chapter  thirteen
19 Pages

The Pictographics of Tristesse

An Anthropology of Nation Building in the Tropics and Its Aftermath
WithOtávio Velho

In 1982, the Swedish journal Ethnos dedicated a special number to the subject of peripheral anthropologies and the building of national anthropologies. An interesting contrast exists between the situation on which Abaza and Stauth commented and that of Brazil. Anthropologists in Brazil seem to resist recognizing their complex relationship to modernity, which make it difficult to objectify this profession of objectifiers—as Bourdieu proposed and Abaza and Stauth recalled. The anthropological version of nation building made of itself a speciality—in various ways and with great performative effect—by valorizing native discourses to an extreme that set anthropology apart from political science, sociology, and economics. In the variant of nation building dominant in Brazil, in contrast with other cases, group formation often takes place independently of the state or of political institutions in general. Brazilian anthropology competes more easily, however, with what comes from outside the country, giving anthropologists a surprising, although limited, advantage vis-a-vis colleagues from harder sciences.