Tag Archives: class notes

Class Notes April 12th

In class on Thursday, April 12th, Jack presented to the class his research on Brazilian prisons. He explained how citizens residing in favella’s are unfairly targeted and imprisoned for minor crimes, overcrowding the Brazilian prision system. It reflected the current issue of Lula’s imprisonment and how he’s being kept away from such conditions, and provided an introductions into the day’s major discussions about race in Brazil.

Nasua introduced her book Pretty Modern: Beauty, Sex, and Plastic Surgery in Brazil by Alexander Edmonds. She covered how Edmonds’ research focuses specifically on how beauty functions as its own factor in society, leaving widespread impacts on how Brazilian women identify themselves. There was an ideal body type, one that had black and white features, though predominantly European in the face. One’s body going through plastic surgery (plástica) was a form of therapy, as some surgeons such as Ivo Pitanguy describe. However, Nasua pointed out the dangerous implications of these practices, including how they directly contradict they ideal of a “racial democracy”. There is an idea that only portions of black bodies are truly acceptable, and for darker skinned women to be more socially accepted as “beautiful”, they must alleviate their “errors” of looking poor, and instead using surgery. This is crucial in understanding Brazilian society and the delusion of assuming that all races are equal when they are clearly divided.

Jackson was able to dive deeper into Brazilian perceptions on race in his presentation of Pigmentocracies: Ethnicity, Race, and Color in Latin America by Edward Telles. The book was more of a scientific report, explain how Brazilian’s identified themselves racially and how others perceived them. It included a history of how race has changed over time, altering how Brazilians have identified their race.  Though the book had some discrepancies, such as a small sample size, it still provides a personal look into the world of racial identify.

All these topics tie into the major theme of the reading; how has beauty standards and the growth of plástica emerged as a source of identification for Brazilians? Alexander Edmonds returns in today’s coverage of Brazilian bodies in this article ‘The Poor Have The Right to Be Beautiful’: Cosmetic Surgery in Neoliberal Brazil.  He explains how plastic surgery has been reinterpreted as a therapeutic practice and serves as a way to “normalize” citizens, especially the poor. Because of the free healthcare that allows anyone to get plastic surgery, it’s prominence has grown dramatically. It’s established a mindset of bodies serving as a representation of one’s entire identity, and can be seen as a way to alleviate citizens from poverty. This has serious historical implications for how Brazilians identify who they are, how people can use science to change their identities, and how Brazilians have begun to categorize themselves beyond race and class, and into bodies.


Some key terms to remember from this seminar are:

  • Favella: Low income slums surrounding major Brazilian cities
  • Mestiçagem: Mixing and variety of races in Brazil
  •  Ethically Ambiguous: Being able to pass as different races, which can be both a hindrance and an advantage.
  • Plástica: Slang for plastic surgery, reflects how common it is in Brazilian society. Widely used term.


To learn more about these topics, feel free to explore the following sources

  • Machado-Borges, Thaïs, Stockholms universitet, Latinamerika-institutet, Humanistiska fakulteten, and Institutionen för spanska, portugisiska och latinamerikastudier. 2009. Producing beauty in brazil: Vanity, visibility and social inequality. Vibrant Virtual Brazilian Anthropology 6 (1): 208.
  • Finger, C. 2003. Brazilian beauty – brazil’s cosmetic surgery industry is thriving, but why is beauty so important? Lancet 362 (9395): 1560-.
  • “Impact: Promises to Reform Brazil’s Overcrowded Prisons” Human Rights Watch, December, 22, 2015.

Questions to Consider:

  • How might the easy access of DNA testing alter Brazilian identity?
  • How might the desire of plastic surgery alter if it became an entirely privatized industry, leaving some with no access to it at all?
  • What role to prisons play in maintaining Brazilian class structure?

Class Notes 2/6/18

Fun class music:


  • With class presentationspicking up it is important to watch timing to have enough time to accomplish everything.
  • Great Decisions Lecture was on Immigration tonight (2/6/18) with Angela Maria Kelly. She is also having a talk on DACA this Thursday (2/8/18) at 4PM.
  • There is a History major information session this Thursday (2/8/18) at 11AM. This meeting is for anyone who is interested/thinking about a History major or double major.

Cultural Blog Post: Japanese Population in Sao Paulo (David)

Class today began with a Brazilian culture blog post discussing the Japanese population in Sao Paulo. David discussed the wave of Japanese immigration to Brazil and how Japanese culture is a large part of Sao Paulo, especially in the neighborhood Liberdade. This presentation tied into class discussions about the formation of a national Brazilian identity.


Class Discussion:  Independence and Construction of Brazilian National Identity

Class today focused around the story of Brazil’s independence from Portugal and the different ways that the story is told. Discussion centered around the formation of a Brazilian national identity:  Who was included as a citizen, excluded, and who had the right to vote. Within this topic, we also looked at the implications of relying on different historical sources to understanding national identity. We began by looking at primary source photos of King Joao VI and Emperor Pedro !, shown below, while discussing the historic tale of Brazilian independence.

After discussing the historical tale of independence, Professor Holt distributed a partial copy of the 1824 Brazilian Constitution. We discussed in small groups after analyzing the document and its implications for who is defined as a citizen of the newly independent Brazil and who had the right to vote. One main aspect of Brazilian citizenship that was discussed was the focus on loyalty. The newly independent kingdom was wary of Portuguese and African populations within the country and their loyalty to Brazil. The 1824 Constitution provided a primary source document on the legal formation of Brazilian national identity during the time of independence. Class ended by looking at Kraay’s argument around the Dois de Julho Celebration versus the national September 7th independence day celebration. He argues that these celebrations showed the anti-Portuguese and anti-African sentiment that existed during the time of independence.

Key Terms:

  • Liberdade, Sao Paulo: Japanese neighborhood in Sao Paulo
  • Emperor Pedro I: First emperor of the newly independent kingdom of Brazil.
  • Household: Households were seen as the primary political unit in early Brazil. They were headed by one main male figure who held the voting rights within the unit.
  • 2 de Julho: Celebration of winning Brazilian independence from the Portuguese, primarily celebrated in Bahia
  • September 7th: Brazilian Independence Day. This day is thought of as the day that Pedro I declared independence through a declaration.

Further Questions:

  1. How have the early ideas shaped how Brazilian identity is seen today? Especially when looking at the construction of race.
  2. In what ways is the story of Brazilian Independence central to Brazilian history and how they view their history today?
  3. In what way do celebrations challenge/show the formation of national identity? Especially how do they show state identity and does that differ from national identity?

More Sources on Topic:

Roett, Riordan. “The Historical Background: Colony, Empire, and Republic.” In The New Brazil, 19-36. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 2011. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7864/j.ctt12818n.6.

Kraay, Hendrik. “Between Brazil and Bahia: Celebrating Dois De Julho in Nineteenth-Century Salvador.” Journal of Latin American Studies 31, no. 2 (1999): 255-86. http://www.jstor.org/stable/157905.

Barickman, B. J. “Reading the 1835 Parish Censuses from Bahia: Citizenship, Kinship, Slavery, and Household in Early Nineteenth-Century Brazil.” The Americas 59, no. 3 (2003): 287-323. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1008500.


Class Notes- February 01, 2018


  •  Tons of grades are posted on Moodle
    • Do not be alarmed since Moodle doesn’t not calculate grades correctly
  • There was a reminder sent on Moodle about the group project and a poll  about what time periods would be the best for watching the three movies.

Blog Post- Jordan Griffin 

His blogpost was about the upcoming presidential election in Brazil and how the two main players are on extreme opposite of the left/right political scale. This election is special because it is coming after the impeachment of the previous president and corruption charges brought against the government. The left political opponent is Da Silva and the right-wing candidate is Bolsonaro. They both want to throw out the current system, but want it replaced with something vastly different.

Class Discussion: To Be a Slave in Brazil

When talking about race in Brazil, it is important to note how the idea of race went from a biological trait to an idea that is implemented within society. In order to talk about slavery, we must know the history of sugar plantations.

How Plantations Worked

Portugal set up the first plantation in Bahia in 1549. However, there were already smaller areas  and Brazil was already in the works for the African Diaspora.

Sugar is one of the most labor intensive labor jobs. it required a a hue industrial processing plant. Once you cut the cane, you only have 24 hours before it goes bad due its short shelf life. With the growing of sugar, the first crop yields the most amount of sugar, but it takes 14-18 months. The second yield takes around 8 months, but the more times it is planted and harvested the less and less sugar is yielded.

Once the canes were cut, it was a fast and harsh process to get it milled/processed as soon as possible. This time was somehow an agricultural time, but needed huge technological advancements for  the actual storing and processing. The machines have these huge wooden rollers that are fed the canes and the juice gets squished out. The rollers are wither ox or water powered. Once the juice is ll collected, the liquid needed to be boiled quickly unless it would go bad. The boiling was supposed to evaporate enough of the water so when it cools it will crystallizes.

Historian say sugar was the worst work to ever be done due to the grueling work hours and the danger that comes with it. it was common during harvest time for the slaves to be working 18 hour work days with being extremely malnourished. Working in sugar ended with many accidents. Slave were either  having their limbs cut off while cutting the cane, getting caught in-between the huge wooden rollers, or during themselves while boiling the sugar. Within the system,  slaves can work into becoming high ranking people on the plantations. Bahia had such an awful reputation for the awful conditions, planters would write guides to each other saying “Plan to replace your entire labor force every 7 years.”


When discussing historiography, we need to think about life expectancy and birth rate. With African men being more favorable, there was an imbalance in the sex in Brazil. At some point, death outpaced births. This was also due to the awful working conditions. Sugar was an economic and racist industry. It was racist because it was the whole idea that these people were disposable. Sugar was able to thrive under the idea of othering. Brazil had a different view of slavery due to the social contracts in Iberia and within the Catholic Church/Law. Portugal believed slavery wouldn’t last forever and they also believed in the equality of souls.


Schwarts argument

Schwarts’ argument was about resistance within Brazilian slavery. He makes the argument that this should not be compared to US slavery in regards to which was tougher.  He talked about the quilombous and palmares, slave fugitive communities, how militarized resistance, and cultural/religious resistance.

For Next Week

  • finish up the Wikipedia stuff
  • We will be discussing independence and how that played a role in the way Brazilians view what being Brazilian and Portuguese means.