Living in Poverty: Developmental Poetics of Cultural Realities
Cecília S Bastos and Elaine P Rabinovich (Advances in Cultural Psychology:
Information Age Publishing)
covers the results of investigation of social
realities and their public representation in Brazilian poor
communities, with a particular emphasis on the use of cultural tools
to survive and create psychological and social novelty under
conditions of severe poverty. A relevant part of it brings together
the multi-faceted evidence of a decade of research concentrated in
two particular low-income areas in the city of Salvador da Bahia,
Brazil. Other studies conducted in other Brazilian areas and in
Cali, Colombia are included.
In contrast to most representations of poverty in the social sciences which create a "calamity story" of the lives of poor people, the coverage in this book is meant to balance the focus on harsh realities with the cultural-psychological resiliency of individuals and families under poverty.
Excerpt: from Ana Cecilia de Sousa Bastos and Elaine Pedreira Rabinovich
Why publish a book about living in poverty in Brazil when, for the first time in its recent history, this country has shown a slight, yet relevant, decrease in poverty indices and social inequality? This book does not intend to examine the situation of poverty in economic terms nor the array of public policies that addresses solutions for related problems. These issues will be touched upon in many of the chapters, but our primary goal is to express a perspective on cultural realities of persons living in poverty. Immersion in the world of poverty itself, from the standpoint of a researcher living in Brazil, is the ground from which this commitment is born—as an ethical imperative for understanding social and psychological realities, and acting upon them.
Our perspective embraces the reality of living in poverty and refuses to consider it as something exotic, estranged from human reality, mostly viewed from the academic, political, and financial centers of decision making. Instead, it aims to reveal something different, and maybe unexpected: that there exists poetics of living under supposedly adverse and many times paradoxical circumstances. For this to become possible, and in order to overcome the psychological blindness concerning the broad variability of modes of living, it is necessary to have openness toward diversity and alterity.
The title of the book, Living in Poverty, implies a broad comprehension of the phenomena of living in poverty and that ethnography will be the main methodological approach to it since cultural realities underlie the general concept of poverty. The second part of the title, Developmental Poetics in Cultural Realities, establishes differences between modes of living in poverty and presupposes that, departing from these cultural realities, it is possible to create novelty; that is, developmental poetics.
In the sense of overcoming usual blindness of psychological science, a poetics inescapably implies an epistemological approach (Bosi, 2000). From the perspective of cultural psychology, a poetic motion (Abbey & Valsiner, 2005) arises in the very core of psychological reality, from the uncertainty that underlies the person's developmental experience and establishes novelty. Novelty emerges from a meaning-making field, within which the developing person moves, negotiating heterogeneous, often ambivalent demands. In the everyday context, meanings travel mainly in the direction from what is possible to what is. The person acts "as if' the world were different, creating distance from the here-and-now, and constructing bridges to the future. This process entails active imagination in the intrapersonal and interpersonal spheres. The distancing mechanism, which (through "as if' I-positions) allows the orientation to the future, is understood as a general human characteristic, essential to the emergence of psychological novelty and self-construction.
In a certain sense, the concept of poetic motion can be seen as analogous to human development, keeping in mind that the developmental process is mainly defined by this property of emergence. Psychological novelty arises from relations between domains full of tension: literal-imagined, present-future. In these tension-filled spaces, the developing person moves himself and the world (Abbey, 2007). The totality of the human struggle for overcoming uncertainty involves a poetic, so to speak, "means even more of it, for facing the constant question of an enigmatic future, meaning reaches beyond what is by imagining a guiding sense of what could be" (p. 364, emphasis in original).
Here we find the revolutionary nature of poetry referred by Octavio Paz (1978) when he says that all successful and true poetry threatens the status quo. This is true, with respect to both the individual and the society. This concerns all human existence, everywhere and anytime, transcending strict literary meaning. All poetics is invention (in its original sense stated by Aristotle), since it challenges what is, and clearly promotes moving into a new direction in the future:
Poetry is knowledge, salvation, power, abandonment.... Bread of the chosen; accursed food. It isolates; it unites.... Exorcism, conjuration, magic. (Paz, 1978, p. 3)
Hence, poetic motion coincides with the art of invention, through literary and everyday contexts as well. A developmental poetics of living in poverty, besides merely attracting compassionate (but not at all revolutionary) looks, should make audible and visible cultural realities normally kept silent and hidden; inasmuch as they belong to this anonymous world that Michel de Certeau (2001) considers the locus of effective sociocultural change, where particular styles of action are generated.
These styles of action intervene in a field that, at a first level, regulates them, but also include a way of taking some advantage from this [hegemonic] field. This intervention follows other rules and is constituted as a second level intertwined with the first level.... Without leaving the place where it is supposed to be expressed, this style imposes its own laws and establishes plurality and creativity. Thus, it generates unpredictable effects through an art of intermediation. (pp. 92-93)
In the Brazilian cultural tradition, this art of intermediation has been named anthropofagy (after Oswald de Andrade, who led the group of modernist intellectuals in the Sao Paulo of 1922). As Rabinovich elaborates in Chapter 1, Brazilian identity seems to be characterized by a kind of emptiness, which represents the space of intermediation in relating with the other (namely, the colonizer) and takes place without losing the original quality.
This book, even if reasonably comprehensive, is not a systematic examination of conditions of living in poverty. It is better presented as a multifaceted mosaic, revealing multiple, even paradoxical, trends and directions. It encompasses a diversity of modes of living in poverty, dense cultural realities, and tremendous potential for generating change and novelty. The editors would like to make present what is absent, along the lines of the task Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2003) proposes to researchers and thinkers in his Sociology of Absences. To make this diversity present is also to bring out hope.
Through this book, diverse cultural realities are shown, especially considering urban contexts, but on a lesser scale rural, because of the rural origin of a significant portion of poor migrants. We intend to present a plural understanding, in a certain way kaleidoscopic. Immersion in the reality of living in poverty has an impact on the researcher herself who, as a support and as a tool for understanding, cannot run away from reflexivity. She has to move in the direction of a social commitment, both in the sense of technical intervention and concerning the production of knowledge. Perhaps the latter is the most difficult, as it requires a new epistemology. We need to be increasingly aware of the things that are carried by words and signs, the means by which frontiers and possibilities can be opened or closed semiotic mediators—promoter signs (Valsiner, 2007), regulating semiotic gates and channels. In this sense, history is nothing more than crossing frontiers (Goebert, 2001).
Another question is needed here: Who are "the poor?" From a Eurocentric perspective, for instance, we should say that we, the writers, are the poor, the different and unknown, exotic, categorized into a view likely to reduce humans to a scheme of the kind us versus them. On the other hand, it might be more precise to show the Other as a concrete person and favor an encounter. The notion of encounterimplies the possibility of the existence of the Other as a whole. If dialogically considered, this alterity or otherness is itself constitutive; the /depends on the look of the Other. If the poor cannot be seen in this way, there is no encounter. The person will enter into the relationship not with the Other who searches for him, but with the things that he can get from that person. This is the root of many well-meant but ineffective practices. This knowledge is ancient,' but it is still to be mastered. We need positioned I and Other and, besides things, we need an effective openness to each other's movements.
Finally, the poor cannot be made invisible, since they are the majority of world population, in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and in many areas throughout the so-called developed countries in Europe and North America.
This book covers the results of investigations of social realities and their public representation in poor Brazilian communities, with a particular emphasis on the use of cultural tools to survive and create psychological and social novelty under conditions of severe poverty. A relevant part of it brings together the multifaceted evidence of two decades of research concentrated in two particular low-income areas in the city of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil (Vale das Pedrinhas and Novos Alagados). Other studies conducted in other Brazilian areas and in Cali, Colombia, are included also as parameters that amplify reflection on issues related to the diversity and commonality of living in poverty. Comparisons are needed in the measure, as they allow us to include in this complex relationship different perspectives and different voices, especially when done with an open mind, capable of including otherness.
This perspective is the only guarantee of objectivity, beyond the mirror metaphor, that can blind the researcher when lost in his subject matter. The third part can break the mirror, if one is able to navigate through the different languages of knowledge, in a movement which is, in Laplantine's (1994) words, "trans-linguistic, transcontinental, trans-geographic and trans-grammatical." Naturally, this movement requires a special awareness of the researcher's own perspectives and values. The chapters that constitute this book show the researcher diving more or less deeply into a field where he is an integral part, and that he constructs from his own point of view, the full understanding, yet remaining, still, at an unknown horizon. The researcher has to learn, with Michel de Certeau (1985), that the closest we get to the everyday is "poetic or tragic murmurings." We need to learn to listen to de Certeau's ordinary man:
Ordinary heroes. Disseminated character. Uncountable Walker. When I invoke, on the border of my reports, the absent one that brings to it principle and necessity, I ask myself about the desire which impossible matter he does represent.... This hero comes from very far away: he is the whisper of societies, from all time, before texts. (p. 54)
The studies presented in this book are connected by their emphasis on psychological and social novelty as it emerges from everyday life. As they fit the field conditions, qualitative and ethnographical approaches are central to gaining knowledge about social images of everyday life. For some of the chapters (Orozco-Hormaza, Perinat, & Sanchez; Mahfoud & Massimi; Rabinovich; Tassara & Tassara;), photographs carry documentary value, as part of the reported studies. For the others, photos are simply an illustrative resource. The studies in this book also share a common emphasis on the cultural organization of developmental trajectories of families, children, and adolescents, focusing on turning points in their experience when relating with new social agencies like NGOs and governmental programs on family health, education, and law.
Novelty and continuity in families' lives under poverty are discussed in this book, taking into account theoretical polarities like collectivism-individualism, as well as the ways they are expressed in the Brazilian context. In contrast to most representations of poverty in the social sciences, which create a "calamity story" of the lives of poor people, the coverage in this book is meant to balance the focus on harsh realities with the cultural-psychological resilience and creativity of individuals and families living in poverty—the poetics of development. Presenting that poetics in this book is certainly a challenge. The chapters are not homogeneous in the way they reach this quality. Introducing each part, we have chosen chapters that more closely approach it.
The Mexican writer Carlos Fuentes said, "If we do not want to surrender to a tyrannical model of existence, we need to increment reality offering alternative models," adding, "if we are all eccentric, then we are all centers" (2007, p. 190). By this, he means anyone from every place can be a center of the world.
"If we are all eccentric, then we are all centers." The structure of this book itself tries to break the unavoidable endogenous quality that comes from the shared background of most of the authors. For each section, we have introduced commentaries by scholars from other countries and other disciplines in order to provide openness and dialogicality through the reflections accomplished here.
As a whole, this book invites the reader to approach the threshold of the door and enter the spaces of the house of poverty, with its symbols and poetics. "The Amulet House," presented to us by Rabinovich (Chapter 1 of this volume), is emblematic in its deep, dense symbolic elements and, at the same time, in its not belonging to modern urban spaces. The House is situated in the heart of Sao Paulo, Brazil's largest city. But there is no space for its existence, which is spatially and socially liminal. So it is poorness, many times observed not as much as a reality to be seen, but as that dwelling tinder the bridge that we just pass by.
To a researcher, in order to "dwell," it is necessary to have interior time and space to be able to see and understand. He needs to enter in the household with wide open eyes and remain there, since the household is closely connected to the human existence itself. This book itself was conceived when Jaan Valsiner, three years ago, visited Novos Alagados, in Salvador da Bahia. Looking at the Bay with his wide open eyes, used to reach and scrutinize so many of the world's horizons, this "traveler of Psychology" was able to remain and envisage the book that now becomes concrete.
This book is organized in four parts. To open each, like symbolic gates, there is a chapter that introduces the poetic component, be it the space of the household, the unexpected direction to which a life story turns, or the relational links to overcome adversity. Yet in every part, the search for the emergence of novelty continues throughout the chapters. In general, this novelty concerns the perspective on which the text is built, as well as the methodological aspect. Sometimes it can refer to the inaugural quality that a study can assume when approaching important issues about developmental contexts and processes that have not been sufficiently studied by Brazilian researchers (for instance, cognitive development of children living in poverty).
In Part I, "New Ways of Looking: Poverty as Social Reality and Personal Survival Context," are included chapters that attempt to examine ways of living and affirm a cultural identity that reveals some of the heart and soul of Brazil. Here our concern about poetics and poverty as concepts related to the Brazilian identity is expressed. We believe it will be able to encompass some of the variability of human experience across cultural contexts. Rabinovich, in her chapter, presents Brazility as part of the historic, cultural, geographic, social, and psychological heritage, as well as a mechanism by which symbolism is used as resistance to the process of exclusion. Mestizaje as hybrid culture implies a necessary ambiguity that manifests itself in all the expressions of this culture: in the handling of time, space, logic, relations, laws, and norms. In Brazil, the dwelling conditions of the major part of the population are not those of a modern society, segmented and specialized. On the contrary, a holistic and relational organization is predominant, generating the critical reading of the hegemonic and ethnocentric position of Western scientific knowledge. In the case of Brazil, we are dealing not with the frequently preached incomplete "civilizing process," characteristic of states of poverty in developing countries ("we will get there one day"), but rather with conditions that are characteristic of a "Brazilian lifestyle," developed from a social, historical and psychological identity formation, which speaks of a peculiar "emptiness." Because of that, as an act of culture, new semantic systems are continually incorporated. In this incorporation, there is neither exclusion nor mixture, but rather openness to new signs, which are resignified and relaunched. This resignification is a form of resistance through the incorporation of resisting into the identity, which, in this way, is not destroyed by transformation.
Tassara and Tassara's chapter deals with the relationships involving geopolitics: the West as mental imagery leading to colonialism and poverty. The authors aim to show that poverty derives from a historical construction order in which hierarchical identities are configured along stratified levels of inclusion. Based on relationships between the concepts of "coloniality" and the "West," as theoretically elaborated by the scholars Mignolo, Quijano, Glissant, and Wallerstein, they argue that "feeling poor" or evaluating a situation as one of "poverty" is the materialization of the world expansion process of the West, considered as geopolitical mental imagery. This chapter illustrates these ideas through data obtained in research studies carried out in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Mahfoud and Massimi, through a careful appreciation of the oral tradition of a community, show that transformation is possible together with the incorporation of new influences, which are however subordinated to the original identity. The dynamics between tradition and modernity, self awareness and belongingness, in Morro Vermelho, Minas Gerais, are approached with a particular attention (as the authors go deeply and phenomenologically) to very subtle dimensions of the world of life. They understand and demonstrate how this community developed a special way to preserve its culture, which together with (anthropofagically?) the incorporation of current influences is itself subordinated to the original identity.
In her chapter, Bastos revisits two decades of studies concentrated in two neighborhoods of Salvador, oriented by the following questions: how are development processes culturally oriented? How is children's developmental context under different family conditions structured? How are child-rearing practices and values connected? The author believes that the histories, resources, possibilities and projects of the families studied must be investigated and considered by all who make families the target of observation and intervention. Public policies and initiatives from the civil society that do not consider the family perspective will always be partial and reach results much less significant than the human and material resources invested in their actions. Bastos insists that family in Brazil must be understood in its own matrices, with its sometimes unsuspected resources. The solutions for the many problems of the urban family, especially when socially excluded, will depend on the understanding of what is unique about it: the limitations, but also the possibilities, including the ones that emerge from contradictions and adversities. It is precisely here that a particular poetics is involved.
In this way, this first part directly faces the main hypothesis of cultural realities that underlie and feed developmental poetics, which are immersed in diverse forms of poverty.
Part II, "Developmental Contexts and Trajectories: The Reality of Living in Everyday Contexts," characterizes some aspects of developmental processes in Brazil. It is a mostly descriptive section focusing on Brazilian developmental contexts and trajectories, with special interest on children and adolescents, showing a more general reality usually not seen in global terms. The studies presented in this section are interconnected, belonging to two series of studies, each taking place over a 10-year periods.' The first was conducted in a favela (or slum) called Vale das Pedrinhas, in Salvador. Almeida-Filho and Bastos, in the chapter entitled "Semiotic Approach on Developmental Trajectories of Families Living in Poverty," analyze data originating from a longitudinal study that included the intensive, almost ethnographic, investigation of 10 families over a 9-year period. The families were seen in their homes. Several techniques such as interviews, observation, photography, and videotape generated very rich and diverse qualitative material, which was analyzed through the identification of a broad category, the ways of sharing, which was treated as the central unit of analyses in this study. The idea of a semiotic hegemony oriented the authors' data interpretation.
The second series was conducted in Novos Alagados, a suburb area of Salvador and in Areia Branca, a semirural area located near Salvador. Part of this long-term study is the research realized in Sao Paulo (also presented in other chapters of this book). The chapter written by Rabinovich, Lordelo, and Bastos, with a strong ethnographic component, brings the poetics of households and modes of living, eventually catching their magic atmosphere, to the analysis of childcare practices in those two areas. Ferreira-Santos, from the standpoint of someone who had lived and worked all his life in Novos Alagados, focuses, in his chapter, on developmental trajectory of adolescents, seeking to discover possible protective conditions in a environment. In doing so, he paints a vivid portrait of life in the favela, a developmental ental context like many others. Also interested in what can favor development in the first stages of life, the last chapter in this section, Iriart and Milani's, analyzes adolescents' trajectories and representations, developmental ecologies in Salvador (also in Novos Rio de Janeiro. Here the reader can get in touch with meaningful educational experiences that took place in these areas.
Studies about the social reproduction of poverty in the metropolitan region of São Paulo demonstrated that two new variables should be considered: social networks and urban space. These variables help to understand the mechanisms that connect macroprocesses and structures to microactions, related to individuals and to family behavior. Their impact could reduce or reinforce inequalities. Even religion and leisure activities became variables to be considered in this population study (Marques, 2007). Relatedly, Chaudhary points out that, given the close association and interconnected nature of family relations discussed in the chapters, it is evident that children and adolescents have strong bonds with the family. The family was found in most cases to provide a secure base against violence and fear in the streets. Critical events in the community were also found to influence the dynamic organization within families in order to adapt to and protect the younger generations from the violence in the street. That's why, to Ana Maria Almeida Carvalho, the choice for social inclusion is rather complex and dependent on a combination of quite unpredictable circumstances, several of which are clearly pointed out in these chapters and can be summed up in what is called structure of opportunities. This structure of opportunities involves primarily the Other as a key factor. To Carvalho, there is a need, particularly for adolescents, to enlarge the social network beyond the family, inasmuch as this original social nucleus might maintain an important role throughout life. In her view, one of the more enlightening findings in these reports is what was labeled encounter, potentially a theoretical concept with heuristic value.
Part III, "Poverty, Development, and Children's Rights," revisits developmental contexts and trajectories, but raises, this time, the concern for the issue of human rights and concrete risk-protection conditions. This approach is particularly important in a country like Brazil, whose history speaks of great disrespect for human rights.
In her chapter, written from the perspective of the law and from the right to health and development, Lima exhibits, in flesh and body, the poetics of the encounter between a judge and a girl. On that occasion, something very simple and meaningful has happened: the judge looked at the girl's face. This simple event had never happened before. During her childhood, she had been seen, but never looked at, by teachers, pediatricians, even lawyers, and nobody had given attention to her face, disfigured by a rat's bite. With great competence and sensitivity, Lima narrates the history, drawing, poetically and inside the frontiers of a developmental poetics, possibilities of change when the child's rights are respected.
The girl's right to health, and that of every child, corresponds to their right to develop integrally, with no restrictions on their potential, and access to every means, service, and program that assures and promotes health, with respect, integrating their ethnic, family, civic, and cultural background to their personal and community's projects, resignifying their existence through commitment with future generations.
Chaves, using history as a theoretical and methodological framework, analyzes the issue of the protection of childhood in 19th century Bahia. Even though the analysis describes the first significant effort to protect children, it shows how the prevalent conceptions about that protection appear as classist and unfair. This study elucidates a relevant mechanism by which ideas and practices concerning protection of childhood in modern times are historically rooted, as much as it presents the motivations that instigated society, in this case that of Bahia, to worry about poor and unassisted children.
The issue of protection is also approached by Lordelo and Vaz when analyzing the relationship between families and a daycare center in Novos Alagados. The authors portray conflicts still persistent in a nursery system, a reality that spans no more than 3 decades in Brazil, and that is still rare in poor neighborhoods. Daycare centers in Brazil are divided between two worlds, and the alternatives and developments found for poor and middle-class children are different. These differences are reflected in the relationships with the families, even with experiences that intend to diminish that discrepancy. In conditions of extreme poverty, the daycares may represent a privileged way to reach children and their families.
Focusing on cognitive development, Santos, Santos, and Barreto report the first large scale Brazilian longitudinal study on children's health, which is part of a broader research project encompassing several dimensions and measures of health. Being an epidemiological study, it is built upon a sophisticated design that includes complex multivariate models and a multilevel analysis, attempting to better approach an admittedly challenging subject.
In the sequence, there is a study that shares the focus on children's cognitive development vis-à-vis poverty. Orozco-Hormaza, Perinat, and Sanchez present data and analysis built on a decade of research in Cali, Colombia. This study is also marked by theoretical and methodological concerns, using as a starting point the question, "Could the context of child development be fully described through categories related to socioeconomic status?" If so, do socioeconomic conditions necessarily produce cognitive deficits? The authors claim that there is no causal link between socioeconomic status and cognitive development, but a catalytic one that is demonstrated by the coexistence of both low and very high cognitive performances in very low socioeconomic levels. They propose that cognitive development, in poor urban contexts, can be understood as an adaptation to the difficult conditions children have to face.
In addition, the inclusion of a study conducted in a different Latin American country allows us to consider the generality of some of the problems treated in this book, which is, in a certain way, a kind of case study of living in poverty in Brazil. However, we cannot forget that Brazil is not a stranger in Latin America. We share with our neighbors similar historical origins, common social structures and cultural traditions, and the same cultural and ethnic mixtures: fusions of Indian, African, and European roots. We share rationalities and perspectives on the world, which can be seen through art, the literature and cinema, and at the level of everyday life, as beautifully demonstrated by Francois Laplantine (1994). In his Transatlantique, he elaborates an exercise, accurate and reflexivly crossing oceans, grammars, and languages in order to perceive Latin American worlds and lives outside the limits of Cartesian logic. And we can recognize each other precisely in these singular perspectives of thinking, feeling, and acting. This possibility is beautifully expressed in Atahualpa Yupanqui's song:
Y asi nos reconocemos, por el lejano mirar;
por las coplas que mordemos/semillas de inmensidad.
Y asi seguimos andando, curtidos de soledad
y en nosotros nuestros muertos
pa' que nadie quede Wilts
Yo tengo tantos hermanos, que no los puedo contar,
y una hermana muy hermosa, que se llama Libertad.
Part IV is entitled "Qualitative Approaches and the Realities of Lives Under Poverty: Relational Dynamics in Context." The chapters included in this last section bring a higher level of analysis to social realities under poverty with regard to the relational dynamics here implied. Rabinovich analyzes the active strengths, tensions, and polarities that define belongingness as a dynamics inherent to the construction of a social and personal identity. The author intends to show how circumstances can be altered by a poetic force based on bonds and the group context. Nevertheless, at the same time, she argues that there is a political constitution of identity that is related to belongingness; therefore, poetics linked to a community of destiny would be needed so that changes are performed on many levels simultaneously: the microsystemic level, the mesosystemic level, and the macrosystemic level, as well as in their interrelations.
Alcantara and Ferreira-Santos, in the chapter "Relational Systems Under Poverty: Contextual Changes, Urban Violence and its Impacts on Everyday Life," conduct a case study of a slum that is going through a process of change. The inhabitants' perception concerning the context changes and the emergence of violence and its impact on everyday life are the aspects on which this study is based. It is in the case study that the poiésis is shown: as an everyday construction of something new and unpredictable, as something dynamic and surprising, which is life, even under adverse situations. The analysis is based, therefore, on the notion that changes in the macrocontext restructure proximal relations in Novos Alagados family microsystems. This idea is based on the inhabitants' perceptions concerning the aspects that identify such changes and their impact on daily life. Nunes and Torrenté discuss, in "Perception of and Reaction to Social Inequalities in two Brazilian Black Communities," processes from which emerge the singular perception of, and reaction to, social inequalities in two Black Brazilian communities. The authors bring alternative ways of looking at the dynamics of a quilombola community regarding health. In contemporary Brazil emerges a kind of anguish to understand our roots and the stories that the official history has condemned to silence. In this sense, this chapter fits nicely with the analysis developed by Rabinovich, Mahfoud, and Massimi as well as Tassara and Tassara in their chapters.
If we consider again the Amulet House brought up in the beginning of this introductory chapter, we can say that now, this house has acquired density, as a condensation of Brazilian realities that will be presented in this book, be it in a descriptive or a more reflexive way. However, we will remain at the door, only foreseeing the frontiers, spaces, and fields to be still revealed and understood. There is much to be seen and known about Brazil, as French sociologist Roger Bastide discovered, upon arriving at the University of Sao Paulo in 1938, before starting to write his work on the "two Brazils," which has become a classic (Bastide, 1980).
There are different Brazils, with differences that cross geographical, socioeconomic, and anthropological frontiers, full of tensions and polarities, dynamic spaces with this emptiness inside, which can be seen as a vulnerability but becomes a strength as it allows the movement in the direction of the future. These tensions appear particularly in the mirror of social inequalities, but also mark the relationships between the countryside and the large cities, and set up the silences and conflicts involving the reality of Blacks and Indians. In Brazil, poverty is the poverty of a Black and Indian, primarily mestizo Brazil. This reality is so pervasive that it is taken for granted, and most of the chapters in this book do not make explicit that 1 they are talking about mostly a Black population: particularly in Bahia, but also in Minas Gerais and Sac) Paulo.
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