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Volume 53 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: BRAZIL


PEGGY A. LOVELL, Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Pittsburgh

SOCIOLOGICAL RESEARCH ON BRAZIL in the late 1980s and early 1990s continued to explore issues of social change. The changing role of women, labor, and popular culture in the transition to democracy commanded much interest. Concerns new to Brazilian sociology included the interrelationships between social movements and political organization, racial inequality and development, and colonization and the environment. Areas of growing importance are the study of the elderly (items bi 91001992, bi 91002002, and bi 91002012), violence against women and children (items bi 93001280, bi 93001255, bi 91001980, and bi 93001367), and the sociology of knowledge (items bi 91025338 and bi 93001266). During the same period, there was a resurgence of interest in research on social movements and religion. Yet, as in the mid 1980s, the economic crisis continued to restrict the ability of Brazilian scholars to conduct and publish their research.

Many of the works on Brazilian sociology annotated in this volume investigate interrelationships between social groups and structural transformation. In the area of Amazonian colonization and the environment, two notable contributions, by Schmink and Wood (item bi 93001257) and Lisansky (item bi 91001974), reflect the struggle and competition for resources among social groups at the local, national, and international level. Social movements and political participation were analyzed by Gay in a study of neighborhood favela associations (item bi 90013811), and Scheper-Hughes provides an unforgettable account of the inequities of development in her study of women and children in a northeast favela (item bi 93001261).

Research on contemporary racial inequality is emerging as one of the most dynamic areas of study in Brazil. Two important international conferences were held to discuss issues of race: "Desigualdade Racial no Brasil Contemporâneo," organized by the Centro de Desenvolvimento e Planejamento Regional (CEDEPLAR) and held in Belo Horizonte in 1990, and "Racismo e Discriminaç˜ao Racial nos Paises da Diáspora Africana," organized by the Centro de Estudos Afro-Asiáticos, held in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. A pioneering empirical work by Hasenbalg and Silva (item bi 91001989) documents pervasive and persistent racial discrimination and has inspired a new generation of scholars to examine the question of race (see, for example, item bi 93001665). In a pathbreaking study of S˜ao Paulo, Andrews traces racial inequality from the abolition of slavery to the present (item bi 93001247).

Issues of gender continue to be important topics of research. Two noteworthy studies of women are contributions by Alvarez, on the role of women in transition politics (item bi 93001242), and by Hahner, on the struggle for women's rights (item bi 93001256). An edited volume by Bacha and Klein (see HLAS 51:2564) evaluates the effects of social change over the last fifty years. The role of religion in social transformation has once again become a focus of research. Ireland investigates the relationship between grassroots religious traditions and politics (item bi 92003848). Other important contributions on religion are by Hewitt (item bi 91009662) and Hess (item bi 91010493).

Sociologists of Brazil continue to explore one of their central concerns of the past several decades - the relationship between capitalist development and underdevelopment. In this tradition, Chilcote (item bi 93001252) contributes a study of power and the ruling classes in the Northeast. The role of the military regime in defusing class conflict through the corporative labor system is documented by Cohen (item bi 93001253). A provocative work by Font (item bi 92007836) challenges earlier accounts of the link between coffee and capitalist development in S˜ao Paulo. Finally, a comparative study by Roniger (item bi 91000336) examines patronage systems in Mexico and Brazil.

These studies, by focusing on specific historical processes and social groups, have significantly advanced our understanding of the internal processes of social and economic change within Brazilian society. Future research should examine additional interrelationships, such as the articulation of race and gender. The task ahead is to link these concrete findings with broader theoretical issues of development and social change.


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