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Marjo de Theije

Based on research in Brazil, the author discusses three local situations of conflict and social protest, using a transnational perspective. She concentrates on the use of universal claims of Catholicism in local negotiations of religious change under the influence of different cultural campaigns. The clashes in question are divided into those involving local political problems and those concerning the religious domain itself. The analysis shows that in each of the cases—albeit with different intensity and outcome—the interconnection between translocal processes and the meaning and experience of locality has a significant role in the power plays and the formulations of religious or social protest in the local context.

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Márcio de Oliveira

Durkheim's trajectory in Brazil began at the end of the nineteenth century. His work went on to become influential in the creation of Brazil's first social sciences courses at São Paolo and in the career of one of Brazil's most important sociologists, Florestan Fernandes. Currently, Durkheim remains one of the most quoted social theorists in Brazil, and his books are mandatory for every social science course in Brazilian universities. But he has not inspired many followers, and there are very few Durkheim experts in Brazil. This article attempts to understand this apparent paradox through a critical account of the main moments of Durkheim's career in Brazil, from the beginning to the present day.

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Terry-Ann Jones

The concept of internal colonialism h as been used to frame studies of marginalized populations exploited by the dominant or majority population. Brazil’s regional inequalities have gained notoriety, as wealth tends to be concentrated in the southern regions, while poverty is most rampant in the north and northeast. Inequality in Brazil is connected to geographic region and related to complex factors such as race, ethnicity, color, kinship, and class, and is deeply rooted in Brazil’s colonial history. Using data from in-depth, qualitative interviews with seasonal sugarcane workers, this article argues that the inequality that motivates their migration pattern is rooted in internal colonialism. These temporary labor migrants travel from northern and northeastern states to the cane fields of São Paulo, where labor demands are high and they face many of the challenges that international labor migrants encounter, including discrimination, poor wages, and inhumane working conditions.

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American dreams and Brazilian racial democracy

The making of race and class in Brazil and the United States

Sean T. Mitchell

The extensive literature critiquing the weakness of cross-class Afro-Brazilian solidarity is perhaps equaled in size by the structurally similar literature on the weakness of cross-race working-class solidarity in the United States. For many critics, marginalized or exploited people in Brazil and the United States do not have the political consciousness they ought to have, given apparently objective conditions. What if we started, instead, from E. P. Thompson's insight that class is a “cultural as much as an economic formation,” that it is “a relationship and not a thing,” acknowledging that political consciousness is the partially contingent result of culturally specific struggles and utopias, as much as of determinate historical conditions? Drawing on ethnographic research on conflicts between Afro-Brazilian villagers and Brazil's spaceport, supplemented by comparative data on the mobilization around inequalities in Brazil and in the United States, this article sketches a comparative anthropology of political consciousness that attempts to avoid the objectivizing pitfalls of the genre.

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Intimate Events

The Correctness of Affective Transactions in Northeast Brazil

Matan Shapiro

Drawing on ethnographic research in the Brazilian state of Maranhão, this article proposes the concept of the 'intimate event' as a heuristic device in the cross-cultural study of kinship and relatedness. This theoretical construct refers to the retrospective recognition of affective transactions as meaningfully intimate, that recognition being an event which in Maranhão compels ethical reflection. Intimacy can be imagined as an aesthetic of practice that indicates when something simply feels right, and which then frames the correctness of both moral conformity and transgression in affective terms.

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Ritual Infrastructure

Roads to Certainty in Two Brazilian Religions

Inger Sjørslev

This article compares the ways in which two different religions in Brazil generate roads to certainty through objectification, one through gods, the other through banknotes. The Afro-Brazilian religion Candomblé provides a road to certainty based on cosmological ideas about gods whose presence in ritual is made indubitable through performance and social consensus. Candomblé has historically gained its spiritual force by being both marginal to mainstream religion and spatially peripheral. In contrast, the Neo- Pentecostal Universal Church of the Kingdom of God is located in easily accessible places within urban life. There is a certain parallel between these different locations and the difference in ritual roads to certainty in the two religions. The article draws out connections between different levels of infrastructure – material, spatial and ritual. The comparison between the two religions points to a social imaginary that in both cases has to do with how to deal with indeterminacies in life through objectification.

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How Participatory Institutions Deepen Democracy through Broadening Representation

The Case of Participatory Budgeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil

Laurence Piper

At the same time as democracy has 'triumphed' in most of the world, it leaves many unsatisfied at the disjuncture between the democratic ideal and its practical expression. Participatory practices and institutions, as exemplified in the participatory budgeting process of the local government of Porto Alegre in Brazil, claim to embody a more substantive version of democracy that can settle this deficit. This article interrogates this promise through examining closely the case of Porto Alegre. In addition to demonstrating clear democratic outcomes, this examination also reveals that the meaning of democratic deepening is not cashed out exclusively in terms of participation but in terms of representation too. More specifically, participatory budgeting serves to broaden representation in the budgeting process as a whole, by better including and amplifying the voice of marginalised groups in aspects of the budgeting process, albeit through participatory practices and events. On reflection this should not be surprising as participatory budgeting introduces new decision-making procedures that supplement rather than replace existing representative institutions, and reform rather than transform expenditure patterns. Thus although termed participatory, at the level of the municipal system as a whole, participatory institutions assist in better representing the interests of marginalised groups in decision-making through participatory means. Deepening democracy, therefore, at least as far as new participatory institutions are concerned, is about new forms of representation and participation, rather than replacing representation with participation.

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Roger Sansi and Luis Nicolau Parés

The debates on identity politics and the invention of tradition led the study of Afro-Brazilian religions to a certain impasse in the 1990s. However, in the last several years, the field has been totally renewed, although in different directions. In this article we will consider some of these new trends, from a wider historical engagement with the Atlantic world, through the religious field and the public sphere, to new approaches to spirit possession and cosmology. Our objective is to assess the extent to which these new debates have managed to overcome this impasse.

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An Afro-Brazilian Theory of the Creative Process

An Essay in Anthropological Symmetrization

Marcio Goldman

Starting with the axiom that, for anthropology, the only relevant epistemologies and ontologies are those offered by the peoples we work with, this article offers a sketch of the current debate around the once famous ideas of 'fetish' and 'fetishism'. Focusing on the way that this debate has been extended in studies of Afro-Brazilian religions, the argument employs fieldwork and bibliographic data from one of these religions, candomblé, in order to present a native theory of the creative process underlying what has been baptized with the strange names 'fetish' and 'fetishism'. In short, this native theory holds that the creative process consists more in the actualization of already existing virtualities contained in beings and objects in the world than in the model of ex nihilo production, which is characteristic of our dominant Judeo-Christian and capitalist cosmologies.

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For a Critical Conceptual History of Brazil

Receiving Begriffsgeschichte

João Feres Júnior

The author argues that the development of a critical history of concepts should be based on a programmatic position different from that of original Begriffsgeschichte, or of its main interpretations. By drawing upon theoretical insights of Axel Honneth, he reassesses the basic assumption of Begriffsgeschichte regarding the relationship between the history of concepts and social history, and calls attention to the problems that spring from focusing analysis almost exclusively on key concepts. According to Feres, special attention should be paid to concepts that are socially and politically effective, but, at the same time, do not become the subject of public contestation. Based on this programmatic position, he ends the article proposing a sketch for organizing the study of conceptual history in Brazil along three semantic regions.