“Tu Garante?”: Transmission and Learning Practices Along the Tapajós River
On the lower reaches of the Tapajós river, children play an important role in the productive activities of their communities. As in so many other oral tradition societies, the competence required for these activities is not acquired by following explicit verbal instructions- which characterize formal school education- but through observation and cooperation (Lancy, 2010; Lave & Wenger, 1991; Pierrot, 2011; Rogoff, 2003). However, in contrast with other cultural contexts where children’s participation is encouraged, or at least tolerated, Tapajós river children who do not master a certain activity are kept away from it. Their participation, though crucial to family production, occurs only to the extent that adults consider children can “actually deliver” (garante) a fully competent performance in the given activity. The folk saying “you learn from your mistakes” is thus very distant from the local reality. This paper will examine these apparently paradoxical relations, by means of ethnographic description and analysis of local practices.