National Academies Press: OpenBook

Field Guide to Brazil (1960)

Chapter: Research Needs and Opportunities

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Suggested Citation:"Research Needs and Opportunities." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
Page 50
Suggested Citation:"Research Needs and Opportunities." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
Page 51
Suggested Citation:"Research Needs and Opportunities." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
Page 52

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X. RESEARCH NEEDS AND OPPORTUNITIES Although Brazil has been widely studied by anthropologists and sociologists in recent years, the aspects predominantly chosen for study have been the more exotic ones exclusive to Brazil, and which could be handled by the traditional techniques of anthropology. Among these are ethnographic studies of Indian groups; accultura- tion studies of Indians, Italians, Germans, and Japanese; numerous Afro-Brazilian studies having to do with religion, food, music, and dance; many studies of race relations; a number of works on dramatic internal migrations; and most recently a rash of community studies, of which there must be at least forty, seeking to establish regional pat- terns of life and attempting to determine traditional culture patterns. Many areas of Brazilian culture have been ignored, and conse- quently no techniques have been developed for the study of these. Few or no people have followed Gilberto Freyre's initial studies of the Bra- zilian family—its structure, its role, its relationship to economics, politics, and control patterns, its flexibility, and its adaptation to changing conditions. While many small community studies have been made, practically no studies of the principal settlement patterns—the plantation in its various forms and the cattle ranch—have been made. Latifundium is much talked about, but few or no field studies have been carried out examining the social and cultural as well as economic role of the large land unit, and its adaptation to changing circumstances. For several decades Brazil has made excellent census enumera- tions, but little analysis has been made of the demographic data col- lected. Little or no work has been done in making outline maps based on this data. Furthermore, very little work has been carried out in municipal studies, particularly in charting municipal boundary changes, the loci of regional power organizations and population shifts. The principal characteristic of Brazil today is change. Briefly and oversimply described, Brazil is a great, unified nation, which has traditionally been characterized by a small, powerful elite, backed up by rapidly increasing underdeveloped masses. Both these units are undergoing rapid change, as is true of many other modern nations. The_ 50

basic ingredients of the change are the same — rapidly breaking down isolation, the entry of former subsistence groups into a money economy, a gradual rise of living standards and of expectations, the spread of transportation and communication systems, public services such as education and health care, rapid industrialization, urban growth, and the constant desire for more and accelerated change. All the problems involved in easing, accelerating, and expanding the results of these changes face the Brazilian people as they face others. In a practical way they also face the Brazilian social scientist, who is called upon to give advice to action agencies about phenomena which he has as yet not studied. In turn, he expects his foreign col- league to be able to help him. There is room for research which has to do with the fitting of new technologies to Brazilian culture and its subcultures, whether in the field of medicine which is making great strides but not yet reach- ing the wider population, in education which is expanding but which still falls short of the mark, or in the many other fields which are undergoing rapid development. The great research challenges, particularly for the anthropolo- gist, lie in the study of values and the consequent discovery of the direction of the changes taking place so rapidly. Little or nothing at all is being done in this area. Large questions such as the emergence of a middle class, or of middle class values, or of the general ideo- logical orientation of the culture are being ignored. The historical lessons to be learned in Brazil during its long period of leaving colonialism, establishing political stability, and unit- ing its widely spread subcultural groups into a nation, which could be of use to the newly emerging nations of other continents, have been ignored. While many Brazilians and non-Brazilians have written impres- sionistic accounts of the ethos of Brazilian culture, no studies have yet been undertaken in the field of national culture. The problem is fre- quently mentioned but nothing is done about it. In physical anthropology little has been done other than the taking of bodily measurements. Growth studies under special conditions of tropical and subtropical environments, under different regimes of nutri- tion, have not been done. The recent impetus in human genetics has opened up new vistas, but the research has been done primarily by biologists. The application of genetic studies to Brazil's special con- ditions of first-cousin marriage present an exciting field of inquiry. 51

Little or no archaeology has been undertaken in Brazil, with one or two notable exceptions. Yet in spite of the apparent flatness of the indigenous past, much remains to be done. Recent studies by Murphy among the Mundurucu have shown that new approaches can be worked out in the ethnographic field, which still presents many facets for study. In fact there is still much work to be done in the study of Indians in Brazil. There is a number of tribes along the Guiana frontiers and the Xingii region which have never been studied. Furthermore a number of tribes such as the Bordro and Caraja need further study. This may be the last decade in which it will be possible to do studies with groups anywhere near aboriginal conditions. The best recent guides to the possibilities in this field are in an article by R. Heine-Geldern and another by Darcy Ribeiro in UNESCO International Social Science Bul- letin, Vol. IX, no. 3, 1957. ~~ —-—— While anthropology has much to offer, so have political science, government and economics which go beyond the standard introductory level to deal with unknown problems of rapid development, and modern history which seeks out the dynamics of the past rather than just dates. There are two specific sources dealing with research possibilities in Brazil. One is by Donald Pier son and Mario Wagner Viera da Cunha, "Research and Research Possibilities in Brazil," Acta Americana, 1947. The other is by Gilberto Freyre, Problemas Brasileiras de Antropologia, Rio de Janeiro, Jose" Olympic, ed. , 1959. Brazil is an exceptional laboratory for the social sciences. As a nation it has faith in the use of these disciplines, and Brazilians as in- dividuals make research easy for the visitor, displaying a rare wil- lingness to guide him through the intricacies of their culture. 52

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This guide to field research in Brazil is one of a series being issued under the auspices of the Committee on International Anthropology, which was established in 1957 by the Division of Anthropology and Psychology of the National Academy of Sciences — National Research Council. The proposal that such field guides be prepared came from a conference of anthropologists held at Columbia University in December, 1956. The Committee has treated the project as an experimental one, recognizing that the audiences to be addressed are rather diverse, e.g., the research worker with a project and area in hand, graduate training seminars, the social scientist wanting to make professional contacts, and that the materials would have to be stated mostly in general terms.

The purpose of Field Guide to Brazil is to provide information which the research worker, entering an area for the first time, should have in order to plan his trip get clearances from governments, deal with interested scientific institutions and scholars, comport himself properly in relations with local leaders, and establish generally a favorable working status for himself prior to the point where he applies his professional techniques to the problem in hand.

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