Accepted Paper:

A Portuguese anthropologist, nationalism, racism and colonial domination  
José Sobral (Universidade de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

Examining the biography and discourse of the most influential figure of Portuguese social and cultural anthropology in the aftermath of the Second World War, we intend to explore, in a comparative perspective, the connections between anthropology, politics, nationalism and racism in Portugal.

Paper long abstract:

Born into an upper-middle class family, Jorge Dias was the leading figure of Portuguese anthropology in the period between the end of World War II and his death in 1973.

In this essay we examine the reasons for the important role he played in Portugal - and even some international recognition, since he was general secretary of CIAP, SIEF's predecessor. We purport to show that his class background, his cosmopolitanism and the impact of his rural monographs, that extolled the values of small peasant communities, were instrumental in this.

However, the prestige he achieved in Portugal was linked to the fact that he became the official anthropologist of the Portuguese colonial State at a time, in which, threatened by decolonization, the government wanted to leave the racial superiority's claims that hitherto cultivated and searched for another kind of legitimation. Or, in spite of his training in Nazi Germany, Dias never espoused the racial doctrines that prevailed there. Instead, he elaborated an essentialist representation of the Portuguese "national character" which postulated its non-racism. This was in line with the official ideology of the regime from the forties of the twentieth century and its legitimation of colonial domination.

Jorge Dias sought to reconcile the irreconcilable: the anti-racism and relativism of American cultural anthropology with which he identified himself and the defence of a colonial regime that operated in absolute contradiction with those postulates. The reason for this must be searched in the nationalist ideology that the anthropologist shared with the State.

Panel P020
Themes in the history of anthropology