Rethinking Histories of Resistance in Brazil and Mexico
This AHRC-funded project explores ways in which lower class people, including black and indigenous people, in Brazil and Mexico have maintained their identities and played their part in shaping national social and political histories by practicing various forms of resistance to past and present forms of economic and political domination. Bringing together studies that show that such "resistance" is a significant phenomenon but generally part of more complex and ambiguous relationships, the research aims to produce advances in understanding popular action by promoting what remains a rare exchange of results and ideas between historians and anthropologists working on two of Latin America's most important countries. In contrast to much previous research in this field, the project does not focus simply on forms of individual and collective popular action that fit the analyst's preconceived ideas about what people ought to be doing to improve their situations in unjust societies and the kinds of movements with which they find it easy to identify.
To understand resistance, we also need to understand why some people appear not to resist but to accept their situations, why some people choose not to participate in social movements, and why some people choose alternative ways of making sense of their lives and making themselves feel better about their situations that seem much less challenging to elites and governments but may also have significant long-term effects on the way that their societies work. We also need to understand why attempts to "resist" power quite often fail because movements fall apart internally, have consequences other than those originally intended, or have significant social and cultural effects in the long-term despite apparent short-term "failure". This project is concerned with both the past and the present and the relations between them, examining how changes in societies, systems of government, ideas about "race" and cultural difference, and the shift to an increasingly interconnected world that has also brought even greater levels of social inequality and insecurity to the citizens of Brazil and Mexico, have shaped the forms of social action, the goals of popular movements and the behaviour of individuals in areas ranging from protest movements through religious affiliations to consumption.
By bringing together scholars living and working in Brazil and Mexico with scholars from the UK and Britain studying these countries, and combining the insights of historians and social scientists, the project seeks to offer a fresh look at ways of understanding popular cultures and popular actions in the light of state of the art empirical research findings and an international dialogue about issues of theory and interpretation that will explore both the differences and convergences in views that exist between researchers who are nationals of the countries being discussed and foreign researchers, on a topic which is central to understanding how existing power relations may be challenged and societies change.
This website presents the work-in-progress emerging from the seminar, and will offer papers and commentaries on papers by the participants.
First Project Seminar: Salvador, Bahia - Brazil, March 27-30, 2007
Second Project Seminar: Mexico City - Mexico, September 11 - 14, 2007
Third Project Seminar: Manchester, UK, March 25 - 28, 2008