Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Teachers of Anthropology in Community Colleges, Students
Primary Theme: The Political
Secondary Theme: Citizenship
From the 2013 citizen protests that flooded the streets of Brazilian cities demanding more representative democracy to the 2016 impeachment of Workers’ Party president Dilma Rousseff in a conservative takeover, Brazil has experienced spectacular moments of political rupture in recent years. Taken together with former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s recent imprisonment, and the ongoing Car Wash graft scandal that began in 2014, these events are all part of a deep transformation of Brazil’s current democratic project. They point to a political and social turn away from the process of re-democratization in Brazil and its working-class orientation from the 1980s to the 2000s. The consolidation of power and democratic representation in the hands of an elite minority has re-configured the relationship between the State and the Brazilian people, undermining access to political institutions and decision-making. The recent assassination of Rio de Janeiro city councilwoman Marielle Franco after her criticism of military intervention in the city powerfully demonstrates the forging of a new political pact against representative democracy in Brazil. This transformation also emerges in other moments and other spaces, through other means and media, through the everyday as well as the spectacular.
This panel seeks to illuminate and understand the contours of this transformation, and resistance against it, as it emerges in various contexts. Moving between the past, the present, and future imaginaries, the panelists’ ethnographic research tracks subtle diversions as well as overt maneuvers away from democracy over the past five years. We consider the larger arc of the current political and social countermovement in Brazil, not as a cluster of spectacular events displayed in the mainstream media but rather as a complex process undermining the current Brazilian political experiment with democracy. Through ethnography, our investigations probe beneath the dominant narrative, considering broader and more fine-grained understandings of the temporal and spatial dimensions of this specific historical conjuncture. By bringing diverse projects into conversation, we propose to find new ways of understanding the de-construction of democratic citizenship in Brazil and its current "misrule of law" (Holston 2008).
By approaching these political questions from the realm of the everyday, we turn to ethnography to pose the following questions: How does an attention to the quotidian realities of this shift offer new perspectives on Brazil’s current political and social moment? What new political forms and possibilities of resistance and occupation appear on the horizon of this transformation? How might the case of Brazil inform our understanding of a more global shift away from democracy? Finally, what is the role of anthropology as a discipline and ethnography as a method of theorizing this moment?