Brazil had an opportunity to be a leading, democratic, Latin American country but it lost its sense of direction. The political system designed to assist emerging countries grow and prosper does not work there. Instead of growing, as so many predicted it would, over the last seven years the country has fallen apart.
After the end of the Brazilian military dictatorship, the Liberal Front Party (LFP), Democratic Social Party (PMDB) and Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) dominated the government of Brazil. For more than 20 years, right wing and centrists autocrats controlled the government and struggled with enormous foreign debt, rampant hyperinflation, and the difficulties of transitioning to democracy.
Although he was a left-wing, socialist president for two consecutive terms, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva demonstrated that a left-wing administration was capable of navigating a sound macroeconomic course for Brazil. Also, he opened the country’s economy to unprecedented global trade and investment. During his presidency, Brazil became more integrated into the global economy than it had in forty years and trade accounted for 25-30% of Brazil’s national economy. Under his leadership, he successfully lifted millions of Brazilians out of poverty making it possible for them to enter the middle class. However, Brazil’s economic crisis and corruption have tarnished his legacy and millions of people from Brazil’s middle class are now at risk of falling back into poverty.
Continue reading “Decline of Brazil’s Middle Class”
Those who have chosen to become permanent expatriates at some time or another experience a very disturbing and confusing dilemma. What makes this dilemma so disturbing is it works at the psychological and emotional level and has the tendency to creep up unperceived and undetected. Some researchers define this phenomenon simply as culture shock. But, in reality it is something far more reaching than just a shock to one’s cultural sensibilities and way of thinking. Continue reading “Expatriates: Dilemmas and Misconceptions”
Recently, I came across an article in Lasa Forum Spring 2013 edition in which Edward Telles and Marcelo Paixão assessed the significance of Affirmative Action in Brazil. Now, Dr. Telles is by no means a stranger to Brazilian relations. He has been writing on Latin America and Brazil race, ethnic and social studies for more than thirty years and is one of the most distinguished American experts on race relations in Brazil and Latin America. It seems whenever I write something about Brazil, I need to refer to one if not several of his many works as reference. Now, the article provides some useful statistics about higher education students in Brazil and the number of students that are benefiting from the “Quota Law” (the 2012 National Congress Law requiring all federal higher education institutions to put in place quotas by 2016). Also, he tackles some controversial subjects such as class versus race-based politics, public and legal support, racial classification, and affirmative action and the labor market. Controversial in the sense that Brazilian people do not like to talk about “race” let alone acknowledge how racism creates disadvantages in education and social mobility for many Brazilians.
Continue reading “Affirmative Action in Brazil: is it necessary?”
Medical anthropology, although considered a subcategory in anthropology, has been making contributions to medicine and public health since the development of anthropology itself. The fact that anthropology, as a multi-disciplinary, intrinsic, discipline has contributed valuable information and techniques to several other disciplines justifies its essential importance. Although its early history is diverse, there exist three empirical foundations that are considered “universals.” They are: 1) disease is a fact of life; occurring in all times, places and societies; 2) all groups of humans develop some sort of beliefs and perceptions for defining it; and 3) all groups of humans have methods for coping and responding to it. Writers like Rivers, Clements Ackerknecht, Paul, Livingstone,Wiesenfeld and others formulated these generalizations in a variety of ways yet they all maintain the legitimacy of these observations.
Continue reading “Indispensability of Medical Anthropology”
Any attempt to understand black American men and their relationships with Brazilian women must first consider cultural characteristics and the significance of social values. Now, we are not talking about any form of sexual voyeurism. Instead, this article focuses on those relationships that seek serious involvement, commitment or union. Further, the dynamics of these relationships are both interesting and unique. On one hand, they are interesting because these two groups share many of the same motives for seeking cross-cultural relationships. On the other, they are unique because two different cultures without any history of direct contact are able to communicate across cultural boundaries and share similar social and emotional values. However, to be honest about this discussion and not reactionary we must also examine the dynamics of ethno-cultural incompatibility.
Continue reading “Black American Men and Brazilian Women”
In 2012, Dr. Roberto Mangabeira Unger, Roscoe Pound Professor of Law, Harvard University Law School lectured at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American studies on Brazil and the United States. Not only was it a thought provoking seminar on Brazilian studies, it summarizes quite concisely similarities and variances between the two countries.
Unger presented a theses concerning the shortcomings of both countries and offers distinct reasons that support his argument. To begin with, he argues that both the US and Brazil lack sustainable policies that uplift the masses of ordinary men and women in their respective countries. He discusses something he terms the “sentimentalization of unequal exchange” and how it targets, isolates and marginalizes segments of their societies.
Continue reading “US – Brazil Relations: the dynamics of consciousness and empowerment”
When I first encountered Lévi-Strauss in graduate school, I thought the title of his monumental work sounded strange. At that time, I spoke absolutely no Portuguese but knew enough Spanish to understand that tristes meant sad. However, I could not for the life of me penetrate the “meaning” associated with the title of this passionate, perilous quest into (what at that time was considered) the dark world of myth, ritual and magic in the country of Brazil. Even today, Brazil is considered by most to be a land of far-off peoples, unexplored territories, and exotic culture. But really not so much. Even Leví-Strauss acknowledged this when he wrote in 1935,”…the tropics are not so much exotic as out of date.” Having lived, learned and lingered in Brazil for seven years now and having acquired an extensive local knowledge (including reasonable fluency in the Brazilian Portuguese language) along with my anthropological training in skilled observation, I decided to revisit this pivotal work to attempt to understand precisely its meaning. But perhaps more important, to see if I could verify some of the same underlying order of reality set off by this highly original and influential work. Continue reading “Tristes Tropiques: Revisited”
When I arrived in Brazil seven years ago as an American anthropologist seeking to discover if Brazil would be a good place to do research for a book, I had no idea about the degree of class discrimination that existed and the depths of its penetration into the cultural fabric of Brazilian society. Clearly, I was familiar with “racial” discrimination growing up in America and struggling against it for the opportunity to advance socially. That is to say, I was confronted with it in the military, in the ivy halls of the university and in the sterile workplaces of corporate American offices. And yet, in spite of it all, I still believe that America is one of the best countries in the world to live in primarily because of the high quality of life, the advanced standards and conditions within the society, but perhaps most important is the plethora of opportunities and benefits for everyone. And believe it or not, because it actually protects its citizens (i.e., the very nature of the American legal system is one that is built on protecting the rights of its citizens – they call it the “commonwealth” – not like other countries whose legal systems are designed to exploit and plunder its citizens).
Continue reading “Self-imposed Discrimination in Brazil”
This article presents a brief discussion about the importance of traditional cultural and family values in urbanized, industrialized societies. In order to illustrate succinct dynamics among social factors and practices Brazilian family models are presented. It also describes dynamics concerning values, beliefs, and elements of parent-child relationships.
Continue reading “Traditional Family Values in Urbanized Societies”
Although there is considerable literature on conditions of unemployment and poverty in many modernized countries, there is a penuriously small amount on how these issues are addressed in developing countries. In Brazil, a good portion of the available literature is gathered by agencies such as the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatistica (IBGE), Brazilian Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA), the Pesquisa Nacional por Amostra de Domicílios (PNAD), Instituto de Estudos do Trabalho e Sociedade–Rio de Janeiro (IETS); also, UNESCO, the US State Department, the World Bank, the International Labor Organization, and a bevy of research analysts. Overall, these studies dramatically point toward the need for Brazil to deal immediately and effectively with high incidences of unemployment, inequality in educational distribution, discrimination toward women in the labor force, and issues concerning the impact of employment upon family responsibilities.
Continue reading “Unemployment & Poverty in Brazil”
There are many holidays celebrated in the city of Salvador, Bahia, Brazil. And on almost every occasion, you can see practitioners of Capoeira displaying their art somewhere during the festival. In Brazil, Capoeira is a very strong part of the history and culture of the people. Although it was once outlawed as a form of illegal marital arts, it later became sanctioned and thrives throughout many parts of Brazil. As an art form, it has spread to many countries outside of Brazil and even has practitioners in the US and Europe. But what really is Capoeira and where did it come from? This article is dedicated to explaining the unique history of an amalgamated form of marital arts called Capoeira.
Capoeira: phonetic pronunciation [kap-u-air-ra) is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, acrobatics and music. It was developed in Brazil mainly by African descendants with native Brazilian influences, probably beginning in the 16th century. It is known by its quick and complex moves, using mainly speed, power, and leverage for a wide variety of kicks, spins, and highly mobile techniques. At the heart of Capoeira is the ginga – that is, the back-and-forth, foot-to-foot movement that serves as the starting point for many of the moves in Capoeria. Capoeira used in actual self-defense situations incorporates many sweeps and low moves, however in demonstrations of the art there is more of an emphasis on high moves, acrobatics, cartwheels for evasion, and flips or other exotic techniques when performing or entertaining for an audience. Continue reading “The Art of Capoeira”
This review is organized as a history of the diverse elements of scholarship by which the field of African Diaspora studies has been developed. It presents research findings of selected studies emerging from distinct interests and traditions of African Diasporic communities. The history examined here emphasizes the scholarship of diasporic researchers that, until recently, had little opportunity to appear within the scope of the longer and broader development of diasporan studies. It is well known that diasporic studies developed from the history of African-American and other diasporic scholarship, however, much of it within the historical context of the English language; rarely incorporating the social science, humanistic or activist understandings of scholarship in the Portuguese language. This review attempts to establish a new compatibility with diasporan intellectual traditions by presenting a foray into the knowledge of the diasporan experience from the Lusophone perspective.
Continue reading “Revolta dos Búzios – 1798”
Recently, I witnessed for the second time a demonstration by the Landless Worker’s Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, or MST). As I watched and filmed the demonstration, I could not help wondering about the complex play of relations that unite and oppose people that still exist in Brazil left over from its period of colonial rule. I wondered about the differences between those people that continue to hold on to sovereignty and rule and those fighting to attain some simulacrum of decent living conditions. Clearly, these differences are born of colonial history – that is, the history of aristocrats keeping puppet administrators in their pay, creating a native bourgeoisie, and fashioning classes of peoples beaten down, undernourished, sick and terrified for the sole purpose of exploitation and profit-taking.
Continue reading “Landless Workers Movement (MST)”