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Beyond the “Carnation Revolution”: An Overview of Contemporary Histories of Portuguese Anthropology

Sónia Vespeira de Almeida


Rita Cachado


Pour citer cet article

Almeida, Sónia Vespeira de & Rita Cachado, 2023. “Beyond the “Carnation Revolution”: An Overview of Contemporary Histories of Portuguese Anthropology”, in Bérose - Encyclopédie internationale des histoires de l'anthropologie, Paris.

URL Bérose : article3078.html

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Publié dans le cadre du thème de recherche « Histoire de l’anthropologie et archives ethnographiques portugaises (19e-21e siècles) », dirigé par Sónia Vespeira de Almeida (CRIA/NOVA FCSH, Lisbonne) et Rita Ávila Cachado (CIES-IUL, Lisbonne).

Résumé :
L’histoire de l’anthropologie au Portugal a commencé à être systématisée après la « Révolution des œillets » de 1974, qui a mis fin à la plus longue dictature de type fasciste en Europe. Dans cet article, nous examinons comment l’histoire de l’anthropologie portugaise a été étudiée. Les perspectives historiques sur l’anthropologie portugaise avant la révolution tendent à souligner les relations entre les recherches des anthropologues et le projet de la dictature, tandis que celles conduites après la révolution sont considérées comme étant plus en phase avec les anthropologies internationales ou cosmopolites. Une lecture attentive de cette littérature montre qu’il y avait plus de deux façons historiquement distinctes de pratiquer l’anthropologie. Le présent article explore à la fois l’histoire et l’historiographie de la discipline au Portugal, en soulignant certaines des contributions fondamentales acquises pour comprendre et contextualiser cette tradition anthropologique particulière au sein et au-delà des anciens modèles la concevant dans le cadre de la construction de la nation (nation building anthropology) ou de l’empire (empire building anthropology). Les principales idées et discussions contenues dans cette bibliographie - principalement en langue portugaise - sont analysées et synthétisées, tout en suggérant de possibles nouvelles voies que l’historiographie de l’anthropologie au Portugal pourrait emprunter à l’avenir.


One of the goals of this article is to describe how Portuguese anthropologists work when they devote their time to exploring the history of Portuguese anthropology. [1] How do twenty-first-century practitioners approach their own disciplinary past ? What legacies do they see as important ? To begin with, most of the texts about that history have been published in Portuguese, with a few exceptions intended for international audiences (Leal 1999a, 1999b, 2008a, 2022 ; Cordeiro & Afonso 2003 ; Bastos & Sobral, 2018) ; the present article is a further opportunity to present one of the lesser-known semi-peripheral histories of anthropology, and how “it talks about itself”. The historiographic literature in question includes monographic volumes, along with a scattering of articles that help understand the context of specific figures, institutions, or topics. Bearing in mind that most contributors to this literature are fieldworkers who identify primarily as anthropologists more than as historians of science, our aim is to highlight the main approaches, ideas and discussions nurtured within this diverse yet coherent scholarly community on the one hand ; and on the other hand, to suggest ways of moving forward in writing the history of anthropology in Portugal.

Notwithstanding a previous attempt to summarize it (Dias 1952), the history of anthropology in Portugal only began to be systematized after the “Carnation Revolution” – also known in Portugal as “the 25 April” –, the military coup on 25 April 1974 that put an end to the right-wing dictatorial regime that had governed Portugal for 48 years. While not exactly a consolidated group, a number of Portuguese anthropologists have written since then about the development of anthropology in Portugal. They have highlighted both the ethnographic fieldwork conducted in the country during the dictatorship, particularly in rural settings, and how new field research topics and problematics have been chosen since the 1970s. Our selected analytical corpus is made up of contributions on anthropology done in and about Portugal from the post-revolutionary period to the present day. This choice reflects the fact that the discipline has been reconfigured ; and also, that the emergence of a range of systematized reflections on its own history is part and parcel of this theoretical and political reconfiguration.

One of the explanations given for the transformation of Portuguese anthropology after the “25 April” is the revolutionary nature of the newborn democracy after a long period of dictatorship. From the late 1970s, several anthropologists – such as Brian O’Neill (1984), Joaquim Pais de Brito (1995) and João de Pina-Cabral (1989b) – conducted fieldwork in small villages in ways that explicitly contrasted with earlier approaches to the Portuguese rural world, and in particular questioned the communitarian world studied by the leading Portuguese anthropologist before the revolution, Jorge Dias (Sobral, 2007). José Manuel Sobral adds that northern Portuguese villages attracted “other foreign social scientists”, and also the Portuguese sociologist Afonso de Barros (1996).

We briefly present a selection of texts by Portuguese anthropologists who have explored the peculiarities of the discipline’s past in Europe’s westernmost country, and then we look at two main themes that arise from the literature analysed. The first theme concerns Jorge Dias, the central figure of anthropology in Portugal in the 20th century. We consider how he is regarded in post-revolutionary times, inasmuch as his work spanned much of the Estado Novo [New State], the modernist, nationalist, and authoritarian regime that ruled Portugal between 1933 and 1974. It is interesting to understand the figure of Jorge Dias per se, but also his anthropological choices within a delicate political context : was he a collaborator with the regime, or was he just trying to do the work he was passionate about ? These are recurrent issues. The second, related topic concerns the two fundamental ways in which anthropology in Portugal has been analysed, in a debate about whether it has been a “nation-building” or an “empire-building” science (Stocking 1982). We conclude with some ideas on how the historiography of Portuguese anthropology may evolve in coming years by emphasizing the import of ethnographic archives.

Approaches to Portuguese Anthropology

João de Pina-Cabral stands out among the scholars whose writings help us describe how the history of anthropology has been approached in Portugal. He contributed to an understanding of the development of the discipline on at least three occasions (Pina-Cabral 1989a ; 1991 ; Viegas & Pina-Cabral 2014). This author stimulated debates on the ways and times in which Portuguese anthropology grew, arguing that there was a number of distinguishable periods of substantial theoretical and interdisciplinary development (Pina-Cabral 1989 : 33). In 1991, he published Os Contextos da Antropologia [The Contexts of Anthropology], a volume containing a set of essays written since 1984 that sought to “theoretically and comparatively situate Portuguese ethnography” (1991 : 8). The volume opens with a chapter entitled “Como se encontra a antropologia em Portugal hoje ?” [What is the state of anthropology in Portugal today ?], which expands on the 1989 version and proposes a periodization of Portuguese anthropology based on the identification of several cycles of renewal. In 2014, Pina Cabral and Susana de Matos Viegas further reflected on the path the discipline had taken since then, positioning anthropology in Portugal within what they called a “fifth tradition”. This expression refers to a disciplinary tradition that is both peripheral and cosmopolitan, with a history that is not reducible to the four twentieth-century “major traditions” (Kuklick 1991), the British, the North American, the French, and, the German. At the same time, they carry on the debate between two contrasting views on Portuguese anthropology as growing from a nation-building tradition or arising from an empire-building project.

João Leal is possibly the Portuguese anthropologist who most clearly works as a historian of anthropology in addition to his own ethnographic endeavours in the Azores (Leal 1994), the United States, Canada and Brazil (Leal 2011, 2017). In his seminal work about Portuguese ethnography before the 1974 “Carnation Revolution” (Leal 2000), Leal explains how early ethnographic efforts were predominantly driven by a nation-building vision, which was felt as both a cultural and political necessity during the late monarchical period (1870–1910) and the First Republic (1910–1926), and reached its climax during the dictatorship, until 1974. His research focuses on both published and archival materials (Leal 2000 ; 2006 ; 2008b ; 2021, 2023), exploring the potentials offered by epistolary and other little-known resources.

Edited by Hillary Callan, The International Encyclopedia of Anthropology includes an entry – “Portugal, Anthropology in” – by Cristiana Bastos and José Sobral (2018) – which offers a rare overview of the growth of the discipline in Portugal to an English-speaking audience. The authors do not necessarily work as historians of anthropology, but theirs is an important contribution to situate the history of Portuguese anthropology within the world anthropologies paradigm. José Sobral also published an article (2007) – in Portuguese – about Jorge Dias and his legacy.

We should add that several other scholars have made decisive contributions to the historiography of Portuguese anthropology at different times and through the lenses of research interests. Some of them have addressed the institutionalization of the discipline in Portugal and the challenges it has faced in the past and the ones it faces nowadays (Branco 1986, 2014 ; ; Godinho 2019 ; Teixeira 2021 ; Saraiva 2023). [2]

Jorge Dias and His Double Legacy

Image 1
Jorge Dias and Ernesto Veiga de Oliveira in Torres Vedras, April 1962.
© Archive from the Centre of Ethnology Studies/National Museum of Ethnology (Arquivo do Centro de Estudos de Etnologia/ Museu Nacional de Etnologia)

We will now consider the life, work, and legacy of Jorge Dias as one of two main themes and lines of thought we found in the selected literature. Jorge Dias (1949–1973) renewed and modernized anthropology in Portugal in the second half of the 20th century, and founded the Museu de Etnologia do Ultramar [Museum of Overseas Ethnology] in 1965, which placed emphasis on the Portuguese overseas empire and on the material culture of Portuguese rural society (Almeida & Cachado 2019). [3] Despite his death one year before the “Carnation Revolution”, Dias’s work, the first in Portugal to be produced under the influence of modern European and North American schools of social and cultural anthropology, exerted a decisive influence on anthropological writing in the early years of the new democratic regime. It is hard to find any paper, chapter or volume concerning the history of Portuguese anthropology that does not mention Jorge Dias and his enduring legacy.

João Leal (2000) and José Sobral (2007) dedicate special attention to Jorge Dias’ work on the agrarian folk communities of northern Portugal, which resulted in two classic monographs, on Vilarinho da Furna (1948) and Rio de Onor (1953). The first monograph work resulted from Dias’ PhD at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität zu München Germany in 1944 (see Leal 2021 : 49). Vilarinho das Furna was then a village in the north-west of Portugal, which eventually disappeared in 1972 under a massive reservoir created for a dam. Rio de Onor, a small village in north-eastern Portugal that lies on the Luso-Spanish border by a river of the same name, was portrayed by Dias as a communitarian village with the particularity of consisting of two villages, one in each country, legally speaking, but whose inhabitants shared ovens and other facilities.

On the one hand, Sobral (2007) points to Dias’ role in addressing the Portuguese national character, and consequently in the promotion of Portuguese ethnology within the Estado Novo, including its growth and respectability within the academic system (Sobral 2007 : 493). On the other hand, however, he also underlines the legacy Dias left to anthropologists working in the post-revolutionary period. Sobral mentions one group of scholars in particular who carried out fieldwork in northern Portugal following in Jorge Dias’ steps, namely by choosing villages that were seen as communitarian in one way or another, while looking at them through a new lens. The new approach was connected to emerging trends in international contemporary social anthropology in that they avoided an exclusively monographic focus and were critical with regard to the supposed egalitarianism in such villages (Sobral 2007 : 515).

Brian O’Neill’s Proprietários, Lavradores e Jornaleiras : desigualdade social numa aldeia transmontana, 1870-1988 [Landowners, day-labourers and servants in a Portuguese hamlet] (1984) and Joaquim Pais de Brito’s Retrato de Aldeia com Espelho. Ensaio sobre Rio de Onor [Portrait of a village with a mirror. An essay on Rio de Onor] (1996) stand out. This generation of researchers, some of whom foreigners, others Portuguese with academic training outside Portugal, was crucial to making Portuguese anthropology both more analytical and more critical than before. Rurality remained a fundamental object of study but was no longer seen in the light of questions linked to national identity (Leal 2006). This new research somehow represented a continuation of ethnographic fieldwork conducted by foreign anthropologists in Portugal in the 1960s ; only now it was at the centre stage of Portuguese anthropology. [4]

Because Jorge Dias was the most prominent anthropologist during the Portuguese dictatorship, we should also note viewpoints that associate him with the political system of a fascist country and colonial empire. Other perspectives suggest Dias was only mildly implicated as a scientist trying to find his way in trying times – the same applying to his team, Ernesto Veiga de Oliveira, Fernando Galhano and Benjamim Pereira, who gathered by far the largest collection of data about agrarian Portugal.

As Leal clearly demonstrates, Dias was an international scholar with links to Germany, where his PhD on the Portuguese communitarian village of Vilarinho da Furna (Dias, 1944) was undertaken at the University of Munich. As João Leal recently demonstrated, the fact that Jorge Dias’ experience in Germany took place during the Reich does not mean that he sympathized with Nazi ideology (Leal, 2023).

In the early 1950s, Dias travelled in the USA and Brazil, [5] and Leal (2021) considers that these connections caused him to be seen internationally as the most important Portuguese anthropologist of the 20th century (Teles da Silva, 2016 2021 ; Leal 2021).

At the end of the 1950s, Dias took an interest in Africa, particularly Mozambique, within the overall context of late Portuguese colonialism. In fact, he studied ethnic minorities in the Portuguese colonies, and consequently organized and headed the “Missão de Estudos das Minorias Étnicas do Ultramar Português (MEMEUP) [Mission for the Study of Ethnic Minorities in the Portuguese Overseas Empire] (see Pereira 2006, 2021). Following his important research among the Macondes in northern Mozambique – which eventually culminated in the publication of Os Macondes de Moçambique [The Macondes of Mozambique] in three volumes (1964a, 1964b and 1970), two of them co-authored by Margot Dias, his wife – there seems to be a strong case for associating Dias with late Portuguese colonial rule. Nevertheless, according to Harry West (2006), [6] Dias defined his work as exclusively “scientific” and “apolitical” (West 2006 : 144), even though it provided information that was important to Portuguese colonial rule. West says that looking on Dias as a partaker of the colonial state is too simplistic, and that we should take the political environment into account. The fact is that after his stay in other parts of Mozambique and in Angola (see Pereira 2006), Dias also wrote about the failures of Portuguese colonialism (West 2006 : 167). Particularly in the introduction to the 1998 facsimile reprint of the work by Jorge Dias Os Macondes de Moçambique, Rui Pereira “sets out from a body of unpublished and confidential texts – the mission reports – that allowed him to analyse the dual role of Jorge Dias, as an academic anthropologist and rapporteur for government missions to Mozambique” (Casal et al 2022 : 564). However, in his analysis of MEMEUP, Rui Pereira (2021) highlights the fact that Jorge Dias was also critical of the Portuguese colonial regime.

Cristiana Bastos & José Manuel Sobral (2018) recall that Jorge Dias was influenced by Gilberto Freyre, a Brazilian scholar who put forward a (relatively) benign view of the Portuguese colonial expansion and empire : “Dias built a characterization of the Portuguese and their seaborne expansion as non-capitalist and without the stain of racial prejudice. This accorded well with the later phase (from the 1950s to 1960s) of the Estado Novo’s political rhetoric” (Bastos & Sobral 2018 : 7). In a sense, Jorge Dias’ “legacy”, as Sobral calls it, is a dual one. He influenced Portuguese anthropology during his lifetime and after the “Carnation Revolution” until at least the late 1990s, in that most of the anthropological fieldwork continued to be conducted in rural areas until then ; and at the same time he remains at the heart of the history of Portuguese anthropology not only because of his research on rural Portugal but mostly because studying his life – as Leal, Pereira and West did – contributes to a better understanding of the Portuguese colonial state, which was concomitant with the dictatorship. Therefore, Dias’ work and his ways of working also contribute, through their very historicizations, to the contemporary movement to decolonize both anthropology and history itself.

Tension between ‘Empire-Building’ and ‘Nation-Building’ Anthropologies

In 1982, George Stocking Jr. published the article “Afterword : A View from the Center” in the journal Ethnos. The article identified two disciplinary traditions in Euro-American anthropology : “empire-building” and “nation-building” traditions (Stocking 1982 : 172). This distinction has reverberated within Portuguese anthropology until the present day. It is central to an understanding of the debates and analytical interpretations surrounding the history of the discipline in Portugal. Even though Stocking is not always directly cited, we can find a pathbreaking reference to his argument in “Como se encontra a antropologia em Portugal hoje ?” [What is the state of anthropology in Portugal today ?], [7] the first chapter of João Pina-Cabral’s book Os Contextos da Antropologia (1991) [The Contexts of Anthropology]. Pina-Cabral identified two major axes along which, in his opinion, Portuguese anthropology was structured : the study of national folk customs, anchored in the notion of ‘authenticity’, and the study of the peoples of the former colonies. Pina-Cabral argued that the two axes developed separately (1991:15). [8] He opted to work the first axis in the light of a periodization of Portuguese anthropology in four distinct cycles of scientific renewal from the late 19th century through 1974 : “Os românticos”, the romantics cycle at the end of the nineteenth century ; “La Belle Époque” at the beginning of the twentieth ; “O Pós-Guerra”, the post-war cycle in the late 1940s and the 1950s ; and lastly, a fourth cycle corresponding to the period between 1960 and the revolution of 1974.

Pina-Cabral goes back to the 19th century in his identification of both national identity as a central topic and the reformulation of the idea of ‘the people’ that underpinned it. He suggests that in the second cycle of renewal an excessive focus on folk culture may have weakened the alternative orientation of Portuguese anthropology towards the colonies.

Pina-Cabral’s main argument is that the search for national identity – i.e. “the search for authenticity that would validate the ‘people’ identified with the nation state” (1991 : 40) – was the theoretical drive underlying the ethnographic recording and the conceptual approach to folk cultures was from the first cycles of scientific renewal until the research conducted by Jorge Dias and his team. Pina-Cabral identifies the 1970s as an “irreversible turning point”, with the “nationalist project replaced by the sociological project [9] (Pina-Cabral 1991:40).

The dialogue with Stocking’s proposition gained in strength years later with the publication in 2000 of Etnografias Portuguesas (1870-1970) : Cultura Popular e Identidade Nacional [Portuguese Ethnographies (1870-1970) : Folk Culture and National Identity] by João Leal. Leal proposes a group portrait of Portuguese anthropology across a broad timespan in which he identifies “contexts, protagonists, institutions” (2000 : 29). Along with a detailed analysis of their study objects, methods and theories, Leal portrays those who over the course of a century made anthropology into a discipline which was oriented towards the study of peasant culture and was closely linked to the construction of national identity.

Despite the existence of a colonial empire and the absence of a national problem comparable to those experienced by most peripheral and semi-peripheral European countries, what we see in Portugal in that 100-year period is, according to Leal, the development of a nation-building anthropology [10] (2000 : 27). He says that Rui Pereira’s research on Jorge Dias (Pereira 2006) reveals that the anthropological interest in the Portuguese colonial territories developed quite late, around Dias’ research among the Macondes in Mozambique in the late 1950s. Leal also emphasizes that prior to that there had been only a few studies in physical or biological anthropology oriented towards the colonized populations (Pereira 1998, as cited in Leal 2000:28), along with a number of sparse descriptive contributions by untrained ethnographers, namely colonial agents. In Leal’s own words :

“In the absence of an anthropological tradition of empire-building, it was with a nation-building anthropology that the discipline developed in Portugal. The fact is that, as in many other European countries where the same choice prevailed, Portuguese anthropology not only constituted a disciplinary space oriented towards essentially rural Portuguese folk culture, but that orientation was further augmented by analytical premises marked by the centrality of the question of national identity.” (Leal, 2000:28 ; our translation)

Image 2
Cover of João Leal’s book Etnografias Portuguesas (1870-1970).
© João Leal ; Publicações Dom Quixote.

In the second decade of the 21st century and until the present day, we have seen the appearance of new narratives about the history of Portuguese anthropology that have calibrated Stocking’s dichotomic vision. At the same time, these narratives incorporate pioneering analyses of the period after the 1970s [11] (Branco 2014 ; Viegas & Pina-Cabral 2014 ; Bastos & Sobral 2018 ; Godinho, 2019 ; Teixeira, 2021). We highlight two contributions that offer a new interpretation of Portuguese anthropology from a historical perspective.

In 2014, Susana Matos Viegas and João de Pina-Cabral published “Na encruzilhada portuguesa : a antropologia contemporânea e a sua história” [“At the Portuguese crossroads : contemporary anthropology and its history] in the journal Etnográfica. In the light of new research, they take another look at some of the arguments that Pina-Cabral had himself presented in 1991. In addition, Viegas and Pina-Cabral discuss the formation of the discipline in Portugal around the two axes proposed by Stocking (1982), which they soften by saying that the ‘nation-building’ and ‘empire-building’ anthropologies were never fully separate in Portugal and connections gradually developed between them, with varying degrees of intensity in different periods. In other words, they take a view of the Portuguese case that tones down the polarized interpretations of Stocking’s thesis by saying that Portugal “possessing an empire was a decisive condition for the survival of its nation-building project” (Viegas & Pina-Cabral 2014 : 314). They seem to move away from Leal’s analysis (Leal 2000, 2008a), which highlighted the idea that the history of anthropology in Portugal had been anchored in nation-building processes due to the weakness of Portuguese colonialism, as argued by Rui Pereira in different publications (for example Pereira 1999 and 2021).

In order to back up their argument, Viegas and Pina-Cabral draw attention to new research, showing that nation-building coexisted with empire-building anthropology (see Roque, 2010). They say that ruralist ethnology lost ground in the mid-20th century in favour of state initiatives that targeted the construction of knowledge about the colonies. In this process, scientific expeditions took pride of place, as well as colonial expositions – in Porto in 1934, and in Lisbon in 1940. These phenomena also echoed the creation of museums located in the colonies and where anthropology was practised, such as the Diamang Museum in Dundo, Angola (see Porto 2009, 2023 ; Valentim 2019), and the Lourenço Marques Museum of Natural History (see Viegas & Pina-Cabral, 2014).

More recently, Cristiana Bastos and José Sobral (2018) have aligned themselves with other authors on the growing pains that anthropology experienced before the 1974 revolution. Bastos and Sobral’s analytically oriented article tells the history of anthropology in Portugal but it also resumes and participates in the debate of earlier scholars. On the subject of applying Stocking’s influential thesis to the Portuguese case, they appear not to commit themselves to either interpreting the Portuguese tradition as a nation-building or ‘empire-building’ type of anthropology : [12]

“Some authors suggest that Portuguese anthropology should be seen as being of the ‘nation-building’ type, rather than ‘empire-building’, in the typology proposed by George Stocking (Leal 2006). However, others have argued that there were numerous, less visible, yet meaningful works and authors addressing colonial issues (Pereira 1998 ; Roque 2001) and that the dichotomy does not really apply to Portuguese anthropology (Viegas and Pina-Cabral 2014), given that in this context nation and empire were intertwined projects.” (Bastos & Sobral 2018 : 4).

A History of Portuguese Anthropology for the Future ?

While not forgetting the contributions we have pointed to, in coming years the history of anthropology in Portugal should, in our opinion, take a more systematized, in-depth look at the period after the 1970s. It would be important to further strengthen the historicization of anthropology in Portugal, regarding knowledge of the ways in which anthropologists ‘do anthropology’, their practices and methods.

Despite the various studies about the legacy of Jorge Dias and his team, the actual ‘legacy’ of Jorge Dias, albeit accepted by all the authors mentioned in this article, is only partly known. For example, the archives at the Museu Nacional de Etnologia (National Museum of Ethnology) are gradually being organized and call for being thoroughly explored by a new generation of historically-oriented researchers. [13] João Leal has paved the way in this direction by using the epistolary material at the museum to go deeper into little-known areas of pre-revolutionary anthropology (Leal 2008, 2021). These vast materials represent a methodological challenge, a trail which ought to be followed on a more regular basis. Moreover, the museum houses collections that are of great use to further understand the contexts of knowledge production in the former Portuguese colonies – a contextual analysis that could in turn help expand the current debates on restitution. As such, the study of the history of Portuguese anthropology should focus on the fieldwork praxis and backstage activities of anthropologists at least as much as on their published materials. This might be undertaken by more systematically and more creatively mobilizing institutional archives and, whenever possible, personal archives – a priority also when addressing more recent periods, all the more because contemporary archives (e.g. digital archives) are not necessarily perceived as historical and face further risks of not being safeguarded (Almeida & Cachado, 2016 ; 2019).

Image 3
File from the Archive of the Centre of Ethnology Studies/National Museum of Ethnology.
© Arquivo do Centro de Estudos de Etnologia, Museu Nacional de Etnologia (Lisbon, Portugal).

In Portugal, awareness of the need to safeguard all documents related to the ethnographic record of the democratic, post-revolutionary period is still underdeveloped. An exception to the rule is the effort that the CRIA – Centre for Research in Anthropology has made to digitize, preserve and explore the archive of Jill Dias (1944–2008), an Anglo-Portuguese historian and anthropologist who died prematurely after gathering a vast and unpublished body of work on Angolan ethnohistory (Silva, 2011; Rosa 2013).

The personal archives of anthropologists contain huge amounts of information about both human diversity and the history of anthropology. These records often document how fieldwork is conducted and how the discipline constructs knowledge. Anthropologists are the producers of a significant part of their own data ; in a certain way, they are their own sources ; and while the results of their ethnographies are visible in their publications, their personal ethnographic archives, which materialize and objectify the different stages of their professional trajectories, are left in the shadows (Marcus, 1998). We should not miss the opportunity to collect oral and ethnographic materials from living professionals, in a gesture of coevality (Almeida & Cachado, 2016 ; 2019). This labour has already begun, albeit timidly, [14] when compared with the work done on other anthropologies that have heavily influenced their Portuguese counterpart, namely the British (see, for example, the 91 interviews collected within a project led by Alan MacFarlane [15]) and the Brazilian (see, for example, the project coordinated by Celso Castro, Cientistas Sociais de Países de Língua Portuguesa : histórias de vida [Social scientists from Portuguese-speaking countries : life histories]. [16] It is harder to understand anthropologists and their practices without asking the individuals in question about their own experiences, and without knowing how they organized their ethnographic materials. This kind of history in the making is essential to understand how the discipline has developed and keeps transforming, not only in terms of its analytical contents, but also with regard to its methodological contents.

Anthropologists who have thus far written about anthropology in Portugal primarily began compiling its history from publications – i.e. from ethnography as a product (Sanjek, 1996). While writing the history of the discipline, including the history of the institutionalization of anthropology, they have identified distinct phases of development and analysed them in the light of the political and institutional contexts (Branco 2014 ; Bastos and Sobral 2018 ; Godinho 2019 ; Teixeira 2021) ; but there is not yet a history of anthropologists’ practices – of the ways in which they have ‘done anthropology’. The debate that shed light on Portuguese anthropology as engaged in a long-run, nation-building, ideological project has been an important one. But it should be kept in mind that the historical research on Portuguese anthropology only began after the 1974 “Carnation Revolution”.

Almost without exception, the authors whose narratives we have analysed refer to the diversity and plurality of Portuguese anthropology since then. They suggest there was a kind of new beginning, initiated by several anthropologists who carried out their ethnographies in Portugal between 1974 and the mid-1980s, and who contributed to increasing the range of theoretical frameworks. On the one hand, Portuguese anthropology, albeit a peripheral scholarly tradition, became a plural discipline within an overall analytical spectrum ; on the other hand, the literature reveals its thematic diversity following its consolidation and growth in Portuguese universities.

If we are to know how anthropology has been practised in Portugal since the revolution, we still need to explore its differentiated professional profiles, and to historicize both its shared methodological practices and its distinct individual practices. A systematic understanding of working networks is also important. As George Marcus (1998) suggests, the accumulation of earlier ethnographic work which is to be found in archives plays or should play a vital role in current research : “(…) anthropologists should pay closer attention to their own archive – not in the interest of a comparative science of ‘Man’, but to fill in the aporia of their own past as they explore other subjects” (Marcus 1998 : 59). Turning anthropologists into ethnographic subjects, or rather giving them a space in which to talk about their work, will make it possible to broaden horizons in the history of the discipline – in Portugal as elsewhere.


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[1[ This article expands on the ideas from another article, published in Антропологии/Anthropologies, N.º 2 (2022), We are grateful to João Leal for the careful reading of this text. We also acknowledge Paulo Costa, director of Museu Nacional de Etnologia (National Museum of Ethnology) for allowing us to use the images of the Arquivo do Centro de Estudos de Etnologia (Archive of the Centre of Ethnology Studies). Rita Cachado and Sónia Vespeira de Almeida conducted their research under the institutional umbrellas of CIES_ISCTE-IUL/FCT (Arts. 4, 5, 6, and 23 of DL57/2016 of 27/Aug/2016, and Law 57/2017 of 19/Jul/2017), and CRIA (UIDB/04038/2020), and as part of the ETHNOmakings project.

[2Listing these studies in an exhaustive manner or including them in our analysis is beyond the scope of the present article. We hope to address them in future publications.

[3In this 2019 text on the research topic “History of Portuguese Anthropology and Ethnographic Archives (19th-21st centuries)”, we began to discuss the ideas which the present article has given us the opportunity to develop further.

[4João Leal analyzes the contributions made by J. Riegelhaupt, José Cutileiro, and Callier-Boisvert. His chapter, “‘Estrangeiros’ em Portugal : a antropologia portuguesa nos anos 1960” was recently translated into French for the BEROSE Encyclopaedia :

[5It is important to highlight his relationship with Brazilian social scientists (Teles da Silva 2021) which contradicted the hegemonic trends at the time.

[6West’s chapter “Invertendo a bossa do camelo : Jorge Dias, a sua mulher, o seu intérprete e eu”, was first written in English (’Inverting the camel’s hump : Jorge Dias, his wife, their interpreter, and I”). We have used the Portuguese translation in a volume on post-colonial perspectives in the social sciences (in Sanches et al. 2006). See also Rui Pereira’s posthumous volume (2021) about the relation between anthropology and Portuguese colonial rule in Mozambique ; and Patrícia Ferraz de Matos’ recent monograph (2023) on the “Porto school of anthropology” led by António Mendes Correia.

[7This chapter takes up and expands on some of the thoughts presented in an earlier text by Pina-Cabral, which was published in the journal Antropologia Portuguesa in 1989.

[8This argument was to be reformulated Years later, (Viegas & Pina-Cabral 2014) in the light of research conducted in the meantime. See below.

[9Italics in the original.

[10Leal reworked that analysis in a subsequent article (2008a).

[11For example, Branco argues that the Portuguese anthropology of the 1970s was not one of nation-building, but “contemplative” or “nonconformist”, based on the “echoes of the revolution and the decolonization” process, and that “Stocking’s (1982) proposition does not make it possible to lend meanings to the data revealed” in that way (Branco 2014 : 376).

[12In a recent article about the Associação Portuguesa de Antropologia, Brazilian scholar Carla Teixeira also considers that Portuguese anthropologists reflecting on the discipline’s past oscillate between the two Stocking-inspired perspectives (Teixeira 2021 : 4).

[13E.g. the work of Catarina Alves Costa on Margot Dias (see Costa 2015), Harry West on Jorge Dias (2006), and Ana Teles da Silva (2021) on the correspondence between Brazilian anthropologists and folklorists and Jorge Dias (1949–1972), which forms part of the “‘Private Archive of Margot Dias and Jorge Dias’, as donated to the museum by their heirs in 2003” (Costa 2021).

[14See e.g. Ferreira 2021 ; Teixeira 2021.