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Volume 59 / Social Sciences

SOCIOLOGY: BRAZIL


J. TIMMONS ROBERTS, Professor of Sociology, College of William and Mary
JOYCE BAUGHER, Doctoral Candidate, Tulane University


A SOCIOLOGIST WAS ELECTED PRESIDENT of Brazil in late 1994 saying that the nation was no longer underdeveloped, but was now simply unjust. As his term unfolded in mid-decade, Fernando Henrique Cardoso's former colleagues in sociology continued to point out the savage inequalities in Brazil and their disappointment with a state not living up to its claims of inclusion and democracy, a decade after the formal end of the military dictatorship. The term citizenship (or cidadania) was used again and again in numerous studies reviewed this biennium as a framework to highlight the lack of rights of Brazilians, due to economic, social, or political exclusion (items #bi 99001781#, #bi 98014091#, #bi 98014104#, #bi 98014710#, #bi 99002193#, and #bi 98014085#).

Many works highlight the persistence of both urban and rural poverty (items #bi 99001769#, #bi 98014075#, #bi 98014046#, and #bi 98014091#). An increase in violence was noted as an unexpected consequence of the transition from military to democratic government (item #bi 98014710#). Studies concerning feminism and the construction of gender (for both women and men) continue to grow in importance (items #bi 99001767#, #bi 99001765#, #bi 98000794#, and #bi 98000792#). Studies examining women and their political roles are prevelant; of note are Avelar's study of women in elite political positions (item #bi 98014114#), Araújo's analysis of the impact of affirmative action to include women in political representation (item #bi 99000764#), and Machado's analysis of women in urban movements (item #bi 98014044#).

If studies concerning race and racism were emerging in the early 1990s, they are now nearly dominant. Such works focus on skin color and identity, the political ramifications of racial identification, and statistical data concerning exclusionary practices based on racial prejudice. Among the notable works reviewed for HLAS 59 are the collection of essays edited by Maio, which chronicles the changing face of concepts of race from the turn of the century to present day (item #bi 98014101#), Cleusa and Gustavo's study of "indirect racism" (item #bi 98014037#) and Lovell and Wood's article concerning the "life chances" of Afro-Brazilians (item #bi 99000500#). A number of works examine racial and ethnic minorities (Poles, Jews, Arabs, etc.) in the subregions of Brazil (items #bi 98009810# and #bi 98014107#).

A substantial proportion of books published in Brazilian sociology come from the scores of seminars and congresses that were held on issues such as the media, women, race, citizenship, the environment, and urbanism. The Seminário Internacional Feminino Masculino: Igualdade e Diferença na Justiça, held in Porto Alegre, 1995, examined legal issues concerning domestic violence and sex crimes, and differential treatment under the law by race and gender (item #bi 99001767#). Many conferences marked important anniversaries. The fourth Congresso Nacional Afro-Brasileiro took place in Recife in April, 1994 (the first was convened by Gilberto Freyre in 1934) and was chronicled in a four-volume series (item #bi2001004104#). The year 1995 marked the 300th anniversary of the death of Zumbi, the leader of the longest surviving quilômbo (community of runaway slaves) in Brazil (item #bi 98014045#). Brandão's work concerning Euclides da Cunha's Os Sertões was published in 1996 on the centennial of the Campanha de Canudos (item #bi 98014055#).

Studies on religion are also numerous, with several studies in Portuguese focusing on Afro-Brazilian religions (e.g., item #bi 98014117#). Studies in English concerned the state of the Catholic Comunidades Eclesiasticas de Base (CEBs, Christian Base Communities) (item #bi 98014051#). Meanwhile, a new group of studies documents the reasons for the substantial rise of Protestantism and their competition with CEBs for members (items #bi 98014064# and #bi 98001032#). The media is also studied in political terms, concerning for example, the creation of and perpetuation of stereotypes of the poor, and the promotion of elite political agendas. Of particular note are Mamede's study of two national magazines' representations of the Northeast (item #bi 98014120#), and Schiff's content analysis of "serious" and tabloid newspapers (item #bi 97002776#).

Much work in the sociology of Brazil in the mid 1990s is descriptive of social problems and trends; less published research evaluates programs, movements, and new relations between government and citizen. While providing close studies of social problems, policy implications and proposals are often lacking in published works. An exception is Rebecca Abers essay on local administrations of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party) and their attempts to eliminate clientelism and corruption within the government by encouraging popular participation in governmental spending (item #bi 98004441#). Other exceptions include Doima's book on popular movements (item #bi 98014082#), Hecht's controversial work on street children (item #bi 98007222#), the article by Barros, Fox, and Mendoça on female headed households and the need to focus resources on the education of their children (item #bi 97006492#), and Sousa's study of a school-grant program (item #bi 99002093#).


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