Accepted paper:

Modes of feeling otherness through fieldwork: Portuguese social scientists in the colonies


Cláudia Castelo (Faculdade de Ciências, Universidade de Lisboa)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will focus on the emotions associated with the fieldwork of different metropolitan social scientists in the Portuguese colonies, during the late decades of colonialism. It explores and compares individual processes of feeling the place and of interacting with the indigenous people.

Paper long abstract:

This paper aims to comparatively explore a diversity of individual processes of seeing and feeling colonial places and its inhabitants. It uses interviews and written reports from Portuguese social scientists (anthropologists and human geographers) who conducted fieldwork in the Portuguese colonies in the 1950s and 1960s, and who were associated with the former Portuguese Overseas Research Board (JIU). Each of these social scientists observed, evaluated, and made surveys in their specific research fields. In this process, they had to deal with the colonized people and with the colonized space. Although scientifically oriented, this interaction with people and places generated different emotions in the observers, revealing the multiple human dimensions of social research in colonial situation. The paper will focus particularly on Ruy Cinatti (1915-1986), a Portuguese agronomist, poet and anthropologist, as a major example of empathy towards his object of study: Timor, the land and the people. More than any other JIU researcher, Cinatti interacted directly with the Timorese, and his own identity became entangled with the local people and culture. In his poetry, but also in his botanical and anthropological writings, as well as in his official correspondence and reports to his hierarchical superiors in the colonial service, he constantly revealed his emotional involvement with Timor.

panel P221
New histories of anthropology: the hidden emotions of colonial ethnography