This seminar is titled “Brazil: Race, Class, and Gender,” and while the objective of the course is to attend to and explore each of these facets of Brazilian life, the structure of the course in fact reveals the difficulty and indeed impracticality of isolating for study any of the above components – race, class, or gender. Although drawing primarily on the work of anthropologists, we will also read from an interdisciplinary sampling of sociology, social history, literature, and poetry produced by both Brazilian and foreign authors.
The course begins with a brief, historical overview of contemporary Brazil, starting with the region’s indigenous populations, European contact, colonization, and early nation building. We will examine the significance of slavery in Brazil, explore the multiple meanings of “racial democracy” as the term relates to notions of Brazilian national identity, and unpack shifting racial ideologies of the 20th Century. The course will be similarly concerned with shifting notions of masculinity and femininity, sexuality, and of course what all of this might mean in a country that is understood by much of the “outside world” as an epicenter of sensuality. Finally, this course looks to the history of social thought concerning race, class, and gender in Brazil to make sense of current social and political unrest.