A Tropical Homer: Reinterpreting Gilberto Freyre’s Casa-Grande & Senzala, 1902–1940


Schott Lopes, Arthur. 2019. “A Tropical Homer: Reinterpreting Gilberto Freyre’s Casa-Grande & Senzala, 1902–1940.” WCFIA Undergraduate Thesis Conference. Cambridge, MA: Weatherhead Center for International Affairs. Copy at http://www.tinyurl.com/y9bno9xl


My thesis seeks to reinterpret Brazilian sociologist, anthropologist, and historian Gilberto Freyre’s magnum opus Casa-Grande & Senzala (1933) as a national myth rather than as a scientific essay, assessing it as a literary piece that can create a multiracial theory of nationalism for 1930s Brazil. As an intellectual history of this seminal work, it begins with the context of Luso-Brazilian nationalism in the twentieth century, exploring the writings of Brazilian and Portuguese nationalists and their own constructions of both nations. It then proceeds to analyze how Freyre co-opted the logic of these nationalisms to subvert them, using their language of family and genealogy to turn race into a moot category. Freyre’s mythical narrative theorizes a genealogical nationalism for Brazil, based on the miscegenation prompted by colonial patriarchalism, its unique family structure, and its socioeconomic consequences. Through this interpretation, I also seek to understand the complex internal logic of Casa-Grande & Senzala, interpreting its use of social science as an accessory element to his mythical account of Brazilian nationality. As of now, the thesis concludes with a tentative third chapter on Freyre’s political thought, linking his theories about the nation to his writings on the State.

See also: 2019