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Utopia in Portugal, Brazil and Lusophone African Countries


Francisco Bethencourt

This book studies the history, literature and culture of Portuguese-speaking countries through the lens of utopia. The role of utopia in Portuguese literature is the object of fresh analyses ranging from Camões to Gonçalo M. Tavares, and António Vieira to José Saramago. The chapters on Angola and Mozambique show how national identity received a major boost through utopian literature – Pepetela is the anchor in the former case, while dance is used as a crucial metaphor to reveal the tension between the colonial and postcolonial gaze in the latter case. The visions of paradise in Tupi tradition and missionary doctrine inform the approach to Brazil, developed by the study of the utopian dimension of the revolts of Canudos and Contestado. Regional contrasts and the quest for Brazilian national identity underlie the chapter on the cinema of Glauber Rocha and Walter Salles. These political and cultural acts can be compared to the strange case of Sebastianism in Portugal, here studied across four centuries of adaptation and transformation. Anarchist, Communist and Catholic political projects are analysed in the context of the early twentieth century to complete this evaluation of the uses and effects of utopian visions in these countries.
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This book started with a symposium at King’s College London, to which a multidisciplinary group of scholars, working on issues and approaches directly or indirectly related to utopia, was invited. Fruitful areas of dialogue and overlapping interests emerged. Paulo de Medeiros and Cláudia Pazos-Alonso, editors of this series, quickly contacted me with a proposal to publish the contributions as a book.

The contributors responded extremely well to this challenge. They agreed to develop their research within the theoretical framework and possibilities opened up by the notions of utopia and dystopia, engaging with recent and not-so-recent reflection. The result is a significant volume drawing on the cultures and histories of Portugal, Brazil and Lusophone Africa. The purpose is not to offer a comprehensive approach, but to open up new insights through the analysis of a significant number of case studies interconnected through similar theoretical concerns.

I thank the anonymous peer reviewers, who significantly contributed to improving the text. Helen Hancock played an important role as a reliable and competent copy editor, since the majority of the authors are not native English speakers. The series editors provided the necessary support to carry the elaboration of this complex project to its conclusion. Finally, I would like to thank the Camões Institute for its support of the initiatives connected to the Charles Boxer Chair, particularly the symposium on utopia and the production of this book.

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