Observations about Wikipedia’s Coverage of Brazil

The Brazil Wikipedia page in English covers a breadth of information about Brazil. It looks at themes like geography, government, economy, infrastructure, demographics, and culture. Many of the sources are quantitative from NGOs, IGOs, and other organizations that conduct quantitative research. It also focuses on superlatives (such as “the most,” “the best,” “the highest,” “the lowest,”) in keeping with the present-day emphasis of Brazil as an especially unique country.

In many ways the article reflects larger existing content gaps in mainstream academic study and does not utilize fringe academic knowledge. Its information is a reflection of the current interpretations and headlines of coverage in the media and academia. In other words, the article is secondary reporting and summarizing existing narratives.

However, some topics are more intentionally excluded. The article skirts around present day controversy and cautiously mentions the impeachment of Former President Dilma Rousseff and does not dive into the contentious present-day debate. This is done to keep the article from accusations of unnecessary bias.

Historical reasons behind existing inequality, especially racial inequality, are not overtly mentioned. For example, the rise of European immigrants from the 1880s to 1930s is referenced but the article does not mention that their arrival was incentivized by the government in hopes of whitening the nation.

The history presented sticks to traditional political themes. A quick assessment of the images shows that included portraits of important people are of white men, a clear remnant of Great White Male History. Contributions of people of African descent and/or indigenous peoples are undermined on multiple occasions. The following excerpt shows how European, Japanese, and Arab cultures are depicted as generally contributing to the culture while Indigenous and African cultures are portrayed as having influence in limited fields.

“Some aspects of Brazilian culture were influenced by the contributions of ItalianGerman and other European as well JapaneseJewish and Arab immigrants who arrived in large numbers in the South and Southeast of Brazil during the 19th and 20th centuries.[397] The indigenous Amerindians influenced Brazil’s language and cuisine; and the Africans influenced language, cuisine, music, dance and religion.”

It sticks to coverage of traditional ideas of culture like architecture, music, literature, food, cinema, theatre, visual arts, and sports. Oddly enough, there is no in-depth section on dance. Many other types of cultural activities go unmentioned since the Culture subsection structure is largely based on European categories of “high culture.” More surprising than the lack of coverage of dance is that Carnival is only mentioned twice, once as a caption to a photo and once in the section about music. This is surprising because basic coverage of Brazil in the US usually emphasize the importance of Carnival and other national celebrations.