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The looting of traditional Zapotec knowledge on their lands and territory (geo-piracy), carried out through the México Indígena project in communities of the Sierra Juárez, has unleashed an international controversy about the ethics of social researchers when intervening in indigenous communities. It must be from the indigenous peoples where the investigations or prospects that have or do not have to be carried out in their lands and territories are defined and also who carries them out and the methodologies that have to be used, so as not to continue being the object of study of Arrogant researchers who, in an apparent desire to carry out "pure" scientific research, have dedicated themselves to looting information from indigenous communities to use it for purposes other than those of the communities and peoples.
What is geo-piracy?
In Mexico we are so used to hearing names of cities or places in indigenous languages, most of the time without knowing their meaning, that the cultural and geographical knowledge contained in these words is not given importance; for example, who knows the meaning of the word Oaxaca? Apparently this is a word of Nahua origin (huaxyacac), which means "place of huaje", with which in the colony the Spaniards called this place; However, we Zapotecs can say that its origin is the Nahuatl translation of a Zapotec word that means the same thing.
The words in native languages that are used to name the places are the cultural and geographical knowledge on the ground, which our peoples have accumulated for thousands of years. In Mexico, this knowledge has been undervalued by imposing Western culture on native cultures. The US Indigenous Mexico project tells us that they know the importance of the knowledge accumulated by native cultures and that is why they are so interested in investigating “human knowledge on the ground” in Mexico and the world, to design their foreign policy.
The ethics of the AGS and its researchers
After the publication of our first report in newspapers, magazines and forums around the world, several discussions on the question of ethics began, mainly among North American scholars (mostly geographers and anthropologists) who fear damage to their disciplines by the behavior of colleagues at the University of Kansas, http://culturematters.wordpress.com/2009/02/12/a-new-anthropology-ethics-scandal/, http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup /)
Mr. Jerome Dobson, president of the American Geographical Society (AGS) with great annoyance says in his letter that the Mexico Indigenous project has been respectful of the code of ethics that his Society has established for all its research (http : //web.ku.edu/~mexind/ethics_statement_prototype.htm). Here are our findings on this false claim.
Point E. of the AGS code of ethics establishes that no information should be acquired through deception or misrepresentation and point G. states that the original sources of financing for expeditions financed by the AGS will be publicly transparent.
Once again, we affirm that the people of the communities where the mapping project was carried out were not informed of the financing provided by the Military Office for Foreign Studies (FMSO), which belongs to the United States Department of Defense, nor of the company's involvement. weapons company Radiance Technologies in its handling. He also did not know of the monthly reports that were sent on the work in their communities to the FMSO (accessible exclusively in English online: http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/FMSO_WebReport.doc), according to information provided by the former president of the Yagila Commissariat of Communal Assets that served during 2006 and 2007.
The FMSO and Radiance Technologies logos do not appear on the maps that the Mexico Indígena team delivered to Tiltepec and Yagila in December 2008 (accessible online: http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/oaxaca_community_maps.htm); however, at least the FMSO logo does appear on the preliminary Zoogochi and Yagila maps, shown on slides 38 and 39 of the presentation: (http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/AGS%20y%20Mexico % 20Indigena_espa% F1ol.ppt, which leads us to conclude that the logos were deliberately removed to deceive the community members.
In point J. of its code of ethics it is stipulated that all the results of the expeditions carried out by the AGS, including reports, articles and websites, must be published and accessible to all, including governments, and government agencies and the countries from which the information was obtained.
Zapotec and Spanish are spoken in the Sierra Juárez of Oaxaca. If the project reports, articles and websites are published exclusively in English, point J. of the code of ethics of the American Association of Geographers (AGS) is violated.
In Table 23 of the English presentation http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/BowmanExpedition_MexicoPrototype_FMSO_Report.ppt, the team of geographers used the names of the Yagila community members to illustrate how the location of individual plots works; although in the letter Mr. Dobson wrote in reaction to our previous newsletter, he claims that the Yagila people expressly demanded that they not be published (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/oaxacastudyactiongroup/message/5261). Why didn't they destroy this data? and Why did they use them in their presentations? We are seriously concerned that the commoners' names continue to be used. This action is clearly violating the will of the people who supported the project and also points E., J., and O. of the AGS code of ethics, which affirms that schoolchildren and members of the expeditions have to protect the confidentiality of any human subject involved in the research. In the recent AGS publication of photos of people from the communities including members of UNOSJO (http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/AGSy%20Mexico%20Indigena_espa%F1ol.ppt, tables 11, 33, 35, 36 , 37) we also see a clear violation of this last point.
Finally, in point N. of its code of ethics, the AGS establishes that the members of the expeditions must act in a way that respects the cultures of the country where they carry out their investigations, that their actions must not negatively affect the people or the environment of the countries where they do their research and that if they significantly violate these principles, the expedition may be canceled or individuals may be removed. We consider that the numerous breaches of its code of ethics are quite serious and harmful to the indigenous peoples and communities of Mexico and that consequently the AGS and its Mexico Indigenous project must suspend their work in Mexico and withdraw, in order to effectively comply with their words. .
Regardless of the ethical issues that are very specific to researchers, from our organization we call on indigenous communities and peoples, so that it is from the indigenous peoples where the investigations or prospects that are had, or not have to be defined, are defined. to do in their lands and territories and also where it is defined who performs them and the methodologies that have to be used, so as not to continue being objects of study by arrogant researchers who, in an apparent desire to carry out “pure” scientific research, have dedicated to looting information from indigenous communities to use it for purposes other than those of communities and peoples.
First reactions of the indigenous communities and the temporal and spatial "coincidences".
The team of geographers arrived in Oaxaca to begin their investigations in the summer of 2006, just when the Popular Assembly of the Peoples of Oaxaca (APPO) was being formed. The APPO is mentioned in the reports that the Mexico Indigenous team sent to the FMSO (http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/FMSO_WebReport.doc - Project Status Report, July 2007). It is also mentioned in those reports that the Zoogochí and Yagavila communities suspended their cooperation with the geographers due to "the support of some APPO sympathizers."
Preliminary maps of both communities can be found in the recent presentations from México Indígena (http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/BowmanExpedition_MexicoPrototype_FMSO_Report.ppt). Both maps bear the FMSO logo. Could it be that when the community members found out about the financing source they were motivated to leave the project? Either way, the maps made after they were removed from Zoogochí and Yagavilla no longer carry the logo. Neither does the maps that were delivered to Tiltepec and Yagila (http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/oaxaca_community_maps.htm) carry it. Could it be that geographers did not want to miss the opportunity to carry out their research in these last two communities?
The report also mentions that Herlihy's team continued to process the data collected in Zoogochí and Yagavila after they made the decision to exit the project (http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/FMSO_WebReport.doc - Project Status Report , July 2007). This of course constitutes a clear violation of the will of the people who initially supported the investigation.
If we see the approach that the FMSO has in relation to counterinsurgency, then it does not seem a coincidence that the arrival of the Mexico Indigenous team coincided with the growth of the APPO in Oaxaca, especially when the United States Joint Forces Command has declared that Mexico is in a position of vulnerability similar to that of Pakistan, which could suffer a sudden and rapid collapse, which would demand a US response. Bowman's other expeditions have been carried out precisely in places where there is an insurgency and also a strategic interest of the United States, such as Colombia, Kazakhstan and Jordan.
Land tenure and Bowman's Expeditions.
In his lengthy response to our previous newsletter, AGS President Jerome Dobson gives an example of how the African Geographic Information System (AGIS) has digitized and titled 200,000 lands to individuals. Dobson adds that “this is exactly the type of cadastral operation that we need in emerging democracies, in countries devastated by war, like Iraq, and in countries that must transition from communism to capitalism like Cuba. Furthermore, the FMSO expert for Latin America, who supervises Bowman's expeditions, Geoff Demarest, has written about the privatization of land in Colombia and Cuba, mentioning: “Any country that does not formalize the possession of property is condemned to internal violence and tyranny." Demarest, a graduate of the “School of the Americas” has a 23-year military career and sees the issue of land tenure as a key issue in the US counterinsurgency.
Mexico Indígena's research focuses on learning about the process of privatization of communal lands through the PROCEDE Program. In his Power Point presentation he details that Oaxaca is one of the last strongholds of the republic where the majority of community members refused to enter PROCEDE (http://web.ku.edu/~mexind/AGS%20y%20Mexico%20Indigena_espa% F1ol.ppt, block 7, block 24).
Although the Mexico Indigenous Project presents the objective of its research in a neutral and even critical way of privatization, speaking of “the individualistic effects of neoliberalism”, we see these words as a disguise. The ideological project of the Bowman expeditions consists of the privatization of communal lands as part of a broader neoliberal and counterinsurgency strategy that is being implemented in several countries.
The relationship between Bowman's expeditions and the US Army's Human Terrain System (HTS)
Our mention of the Human Terrain System, a counterinsurgency strategy of the United States Army, caused a lot of noise in the media around the world and contributed to discussions especially among American anthropologists who already existed around the subject.
The idea behind the Human Terrain System is to employ social scientists (mostly anthropologists) to improve the effectiveness of the US military, who would give military commanders a better understanding of local dynamics. Teams are tasked with mapping social structures and conflicts by talking to local leaders and identifying potential enemies and allies. It's all part of General David Petraeus' doctrine of a more effective counterinsurgency. For their work the Human Terrain System teams use a global database, the World Basic Information Library (WBIL).
The WBIL was created by the FMSO, the US military and various intelligence agencies in 1997, to provide analysis with selected information that covers the military, political, economic, and infrastructure dimensions of any country in the world. In this information system, the WBIL focuses on the following categories: United States security, terrorism, war, military intelligence, drug trafficking, arms and migrant trafficking, foreign instability, and the proliferation of weapons. .
Although the FMSO says that the WBIL is open source, the requirements for accessing the WBIL consist of an affiliation with the US military or a university assignment related to the key topics mentioned above. In short, it is a small group of experts who work for the army, for a military agency, or for a multinational company who have access to this supposedly open source.
While we do not claim that the Bowman expeditions themselves belong directly to the Human Terrain System, we do presume that the research undertaken by Bowman's expeditions in the Sierra Juárez feeds into the WBIL, which the U.S. Army Human Terrain teams will use to plan their operations. military or influence public policies. Because the Bowman Expeditions are funded by the FMSO, the same agency that manages the WBIL and the Human Terrain System, we presume they are an integral part of the same strategy. If the Mexico Indígena team maintains its claim that its project has nothing to do with the Human Terrain System, we demand that the FMSO itself prove that the data collected in the Sierra Juárez will not be used for the WBIL. In addition, we demand that a detailed list of all institutions and corporations that have access to the processed data of the Mexico Indígena project be provided.
II UNSOJO, S.C. press release about Geo-piracy - Corsario-l -