Accepted Paper:

La Distinction Lusotropical: When Bourdieu meets Freyre  


Ana Ribeiro (Universitat Leipzig)

Paper short abstract:

Through Bourdieuian lenses, this paper explores how Brazil's Africa-related development discourse involving lusophone exceptionalism was shaped over time (i.e. by sociologist Freyre), given "symbolic capital" by governments, channeled into action and changed for different eras and priorities.

Paper long abstract:

Brazil is referred to today as an "emerging donor," but its involvement in African development dates back to the 1970's, as Brazil's national developmentalism called for capital expansion beyond its own "traditional" partners. This involvement has been wrapped in a narrative of exceptionalism of lusophone - Portuguese language and culture-related - leadership that has evolved as Brazil's own geopolitical ambitions have grown and the international climate changed. Using a Bourdieuian perspective, this paper will explore how such narrative was shaped especially through Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre, given "symbolic capital" by different presidential administrations and their respective diplomatic corps. In its first phase, which peaked in the 1950's, the discourse referred to the expansion of Brazilian and Portuguese capital collectively, disregarding the agency of the colonized. In its second phase, launched in the early 60's, it was modified to leave Portuguese leadership aside and frame an idea of Brazilian exceptionalism and fitness to lead the oppressed nascent African states out of their condition of underdevelopment and dependency. The third phase of the discourse, in effect now, sheds the idea of racial and social democracy in Brazilian society previously employed as exceptionalism towards the idea of a debt to be repaid to Africans for slavery and contributions to Brazilian society. However, previously promoted ideas of similarities - in culture, language, soil, climate and socioeconomic struggles - have been kept that supposedly set Brazil apart from other aid donors.

Panel P082
The changing landscape of the global political economy and foreign aid: has the Cold War ended? (Anthropology of International Governance Network)