International Encyclopaedia
of the Histories of Anthropology

The Congressos Afro-Brasileiros (Afro-Brazilian congresses) that took place in Brazil in the 1930s were a milestone in the debate on race relations, especially in the field of anthropology, which was becoming institutionalised in the country at that time. In 1934, Gilberto Freyre organized the first in Recife, capital of Pernambuco. The second was in 1937 in Salvador, capital of Bahia, with Édison Carneiro at its head. Both meetings took place in states of the Northeast, a region that, as its organizers claimed, had been the cradle of studies on black people in Brazil. The Afro-Brazilian Congresses brought together researchers who, in different ways, took Afro-descendants as their object of study. Some of them still used race as a biological key concept; others were already searching for inspiration from North American culturalism. Apart from their differences, the two meetings were attended by priestesses and priests of Afro-Brazilian religions, an occurrence unprecedented until then. Foreign researchers also contributed to the debates, pointing out how Brazilian anthropology, still in its formative stage, connected to a broader context, in this specific case, to the construction of a transnational Afro-American field.

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