- The Brazil Reader. History, Culture, Politicsed. by James N. Green, Victoria Langland, Lilia Moritz Schwarcz
W hen I received this impressivelybulky second edition of The Brazil Reader, I immediately imagined the editor's monumental task involved in putting it all together. The subtitle—history, culture, politics—nonetheless helps to narrow the thematic scope of the volume. The editors have made this volume easy to follow and interesting to read, making it flow nicely in a chronological and thematic order. The wonderful illustrations also bring life to the respective original texts discussed.
Within the broader literature of Brazilian Studies, this volume stands out with its unique format and rich content, and I have not yet seen other publications in the English language that resembles its historical breadth, contemporary context, and clarity.
This second edition is an expanded and updated version of the first edition, with 104 illustrations, including thirteen in color (which are beautiful new additions). The new editors (two Americans, James N. Green and Victoria Langland; and one Brazilian, Lilia Moritz Schwarcz) are well-respected and renowned scholars who have published extensively on the topics of culture, politics, and history of Brazil.
This volume consists of an introduction, eleven chapters, suggestions for further reading, a helpful index, and Brazil in Movies, a section that is particularly useful to students or the general public who are interested in films about Brazil with sociocultural and political content. The map of Brazil on page 2 is an improvement from the map published in the first edition which had consisted of just a few labeled states and cities. In this new edition, the map includes all Brazilian states and their respective capital cities.
There are six interrelated themes that appear throughout this volume: 1) the structure of colonial, imperial, and republican economies; 2) complex social hierarchies; 3) the legacy of slavery; 4) the roles of women; 5) the dynamic between political and social movements; and 6) intellectual production.
I found the historical context discussed up to chapter 8 the most valuable. These chapters include a discussion of the complex colonial, imperial, and republican periods, and engage readers with a variety of rich, vital, and original texts translated from Portuguese. They are clearly explained, without jargon. The letter by Pêro Vaz de Caminha written to Manuel I of Portugal, informing the king about the new lands found which came to be known as Brazil, and, Tirandente's Sentence, written by Queen Maria I of Portugal, are just a few examples of original documents that stand out in this volume. It is no easy task to make Brazil's convoluted historicity dovetail coherently with broader contemporary sociocultural themes discussed in later chapters, which the editors have managed to do superbly.
Chapters 9 to 11 offer important insights into the shaping of contemporary Brazilian [End Page 305]politics, particularly after the inauguration of Brasília in 1960. The last chapters also provide glimpses into recent social and cultural movements such as the LGBT rights movement in Brazil, Brazil's landless movement (MST), Brazilian Popular Music (MPB), and two inaugural presidential speeches by former presidents, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and Dilma Rouseff, both from Brazil's Worker's Party (PT). These last chapters also include sections on gender, race, racism, color, homophobia, and the military dictatorship in Brazil (1964-1985). Interestingly, the editors note at the time the Brazil Reader was going to press, "it is hard to predict Brazil's political future" (p.3). Naturally, had they known that Brazil has just entered yet another period of political and social turmoil with the recent election of President Jair Bolsonaro, I imagine they would have added a whole new section. Brazil's newly elected president has called for the return of the military dictatorship in Brazil, and is well-known for his unparalleled and staunch anti-black, anti-gay, and misogynist stance.