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Saturday, August 14, 2004

Os elementos fundamentais da cultura Portuguesa

What a wonderful title (The fundamental elements of Portuguese culture). It could only have been written in 1950 - which it was. It was a paper presented by Jorge Dias at the first Coloquio Internacional de Estudos Luso-Brasileiros in Washington in that year. It has been required reading for many people along the years.

In the light of what I say on my web page I love this line:
"Creio mesmo que virá um dia em que o progresso dos estudos etnológicos permitirá uma síntese perfeita e cientificamente fundamentada do que é culturamente específico do povo português."
(I hope that one day the progress of ethnological studies will allow a perfect synthesis on a scientific basis of what is culturally specific to the Portuguese people.)
I do not buy into the idea that there is a fixed set of cultural characteristics to be revealed and identified. This notion dates back to the '50's but people still limit themselves by believing it's true!

There is, to my mind, no such thing as a fixed personalidade base of the Portuguese (or any other culture) but there are stories that are told which help form people's perceptions of themselves and others. When my students talk of "the Portuguese" they could, in fact, be quoting him directly. Their (or anyone's) shared reality of themselves as a culture is as much determined by these bigger narratives as it shapes them.

On another track - after a number of pages of describing the Portuguese characteristics he has a wonderful line when it comes to Portuguese and their tolerance for people of other races:

"Ainda hoje o Português tem decidida inclinação por mulheres doutras raças e é capaz de mostrar grande afeição ou profundo amor".
(Even today the Portuguese have a decided inclination for women of other races and are likely to show great affection or deep love).

I'm wondering if his statment implies that "the Portuguese" are all men? Or maybe that neither men nor women in Portugal have much time for men of other races. Hmmmm ... perhaps Jorge Dias was only including hetero men and lesbian Portuguese in his analysis of the Portuguese!


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