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Passion of the same: visualizing an anthropology of the multitude

Grant number: 15/07507-9
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): August 01, 2015
Effective date (End): January 31, 2016
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Arts - Photography
Acordo de Cooperação: Coordination of Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES)
Principal Investigator:Lilia Katri Moritz Schwarcz
Grantee:Irene Violet Small
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


This project will analyze how works of art articulate propositions about social and cultural organization, thereby acting both as anthropological documents and theories about anthropology. I will focus on a 1972-74 series of photographs by the Brazilian artist Carlos Vergara that picture the Rio de Janeiro-based carnaval bloco Cacique de Ramos. Vergara's photographs highlight how individual and collective identity are negotiated and maintained. Taken at the height of the military dictatorship, when the pressure to conform to a singular nationalist identity was extreme, the photographs probe the potentialities and desire for group identification within a structure of horizontal rather than hierarchical affiliation. They likewise demonstrate how experimental artists sought to actively engage disciplines such as anthropology and sociology. By analyzing the photographs alongside an unpublished text Eduardo Viveiros de Castro wrote about them on Vergara's request, my project seeks to recover an intratextual, intermedial dialogue between art, anthropology, and social movements. My first preliminary hypothesis is that the photographs should be considered visual epistemologies. That is, they do not simply reflect their sociocultural and political contexts, but actively construct ways of comprehending and reimagining these contexts through expressive artistic form. Second, I want to suggest that the photographs engage both the contemporaneous politics of dictatorship and emerging social movements organized around categories such as race. Third, the project hypothesizes that the paradigm isolated by the photographs-that of individual singularities entering into horizontal affiliation-anticipates contemporary concepts such as the "multitude," and in this sense has broad relevance to political philosophy, the study of racial formation, and the ongoing analysis of social movements. (AU)

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