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Pomona College

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Brazil: Culture, Development, and Social Justice


Without a doubt, history affects greatly our modern realities. Yet, modernity proposes that we forget those things that make us different in order to be part of a society that is falsely seen as more advanced. One would expect that no one would understand better the need to remember history than quilombolas, people that live in communities with strong ties to their African ancestry. Whereas Brazilian culture makes it easy for the majority of citizens to forget their past by denying their racial background, an idea identified by academics and activists as “racial democracy”, quilombolas live in a reality that allows their African history to surface into their consciousness. Through interviews with some of the most politically active members of the associaҫão, or the governing body of the quilombo, and observations of the quilombo community Pitanga de Palmares, I set out to analyze how politically conscious members of this community are. First, I asked each interviewee the history of the quilombo, an important step in the formation of political consciousness. There are 3 structures forced onto the community that are well known by perhaps all adult members: gas ducts underground, a prison, and a dam. Next, I asked interviewees to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of these structures and analyzed their responses. I found that this non-representative sample of the community had varying levels of political consciousness, that seemed to correlated with varying knowledge of the quilombo’s history, both more recent and further past. Indeed, political consciousness and acceptance of modernity seemed to be at odds. Luckily, in Pitanga de Palmares, the face of the community and perhaps the most active leader, does not forget her ancestry, is not seduced by modernity. and is quite concerned about conserving historical knowledge.


Anthropology | Cultural History | Public Affairs | Social and Cultural Anthropology


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