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Scientia Brasiliae: German-speaking scientists in Brazil (1894-1929)

Grant number: 19/18641-9
Support type:Scholarships in Brazil - Post-Doctorate
Effective date (Start): February 01, 2020
Effective date (End): January 31, 2023
Field of knowledge:Humanities - Anthropology - Theory of Anthropology
Principal researcher:Marta Rosa Amoroso
Grantee:Erik Petschelies
Home Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


The flames that consumed the National Museum of Rio de Janeiro on 09.02.2018 destroyed not only the historic building and its collections, but also the documentation that witnessed the beginning of Brazilian Science. At a time when Brazilian Science feels the consequences of the disaster of Rio de Janeiro and the loss of its documentation, while witnessing the progressive collapse of support for museums, this project turns to the birth of museological institutions in the country, by reflecting on the international network of German-speaking naturalists responsible for the establishment of the Natural Sciences in Brazil. The research will address the period between 1894, when two zoologists took the direction of two natural history and ethnography museums in Brazil, the German Hermann von Ihering (1850-1930) in São Paulo and the Swiss Emilio Goeldi (1859-1917) in Belém, and 1929, year of the death of the German ornithologist Emilie Snethlage (1868-1929). Meanwhile, some of the more than twenty German-speaking naturalists linked to these two institutions also collected ethnographic material. The analysis of their correspondences and reports, which reveal the mode of operation of museums, internal scientific dynamics, and their international connections, remains unstudied. Therefore, the object of investigation is the institutional and intellectual history of the German-speaking scientists, especially in the Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi and in the Museu Paulista. The research focuses the understanding of the network of social relations among several agents of German language, such as directors, natural scientists and private collectors, and their effects on Science produced in Brazil. The hypothesis is that these social relations had a direct impact on the collection of specimens, on ethnographic objects and on scientific production in general. The research is supported by a historiographic-critical method of analysis of primary documentation never studied before, which is mainly in handwritten German. The objective is to contribute to the anthropology and historiography of Science in Brazil, as well as to the history of ethnography and museum collections. (AU)

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