National Academies Press: OpenBook

Field Guide to Brazil (1960)

Chapter: Relations with the General Public

« Previous: Professional Relationships
Suggested Citation:"Relations with the General Public." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
Page 40
Suggested Citation:"Relations with the General Public." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
Page 41
Suggested Citation:"Relations with the General Public." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
Page 42
Suggested Citation:"Relations with the General Public." National Research Council. 1960. Field Guide to Brazil. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/18401.
Page 43

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VIII. RELATIONS WITH THE GENERAL PUBLIC How much contact the research worker has with the general pub- lic depends upon where he is going in Brazil. If he is going to remain in Rio or SSo Paulo he can lose himself as he can in any large city, coming and going pretty much as he pleases. His dress and behavior aren't too noticeable to too many people. However, if he goes to a rural area everything about him will stand out—he will be pinpointed from the moment he arrives, and everything about him will be dis- cussed and judged. This is particularly true in the north, less so in the south where his physical type merges far more easily with the more Europeanized population. If his wife and children are along, they too will be on show. Very often the newspapers will pick up the arrival of a social scientist and, depending upon the work he intends to do, will give more or less space to him in the papers. If he is joining a faculty as a visit- ing professor, there is usually a perfunctory notice sent to the papers by the faculty itself. If the research worker is a senior member of his profession he will be called upon for interviews. If the research worker is going to the interior to study Indians, this more exotic activity will rate more space. He may even be asked to write a series of articles for the paper about the actual field ex- perience. In any event, he will be asked to state the research project and explain what he hopes to learn. Reporting in these instances is usually fairly accurate, as Brazil has good journalistic traditions. Throughout his stay in Brazil, the social scientist is also ex- pected to be an interpreter of North American life, explaining the racial situation, the political situation, university system, and primary and secondary education. In some of the rural areas he may be asked to tell about movie stars, their personalities and activities, as well as about other inter- national figures. Many Brazilians who have little contact with North Americans except through the movies and press have developed definite stereotypes 40

concerning them. Outside the two great centers of Rio and Sa"o Paulo, these stereotypes are little challenged and if the research worker does not live up to them it is frequently said that he is not like an American. Americans are supposed to be tall, blond and blue-eyed, a phy- sical type attractive to Brazilians, even though they feel more at home with a brunette or moreno. All Americans are wealthy—an obvious fact shown by the equip- ment and appliances draped on their shoulders plus the freedom with which they move about from area to area, the too-high tips they give, and the too-high salaries they are inclined to pay. It is an easy step to charge them too high prices and to exploit them in other little ways. The American who takes this game in bad spirits will soon have a reputation as a penny pincher. Americans are also thought to be heavy drinkers and in fact many of those in permanent residence frequently are. Brazilian drinking patterns differ from ours and it is only in recent years that whiskey and mixed cocktails have become stylish. This is pretty much limited to the larger cities and to the upper classes. The Brazilian who usually has his principal meal at midday does not honor the cocktail hour the way we do. His numerous cafezinhos seem to provide all the stimulus he needs. On special occasions he will break out a bottle of sweet vermouth or perhaps cachaca. Also on occasion beer will be served. In general women do not drink alcohol. The American is also expected to be punctual and to the point. Brazilians feel that they themselves are just the opposite—lax about punctuality and seemingly never coming to the point. Many other things are discussed first—family, friends, and the political situation—before the business matter is brought up. Neither of these stereotypes is 100 per cent true. Americans are known to be honest and sincere. This, in a way, compensates for their general lack of culture. This sort of list could be extended indefinitely. The point is that each individual must clarify his own personality in order to establish good rapport in general. At times, when a couple goes, they will be judged quite differently. The husband frequently passes the acid tests, while the wife does not. American men in the field seem much more capable of adjusting than do American women, and it is frequently heard that so-and-so is a fine man, simpitico, not at all like an Ameri- can, but his wife just is not up to him. This is one of the reasons that the wife should prepare herself for the trip as much as the husband. 41

Again, knowing the language is the first and greatest aid. Conversation among women in Brazil has to do with household affairs—births, bring- ing up children, life-cycle celebrations such as baptisms, servants, preparation of foods, the latest styles, and the latest movies and theater. In rural areas, once the local leading citizen learns that a foreign social scientist is in the area, he will generally seek him out and at- tempt friendship, extending his round of social life to the anthropologist. In any event, the field worker should take the role of an intellectual which automatically places him in an upper class category, and he is ex- pected to behave as other upper class people behave. During the initial period it is probably better to remain in this relationship towards the general public, particularly in the rural areas. There is then a specific frame of reference in which the local population can place the anthropolo- gist. After awhile this relationship can be broadened and no one will be confused nor lose prestige. The research worker who goes to a small rural community will be an object of great curiosity. Explaining what he is there to do, how he does it and why he does it can become tiring. But if he remembers that the rural community for the most part never heard of anthropology nor of the idea of studying the common, everyday activities of small isolated groups such as themselves, it becomes easier to deal with this problem. Frequently, in spite of explanations, the community will mark the re- search worker as an historian or as a student trying to write a book, and let it go at that. In mining areas, however, much of the populace will forever suspect the research worker of being a prospector, and he must make the best of it. The unmarried female anthropologist is at somewhat of a dis- advantage in a rural setting. However, she can get considerable work done by the simple expedient of making contact with the local school teacher, perhaps even living with her, and persuading her to accompany her and participate in the field research. Unmarried women do not move about rural regions alone without a good institutionalized reason. The male research worker should also be careful about going into the homes of informants when the husband or some other male relative is not there. On the whole, relations with the small community are easy to establish and maintain. Once the community sees that the research worker is a serious person, genuinely trying to learn the local customs and enjoying certain local amusements, he will be accepted. It is worth his spending the initial period of field work in orienting himself as to the local ways, and taking those as his own patterns. 42

The problem of cultivating informants will vary from place to place. At times one can pay certain individuals for repeated depth interviews, or for providing other information over a long period of time. Usually informants will be pleased to give information about themselves and their communities without direct payment. In con- trast to many other world areas, Brazilians enjoy talking about them- selves and their way of life. However, a birthday present for the in- formant, or one of his children, or a souvenir from a distant city, is definitely necessary. 43

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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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