The Xavánte in Transition

Health, Ecology, and Bioanthropology in Central Brazil
Carlos E. A. Coimbra, Jr., Nancy M. Flowers, Francisco M. Salzano, and Ricardo V. Santos
Illuminates the experience of a small-scale culture with large-scale change


This book presents a diachronic view of the long and complex interaction between the Xavánte, an indigenous people of the Brazilian Amazon, and the surrounding nation, documenting the effects of this interaction on Xavánte health, ecology, and biology. Using analyses and comparisons of bioanthropological, ecological, demographic, and epidemiological datacollected over a period of nearly forty years of field study, the authors draw a picture of the experience of the Xavánte with Western economic and political fronts.

While recent studies have recognized the time depth of Western expansionism and its effects on indigenous societies in Amazonia, this case study is an innovative effort to add a historical dimension to research in human ecology, human biology, and health. It draws on the field experience and the expertise of four Amazonian specialists, a medical anthropologist, a cultural anthropologist, a geneticist, and a biological anthropologist, giving it an unusual interdisciplinary perspective.

The Xavánte experience has broad significance as an example of how a small-scale society, buffeted by political and economic forces at the national level and beyond, attempts to cope with changing conditions.The book will interest demographers, economists, and environmentalists attempting to bring economic development to small-scale societies, and public health workers, especially those planning health services for indigenous peoples. It will also be of interest to general readers concerned about the human and environmental effects of development in Amazonia.

Carlos E. A. Coimbra Jr. is Professor of Medical Anthropology, National School of Public Health, Rio de Janeiro.

Nancy M.Flowers is Adjunct Associate Professor of Anthropology, Hunter College.

Francisco M. Salzano is Emeritus Professor, Department of Genetics, Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.

Ricardo V. Santos is Professor of Biological Anthropology, National School of Public Health and at the National Museum IUFRJ, Rio de Janeiro.

Praise / Awards

  • "By expertly documenting changes in Xavánte culture, ecology, and biology in relationship to larger systems of power, the authors have written a breakthrough book: an integrated and politically informed anthropology for the new millennium. They show how the local and the regional meet on the ground and under the skin."
    —Alan H. Goodman, Professor of Biological Anthropology, Hampshire College
  • "This volume delivers what it promises. Drawing on twenty-five years of team research, the authors combine history, ethnography and bioanthropology on the cutting edge of science in highly readable form."
    —Daniel Gross, Lead Anthropologist, The World Bank
  • "The Xavante in Transition is an immensely valuable work, an exemplary outcome of collaborative interdisciplinary research. It provides a major contribution to scholarship on native Lowland South Americans, whose medical and epidemiological conditions are extraordinarily understudied. The book, based on research spanning a thirty-year period, opens a window onto the complex patterns of demography, health, and disease of native Amazonians, demonstrating their relation to broader historical processes, cultural beliefs and practices, environment, and broader political-economic systems. It points to an urgent need for systematic data collection and analysis of health, disease, and demography of Brazil's native peoples. No doubt it will serve as a model for future interdisciplinary scholarship. It promises to be highly relevant to policy formulation and implementation of health care programs among small scale populations in Brazil and elsewhere."
    —Laura R. Graham, Professor of Anthropology, The University of Iowa
  • ". . . represents one of the most detailed descriptions available on the history of contact, transition, and acculturation from a biological perspective for an indigenous population of Amazonia . . . a careful documentation of change is really at the core of this work, and history, economic development, dietary and sanitary transitions, and the Brazilian political context are all woven together to create a true 'ecology ' of the Xavante."
    —Kim Hill, University of New Mexico, American Journal of Human Biology, September/October 2003
  • "Reading this book is a pleasure, for its style as well as for the information that the text provides. . . . It is an excellent example of an interdisciplinary collaboration so seamless that the boundaries between different approaches are hardly noticeable. This is obligatory reading."
    —Rita B. Barata, Former President of the Brazilian Public Health Association-ABRASCO, Cadernos de Saude Publica, March/April 2003
  • "[An] excellent volume. . . . [It] is particularly valuable in situating the Xavinte [sic] through time, neither freezing them in the past nor lamenting their possible extinction. . . . The volume is also a noteworthy benchmark for a new, socially conscious, and responsible biological anthropology. . . . This book is therefore a significant union of traditional studies of human biology and the intellectually cutting-edge approaches being called for in anthropology. Essential."
  • "Rarely has the linkage between a local population and the larger forces that affect their adaptability been as thoroughly explicated as in this book. The authors bring together sophisticated understanding of indigenous South America, medical anthropology, biological anthropology, and social anthropology within an explicitly political-economic context that makes the local human conditions richer and more complex than if they only had been treated ethnographically, medically, or economically."
    —Emilio Moran, Indiana University, From the Series Introduction
  • Named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title

Look Inside

Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 376pp.
  • 16 drawings, 29 B&W photographs, 39 tables, 3 maps.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Paper
  • 2004
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-03003-3

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  • $43.95 U.S.

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