capítulos de livros - 2013 / Mariza Peirano

People and ideas travel together:

Tambiah's approach to ritual and cosmology in Brazil

Chances and odds

The first time I read Tambiah's work was in 1973, in a masters seminar on symbolism held by Peter Silverwood-Cope at the Universidade de Brasília. At that time, Tambiah's article "The Magical Power of Words" (1968b) had recently been published in the journal Man, and "Form and Meaning of Magical Acts" (1973), still in manuscript form while the seminar met, would be available in print later that year. When the fieldwork of Edmund Leach's student in the Vaupés region of Colombia came to an end, Christine and Steve Hugh-Jones headed back to England, but Peter Silverwood-Cope decided to move to Brazil. As an enthusiastic admirer of Tambiah, both as a scholar and on a personal level, he introduced his students at the Universidade de Brasília to Tambiah's ideas.

The purpose of this personal introduction is to set the record straight regarding how Tambiah's work landed in Brazil more than three decades ago: it occured by means of the mere casual fact that Leach had a keen student teaching in Brasília (of all places in Brazil). By another coincidence, some years later, in 1976, as a second-year graduate student at Harvard, I was thrilled to come across Tambi (as his students and friends called him), who had recently transferred from the University of Chicago to teach there. In fact, in those days of slow communication, I had believed him to be far away, in England.

Of course, Tambiah's strong influence in Brazil nowadays does not result only from chance involving former students, though it is indeed a significant part of it. After all, people and ideas travel together. But a more sociological explanation is also in order. The question becomes this: how is it that, despite Tambiah's main ethnographic interest been located geographically, culturally, and ideologically very distant from Brazil, his work has been so significant for many anthropologists in Brazil? I offer here some short answers. Leia na íntegra...