National Academies Press: OpenBook

Field Guide to Brazil (1960)

Chapter: Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
Page 1
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
Page 2
Suggested Citation:"Introduction." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
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I. INTRODUCTION For the social scientist and particularly for the anthropologist, Brazil consists of two separate worlds: the modern and the aboriginal. The problems involved in research are quite different for these two basic areas. The contrasts to be found from area to area give Brazil a dis- tinctive flavor and interest. Hand in hand with the contrasting ways of life are the phenomena of change — economic, social, and cultural — the dynamics of the social sciences. Despite contrast and change, there is recognizable unity in Brazil, which makes it stand apart from the rest of South America. That unity is best expressed by the language, Portuguese. In contrast to the rest of South America, where Spanish is the official language, all Brazil- ians, with the exception of a handful of Indians, speak Portuguese. Brazil is the world's largest and most populous country that speaks a Romance language. With a population of approximately sixty-seven million and grow- ing at an annual rate of 2. 5 per cent, Brazil is not only the largest South American nation, but is also among the top ten nations of the world in population. In area it is surpassed only by three other nations, the U.S.S.R. , Canada, and the U.S. (with Alaska). This giant went through the turmoils of colonialism and achieved independence over a hundred years ago. It is now politically seasoned and is making the great step from a predominantly agricultural country to an industrialized one. It is conscious of itself as a nation with a pur- pose and with the potential of taking its place among the leading nations of the world. In contrast to the Highland South and Central American areas, the Indian problem is greatly reduced — insignificant when viewed in terms of national problems. Nevertheless, the Indian still represents a fruit- ful field of investigation for those interested in the study of native peo- ples, for Brazil is one of the world's few areas in which small, iso- lated tribal groups can still be found, although this condition is rapidly disappearing even in the most distant corners of Brazil.

A considerable amount of national legislation is designed to regu- late the fortunes of the Indians. The official body which administers Indian affairs is the Servico de Protecao aos Indios (Indian Protection Service), which is part of the Conselho Nacional de Protecao aos Indios (National Council for the Protection of the Indians). This orga- nization's headquarters are in Rio de Janeiro, and it has established Indian posts in strategic areas of the backlands where different groups can be most easily contacted. Various missionary orders of the Catholic Church, mainly the Franciscans, Salesians, and Dominicans, are active in Indian affairs, with missionary colonies established throughout the backlands. There is no good Indian census. There are only estimates of the present-day Indian population, the best of which places the number of Indians between 68, 100 and 99,700. This population is distributed into various subcultural groupings ranging from tribal Indians to those in- distinguishable physically and culturally from Brazilian peasants, but who take refuge in the legal fact of being Indian and thereby enjoy cer- tain protections and privileges. There is a body of documentary information available about Bra- zilian Indians, dating back to the period of contact and conquest. In the present century ethnographic field work has been carried out and recorded in Portuguese, English, French, and German. Today the acculturative aspects are probably the most interesting for study, as even the tribal groups have been modified to some extent by their con- tact or active avoidance of contact with western civilization. Visitors continue to be welcomed for independent research, al- though more and more projects are being undertaken by Brazilian social scientists in collaboration with foreigners. In the patterns of research in the past few years there can be dis- tinguished four different categories of activities for the visiting social scientist. Each of these categories requires a different approach. The first category consists of the work of the ethnographers who are interested in independent study of Brazilian Indians. Such study requires preparations for work to be done in distant and often quite isolated regions which may be reached in a matter of hours by plane, but which then put the research worker on his own resources. His success will depend upon his previous planning. A second category is independent research or contractual research for a government agency carried out in a rural zone. This type of work

requires preparation in a regional context, and the actual field work must be carried out under rural conditions which vary widely in the accommodations and services they have to offer. A third category consists of the activities of technical advisers or experts assigned to work •with a group of Brazilian social scientists. This type of work demands collaboration and interaction with colleagues. It usually involves living in a major city and entering into a round of official activities, as well as extensive travel throughout the country. A fourth category is teaching. The visiting professor is expected to have something new to offer. He will frequently encounter profes- sionals of different fields among his students. He is also expected to lead in field research. This type of assignment usually requires that the visitor live in a major city and follow the academic schedule of his colleagues. All of these types of research are challenging, and all can be carried on successfully. There is still room for new and independent research, but the visitor will be subjected to critical appraisal by his Brazilian colleagues who have considerable faith in the efficacy of the social sciences in the solution of problems, and particularly the prob- lems which face Brazil in its endeavors to emerge as a leading nation.

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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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