International Encyclopaedia
of the Histories of Anthropology

Heloisa Alberto Torres (1895–1977) was one of the most influential female anthropologists in Brazil, a great organiser of scientific relations at national and international level and a pioneer in many activities in the field. The first woman anthropologist at the Museu Nacional of Rio de Janeiro and director of the institution between 1938 and 1955, she paved the way for the establishment and preservation of archaeological sites and collections, and was determined to embark on ethnographic research. From 1925 onwards, Heloisa Torres began her long career as a teacher, both at the Museu Nacional and at other higher education institutions, also giving numerous public lectures. In works such as A arte indígena na Amazônia (1940), Heloisa compared ceramics, basketry and other objects of material culture, thoroughly exploring the designs, meanings, techniques and their relationship with the environment, as well as the historical relationships between the groups studied. Faced with situations of despondency and poverty associated with what she called “deculturation”, she proposed public policies leading to the demarcation of indigenous lands in order to guarantee self-sufficiency through the economic activities – hunting, fishing, agriculture – peculiar to each group.

Keywords: Cultural anthropology | Archaeology | Scholarly sociability | 20th century | Brazil | Museum | Museu Nacional (Rio de Janeiro)

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