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The Current Impact of Motorcycle Motorisation on Amazonian Indigenous Peoples

Project description

The role of motorcycles on indigenous peoples in Amazonia

During the last century, the indigenous peoples of the South American Lowlands underwent significant changes as a result of mechanical colonisation through the introduction of steamboats, railways, trucks, chainsaws, firearms, and electric generators. Despite these major shifts in indigenous life, there has been limited anthropological and historical research on the subject. Also, the proliferation of motorcycles over the last few decades has had a profound impact on the interethnic landscape and reshaped indigenous reality. The EU-funded MOTOBOOM project will conduct a groundbreaking and interdisciplinary study on the effects of motorcycle dissemination among the indigenous populations of Bolivian Amazonia. The project’s goal is to inform public policy and improve road safety and accident prevention in marginalised communities.


During the last century, the indigenous South American Lowlands have been colonized by steamboats, railways, trucks, chainsaws, fire-weapons and electric generators introduced by missionaries, extractive industries, armies, development projects, and NGOs. However, anthropological and historical research has largely neglected this mechanic colonisation of indigenous life by focusing on topics such as ideologies of personhood, kinship, cosmology, and relations with animals, religious missions and non-human spirits. Aiming at understanding social change, some studies have dealt with some of the new materialities that model everyday experience: t-shirts, outboard motors, solar panels, and cell phones. Nevertheless, not even a single study has analysed a conspicuous fact of the modernization of these marginal territories: the current tide of motorcycles that during the last few decades altered dramatically the interethnic landscape, and its social, economic and environmental repercussions which are significantly reshaping current indigenous reality. Therefore, the goal is to develop a ground breaking and interdisciplinary analysis of the effects of motorcycle dissemination among the indigenous peoples of Bolivian Amazonia, and to achieve practical impact regarding public policies on road safety and prevention of accidents in marginal contexts. By accomplishing the Work-Packages in my host institution Ca’ Foscari University (UNIVE), the project will therefore fill a significant gap in anthropological studies regarding indigenous modernity, while at the same time consolidating my position as a professor and researcher with updated capacities on visual and environmental anthropology, gender issues, science and technology studies, and digital humanities.


Net EU contribution
€ 188 590,08
Dorsoduro 3246
30123 Venezia

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Nord-Est Veneto Venezia
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
No data

Partners (1)