Author Archives: Jordan Griffith

The three most important things I learned this semester

I took this class with little to no pre-existing knowledge of Brazil’s history or its modern-day situation. Thus, I stood to gain a lot of knowledge from this class.

  1. I learned a great deal about race in Brazil. Learning about the complex ways in which race is constructed both historically and in modern Brazil has opened my eyes to the struggles people of color face in Brazil. Additionally, learning about race in Brazil in the context of American race relations helped me make fine grained comparisons that increased my understanding of the issues faced by people of color in Brazil and in the United States. Furthermore, learning about how the idea of race is not directly linked to skin color in Brazil made me think critically about how we perceive race in modern day America
  2. I learned a great deal about the Brazilian political situation that helped contextualize American politics and gave me an eye into the complexities of Brazilian politics. For instance, learning about the complex relationship the people of Brazil have with Lula gave insight into how class motivates people in Brazil and how it affects political decisions. On the other hand, the rise of Bolsonaro shows that Brazil is not immune to the trend towards right leaning populism affecting many Western countries today.
  3. I think getting to dig into the complex histories of the favelas has also been an enlightening experience because it shows again how class, gender and race intersect in unique ways, and how they all contribute to the unique social environment of the favelas. Furthermore, getting to better understand the citizen’s view of favelas, in that they are not necessarily looking to leave them or radically reshape them but secure them to make them safe and pleasant places to live.

Reflection on Symposium

For symposium, I attended presentations by Danica and Madeline Braver. For Danica, she looked at attitudes towards LGBTQ+ individuals in Latin America, emphasizing the relationship between the number of out LGBTQ+ legislators in Latin American and the acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals in the countries. She provided a comprehensive analysis, looking at over 10 different Latin American counties and ended up finding a consistent link between counties with LGBTQ+ legislators and improved acceptance of LGBTQ+ individuals. I think she portrayed the region fairly, with equal attention and treatment paid to countries, and no normative claims made without clear data to back them up.

For Madeline, she looked at the maintenance and efficacy of community water pumps in Ghana and a few Central American countries, finding that there are a number of factors that affect the efficacy of those pumps, including community by-in and the regulation of the pumps. While her project was not centrally focused on Latin America, I still believe she presented a balanced and data driven view of the region that left a good impression with me.

The Wasteland Questions

Q1: From a moral standpoint, do you think Vik’s project was acceptable?

Throughout the film, I struggled with the morality of the project that Vik was pursuing. While he did end up giving the money he raised to the people he photographed, I couldn’t get over the sense that they were being exploited to some degree, and that the project was more important for Vik than it was for the subjects, and to a degree, he was doing it to prove to himself he had moved past being that poor kid growing up in a Sao Paulo favela. To that end, it still felt exploitative despite the positive effects that it had on the subjects.

Q2: What do the subjects of Vik’s photographs reveal about how class interacts with race and gender in Brazil?

Looking at his subjects, they were largely non-white and female, with several of the women experiencing some sort of gender-violence. As such, it is clear that poverty in Brazil is disproportionately felt by non-white individuals and women.

The Hour of the Star

How does Macabea’s interaction with Madame Carlota reflect early attitudes toward women in Brazil?

The Macabea’s interactions with Madame Carlota are symbolic of the larger attitudes towards women in Brazil for several reasons. One, this interaction shows a clear exploitation of Macabea’s insecurities and vulnerabilities. Carlota targets her by first telling her of a life of pain and disappointment, but then immediately changes course to explain that Carlota’s life will be happy and fulfilling (66). While the specificities of the exchange are not as importance, the way that the author shows Macabea’s immediate acceptance shows a commentary on the perceived naivety and submissiveness of women. Her inability to notice the complete turnaround in her life as part of Carlota’s scheme to exploit money from her also reinforces this notion. Furthermore, Carlota’s reasoning for asking for payment, namely that “everything [she] earns as a card-reader [she] gives to an orphanage,” and Carlota’s acceptance of that excuse also shows the association of trustingness with femininity (68). While this scene specifically shows how the author was commenting on the perceptions of women in early Brazil, Macabea’s other interactions also show those stereotypes. For instance, her interactions with her boyfriend, Olimpico de Jesus, shows the idea of trustingness. Despite his lying about most aspects of his life, she still believes and accepts him without question (36). Thus, this novel provides important commentary on gender stereotypes in Brazil and in a larger context.

Class Notes: Mademe Satã

For today’s class session, we viewed the film Madame Satã, a 2002 Brazilian film about the life of João Francisco dos Santos or Madame Satã and how he became the performer he was. This film presented the early life of dos Santos and the struggles he faced in 1930’s Rio de Janeiro. It does so by tracing the life of dos Santos and his associates before his ten-year stint in prison. In doing so, the film shows the difficulties faced by people who did not fit into clearly-defined groups. Madame Satã intersects well with the class themes and historical discussions we have been having, as it involved themes of the construction of race in Brazil and struggles with identity. The major characters in the film all exemplify the difficulty with fitting people into easily-definable categories and shows how people are affected by an attitude of heteronormativity.

The film was made in 2002, which affected the presentation of the characters and likely the reception it received. At the time, Brazilian states had either begun to or had already extended some additional protections to members of the LBTQIA+ community. However, there was not a clear national law at the time. Thus, the film came at a period of rapid change and growing understanding, which likely contributed to how it was perceived. Today, we live in an era where same-sex marriage is becoming more normal across the world, which can have an obscuring effect on some of the other discriminations LBTQIA+ people have, even while incidents of violence against LBTQIA+ people is on the rise. Thus, seeing the events of the film remind us that we are a long way from true equality and acceptance for members of this group. Furthermore, the identities that the characters in the film have are those that still face hate and discrimination today. Thus, this film serves as an important reminder in a modern context.

The film did have several scenes that reinforced the previously-mentioned notion. One scene was when the local police came to arrest dos Santos for “stealing” money from his former employer. We saw the full extent of the alleged crime, but as we watched, we knew that no amount of explaining by dos Santos would prevent him from being arrested, especially because we knew that police routinely raided areas known to contain more Black and LBTQIA+ individuals. Another memorable scene was when at the beginning dos Santos defended one of the women who was working at the bar from an overly-aggressive man. In the larger context of the film, this moment seems almost strange because the woman herself would become a target of dos Santos when she later called him derogatory terms. These two moments lead to the purpose and message of the film, namely humanizing these people on the fringes of society by showing a fuller picture of who they were.

The way the events were portrayed in the film led to our understanding of it. Stylistically, it involved filming techniques that emphasized the shape of the characters through frequent use of silhouettes and close-up shots. Additionally, the use of frequent cuts to correspond with action creates a sense of confusion and uncertainty that I am sure that some of the characters had been feeling. Alternatively, longer sequences force the viewer to pay attention to the events. For instance, when dos Santos is being sentenced, the camera focuses on him as his sentence is being read so the viewer has to listen and watch his reactions. Finally, the use of shadows and low light in the shots leads to a feeling of confusion and uncertainty and an inability to focus throughout the film.

Throughout the film, we see dos Santos struggle with his identity, struggling to define what it means to be a man despite his desire to engage in activities that are considered effeminate. Dos Santos exists in a particular area where he is surrounded by people who present themselves as one gender over the other, like Tabu, and people whose sexuality is clearly discernable like the young man dos Santos frequently encounters. Overall, the director seems to be showing how blurred the lines are when discussing race, gender, and sexuality in this specific time and place. Our inability to easily define the various intersections that dos Santos exemplifies contributes to that message, as we learn about each part of his identity and come to accept those as uniquely him.

This film connects well to some of the readings we have had so far given its exploration of the historic construction of race, gender, and sexuality. For instance, it reminds me of the Weinstein piece, as they both deal with the express construction of an identity group through the creation of societal norms. Interestingly, I also was reminded of the Cannibalist Manifesto, as it too involved an attempt to expressly define an identity for the Brazilian people. So, while the group was larger, working to define an identity is a theme common to both works. Finally, the film brought to mind Davila’s work about race, class, and education in the “Estado Novo.” Just like the other works, this piece deals with intersectionality and how each individual carves out their unique space and identity based on those intersections.


Further Reading:
Performing Race and Gender in Brazil: Karim Ainouz’s Madam Satã (2002)
Lorraine Leu

“Madame Satã: Unapologetically Queer
Jeremy Lehnen

Madame Satã (Dos Santos, João Francisco)
James N. Green

Wiki Cleanup – Liberal Rebellions of 1842

For my Wikipedia clean up, I propose I address the article titled “Liberal Rebellions of 1842” due to the importance of the topic and the clear substantive content gaps acknowledged by the article. This article concerns an uprising that occurred during Brazil’s period as an empire, where, in response to increasingly centralized conservative measures, liberals began to take to the streets to overthrow governments in a number of Brazilian states. Thus, this topic represents an important and significant part of Brazil’s history. Now this article does contain some basic information, but in my extremely limited research, I have found there is more to this topic than is covered in the Wikipedia articles that would contribute to the overall thoroughness of the article. While this may be a relatively small part of Brazil’s history, it still has importance in the greater political and social history of the country. Thus, improving this article would help make the rich history of Brazil much more accessible to the public. It also would help contextualize the political drama of modern Brazil and provide a fuller pictures of the country’s complex political history. One major part of this article that I would like to expand on it the effects and after effects section to show how this ultimately unsuccessful revolt affected Brazil at the time. I believe tackling this article will help us understand as small, but not insignificant part of Brazilian history. Furthermore, my background in political science makes me extremely interested in the politics of Brazil generally, and this represents a specific small way of understanding them.

I have found some reputable sources that address this topic. One such book is about the empire and republic of Brazil from 1822-1930 and contains some good information about the rebellion of 1842 that will add a great deal to the article. Another book that focuses more on the state of Pernambuco contains details of the rebellion that will positively contribute to the article. In my preliminary search I also found a journal article called “When Liberalism Goes Local: Nativism and Partisan Identity in the Sertão Mineiro, Brazil, 1831-1850,” which provides further small details about the rebellion. Now this article is not devoid of sources, but it largely relies on a few sources to make its claims. Thus, I would focus not only on expanding this article but also diversifying the sources to further legitimize the content of the article which will overall improve the article. Overall, I believe that this in an important topic to expand, and there exist enough sources to effectively expand the article.

Research Project: The Development of Brazilian Cities – Jordan

I have always had a passion for cities and urbanism, and I find the urban environment in Brazil to be fascinating. Therefore, I wish to examine the historical development of Brazilian cities in some capacity to see what the development of Brazilian cities tells us about the culture and way of life. More specifically, I’m looking at two different Brazilian cities: Belo Horizonte and Salvador as they exemplify two distinct development patterns and urban layouts. For Belo Horizonte, I would look at the logic behind the planning of the city with an eye towards the specific purpose behind the planning of the city and how that planning affected the future development of the city. Alternatively, I would like to look at Salvador, which follows a very different model of development given its historic purpose. I would look at the creation and maintenance of the historic Portuguese old town and the more organic development plan of the rest of the city. Looking at a city’s development as a way for understanding more about Brazil would be a unique way to deepen our understanding of the country and involves some unique primary sources.

If looking at Belo Horizonte, I would hope to discover more about the effect that the more industrial and resource extraction foundational purpose had on the development of the city. This would be analyzed through a look at the original plan for the city and the relation of the future developments to the initial plan for the city. Inherently I think this research would have to involve a look at class or racial distribution throughout the city in light of the initial plan of the city, and thus the city plan itself and the history of development could be a way for understanding the patterns of settlement and stratification in the modern city. An urban-based analysis could also reveal additional elements of race relations and attitudes in Brazil

I believe my aims would be fairly similar if looking at Salvador, but the method of inquiry would be different by nature of the city. As one of the oldest cities in the Americas, Salvador has a longer and more organic history than Belo Horizonte. Furthermore, it has a distinct and unique old town in the Pelourinho that contrasts with the more organic growth of the rest of the modern city. Furthermore, the city’s historic division into the high and low town also allow for an analysis of class relations, and its site as a major city of the Transatlantic slave trade makes it very diverse today and thus an interesting place to look at transculturation in city layout and design as a way of understanding how cultures interact to produce new culture. Again, I would have to look at race and class distribution as part of this analysis too as part of the look at the built environment, and I think Salvador would be an excellent place to look for this analysis.

As we have learned in class so far, Brazil is a remarkably diverse country that is the result of a variety of factors throughout its history. This history has led to the unique country we see today, and one way of understanding how this country came to be and some of the results of this historic diversity is by looking at the cities and tracing their unique development patterns. Despite their incredible importance to the history and economy of Brazil, my limited research into the subject has not revealed much research on cities in relation to the unique country that Brazil is today. Therefore, analyzing the development of one of Brazil’s cities could reveal new information about how and why Brazil is the way it is.


Secondary Sources

BARBIER, M. B., and Michel ANTONELLI. “Salvador de Bahia. Evolution Du Centre Ville.” Cahiers Du Monde Hispanique et Luso-Brésilien, no. 37 (1981): 269–71.

Cintra, Antônio Octávio. “Urban Development in Brazil: A Study of Policies and Unpolicies.” Luso-Brazilian Review 17, no. 2 (1980): 213–32.

Friendly, Abigail. “Urban Policy, Social Movements, and the Right to the City in Brazil.” Latin American Perspectives 44, no. 2 (March 2017): 132–48.

“Historic Centre of Salvador de Bahia – UNESCO World Heritage Centre.” Accessed February 10, 2018.

Levine, Robert M. “The Singular Brazilian City of Salvador.” Luso-Brazilian Review 30, no. 2 (1993): 59–69.

Lima, Zeuler. “Preservation as Confrontation: The Work of Lina Bo Bardi.” Future Anterior: Journal of Historic Preservation, History, Theory, and Criticism 2, no. 2 (2005): 24–33.

Rezende, Vera F. “Brazilian City Planners, American City Planning? New Perspectives on Urban Planning in Rio de Janeiro, 1930–1945: Research from the Field.” Planning Perspectives 25, no. 4 (October 2010): 505–13.

Rio, Vicente del, and William Siembieda. Contemporary Urbanism Brazil: Beyond Brasília. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Smith, Harry, and Emilio José Luque-Azcona. “The Historical Development of Built Heritage Awareness and Conservation Policies: A Comparison of Two World Heritage Sites: Edinburgh and Salvador Do Bahia.” GeoJournal 77, no. 3 (2012): 399–415.

Violich, Francis. “URBAN GROWTH AND PLANNING IN BRAZIL.” Ekistics 7, no. 42 (1959): 320–24.

Primary Sources

Grant (M.D.), Andrew. History of Brazil: Comprising a Geographical Account of That Country, Together with a Narrative of the Most Remarkable Events Which Have Occurred There Since Its Discovery … H. Colburn, 1809.

“Salvador (Salvador, Bahia, Brazil) – Population Statistics, Charts, Map, Location, Weather and Web Information.” Accessed February 12, 2018.

“The City of Salvador – World Digital Library.” Accessed February 12, 2018.

“Ville de Saint Salvador, Capitale Du Bresil. – David Rumsey Historical Map Collection.” Accessed February 12, 2018.,-capitale-d?sort=Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No&qvq=w4s:/where%2FSalvador%2B%252528Brazil%252529;q:salvador;sort:Pub_List_No_InitialSort%2CPub_Date%2CPub_List_No%2CSeries_No;lc:RUMSEY~8~1&mi=4&trs=5.

Wells, James William. Exploring and Travelling Three Thousand Miles Through Brazil from Rio de Janeiro to Maranhão: With an Appendix Containing Statistics and Observations on Climate, Railways Central Sugar Factories, Mining, Commerce, and Finance … S. Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington, 1887

Google-Books-ID: Kuq_AAAAIAAJ

Brazilian Culture and History Blog Poster: Leftist Lion and Far-Right Provocateur Vie for Brazil Presidency

A supporter of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva holds up a banner expressing his support at a campaign event

The 2018 Presidential election in Brazil will occur in the context of the impeachment of the previous President, Dilma Rousseff, the corruption charges against her successor Michel Temer, the conviction of popular ex-president Luiz Incacio Lula da Silva who is seeking a third term, and the shocking rise of the Brazilian far right in the form of Representative Jair Bolsonaro. Underscoring these complicated and messy recent turn of events is the economic downturn in Brazil, widespread corruption charges, and an extremely low faith in democracy, with approximentaly 13% of Brazilians expressing satisfaction with democracy, and 97% expressing the feeling that the Brazilian government exists to cater to a “small, powerful elite” (Londono and Darlington).

The leading candidate, and the former President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Da Silva’s ability to win the election has been challenged by a court ruling upholding a corruption charge against him.

Da Silva and Bolsonaro represent a response to these factors, as they both offer more radical solutions to the some of the issues that Brazil is facing. Voters in Brazil remember da Silva as the president who presided over the country during a time of new prosperity, where new social programs helped many people in poorer parts of Brazil afford basic necessities of life. This memory and his vision gives him broad support across Brazil. However, his ability to be president is tempered by a recent court decision to uphold his conviction for bribery charges, which could result in a 12 year prison sentence (Londano). Da Silva is also a member of former President Rousseff’s party, the Workers’ Party, which at points comprised the largest political party by representation in the parliament (Londono and Darlington).

The second primary candidate, Representative Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has made shocking and derogatory comments throughout his career as a representative.

On the other side of the race is Representative Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right representative whose claim to fame is a long history of incendiary remarks aimed at women, blacks, and members of the LGTBQ community. Much of his support comes from those who see his brash statements and radical viewpoints as the necessary solution to many of the issues that Brazil faces currently. For instance, Representative Bolsonaro touts his military background as relevant experience for tackling the growing violent crime and corruption issues. As many other viable leaders have been toppled by massive corruption scandals, the radically different approach of Bolsonaro becomes more appealing, as some Brazilians see the current political institutions as failing them, especially those wealthier landowners who the policies of a da Silva administration would disproportionately affect, or young men who have some distance from the relative prosperity and stability of the da Silva administration and who now can project their economic frustrations onto vulnerable peoples (Londono and Darlington).

This article about the political institutions of Brazil presents a largely negative view of the political situation in Brazil that is not necessarily unmerited, but its narrow presentation of Brazil’s political situation does not explore the common factors that contribute to similar political situations in other liberal democracies. For instance, Bolsonaro is not unique, he is merely an example of the type of authoritarian bigots that have become more common in liberal democracies like the United States and European countries that have experienced some degree of economic stagnation.

This graph shows the rise of far right parties that share Bolsonaro’s views in European democracies.

Therefore, given some of the negative stereotypes that exist about Brazil or Latin American countries already, the lack of context in this article could contribute to that negative view. This is further exasperated by some of the quotes they draw from. For instance one of the people they interview for the piece is introduced as someone who lives in an adobe house on a dirt road, and she says that “all politicians are thieves, but at least when they [WP] stole they also gave us back something” (Londono and Darlington). While this may be accurate, its usage in the article could enable readers to extrapolate this individuals situation to be broadly representative, which again, would not give the whole picture.

Interestingly, the way this article describes the political situation in Brazil reminds me of how the indigenous Brazilians were described in some of the primary source readings, especially the Jean de Leary reading about the nature and ways of the indigenous people. In both instances, the Western “developed” viewpoint stands out and shapes how the respective authors “report” on their subjects. Now this perspective is inherent, as the two readings are not written by the people being reported on, but rather by an outside writer looking in. However, this perspective creates a narrow view of the subjects, and distorts reality by applying a different culture’s ideals to the subject. For instance, in the de Lery piece, he juxtaposes the indigenous peoples against the customs of the Europeans to make his point about their appearances (de Lery). In a similar fashion, this article presents the relative dysfunctions of the Brazilian political system with the U.S. system as a reference for most readers, meaning that the U.S.’s dysfunctions are both minimized and the Brazilian dysfunction is presented without the benefit of much historical knowledge of the system for most readers. This example connects to the larger class theme of context, as the ways that the article contextualizes the current political system in Brazil leaves the reader with certain takeaways about Brazil as a whole. Therefore, a better version of this article would benefit from more contextualization of the appeal of Bolsonaro and how his campaign relates to other far right leaders. It could also draw from more direct Brazilian perspectives to paint a broader picture of the country, not one limited to the few interviewed persons.



Jean de Lery: History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, Also Called America.


Critique of Indigenous People in Brazil Wikipedia Article


Overall, I found the “Indigenous people in Brazil” article to be informative with the authors providing appropriate links to topics related to indigenous peoples. However, it still needs some work. While the history was presented chronologically, I found the way some of the information was present to be distracting. For instance, the sections “Distribution” and “First Contacts” seemed counter-intuitively placed given the information they presented. Establishing contact and then the effects would allow the authors to provide more information that tied the sections together. For instance, the distribution section would help to explain the Europeans’ first encounter with indigenous people, and would offer a way to build more information about the groups instead of somewhat dismissing them with the introduction of European contact. However, these two sections are extremely relevant to the topic, and I found their relative placement acceptable. I especially appreciated the “Indigenous Rights Movements” section at the end, as it helped to give some modern information on the status of different groups.

In terms of bias, I saw a slight Western bias coming through, as some of the descriptors seemed to be based on Western terminology, such as “Indian,” and there were a few sections that focused on Westerners “parental” role toward Indigenous peoples, such as “The Jesuits: Protectors of the Indians.” This sections was interesting and somewhat relevant, though it did seem odd that it took up more space than the section on the contemporary situation of indigenous peoples. Finally, the full article did not made reference to or provide extensive coverage of any actual indigenous person beyond that of Rondon. I believe the failure to provide more coverage of indigenous persons themselves is the biggest downfall of this article. That being said, the article did not exhibit a bias that was so overwhelming so as to distract from the overall utility of the article.

Given these two points, I would rate the overall quality of the article as good. It contains an informative and understandable lead section that goes through the different points of the article without providing too much information. The actual article observes a fairly clear chronological order that logically follows from one point to the next, though it does not dedicate enough space to the current situation of indigenous persons, which I think is the article’s biggest failing. Some of that information comes through in the indigenous rights movements section, but that section overwhelms modern information somewhat. While the article makes frequent citations, not every factual claim is corroborated with a reference. The article also links to other relevant Wikipedia articles, which helped provide more background information where necessary. Looking through the sources, they seem to be reputable either from books, .org or .gov websites, or journal articles. However, many of the sources contain information from many years ago; one of the world bank studies is from 2004. Thus, while the sources do generally back of the claims, they are out of date. This, paired with the mild bias and some noticeable grammar and spelling errors, makes the article’s “C” rating seem appropriate, as it is good now, but it could be much better with a little updating and expansion.

Finally, the talk page does address some of the previously-mentioned issues. For instance, some of the discussion on the page revolves around missing links or the need to update links, while other discussion involves missing pieces of the article. An interesting talk page discussion focuses on the lack of coverage on the citizenship status of Brazilian Indigenous Peoples, something that I did not realize was missing, but that would significantly improve the article if added. Another discussion offers a rebuttal to the main article’s information about the religion statistics, something else I did not notice initially, but that now strikes me as odd. The talk page offers some good first steps to improving the article.