Remembering Manuel Querino

ln a racial climate that was at best condescending and at worst genocidal toward blacks, Manuel Querino helped pioneer the study of the Afro-Brazilians and their culture.

This blog is dedicated to the life and the work of this African-Brazilian scholar, which will be discussed in the context of the racial attitudes that dominated the intellectual life of Brazil before the 1930s. The importance of his pioneering efforts in the study of Afro-Brazilian culture can only be understood in the perspective of the environment of pseudoscientific racism in which all intellectuals lived in nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Brazil.
Early ethnographic research in that country had focused on the Amerindian, and according to Thomas Skidmore, none of the three existing research centers (located in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Belem) "devoted any attention to the African in Brazil. The African 'immigrant' and his Afro-American progeny aroused no scientific interest among their staffs" (Skidmore 1974: 57). [Skidmore notes the exception of Alexandre Jose de Melo Moraes Filho, who "performed pioneering work in collecting Afro-Brazilian folklore" (1974: 57). Moraes Filho's principal work was Festas e tradições populares do Brazil [sic] published in 1901. ]

By recognizing the contributions of Africans and their descendants to Brazil's national identity and culture, even a Brazilian "race," Querino displayed phenomenal independence of scholarship and mind. He defied the influence of European pseudoscientific racism in a country whose economy was partially based on racial slavery until 1888.
Like most Brazilian intellectuals, Querino was seeking to provide a scientific or historical basis for a founding myth of Brazilian nationality and culture: in searching for the characteristic that gave their country and people their unique identity, he chose the fait accompli and undeniable fact of widespread cultural and biological miscegenation.

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