Get access

When 1+1≠2: making mathematics in central Brazil

Authors


Abstract

In this ethnographic account of mathematical activity among the Juruna, Kayabi, and Suya of central Brazil, I show how arithmetic practices are fashioned in a specific social setting. Values and symbolic properties of both the gift exchange and capitalist economics structure arithmetic dilemmas in the Xingu Indian Park. Within a broad social field that transcends the boundaries of the park to include prospecting sites and cattle ranches, economic calculations are extended to all kinds of goods, both material and symbolic. The distribution and circulation of these different forms of capital are discussed in view of the constitution of particular arenas of exchange. Practice theories highlight the ways in which mathematical knowledge is constituted in everyday activities, challenging functional assumptions about cognition and schooling. By articulating principles of the gift with those of capitalist exchange, mathematics is construed by the juruna, Kayabi, and Suyá as a product of social work and symbolic fashioning.

Get access to the full text of this article

Ancillary