artigos e ensaios - 2004 / Mariza Peirano

"In this context":

The many histories of anthropology

My thanks go first to Fernanda Peixoto, Heloísa Pontes and Lilia Schwarcz for the invitation to participate in the Anthropology of Anthropology Seminar, at the University of São Paulo. The subject is dear to me for many reasons, the most obvious of them being the coincidence of names, since the seminar's title is the same as the one I gave to the doctoral thesis I defended two decades ago. The organizers may be running a risk by calling me into this debate, because it will be unavoidable to bring up a major part of my training in anthropology and the context in which it took place. I have divided my presentation into three parts. In the first part, I try to recover what it meant a study on the "anthropology of anthropology" in the late 1970s. In the second, I examine at least two kinds of histories in anthropology. In the third, I raise an alert about a certain blur between history and theory, using an example from anthropological literature.


The Anthropology of Anthropology: The Brazilian Case was a Ph.D. dissertation that I presented in the United States in 1980. It arose from a basically Durkheimian concern with inquiring into science just as anthropologists had done with religion from the discipline's beginnings. Part of my project was to ask how social scientists experienced and reproduced their own "system of beliefs." As I came to perceive that they shared some relatively similar objectives and central values, I raised a series of questions. What were these values? Who were these people who became anthropologists? What was the efficacy of their knowledge? How have they reproduced socially? And, above all, how were they recognized? As in Mauss, magic always depends on the social approval that legitimizes it.

My project was quite orthodox, and inspired by classical authors. By following the tracks of social recognition, I defined the period to research and the actors involved. It was after 1930 that the social sciences in Brazil - broadly labeled as sociology - came to be seen as relevant to the country's development, and to be institutionalized as academic knowledge. This took place in São Paulo, particularly at the Universidade de São Paulo (USP), and also at the Escola Livre de Sociologia e Política. Having achieved legitimacy over a period of a few decades, a gradual process of branching out, bricolage and individualization ended up distinguishing sociology from anthropology, political science and history.Leia na íntegra...