Panel 23: Ethnicity and Immigration History Studies on Brazil: Sources and Research Trends (2015)

Moderator: Teresa Chapa – University of North Carolina
Rapporteur: Alexia Shellard – Susanne Bach Books from Brazil and Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro

Gabriel Mordoch is a Brazilian PhD student at Ohio State University. It was his first time in SALALM and he presented a paper entitled Os Diálogos das Grandezas do Brasil [1618] de Ambrósio Fernandes Brandão e os cristãos-novos no Brasil colonial.  The work discusses three main questions: who was Ambrósio Fernandes, why has his text remained important and what was distinct about this narrative, compared to other colonial writings. Ambrósio Fernandes Brandão was a New-Christian and in his “Dialogues” – as opposed to most of other contemporary texts – there is not a clear allusion to traditional Christian values. He structures the narration as a dialogue between Brandoni and Alviano, in which the former defends the greatness of the colony while the latter offers more criticism. The text presents rich descriptions about landscape, natural diversity, weather, etc. Mordoch emphasizes the importance of Jewish culture for the development of American colonies and works on two hypotheses: either Brandão adopted the strategy of refuting and avoiding classical Catholic allusions in his “Dialogues” to reinforce his Jewish identity or he was performing an embryonic kind of secular speech reflecting the perceptions of someone who, removed from  ebrew origins for generations, hadn't been integrated into Catholicism as a religion.

Ricarda Musser has a PhD in Library Science and History and works at the Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, in Berlin. Currently, she is involved with three projects related to Portugal, Brazil and Latin-America, one of which was presented in Panel 23, entitled “Immigration Guides as Source Material for Immigration History: The Example of Brazil”. Musser showed numbers and statistics about Germans who left Europe for America throughout the 19th and the first decades of the 20th century. Through the analysis of “immigration guides”, the purpose of the project is to examine quality information such as: conditions of life in the destination, perspectives in the German colonies, as well as details about the weather in Brazil, Brazilian laws related to immigration, etc.

Daniel Schoorl is an Associate Editor at the UCLA Hispanic American Periodicals Index (HAPI) who presented the paper: “Arab Ethnicity in Brazil: An Overview of Recent Literature and Research”. The paper deals with recent literature – published after 2005 – which focuses on or includes the studies of ethnic identity in Middle Eastern-Brazilian communities. Immigration from the Middle East to Brazil has been widely studied as has the successful integration of these communities into Brazilian society. Researching mainly 19th century docs, Schoorl presented two important conclusions: most Arab immigrants went to urban locations, working in different kinds of business and, secondly, most of the Arab population was perceived by Brazilian people as Turkish in times of the declining – but still powerful – Ottoman Empire.

The panel was really very good, evoking interesting questions and problems. Ruby Gutierrez (Associate Editor at the UCLA Hispanic American Periodicals Index) questioned Musser about the position of a socialist regime in regards to slavery, which according to Musser, they intended to abolish. Gabrielle Winkler (Special Collections Assistant at Princeton University Library) then raised the question of nature and indigenous populations on the immigration guides. Although some Germans might have been impressed by the wild nature of Brazil in times of cultural Romanticism, the immigration guides faced both nature and indigenous people as elements to be fought and defeated.

Peter Johnson (from Princeton) wanted to know about immigrant civil organizations, if they existed or not, if they helped or not, and if they stimulated immigration or not, a question which both Musser and Schoorl were able to address: there were migrants networks, and those did indeed help to increase the immigration flows. Winkler asked about the religious pattern in German immigration, while Gutierrez asked about the destinations in Brazil for Arab people. According to Schoorl, the Arab immigrants were spread all over the country, but there were two important poles: the Amazon and the area where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay have the triple frontier. Lastly, Mordoch was asked about the recent versions of “Dialogues”, which were last published in English and also if the New-Christians had ever returned to their original faith – this question, he said, is still to be researched.