Note from BW of Brazil: This should actually come as no surprise. As we have consistently documented here on this blog, Afro-Brazilians have been made almost completely invisible in numerous areas of Brazilian society. With the forces of white supremacy completely dominating important genres of the nation such as media, politics, and literature, among countless other areas, it would only make sense that black Brazilians were also excluded from bibliographies and topics of discussion in halls of higher learning.
Considering the fact that black Brazilians have only in the past decade been able to enter Brazilian universities in substantial numbers it would only be logical that a whole other battle would be the demand of having access to works by black scholars, both Brazilian and classics from the African Diaspora. As Portuguese is still not considered a language of international importance in the same manner as English, Spanish, French or German, the task is even more daunting when there is a need to explore the works of important black professors and researchers who wrote and had their works translated into these languages.
I can attest to the profound influence that works by internationally recognized black scholars and activists such as Frantz Fanon and Malcolm X have had on the lives of Afro-Brazilians. Some black Brazilians, with even a limited understanding of English, manage to get through these important works and other times they manage to get their hands on an old, out-of-print copy of these works that had been translated into Portuguese. I remember a few years back the buzz in the community when a brand new version of Frantz Fanon’s classic Black Skin, White Masks was re-issued in Portuguese under the title Pele negra, máscaras brancas.
Also popular in Afro-Brazilian intellectual circles a few years back and still today is the Portuguese version of the UNESCO’s General History of Africa. The release of such works represents only the tip of the iceberg in terms of the necessity of filling the gap of black intellectual production not just at the university level, but general education. A void that was supposed to be filled with the implementation of Law 10.639/2003 back in 2003. With such invisibility on so many levels of society, is it any wonder why such a large percentage of African descendants don’t recognize themselves as black? If one is invisible in history, invisible in the media but over-represented in the slums and jails, how would this affect one’s perception of self? Again, Brazil must pat itself on the back: its particular brand of racism is perhaps the successful in the world!
Black intellectuals are outside of the bibliography, experts criticize
By Mariana Tokarnia
Abdias Nascimento, Clóvis Moura, Lélia Gonzalez, Beatriz Nascimento, Jurema Werneck and Sueli Carneiro are just a few names of the long list of black Brazilian intellectuals. It is not uncommon, however, that a student leaves higher education without knowing and without having read any of these thinkers. For researchers, in academia and general education there is a lack of wider knowledge of the black intelligentsia, not only Brazilian. It is also necessary to have access to translated works of black thinkers.
The search for black leadership was what motivated the research of History professor Carlos Machado. In the book Ciência, Tecnologia e Inovação Africana e Afrodescendente (African and Afro-descendant Science, Technology and Innovation), he compiled some stories and legacies of black researchers for humanity. He explains that these people are responsible for inventions that are part of our daily lives. “But Eurocentrism hid or deleted this history as if it didn’t exist and then this information, a portion of it, remain as if it were a European legacy,” he said.
According to him, mathematics originated in Africa, as well as astronomy and the university. “For years I had heard that the first universities in the world had been built in Europe, such as the University of Bologna in the 11th century, but there are reports of universities, study centers in Africa since the 30th century BC,” he says. “We have several African influences in our daily lives, metallurgy, sealing, philosophy, engineering, architecture, urbanism, the black presence is beyond music and culture, the black presence is in many fields and it needs to be redeemed beyond the 21st century.”
The research, however, was not easy. Machado tells us that in 1995, when he sought black researchers, “black scientist appeared as a work of science fiction and not as something real.” According to him, the erasure of black leadership dates from the process of slavery, which began from the 15th century and was intended to dehumanize
whoever was enslaved. “You not only dominated with weapons. You dominated by means of culture and religion. So you had to totally destroy this man. So, he had to fully embrace European culture as if it were the only thing possible. And African culture was seen as a barbaric thing, low, wild.”
The difficulty he encountered in the 90s persists today. According to the lawyer and post-doctorate from the University of Texas Ana Luiza Flauzina this is a challenge that the Brazilian university places for black researchers. “Our issues are viewed with much suspicion,” she says. “Overall, we don’t translate texts of black people from Africa and the Diaspora. The university has not fulfilled this role of also prioritizing the translation of texts, only reissuing European classics. We have little access, in the Portuguese language , to some fundamental classics and I’m not just speaking only of black people, but Indians, from the east. We have so little circulating in global terms, that we end up losing the possibility of exchange,” she says.
With a Master’s in Law Marcos Queiroz studies the impact of the Haitian revolution in constitutional processes in Brazil and Colombia in Independence. “[The black authors] are often times not in literature, depending on how you do the course, one can never read a black author,” he says. “The academy excludes us from the spaces of the theoretical foundation of research.”
“It’s not just being within the university, we want that knowledge change, that we know black authors, that we we read about black authors and not only blacks researching what the university has always researched,” he says. “I think the university reflects one of the darkest aspects of racism. It deletes our trajectories and our knowledge,” says Queiroz.
Source: Agência Brasil