HAR is pleased to announce one of the latest releases from BEROSE International
Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology: an article, in French, on the influential Brazilian sociologist Florestan Fernandes.
Brochier, Christophe, 2023. “Florestan Fernandes: ‘patron’ de la sociologie pauliste et chercheur engagé”, in BEROSE International Encyclopaedia of the Histories of Anthropology, Paris.
Florestan Fernandes (1920–1995), of immigrant origin and from a very poor background, was arguably one of the most influential Brazilian sociologists of the second half of the twentieth century and one of its great modernizers, who tirelessly tried to understand the singularities, changes, and challenges of Brazilian society. In this ambitious article, Brochier traces the professional career and scholarly production of Florestan – as he is known in Brazil – starting with an examination of his formative years as an atypical student from the working classes at the University of São Paulo. Florestan’s intellectual brightness was noticed by French anthropologist Roger Bastide, who encouraged him and supervised his first research into folklore and race relations in São Paulo. His doctoral research was then devoted to the historical anthropology of the Tupinambá. The article reveals how the study of functionalism in anthropology was a starting point in Florestan’s development of a series of precepts and ideas concerning the epistemology of the social sciences in the 1950s. The way in which his intellectual and life trajectories were strongly affected by the military coup in 1964 is the theme of the second part of the article: clearly opposed to academic conservatism, Florestan abandoned epistemology and devoted himself to the study of the political and economic transformations of Brazilian society from a critical perspective. Finally, the last phase of his activity is recounted, when he was a deputy of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Brazilian Labor Party) in the 1980s and 1990s, during which he tried to analyze the Brazilian political situation in real time. In conclusion, a draft assessment of Florestan’s work is proposed, in an effort to create a distance from the hagiographic perspective generally in use. He eventually emerges as a key figure in a wider history of sociology, anthropology, and the social sciences in general.