Emerald & HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards
The 2022 winner of the Emerald and HETL Outstanding Doctoral Research Awards is Matthew Aruch, who researched the Pinkaiti partnership, a multisectoral partnership that supports the indigenous Mebêngôkre-Kayapó of A’Ukre in the Kayapó Indigenous Territories of Brazil.
Dissertation title: The Pinkaiti Partnership: A Case Study of Transnational Research and Education in the Brazilian Amazon
Institution: International Conservation Fund of Canada/ University of Maryland College Park
PhD obtained at: University of Maryland College Park
The Indigenous communities of Brazil's Amazon Forest face several threats to their livelihoods.
Agricultural expansion, large infrastructure projects, and resource extraction from mining and logging have led to the invasion of their land, impacting the communities' livelihood and existence. The resilience and actions of one community, the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó of A'Ukre, in the face of such threats, is the focus of Dr. Matthew Aruch's much-heralded doctoral thesis.
"This research illustrates the historical structures, processes, and outcomes of one important case where Indigenous people translated their territorial, political, and cultural sovereignty into ongoing and expanding collaborative partnerships with a diverse set of local, national, and transnational actors", explains Dr. Aruch. In 1992, the A'Ukre community created the Pinkaiti Ecological Research Station with Conservation International to check widespread mahogany logging in the area. Over time, collaboration at Pinkaiti saw several organizations and individuals unite, transcending knowledge barriers and national boundaries to support the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó in protecting their land.
How did a complicated collaboration between A'Ukre community, university partners at the University of Maryland College Park, Purdue University, the National University of Brasilia, the Federal University of Uberlandia, the Federal University of Pará in Belem, NGOs including the Protected Forest Association, the International Conservation Fund of Canada (ICFC), and the Brazilian government form and how is it maintained? Dr. Aruch's thesis offers an insightful account.
Remembering the conception of his research objective, Dr. Aruch remarks, "One day in 2015, I was travelling upriver on a small boat with Kayapó of all ages and a diverse set of students, scholars, and practitioners from around the world. I wondered to myself – how did all these people get onto this boat in the middle of the Amazon Forest? What motivated them to be here, and how do they work together?".
Over the next few years, Dr. Aruch explored several aspects of the Pinkaiti Partnership and studied them from each stakeholder's perspective. He identified several key reasons for the success and continued existence of research and education-based collaboration in Pinkaiti:
- Collaboration of diverse partners toward a shared mission without consensus
- Responsible champions continue to drive partnership work with legitimacy and credibility across institutions
- Close attention is paid to effective, multilingual, and intercultural communication
- Participation and inclusion start with the community but are promoted at all levels
- Diverse knowledge systems are integrated and celebrated within partnership work
- Ethics are at the forefront of community-centred partnership work
- Individual and institutional goals are and continue to be a balancing act
- Opportunities for shared reunions and celebration despite the importance of geographic and institutional separation
- Acknowledgement of the invisible work of partners
- Failure is shared, and success is celebrated
The lessons learned from Pinkaiti can guide future collaborative efforts with Indigenous peoples and local communities.
Dr. Aruch concludes, "While not perfect, the work of the A'Ukre community and the Pinkaiti Partnership offers potential strategies and entry points over a 30-year time horizon for Indigenous communities, universities, NGOs, and government partners seeking to collaborate with one another to engage and support Indigenous people".
What makes for successful collaboration with Indigenous people?
The peaceful existence of indigenous groups like the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó of A'Ukre in Brazil is being threatened by profit-seeking entities invading their land.
Title: What makes for successful collaboration with Indigenous people?
Background section: The peaceful existence of indigenous groups like the Mebêngôkre-Kayapó of A'Ukre in Brazil is being threatened by profit-seeking entities invading their land.
Policies which promote activities that impact Indigenous settlements:
- Resources extraction
Study question: How can education- or research-based international collaborations be maintained while protecting Indigenous livelihoods?
Aruch’s study of the Pinkaiti Partnership revealed the key features of a successful collaboration:
- Relationship building and feedback loops are incentivised
- Champions are legitimate, credible, and responsible
- Communication is effective and multilingual
- Participation and inclusion
- Utilisation and value of diverse knowledge systems
- Community’s ethical consent is prioritised
- Individual and institutional goals are balanced
- Reunions are celebrated while maintaining distance
- Invisible work of stakeholders is acknowledged
- Failure is shared and success is celebrated with all stakeholders.
Key message: These key factors can help foster more effective collaborations that protect Indigenous livelihoods and lands.
The Pinkaiti Partnership: A Case Study of Transnational Research and Education in the Brazilian Amazon
Matthew Aruch, International Conservation Fund of Canada/University of Maryland College Park; PhD obtained at University of Maryland College Park
Advisor: Prof. Jing Lin, University of Maryland, USA