Attaques contre les sciences humaines et sociales au Brésil

  • Entretien avec Sidney Chalhoub,Marine Corde and Angela Facundo Navia
    Publié par Émulations, 21 avril 2020
    Propos recueillis par Céline Mavrot and Romain Tiquet

Dans le cadre des attaques récentes du président Jair Bolsonaro à l’encontre de la philosophie et de la sociologie au sein du système d’éducation supérieure, Émulations reçoit trois spécialistes – Sidney Chalhoub, Marine Corde, Angela Facundo Navia – pour un entretien croisé sur la situation des sciences humaines et sociales au Brésil à la lumière de l’actualité politique du pays. Cet entretien a été réalisé par Céline Mavrot et Romain Tiquet.

In the wake of President Jair Bolsonaro’s recent attacks on philosophy and sociology in the higher education system, Émulations is pleased to welcome three experts for a cross-interview on the situation of human and social sciences in Brazil in light of the current political situation. This interview was conducted by Céline Mavrot and Romain Tiquet.

Sidney Chalhoub is a professor of history and of African and African American studies at Harvard University. Before that, he taught for thirty years in Brazil (University of Campinas). His research draws on social history and focuses on racialism, power relationships within Brazilian society, slavery, and public health. Some of his recent work includes: “The Legacy of Slavery: Tales of Gender and Racial Violence in Machado de Assis”, in Lamonte Aidoo and Daniel F. Silva, eds., Emerging Dialogues on Machado de Assis (2016) and “The Politics of Ambiguity: Conditional Manumission, Labor Contracts and Slave Emancipation in Brazil (1850s to 1888)” (International Review of Social History, 60, 2015).

Marine Corde is a post-doctoral researcher in anthropology. She holds a Ph.D. from the Museu Nacional/Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and carried out research and teaching for five years in various Brazilian universities. Her research focus is on anti-discrimination campaigns in partnership with governmental and non-governmental organizations. Her recent research comprises: « Mémoires d’immigrés, mémoires de France ? Mémoires et reconnaissance » (Conserveries mémorielles, 13, 2013) and “A articulação entre objetividade e subjetividade nos textos antropológicos: contribuições da escrita literária para a construção de saberes antropológicos” (Revista de Ciências Sociais, 44-2, 2013).

Angela Facundo Navia is a professor of anthropology at the Federal University of Rio Grande del Norte and the President of the northeast region of the Brazilian Association of Anthropology. Her research explores the racialized and gendered boundaries of nation, the states’ practices of governance regarding refugees and the processes of forced displacements. Some of her recent work includes: “Deslocamento forçado na Colômbia e Políticas de refúgio no Brasil: Gestão de populações em êxodo” (Revista de Estudos e Pesquisas Sobre as Américas, 2019), Êxodos, refúgios e exílios: Colombianos no Sul e Sudeste do Brasil (Ed. Papeis Selvagens, 2017).

Sidney Chalhoub, you were a professor at the University of Campinas (Unicamp – Universidade Estadual de Campinas) until 2015, when you obtained a position at Harvard. Unicamp was or would be one of the most affected universities because the governor of the region is pro-Bolsonaro. Marine Corde, you have studied and worked in three Brazilian federal universities and conducted anthropological research in the country. Angela Facundo Navia, you have made the most of your academic carrier between Brazil, Colombia and France, and you are a close observer of Brazil’s sociopolitical life. Can you introduce yourselves and explain the various types of institutional situations (at the local and federal levels)?

Sidney Chalhoub: I taught at the University of Campinas from 1985 to 2015. I am a social historian of Brazil, having done research on the history of working-class culture, slavery, race, and public health. The University of Campinas is a public university in the state of São Paulo funded by taxpayers’ money. Students pay no tuition for undergraduate or graduate studies. It is regularly listed among the two or three best universities in Brazil and in Latin America.

Since the funding of state universities in São Paulo depends directly on sales taxes (a fixed percentage of what the state treasury collects is transferred to the universities), they have suffered in the past few years as a result of the economic crisis. Nonetheless, the situation there seems less precarious than in federal public universities because the latter are funded by the Ministry of Education and their budgets are decided annually by the government. Thus, a government that is openly hostile to higher learning can cause significant damage to the federal university system.

Marine Corde: I am an anthropologist. I studied anthropology in France, at the University of Lyon (Université Lumière Lyon 2), and in Brazil at the Universidade Federal da Paraíba; I completed my doctoral studies at the National Museum/Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Museu Nacional/Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro – UFRJ). I also taught in the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Viçosa (Universidade Federal de Viçosa). I had the opportunity to benefit from a high-quality academic education in Brazil, and I am very concerned about how the Brazilian university system is being threatened by spending cuts.

At the beginning of 2019, the Bolsonaro government attacked some universities, such as the University of Brasilia (Universidade de Brasília – UnB), the Federal Fluminense University (Universidade Federal Fluminense – UFF), the Federal University of Bahia (Universidade Federal da Bahia – UFBA), and the Federal University of Juiz de Fora (Universdade Federal de Juiz de Fora – UFJF). The Education Ministry (Ministério da Educação – MEC) declared that it would cut the budget of these universities on the pretext that they were not achieving sufficiently good academic results and that they were making too much fuss (« balbúrdia »). The real target was, rather, the good academic work done in those universities that take their social responsibility in Brazilian society seriously. Regardless of the region in which each one is located, I think these universities were especially targeted because they are well-known as critical thought education venues. A few weeks later, the announcement of the spending cuts was extended to all Brazilian federal universities.

Angela Facundo Navia: I obtained my doctorate degree at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. I completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Casa de Rui Barbosa Foundation, also in Rio de Janeiro, and was then hired as a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the Federal University of Rio Grande del Norte (Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Norte – UFRN), in the northeast region of Brazil. These three institutions, as has happened with the entire education system in Brazil, have suffered different types of attacks in recent years. However, the characteristics, intensity and severity of the problems are very different. The tragedy of the fire at the National Museum in 2018 and its bad management by the government is, without a doubt, the most serious one and most explicitly demonstrated the government’s neglect and disinterest in the production of knowledge and the various research and the other activities that were carried out in the institution. A very important heritage was lost regarding the history of Brazil, which was central to the institution’s relations and work with indigenous communities, popular favela organizations, religious communities, schools, etc. The continuity of its academic life and graduate programs was also affected, which, in addition to losing materials that constituted the basis of research, still have no definitive and appropriate place to function.

Facebook de Fundação Casa de Rui Barbosa, 2016

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