And I, in My Turn, Will Pass It On: Knowledge Transmission Among the Kayapó

Murphy, Isabel I

Brazil’s constitution guarantees the right to indigenous populations to receive education in their mother tongues, and according to their own knowledge-transmission patterns. Few studies examine truly indigenous methods of instruction among Brazil’s ethnic minorities.

This study provides an in-depth description of Kayapó knowledge transmission. It bridges the disciplines of education and anthropology and expands our knowledge of indigenous processes of education. This book is a research tool for in-depth analysis with a description of one society’s education system. It is also a model for studying the educational and socialization patterns of other societies.

The Kayapó, whose language is a member of the Gê family, are one of the major Amerindian societies remaining in the Brazilian Amazon region. They have a strong sense of identity, tradition, culture, and ethnic pride. The major purpose of this book is to show how they conceptualize and transmit knowledge between one another and from generation to generation. Their education is learner-initiated, designed to transform a nonsocial being into a socialized Kayapó “beautiful” person. The Kayapó knowledge paradigm is shown to be global, context-dependent, integrative, and holistic.

Isabel Murphy worked more than twenty years in Brazil in the field of literacy among indigenous peoples. She based this case study on her eleven months of fieldwork in a Kayapó village, augmented by her extensive experience in literacy. She received her Ph.D. in 1992 in Educational Anthropology.

Table of Contents:

List of Tables

List of Figures


  1. Introduction
  2. Spatial Categories and Knowledge Transmission
  3. Kayapo Ways of Knowing
  4. Living and Learning: The Everyday Setting
  5. Celebrated Knowledge: The Ritual Setting
  6. Onward and Upward: Education and Identity Building
  7. Changes and Chances: Education Outside of the System
  8. The Research Questions and Conclusions

Epilogue: The New Knowledge Transmission Ritual

Appendix A: Replication of Werner’s Questionnaire

Appendix B: Kayapo Dietary Regulations


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xvi, 218 pages
ISBN 13:
ISBN 10:
6 × 9 × 0.5 in
0.9 lb
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