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Engaged AnthropologyPolitics beyond the Text$
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Stuart Kirsch

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780520297944

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2018

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520297944.001.0001

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Dilemmas of an Expert Witness

Dilemmas of an Expert Witness

Indigenous Land Rights in Suriname and Guyana

(p.180) Seven Dilemmas of an Expert Witness
Engaged Anthropology

Stuart Kirsch

University of California Press

This chapter presents two affidavits submitted to the Inter-American Court. The first case was concerned with the negative consequences of Suriname’s refusal to recognize indigenous land rights, including the establishment of a nature reserve that become a de facto open-access zone on indigenous land. The second addressed problems associated with indigenous land tenure in Guyana under the Amerindian Act of 2006. Comparing the two cases allows the chapter to make several observations about the dynamics of short-term ethnographic research conducted for expert-witness reports. This includes the need to make affidavits legible to the three overlapping frames of the legal system, the communities seeking recognition of their rights, and anthropology. The chapter also considers the narrative choices in these affidavits, the political dilemmas of being an expert witness, and the compromises of short-term ethnography.

Keywords:   collective land rights, conservation, Guyana, indigenous rights, Inter-American Court, mercury, nature reserve, open access, Suriname, tragedy of the commons

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