Author Archives: Jonathan Davies

What I learned

I learned a lot about the importance of race in Brazil and the different ways in which Brazilians view race. I thought that it was particularity interesting that race is often defined based on appearance and wealth, which is different than in the United States where it is more based on ancestry. It was also interesting to learn about how racism in Brazil historical took a different form than in the United States, being perpetuated more by society rather than by laws. The “racial democracy” was also a distinct aspect of race in Brazil and was sometimes used to justify racism.

I learned that the history of Brazil was much more complex than I had thought. Before taking this class, I had assumed that Brazil had simply gained independence and installed the democratic government it has today. However, I learned that the truth is much more complex.  Brazil has been governed by a wide variety of systems, ranging from democracy to the military dictatorship and even an Empire. I also found it interesting that the royal court of Portugal was located in Brazil at one point, making Brazil a relatively equal member of the Portuguese empire rather than a colony.

I also learned a lot about Brazil’s culture and national identity. I thought that importance of soccer politically and socially, as well as Brazilian pride in their own style of soccer, was very interesting. It was also enlightening to learn how the sport developed to cater to different segments of society as it developed, thus reflecting social divisions within the country. We also learned about a constant search for a Brazilian national identity, which reached its peak during the Vargas era. In addition to these things, I learned that events such as Carnival often have important political meaning in part because of their significance to Brazilian identity and culture.

Brazil History and Culture

For my Brazil history and culture post I read an article about Jair Bolsonaro, a highly controversial right wing candidate in the Brazilian presidential election. The article begins by describing a Bolsonaro rally in Roraima, a town in northern Brazil, and vividly describes the excitement and enthusiasm he inspires among his supporters. It then goes on to describe Bolsonaro’s distasteful characteristics, such as his racism, sexism and homophobia. In addition to these alarming traits, Bolsonaro’s history of supporting dictatorship over democracy is also discussed. Indeed, he publicly stated that he was “in favor of a dictatorship” during his first term in congress. The article also points out that he was convicted of inciting hate speech due to his long history of attacking women and minority groups. However, despite these glaring problems Bolsonaro is currently the front runner in the election with 18% support in polls, although he is considered unlikely to win.

Bolsonaro about to address a crowd at a campaign rally:

Image result for jair bolsonaro campaign rally

The article continues its analysis by comparing Bolsonaro to Donald Trump. It described his populism campaign pledges to promote “law and order”, be “tough on crime”, root out corruption and curb Chinese influence. In addition to similarities in political agendas the article argues that Trump and Bolsonaro share a style of speaking that is improvised, rambling, and light on facts. It goes on to say that Bolsonaro may be actively copying Trump’s strategies, which could be effective given the similarities between the United States and Brazil. The article concludes by comparing Trump’s claims of a “rigged” election to Bolsonaro’s claims that electoral fraud could take place, raising the possibility that even if he is defeated, he could undermine the legitimacy of the government.

Bolsonaro at a Campaign rally:

Jair Bolsonaro during a rally in Curitiba, Brazil, on 29 March.

The overall portrayal of Brazil in this article is fairly neutral and unbiased, and often based on comparisons to the United States. The reader gets the impression that the United States and Brazil share important political similarities that have contributed to populist success, much as Trump and Bolsonaro themselves are similar. In general, the article focuses mostly on Bolsonaro and his similarities to Trump rather than on Brazil as a whole.

Bolsonaro’s campaign can be understood in the context of a worldwide surge in populist politics. In addition to Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 election, populists have also become increasingly common in Europe with Brexit representing a clear populist victory. Additionally, populist parties have increased in popularity in many European countries, particularly in Germany, Italy, and France. Bolsonaro has also exploited racial and social tensions in order to motivate his voter base and promote his candidacy. His attacks on women and people of color are calculated to draw the support of a voter base that is resentful of change and wants to maintain a stranglehold on political influence. These tactics are reminiscent of Trump’s attempts to blame America’s problems on immigrants. Bolsonaro also attacks the social structure of Brazil by claiming that his opponents are spreading fake news and dismissing all of their claims as lies, thus spreading distrust and discontent and undermining the validity of objective truth. These tactics are also common among populists including Trump. In conclusion, I agree with the article’s claim that Bolsonaro is essentially using Trumpian tactics and that he poses a threat to democracy in Brazil.

link to the article:

Wasteland Discussion Questions

Does Muniz’s work exploit the pickers and if so, can it still have an overall positive impact?

Preliminary answer: I think that Muniz’s work is exploitative to some extent because his interaction with them gives him fame and attention while leaving the pickers themselves to continue living in difficult situations. However, Muniz also legitimately improved the lives of the people he worked with by providing them with the proceeds of his work and by bringing attention to their struggles. The pickers who worked with him also seemed to enjoy the experience, although we should bear in mind that the documentary probably tries to promote this idea. Therefore, I would argue that his work had an overall positive impact even if its primary objective was to promote Muniz’s career and reputation.

How was the portrayal of the pickers significant and what ideas about them did it convey?

Preliminary answer: The pickers are portrayed as having a certain amount of pride in their work in many instances, and a lot of attention was devoted to the attempts of the pickers to organize and improve their situation. Their attempts to educate themselves by reading books that they find and starting a library are also emphasized. In addition to these themes, the documentary focused on the difficult conditions in which the pickers live and their attempts to overcome the challenges that they face. Overall, I think the coverage of the pickers was largely positive and designed to help people sympathize with them as well as to bring attention to their needs.


Research Project

My research project topic will be the history of politics in Brazil and how they have effected the lives of ordinary Brazilians. I think this is an important issue in light of the recent political turmoil in the Brazilian political system and popular outrage at the corruption of the government. This issue is also important because there are a wide range of issues facing Brazil that must be addressed through the political system such as deforestation in the Amazon, corruption, and the economy. Understanding the history of Brazilian politics can give valuable insight into these contemporary issues and the development of the country throughout its history.

Understanding politics in Brazil is important to understanding the history of the country as well. Because there have been so many different political systems in the country, ranging from an empire to a modern democratic government, politics have had an unusually large impact on the development of Brazil. Also, the history of Brazilian government and political institutions can help us gain an understanding of social issues in the country. For instance, it would be impossible to understand a problem such as racism without knowledge of the political structure under which it developed and was justified.

To learn about this topic, I will first research the history of Brazilian politics, starting with Brazilian independence from Portugal and working forward to the present day. This approach will allow me to understand the context of the current political situation in Brazil and have a deeper understanding of contemporary issues. It will also allow me to see how the Brazilian government has changed over time and how these changes effected the lives of Brazilians and the  development of the country as a whole. I will also focus on the contemporary state of Brazilian politics, such as the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and the corruption charges against Michel Temer.



Guimarães, Roberto Pereira. 1991. The ecopolitics of development in the third world: Politics & environment in brazil. Boulder, Colo: L. Rienner Publishers.

Reiter, Bernd, 1968. 2009. Negotiating democracy in brazil: The politics of exclusion. Boulder: FirstForumPress.

Fishlow, Albert. 2011. Starting over: Brazil since 1985. 1st ed. Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution Press.

Reiter, Bernd, 1968, and Gladys L. Mitchell 1978. 2010. Brazil’s new racial politics. Boulder, Colo: Lynne Rienner Publishers.