blog2021-01-11T20:56:07+01:00

Colonialism and Brazil: a brief analysis of the country’s involvement in the rush for Oceania

by Felipe Honorato*

Reviewed  by Matheus Lucas Hebling

Introduction: a brief explanation of colonialism

Marc Ferro (2017) defined colonialism as a political doctrine born in the 16th century, based on the occupation of foreign lands by other nations. This political doctrine lasted for almost five hundred years and began to decline along with the end of the Second World War, with the long and heterogeneous Afro-Asian decolonization process. It is possible to divide this long-term phenomenon into four phases, and the first phase is mercantile colonialism. 

Mercantile colonialism brought to life a colonial economy based upon slavery and the exploitation of resources of the occupied territories (FERRO, 2017). During the first phase of colonialism, which lasted from the 16th century until the 18th century, the occupied areas were mostly comprehended within the so-called “new world”: the Americas. 

At the time, Portugal and Spain were the greatest world powers and had under their control most of the foreign-occupied lands. The justifications for the subjection of non-white peoples, the exploitation, and the pillage of oversea lands had a religious basis (FERRO, 2017). For example, it was believed that black people did not have a soul.

The “rush for Oceania” was a transitional phase of colonialism.

The Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763 (GASCOIGNE, 2015). The conflict between France, England, and their allies (GASCOIGNE, 2015) can be seen as the accommodation of forces in Europe, at a moment when England and France were consolidating themselves as hegemonic world powers: Portugal and Spain, pioneers of the “conquest and exploration of new worlds” (M’BOKOLO, 2011, p. 367)[1] remained at the margin of the industrial revolutions (M’BOKOLO, 2011). In the 18th century, as a result of the sugar production in Santo Domingo (currently Haiti) (McCLELLAN III; REGOURD, 2001), France started a rivalry against England as the greatest colonial world power (McCLELLAN III; REGOURD, 2001). 

Once defeated, France turned its attention to the Pacific, to find a way of exploring, exploiting, occupying, and pillaging new lands and peoples, counterbalancing once more the game of forces against the English (GASCOIGNE, 2015). During the period, the vastness of the Pacific Ocean was practically unknown to Europeans, and it represented a major technical challenge: it required developing a methodology to determine with precision the positioning and longitude to navigate in it (GASCOIGNE, 2015).

During the aforementioned historical period, exploring Oceania and developing techniques to determine positioning and longitude were not exclusive interests of the French: England was also interested in the subject. Curiously, the rival nations cooperated in this process (GASCOIGNE, 2015).

The exploration of Oceania can be comprehended as a transitional phase between mercantile colonialism and colonial imperialist capitalism, the subsequent phase of colonialism. Firstly, because it enabled the production of an array of data and information (GASCOIGNE, 2015): during their expeditions, researchers and navigators were not only concerned with position and longitude in their expeditions but also collected meteorological, geographical, geological, economic, historic, and cartographic information from wherever they traveled (McCLELLAN III; REGOURD, 2001).

The gathering of information was essential to further the interests of Western Europe in the interior of the African continent and the Southeast region of Asia, areas exploited by colonial imperialist capitalism. The effort to measure latitude and longitude was an essential vector of the exploration of the Pacific, and it unveiled the importance science has to an expansionist State (GASCOIGNE, 2015). Science occupied a central role in justifying the occupation, exploration, and pillage of lands and foreign peoples during the imperial phase of colonialism. Lastly, as explained by Pereira (2019, p. 193):

“[…] It is in this context that Oceania was disassembled as a ‘region’, especially at the beginning of the 19th century, according to racial principles, opposing two great physical and moral complexes: Melanesia and Polynesia. Furthermore, concerning the Polynesian universe and the French racial debate, the ‘good savage’ and the ‘evil savage’ were conceived as opposites. This division was about the Tahitians and the Maori, respectively. The former would be ‘peaceful and welcoming’; the latter would be ‘hostile’, even though ‘robust and energetic’” (TCHERKEZOFF, 2007). The debate continues through the 19th century, originating what Tcherkezoff (2007) classified as the ‘first historical model of opposition’ among racialized regions”[2] 

The excerpt brings to light how biopower[3], in the context of Oceania, was an essential practice of colonial imperialist capitalism, and how it was introduced during colonialism – until then, it had as its main premise to subjugate foreign peoples’ religious allegations.

Brazil in the route of scientific expeditions and artifact collection.

The expeditions for Oceania required several stop points: to resupply, due to the long distances traveled; to repair the ships; to elaborate scientific observations as well as adjustment measuring equipment (PEREIRA, 2019). With the growing European presence in the south of the Pacific, a few cities, harbors, and rural areas were established as stopping points (PEREIRA, 2019). 

In this context, Brazil became a part of the “rush for Oceania”: Rio de Janeiro was a part of the circuit, and became one of the nodular stops to the vessels (PEREIRA, 2019). For example, the ship the Expedition Uranie docked at the city. The voyage was promoted by Louis Freycinet, and it was the first great expedition of the French Restoration period (GASCOIGNE, 2015).

In addition to the previously mentioned reasons, depending on the context the stops were also used to feed artifact collection: Pereira (2019) addresses the organization of the production of embalmed tattooed heads, crafted by the Maori people, to boost the trade of souvenirs in (nowadays) New Zealand. During the expansion in the Pacific, the collection of curiosities anda the accumulation of exotic objects linked to non-white peoples became a professionalized anthropological activity: “especially through zoology and anatomy, the museums of natural sciences emerged as proper places to archive and exhibit them” (PEREIRA, 2019, p. 192).  Beyond exhibiting the exotic, the aim became to affirm the superiority of a few peoples over others. Especially from the decade of 1810 onwards, the daily life of Rio de Janeiro began to articulate with the presence of expeditions, originating a “scientific museum project [that] is defined and articulated with diplomatic, cultural and educational life” (PEREIRA, 2019, p. 194). As a result of that interaction, from the decade of 1820 onwards, there is an accumulation of artifacts brought from the Pacific, thus originating the collections addressing the Pacific of the National Museum, including two embalmed tattooed heads of New Zealand Maori kings (PEREIRA, 2019).

Final thoughts

Although Brazil was never a colonial power, the country had a relevant role during the two initial phases of colonialism. During the first phase, mercantile colonialism, it was the main Portuguese colony and main destination of enslaved black Africans. The case presented in this article, concerning the “rush for Oceania”, illustrates the second phase of colonialism, when Rio de Janeiro became an important stopping point for expeditions that aimed to reach the aforementioned continent, thus shaping a museum project in the city. 

Notes

[1] Translated by the author. Original version: “conquista e exploração de novos mundos”.

[2] Translated by the author. Original version: “[…] É nesse contexto que se decompõe a Oceania como “região”, em especial, no início do século XIX, por princípios raciais, opondo dois grandes complexos físicos e morais: a Melanésia e a Polinésia. Além disso, dentro do universo polinésio, para o caso do debate racial francês, opunha o bom ao mal selvagem, referentes ocupados pelos Tahitianos e pelos Maori, respectivamente. Aqueles seriam “pacíficos e hospitaleiros”; estes, “hostis”, ainda que “robustos e energéticos” (TCHERKEZOFF, 2007). O debate atravessará o século XIX gerando o que Tcherkezoff (2007) classifica como um “primeiro modelo histórico de oposição” entre regiões raciais”.

[3] In the book “Necropolítica: biopoder, soberania, estado de exceção, política da morte”, the author Achille Mbembe used the Foucauldian concept of biopower. According to this concept, humanity is divided into two categories: who may live and who must die. The basis to determine who may live and who must die is biological: the subdivision of the human species into groups according to certain specific biological characteristics, which is comprehended as racism (MBEMBE, 2018).

Felipe Honorato is PhD student in the Social Change and Political Participation graduate programme at the University of São Paulo (USP). Felipe is also a researcher in the Study and Research Group in Oral History and Memory (GEPHOM / EACH-USP). Main topics of interest: colonialism, congolese migrations, history of Africa.

* The article presents the partial results of the final essay written for the discipline “Special topics of History of Sciences in the maritime empires 16th-19th centuries” taught by Daniel Dutra Coelho Braga and Iris Kantor at The Faculty of Philosophy, Languages and Literature, and Human Sciences of the University of São Paulo (FFLCH-USP).

References

Ferro, Marc. A colonização explicada a todos. São Paulo: Editora UNESP, 2017.

Gascoigne, John. Navigating the Pacific from Bougainville to Dumont d’Urville: French Approaches to Determining Longitude, 1766-1840. In: DUNN, Richard; HIGGIT, Rebekah (Eds.). Navigational Enterprises in Europe and its Empires, 1730-1850. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015, pp. 180-197.

M ́Bokolo, Elikia. África negra: história e civilizações (Tomo II). Salvador: EDUFBA, 2011.

Mbembe, Achille. Necropolítica: biopoder, soberania, estado de exceção, política da morte. São Paulo: n-1 edições, 2018.

Mccllellan III, James; REGOURD, François. The Colonial Machine: French Science and Colonization in the Ancien Régime. Osiris, v. 15 (Nature and Empire: Science and the colonial Enterprise), University of Chicago Press, p. 31-50, 2001.

Pereira, Edmundo. Dois reis neozelandeses: notas sobre objetificação museal, remanescentes humanos e formação do Império (Brasil-Mares do Sul, século XIX). In: SANTOS, Rita de Cássia Melo; OLIVEIRA, João Pacheco de (Orgs.). De acervos coloniais aos museus indígenas: formas de protagonismo e de construção da ilusão museal. João Pessoa: Editora UFPB, 2019, p. 191-218.

Felipe Honorato (2022) "Colonialism and Brazil: a brief analysis of the country’s involvement in the rush for Oceania". Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. Vol. 3 Num. 1. available at: https://bras-center.com/colonialism-and-brazil-a-brief-analysis-of-the-countrys-involvement-in-the-rush-for-oceania/, accessed on: September 25, 2022.

September 12th, 2022|Categories: Vol. 3 Num. 1|Tags: |

July: Brazilian presidential candidates on Twitter

by Alessandra Maia Terra de Faria, Carlos Trucíos, and Marcelos Cantañeda de Araújo

Reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling

Find out what and how presidential candidates tweet and are tweeted.

Introduction

This research aims to follow the tweets related to the three main presidential candidates according to the opinion polls available for the 2022 elections in Brazil.

Followers

Daily tweets spanning from July 1st to July 31st were collected for each one of the three main candidates in the Brazilian presidential election. Tweets were collected from candidates’ timelines and Twitter users mentioning the candidates, totalling more than 14.7 million tweets. Data were extracted through a Twitter API used exclusively for academic purposes and analyzed using R software.
The authors thank Twitter for the academic accounts granted to them.
Herein is the updated data (July versus June, data as of August 19th, 2022) of Twitter followers for each of the candidates.
Bolsonaro – from 8.4 up to 8.6 million (2.5% increase in followers in comparison to the previous month)
Lula – from 3.8 up to 4 million (5% increase in followers in comparison to the previous month)
Ciro – 1,4 million (no change in comparison to the previous month)

Candidates’ tweets

In Figure 1, we report the number of tweets on the candidates’ timeline, among the three that were part of our survey: Lula, Ciro, and Bolsonaro, according to the frequency with which the candidates tweeted in July.

Figure 1: Timelines

Figures 2 and 3 present the most frequent words in the candidates’ timeline tweets and the most frequent words in the candidates’ timeline tweets weighted by the inverse document frequency (TF-IDF), respectively.

Figure 2: Most frequently used words in the candidates’ timeline.


The analysis of the most frequent words in the candidates’ timeline tweets (Figure 2) allows us to present a dominant panorama of the subjects they deal with. In common in the three profiles, we find the term “Brazil”, keeping the pattern found in May and June. The difference arose in the mention of the word “people” [“povo”], also mentioned frequently in the three profiles. Although the term “people” is prominent in all candidates, it is more frequent in Lula’s profile than in the other candidates. In the profiles of Lula and Ciro, the terms “Lula”, “country” [“país”], “today” [“hoje”] and “president” [“presidente”] are common. In Lula’s profile alone, the emphasis on the verbs “to have” [“ter”] and “to do” [“fazer”] denotes the continuity of the propositional character already found in May and June, and the mention of words like “want” [“quero”], “today” [“hoje”] and “together” [“juntos”], brings an emphasis on the development of proposals. In Ciro’s profile, the concern to name the other two candidates remains, as observed in April, May, and June. It is possible to highlight in the consolidated for the month of July, the mentions of the terms “folk” [“gente”] and “government” [“governo”]. Finally, in Bolsonaro’s profile, it is possible to identify terms in English*, due to a sequence of tweets on July 27th in response to Leonardo DiCaprio**, regarding the Amazon (which had a lot of repercussions on the network). Other highlights were the mention of amounts in reais (“r”) in terms of “thousand” [“mil”], “2022”, “07” and “reduction” [“redução”], the latter being due to discussions about tax reductions.
* The English terms in Bolsonaro’s profile are quite frequent in the common English language. If stop words in the English language were also used, the terms would have disappeared.
**His account on Twitter @LeoDiCaprio has 19.666.715 followers.

Figure 3 TF-IDF by candidates’ timeline

In Figure 3, the TF-IDF (term frequency-inverse document frequency) reflects the frequency of words in candidate timeline tweets that are infrequent for the three candidates overall. Thereby:

● In Lula’s profile, the novelty in July is in the terms “Alckmin” (referring to his partner, the vice presidential candidate), “together” [“juntos”], “rebuild” [“reconstruir”], “talk” [“conversar”], “technology” [“tecnologia”], “culture” [“cultura”], “wanted” [“queria”] and “Talhada” ( “Serra Talhada” is a mountain location close to the region of Garanhuns in Pernambuco State. They received a visit from the candidate whose images of the crowds went viral on the website in July). The emphasis that remained regarding June was the theme of “hunger” [“fome”].
● Bolsonaro’s profile features, again, emphasis on the English words “the”, “you”, “that”, and “and” (referring to tweets in response to actor Leonardo Dicaprio), as well as highlighting the years 2019 (which maintains since April, showing an attempt to emphasize the government’s achievements in the year before the pandemic) and 2022. The terms “reduction” [“redução”], “products” [“produtos”] and “drugs” [“drogas”] are also highlighted. Terms in English also appeared in the previous month, but due to the president’s participation in the “IX Summit of the Americas, 2022”.
● In Ciro’s profile, the novelty in July is a spraying of terms. “Ciro”, “pdt” (in reference to his party, “Partido Democrático Trabalhista”), “candidacy” [“candidatura”], “follow” [“acompanhar”], “choose” [“escolher”], “name” [“nome”], “exists” [“existe”], “voice” [“voz”], “suggested” [“sugeriram”], “spotify”, “drop” [“soltar”], “playlist”, “play “, “search” [“pesquisar”], “officials” [“oficiais”], “songs” [“músicas”], “jingles”, “hashtag”, “spin” [“giro”], “state” [“estadual”], “sing” [“cantar”] and “press” [“apertar”]. The terms “spotify”, “playlist”, “play”, “spin” [“O Giro do Ciro” refers to calls with takes and campaign visits], all relate to the candidate’s media campaign.

Tweets about the candidate

The total number of tweets mentioning each candidate is displayed in Figure 4 and the daily evolution in Figure 5.
Next, in Figure 4, we present, in descending order (from the most cited to the least cited), the total number of tweets that mentioned the name of each candidate surveyed in the month of July: Bolsonaro, Lula, and Ciro.
To collect the tweets mentioning the respective candidates, the words “Bolsonaro”, “Ciro” and “Lula” were used as search criteria. Tweets mentioning “Ciro Nogueira” were excluded from the analyzes referring to candidate Ciro.

Figure 4: Number of tweets mentioning the candidates.

During the previous month, the interactions of all the candidates intensified, that is, they were all more assiduously on Twitter. In the daily evolution of tweets (Figure 5) it can be seen that Ciro has the lowest number of daily interactions and Bolsonaro the highest number of daily interactions (except on July 2nd and 3rd, when the number of tweets by Lula was slightly higher). The large number of tweets mentioning Bolsonaro on the 18th and 19th of July refers to the mention of the leader of a criminal faction on the 18th and the reduction in the price of gasoline on the 19th when the president stated that “Brazil will have a of the cheapest gasoline’ (sic) in the world” [ “‘uma das gasolina’ (sic) mais barata do mundo”].

Figure 5: Daily evolution of tweets mentioning candidates.

Word clouds

Finally, we present below three-word clouds with, excluding stop words, the top 100 words used in the interactions of Twitter users in July. For better visualization, each candidate’s name was taken from its cloud.
A word cloud is a graphical representation of the most frequent words within a text or set of texts.
Next, we present three-word clouds, where each one corresponds to a candidate. It is important to point out that each candidate’s name was taken from its cloud, for better visualization of the associated words. It should also be noted that each cloud reflects the 100 most relevant words associated, excluding stop words, to each candidate in the interactions of Twitter users on the thirty-first day of July.
In text analysis, stop words are quite common words such as “and”, “from”, “the”, etc. These words are not useful for analysis and are often removed before analysis.

Figure 6: Word cloud for Bolsonaro

Figure 7: Word cloud for Lula

Figure 8: Word cloud for Ciro

When analyzing the clouds, we share the first impression of each one:
● Bolsonaro: the words “Lula” and “Brasil” are consolidated in the foreground (keeping the same structure as found in the previous month). In the background, “government” [“governo”], “against” [“contra”], “about” [“sobre”], “people” [“povo”] and “PT” [“Partido dos Trabalhadores”]
● Lula: “PT”, “president” and “Brasil” appear in the foreground (keeping the same structure as in the previous month); in the background “ex”, “to vote” [“votar”], “against” [“contra”], “PCC” [“Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC)” – First Capital Command (PCC) is the largest criminal organization in Brazil], “left” [“esquerda”] and “people” [“povo”].
● Ciro: the trend of recent months remained in the foreground (“Lula” and “Bolsonaro)”. In the background, “vote” [“voto”], “turn” [“turno”] and “Tebet” (in reference to the presidential candidate Simone Tebet for MDB Party).

Sentiment analysis

The sentiment of each tweet was constructed by identifying the sentiments of the basic units (the words) using the Oplexicon v3.0 and Sentilex dictionaries, from the LexiconPT Package. Thus, each word found in the dictionaries receives 1, -1, or 0 scores, depending on whether the feeling is positive, negative, or neutral, respectively. Words not found in the dictionaries also receive a 0 score. The values assigned to each word within the tweet were added up, and depending on the result positive, negative, or zero, the sentiment of the tweet is classified. In Figure 9, feelings (Negative, Neutral, and Positive) are presented in percentages per candidate. It is possible to highlight a balance between the feelings expressed in the tweets of the three candidates. Such data will be monitored over time comparatively. This is a portrait, a sentimental snapshot of June on Twitter. This is a picture, a sentimental snapshot of July on Twitter. When analyzing proportionally the number of tweets mentioning each candidate, Ciro had the lowest percentage of tweets with negative sentiment and the highest percentage of tweets with positive and neutral sentiments. Candidate Lula had the highest percentage of negative tweets and the lowest percentage of positive tweets. Bolsonaro had the lowest percentage of neutral tweets.

Figure 9: Sentiments of tweets per candidate

Next, it will be possible to look at the word cloud of each candidate, separately, according to the feelings attributed to each tweet, in Figures 10, 11, and 12. Words in pink appear in tweets rated as associated with positive feelings, words in blue appear in tweets rated as associated with negative feelings, and words in beige appear in tweets rated as neutral.

The word clouds are considered the 200 most frequent words.

Figure 10: Word cloud Sentiments for Bolsonaro.

Figure 11: Word cloud Sentiments for Lula

Figure 12: Word cloud Sentiments for Ciro

● Bolsonaro: Tweets related to candidate Bolsonaro that were classified as associated with positive sentiments are characterized by words such as “democracy” [“democracia”], “world” [“mundo”], and “re-elected” [“reeleito”]. Tweets classified as associated with negative feelings are characterized by words such as “party” [“partido”], “guilt” [“culpado”], “corruption” [“corrupção”]. Finally, tweets considered neutral highlight the word “president” [“president”].
● Lula: Tweets related to candidate Lula that were classified as associated with positive feelings are characterized by words such as “know” [“sabe”], “to see” [“ver”], “good” [“bom”] and “people” [“povo”]. Tweets classified as negative are characterized by words such as “to vote” [“votar”], “left” [“esquerdo”], “follow” [“segue”]. Finally, tweets with neutral sentiment are mainly characterized by the name “PCC” [“Primeiro Comando da Capital (PCC)” – First Capital Command (PCC) is the largest criminal organization in Brazil], “Anitta”*** and “president”.
● Ciro: Tweets related to candidate Ciro that were rated as associated with positive feelings are characterized by words such as “best” [“melhor”], “world” [“mundo”], and “need” [“precisa”]. Tweets classified as negative are characterized by words such as “to vote” [“votar”]. Finally, tweets with neutral sentiment are characterized by words like “Bolsonaro”, “Tebet” (about the presidential candidate Simone Tebet for MDB Party), and “president”.
*** Anitta is a Brazilian singer popstar who started in the favelas in Rio de Janeiro. Her account on Twitter @Anitta has 18.091.412 followers. On July 11th she posted to announce that she will support Lula in the 2022 elections. In the tweet, the singer said that “she was never PT, but that this year she will support the PT candidate”.

Bigrams

The 25 most frequent bigrams in tweets mentioning each of the candidates are shown in Figures 13 to 15. The direction of the zeta reveals the order in which the bigram appears and the greater the intensity of the zeta, the greater the frequency of the bigram.

Figure 13: Bigrams of Bolsonaro


Bolsonaro: among the most frequent bigrams we have “government => Bolsonaro”, “Jair =>Bolsonaro” and “president=> Bolsonaro”. Following those, in sequence, we can notice Michelle => Bolsonaro ( this can be understood in connection with the greater exposure/presence of the First Lady, as a strategy to reach the female audience and evangelicals groups in his campaign), “urns => electronic”, “Eduardo=> Bolsonaro”, “fake=>news”, “forces => armed”, “Marcelo => Arruda”****, “first => turn”.
**** Marcelo Arruda was a member of the Workers’ Party (PT) of Brazil, killed and shot by a policeman, when the victim was celebrating his 50th birthday, while the officer was shouting slogans in favor of the current president and candidate, Jair Bolsonaro. The tragedy occurred in the southern city of Foz do Iguaçu, a western region of Paraná, at the hands of the federal penitentiary agent Jorge José da Rocha Guaranho, who first went to the place and after 20 minutes, returned armed and began to shoot the PT leader, whose party was being held with themes dedicated to the PT and Lula.

Figure 14: Bigrams of Lula

– Lula: among the most frequent bigrams we have “first=>turn”, “Marcos => Valerio”***** and “Lula => president”, followed by “turn => left”, “left => follow”, “ex => prisoner”, “people=>Brazilian”, “vou=>votar” and “Celso=>Daniel”. With a lower intensity “rede => globo” ( TV station), “Jair => Bolsonaro”, “Sergio => Moro” and “fake=>news”.

*****Marcos Valerio is one of the main accused in the Mensalão scandal and was found guilty of bribery, embezzlement, money laundering, tax evasion, and conspiracy. In October 2012 he was given a sentence of 40 years 2 months and 10 days imprisonment and a fine of R$2.72 million.
******Sérgio Moro is an ex-judge that was involved in ethical violations and legally prohibited collaboration between him and prosecutors who convicted and imprisoned former Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption charges — a conviction that resulted in Lula being barred from the 2018 presidential election.

Figure 15: Bigrams of Ciro

Ciro: among the most frequent bigrams we have, predominantly, “Ciro => Gomes”. Among other bigrams, but with less intensity, we have “Ciro => blocked”, “Ciro => Tebet”, “Tebet => ignored”, “Tebet => with me”, “find=> accepted” and “vote=> printed “.

Final comments

The presentation of this dataset aims to contribute to interpretations of the movement on Twitter of possible candidates in the 2022 elections, as well as about what is said about them in the interactions of users of the platform throughout the month of July, in comparison to what was found in June (https://bras-center.com/june-brazilian-presidential-candidates-on-twitter/ ), what was found in May (https://bras-center.com/category/publications/vol3num1/ ) and what was found in April ( https://bras-center.com/brazilians-presidential-candidates-on-twitter-april-report/). This is ongoing research work and will be refined over the months leading up to the 2022 election.

Alessandra Maia Terra de Faria, Social Sciences Department at PUC-RIO / PPGCS – UFRRJ. E-mail: alessandramtf@puc-rio.br

Carlos Trucíos, Department of Statistics, University of Campinas. E-mail: ctrucios@unicamp.br

Marcelo Castañeda de Araujo, Department of Business/UFRJ.

The Brazilian Psychopolitical Condition in Tales Ab’Saber’s Anthropophagic Soldier

by Mariana Kalil*

Reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling

Tales Ab’Saber is one of Brazil’s few living scholars capable of thoroughly grasping the country’s perceptible world thus crafting a plausible reality. Still to be translated to languages other than Portuguese, Ab’Saber’s latest book O Soldado Antropofágico: Escravidão e Não-Pensamento no Brasil, loosely translatable to The Anthropophagic Soldier: Slavery and the Absence of a Collective Self-Awareness in Brazil, reflects upon the story of a German soldier’s experience in the streets of nineteenth-century Brazil. Through this story, and standing on the shoulders of other demiurges, such as Roberto Schwarz, Sergio Buarque de Hollanda, and others, the author has gifted us intellectual tools to ponder over the Brazilian psychopolitical condition.
The book is particularly timely given, that in 2022, while going through a fascist wave, Brazil celebrates two hundred years of its Independence and a hundred years of its first modernist movement. The German soldier, a European foreigner, is presented with conflicting psychopolitical facets of the country. His viewpoint offers an opportunity for the reader to simultaneously digest the European civilized expectations, besides a local reality which is in itself both archaic in its attachment to slavery yet full of different ways of living that flourish in loopholes typical of a tropical archaism.
At a glance, a millennial might rush to disparage Tales Ab’Saber’s engagement with the history of slavery given his white, relatively privileged place of speech. However, after reading the book, it is easy to understand why Ab’Saber decided to engage in such a journey. In the best tradition of an essay, he provides us with a much-needed atemporal explanation of Brazil’s psychopolitical self. Utterly grounded in data and literature, Ab’Saber’s analysis is a product of his intellectual background as a psychoanalyst who is a Philosophy Professor with a formal education in visual arts.
Through the story of the German soldier’s interaction with a racially packed sexual and mercantilistic environment in Brazil’s streets, Ab’Saber is capable of describing the absence of a collective self-awareness in the country. On the one hand, this lack of collective thinking marks the unique lightness surrounding the complexity of the interaction between the German soldier and a seductive female slave, a relatively guilt-free experience then only collectively possible in non-civilized places or non-European societies. On the other hand, this non-thought tendency fully explains the latent reactionary psychopolitical Zeitgeist that every odd-thirty years haunt Brazilian attempts at democracy.
Reaching out to Gilberto Freyre, Celso Furtado, Florestan Fernandes, Caio Prado Junior, and other founding fathers, Ab’Saber and his highly psychoanalytical ability underscore Brazil’s denial to reflect upon its violent history clinging to a cordial dynamic that, despite carrying truth, does not begin to sufficiently approach what the Brazilian society is capable of inflicting upon itself. The centrality conservatives nowadays offer to the idea that the country’s military dictatorship was not that harsh toward dissidents, particularly if compared to others such as the Chilean illustrates the place of denial Ab’Saber explores in his book. Among a certain Brazilian mindset, the alleged softness of the Brazilian military dictatorship would epitomize the Brazilian psychopolitical condition as much as would the loopholes in Brazilian slavery.
Ab’Saber sheds light on this denial without, however, leaving by the wayside said loopholes of a tropical archaism that embed certain types of existence successful in projecting a reality also shaping Brazil. The author argues that by skipping self-awareness altogether, Brazilians exercise a daily farce in an attempt to disguise a history of racial and class oppression through mythic ideas of peaceful coexistence and tolerance derived from a very true, yet not entirely revealing cheerfulness and camaraderie, thus tending to repeat the shortcomings of a ubiquitous past. This psychopolitical loop would explain for instance the conservative anger toward political parties and figures who engage and advocate for distributive policies. The premise underpinning distributive policies speaks for the recognition of a persistent oppressive structure, a reality Brazilians often choose to overlook given the relative truthfulness of the oppressed ability to get by with a smile on their faces and samba on their feet. The conservatives’ argument that affirmative actions fragment the country being a strategy to balkanize Brazil is a direct product of this lack of collective self-awareness in the country. It is an elaborate farce that is highly effective in maintaining privilege and inequality.
By refusing to reflect upon its perversion, the Brazilian society would, from time to time or around every thirty years, slip into a primitive behavior, one that tries to disguise its oppressive dynamics through the image of black cheerfulness, a sentiment Gilberto Gil dubbs warrior happiness and that is indeed also constitutive of the people, but, even though, cannot in any society serve as an excuse to preclude the pursuit of equality, fraternity, and liberty.
This slip into which the Brazilian society falls every thirty years indeed tends to forsake such basic conquests as those of Enlightenment which are barely material in the Global South in general, and in Brazil in particular. The backwardness the Brazilian elites so despise in the country of their own making is, in Ab’Saber’s book, the country’s psychopolitical condition, and as such both a product of these elites’ deeds and their shortsighted perspective of the country’s reality. These embarrassed elites who overlook and/or refuse the thriving reality in which they inhabit are a product of those who expected the German soldier’s values prevailed in the country despite their own ancestors’ still very current resistance to the losses they would entail. This thriving reality, in turn, comprises oppression as much as the everyday resistance that is truthful in its cheerfulness and its violent reaction. Anthropophagically, Brazil would be a product of this tension so vibrant in Ab’Saber’s book through the interactions the German soldier establishes in the streets of a rising nation in the nineteenth century.
In a nutshell, Tales Ab’Saber is highly effective in conveying the Brazilian psychopolitical condition. By discussing the structural tensions among the self-perceptions of a country that refuses to collectively elaborate on a significant part of its founding features, Ab’Saber consistently provides factual and argumentative tools for the reader to reflect upon the Brazilian society not only in the nineteenth century but thenceforth. Any Brazilians would be lucky to join Ab’Saber in his endeavor. I can only hope the book is soon translated into other languages, so we can all stand on his shoulders.

Mariana Kalil, PhD, is Geopolitics Professor at the Escola Superior de Guerra, where she is Chair of the Post-Grad Program in International Security and Defense. She is PhD and MSc in International Relations at the University of Brasília, Brazil. Former Vice Chair/Program Chair, Latin America Rep and Communications Director at the International Studies Association’s (ISA) Global South Caucus, she is a member of the Global IR and Brazil Research Group (Bras Center) and co-chair of the Security and Defense in the Americas (SeDe Americas) Research Group. Her research interests are in Global IR, Brazilian Politics and Society, Foreign Policy, Security and Defense, the Armed Forces and Democracy.

Mariana Kalil (2022) "The Brazilian Psychopolitical Condition in Tales Ab’Saber’s Anthropophagic Soldier". Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. Vol. 3 Num. 1. available at: https://bras-center.com/the-brazilian-psychopolitical-condition-in-tales-absabers-anthropophagic-soldier/, accessed on: September 25, 2022.

August 15th, 2022|Categories: Vol. 3 Num. 1|Tags: |

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