joined native Amazonians to push for a common goal -- to save the rainforest. Laura Graham, an associate professor of anthropology in the University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, had a front row seat as the events unfolded because she had spent two decades building relationships with the Xavante Indians of Brazil in the course of her anthropological research.

Graham will explore encounters between native people and outsiders in her presentation "Marketing Culture: Native Amazonians in the Public Sphere," on Saturday, Oct. 23, at 10 a.m. in room 40 Schaeffer Hall, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Saturday Scholars lecture series.

The "Save the Rainforest" movement motivated indigenous peoples to travel outside of their communities to attend high-profile events such as the 1989 United Nations Conference on the Environment in Rio de Janeiro. Similarly unprecedented numbers of Westerners -- from United Nations representatives to rock stars -- made the reverse trip to visit "authentic" indigenous peoples in their communities.

Graham has seen firsthand the Xavante (pronounced Shavante) collaboration with nationally and internationally famous rock groups, visits by film crews, and the community's development of "cultural projects" -- including an ethnographic performance-spectacle that Xavante have performed in various Brazilian cities and in Europe -- designed to project images of Xavante culture outward into national and international public arenas. She will talk about the meanings of the community's representations of culture to outside publics and the goals of what appear to outsiders to be "apolitical" projects.

Graham joined the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences faculty in 1990. She is the author of the award winning book, "Performing Dreams: Discourses of Immortality Among the Xavante of Central Brazil," (1995, University of Texas Press) and numerous articles on the Xavante and native Amazonians. Since 1994 she has been Director of the Xavante Education Fund, a Cultural Survival Special Project. She has served as a consultant for World Wildlife Fund and UNICEF and works actively to support projects that benefit Xavante communities. She is currently chair-elect of the American Anthropological Association's Committee for Human Rights and head of its Task Force on Language and Social Justice.

Saturday Scholars was developed by Linda Maxson, dean of the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to give members of the public a chance to hear about the latest teaching and research innovations by faculty members in the college. The sessions last about an hour, including a 20-30 minute presentation followed by time for questions. Refreshments are served. All presentations begin at 10 a.m. in room 40 Schaeffer Hall, the southeast building on the UI Pentacrest. Additional information is available at

The final lecture in the 2004 series will be "Immigrants' America: Then and Now," by Shelton Stromquist, professor of history, on Saturday, Oct. 30.

Individuals with disabilities are encouraged to attend all University of Iowa-sponsored events. If you are a person with a disability who requires an accommodation in order to participate in this program, please contact College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in advance at 319-335-2610.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

MEDIA CONTACT: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,