From July 1-5, 2019, the Cidade Universitária and the Centro de Pesquisa e Formação SESC are hosting a conference entitled: “Practices of Knowledge-Making: Histories of Anthropology.” This event aims to reflect on anthropological archives and collections in order to retrieve histories of anthropology and shed new light on the discipline and its practices and procedures. More detailed information about this conference can be found below.


July 1-3 – Villa-Lobos Room, Biblioteca Brasiliana Guita e José Mindlin –
Complexo Brasiliana – Rua da Biblioteca, 2, Cidade Universitária

July 4-5 – Centro de Pesquisa e Formação do SESC – Rua Dr. Plínio Barreto, 285, 4th floor

Lead Organizers:
Fernanda Arêas Peixoto (USP)
Christiano Tambascia (UNICAMP)

This conference aims to launch a reflection on anthropological archives and collections in order to retrieve histories of anthropology, shedding new light on the discipline, its practices and its procedures. It is not a matter of a technical discussion about archives, but rather of instigating a theoretical and methodological reflection on the archives: their uses and the issues unfolded by them, favoring, in this sense, a wide debate about forms, technologies, and politics of knowledge.

Recent studies have enabled a profound critique of some basic assumptions of scientific practices. For anthropology, specifically, this meant a renewed perspective on the history of the discipline and new ways of conceiving it. Rather than to settle an old score with the ethnographic realism and its scientific claims – which tended to follow the presumed neutrality of the ethnographic writing – these studies, by thinking new ways of conceiving and producing histories of the anthropological practices, have given impetus to original research outcomes and vigorous theoretical renewals. Such reflexivity has been demonstrating that the variety of anthropological collections and archives are undoubtably related to the very historiographic narratives that constitute them. Thus, we argue that archives and the ways of accessing them are both outcomes and instigators of histories of anthropology. Therefore, the analysis of these archives, mostly from a critical perspective on the nature of memories produced about events, characters and ideas, enables a wider range of spaces for invention, insofar as the process of narrating a history is part of the very object of investigation.

Thus, being attentive to the strategies of production of anthropology’s memories and histories, as well as its documents, its guardian institutions, and its interpreters – at museums, archives or research institutes – invites us to sketch an ethnography of the information technologies that sustain these histories, as well as the underlying logics that organize these narratives. If archives and collections have provided privileged sources and materials for research activities in a wide range of areas, anthropologists have carried out systematic reflections about them, with consequences for our practices and the ways we produce knowledge, information, histories, memories, archive researches, ethnographies etc. The ongoing debates on these subjects have been defining new research agendas and retracing paradigms. However, the opportunities for intellectual exchanges and dialogues among investigators engaged with such issues are still rare. Such exchanges usually take place within very specific academic environments (universities, museums and research laboratories), in which scholars and investigators not always are able to expand dialogues towards other institutional and national contexts, as well as towards other fields and subfields of knowledge.

The biggest challenge of the conference is precisely to bring together scholars and investigators of different backgrounds and nationalities (without forgetting the dialogues with neighboring disciplines, especially with history and archeology) in order to make a review of the state of the art of recent works in the area. Moreover, it also provides means to enrich the theoretical and methodological contributions that have been provided by scholars and by the archives in which they work, so as to know its actual dimensions and impacts. Through this effort, we hope to establish new networks and partnerships which might foster original research agendas and analytical pathways.

It is worth to underscore not only the scientific importance of this proposal, but also its political relevance, given the sustained threats faced by the Brazilian archives and collections in recent times, due to the lack of support and incentives of many sorts. The conference also aims to contribute, first and foremost, to the valorization of Brazilian scientific and cultural heritage. In better words, it is our hope that the conference might be able to stimulate a wide debate about the dilemmas that jeopardize the survival of Brazilian heritage in order to provide theoretical insights and, consequently, to propose policies for their maintenance and protection.