International Encyclopaedia
of the Histories of Anthropology

Florestan Fernandes (1920–1995), of immigrant origin and from a very poor background, was one of the main Brazilian sociologists of the second half of the twentieth century and one of its great modernisers, who tirelessly tried to understand the singularities, changes and challenges of Brazilian society. After initial work on urban folklore and Tupinambá ethnohistory, alongside Roger Bastide, he took part in the UNESCO research programme on race relations in Brazil (1951–1952), which marked a turning point in his early career. At the age of 33, he was appointed professor of sociology at the Universidade de São Paulo. The military coup in 1964 put an abrupt end to his career. After exile in Canada, he returned to Brazil and taught at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo in 1972. A committed intellectual, he turned definitively to politics in the 1980s and joined the Partido do Trabalhadores (Labour Party), where he was twice elected as a federal deputy. He is the author of a prolific body of work on themes as varied as the social condition of Afro-Brazilians, the historical and economic transformations of São Paulo and Brazil, educational policies, the dictatorship in Brazil, the challenges of democratisation, methods of investigation and sociological analysis. His unique perspective has had a lasting influence on the fields of sociology, anthropology, and other social sciences.

Keywords: Social sciences | Sociology | History of Anthropology | Political commitment | Second half of the 20th century | Brazil | Afro-brazilian Studies | University of São Paulo

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