Culture, symbolisation, and social representations

Research Projects:

The relationship between image and the establishment of societies

Description: The project discusses the relationship between image (acquisition and production) and the production of knowledge in Social Sciences, its epistemological foundations, and its relation to the production of academic and scientific papers.

Professor in charge: Paulo Roberto Arruda de Menezes (


Circulation of ideas and action strategies of the Brazilian abolitionist movement

Description: This research aims to produce a comprehensive explanation of the Brazilian abolitionist movement from two angles. On the one hand, it argues that the phenomenon took the form of a social network that involved activities in parliament, mobilisation of civil society, and slave rebellions. On the other, it investigates the way through which the transfer and adaptation of ideas from the international abolitionist repertoire was processed for the Brazilian abolitionist movement, and how the national tradition has conditioned this process. It is assumed that some abolitionist leaders acted as articulators in both cases, thus connecting public space and political institutions to local, national and international arenas of the abolitionist activism.

Professor in charge: Angela Maria Alonso (


Erich Auerbach: philology and sociology

Description: To investigate the social, intellectual and academic-institutional context of the relations of philology and sociology in the work of Erich Auerbach.

Professor in charge: Leopoldo Garcia Pinto Waizbort (


Studies on the sociology of education, culture, and knowledge

Description: The technical and cultural changes that began in the second half of the last century have moved the most varied spheres of social activities, from production mode to aesthetic, deeply impacting the sphere of production and transmission of knowledge. Education is at the centre of the debate on social politics, as a problem of cultural formation, citizens, labour, professional accreditation, technical qualification of experts, production of commercial knowledge, development of attributes and abilities. First referring to the social theory (and theory of sociological knowledge) by Pierre Bourdieu, our proposal is to explore the potential of a cross-sectional sociological approach to the study of education, culture, and scientific and technological knowledge capable of articulating the structural dimensions of social organisation, the institutional processes and operations, and the representations and practices of members of various social groups, taking into account the understanding of dominant relationships in societies of contemporary classes, notably from its manifestations in Brazilian society. Our aim is to investigate the logic of symbolic domination produced by the dynamic relationships between objective characteristics of social organisations and the provisions - resulting from previous socialisation - of agents who act in them, so as to simultaneously include the objective structures of different social microcosms that constitute the social universe (and its mechanisms of reproduction and change) and the cognitive structures - principles of vision, division, and classification - mobilised by agents in the practical knowledge of these worlds, structured according to objective divisions.

The scope of this approach allows us to propose a wide range of investigations, stimulating intellectual independence of undergraduate and graduate students of the group. As a whole, the works focus on the study of contemporary Brazilian society and can be grouped, in particular, in the following areas: education politics in Brazil; science and technology politics in Brazil; institutions and processes of differentiation and legitimation of knowledge and social groups; social trajectories, as well as trajectories of formation and professionalization of intellectuals and expert elites; the institutional dynamics of national and international systems of higher education and research.

In all aspects, the aim is to investigate the socialisation processes that establish the mechanisms of production, reproduction, change and struggle for legitimacy of members of different classes and social class fractions, whose practices produce the ongoing changes in contemporary differentiated societies. (Associated with the Fapesp Thematic Project 2011/51614-3 Genesis and development of technoscience: the relationship between science, technology, and society, under the general coordination of Prof. Dr. Pablo Mariconda, of the Department of Philosophy of USP)

Professor in charge: Sylvia Gemignani Garcia (


Formation of the intellectual field and culture industry in contemporary Brazil

Description: This research aims to investigate the decisive transformations undergone by the social history of Brazilian culture, although it does so through a unique thematic confluence. It undertakes a critical history of Brazilian culture from the 19th century until the present, seeking the connections between strategic outbreaks of classical cultural production and the expansion of dynamic sectors of the culture industry: on the one hand, the modelling of intellectuals in the Empire and the traveller literature, social novels, communist intellectuals, dramaturgy, literary, and artistic avant-garde in comparative perspective; on the other, the changes in the press, publishing, and audiovisual media. The aim of this project is, therefore, the intelligibility of the conditions that governed the independence process of the cultural production field in the country, based on the selective analysis of key experiments of that history. Intellectuals and artists infusing directions and languages in the media at a historical conjuncture, and, reversibly, the changes of the cultural industry imposing features and meanings to the work of cultural producers.

Professor in charge: Sérgio Miceli Pessoa de Barros (


Social functions of education in contemporary modernity

Description: Research on the impacts of contemporary productive sphere transformations on education and culture, in two distinct but articulated dimensions: (1) ongoing debates and changes in contemporary modernity about the social functions of formal education, in particular higher education, from the following general hypothesis: the primordial value assigned to knowledge embedded in individuals at the current stage of capitalism produces pressures and demands on the proposed guidelines for academic policies, both regarding the reorganisation of institutions for its direct involvement in the production of commercial knowledge (in strategic areas), and the reorganisation of the didactic structure and disciplining by considering the preparation of individuals capable of occupational and personal insertion in a world marked by increasing heterogeneity and unpredictability (in all areas); (2) the ways in which, in Brazilian society, social agencies, especially (but not exclusively) the school, incorporate (or not) the guidelines of personal and professional training in different strata and social subgroups, and its implications for the constitution of cultural ideals of individuals and parameters of competition and cooperation that, it is assumed, are modifying the historical meanings of the socialisation processes in the modern social order. (Included in the Fapesp Thematic Project No. 07/53867-0 Genesis and significance of technoscience. The relationship between science, technology, and society, coordinated by Pablo Rubén Mariconda, full professor of the Department of Philosophy of USP)

Professor in charge: Sylvia Gemignani Garcia (


Social history of intellectuals in Latin America

Description: This is a project capable of examining the role of intellectuals in the history of the continent, with emphasis on their forms of association, in institutional spaces intended for the intellectual life, debates and their relationships with the holders of temporal power. This project aims to fill this gap in the historiography of Latin America, and it involves the participation of experts in different subjects who are able to cover the intellectual experience in their respective countries.

Professor in charge: Sérgio Miceli Pessoa de Barros (



Institutionalisation of sociology in Brazil and Argentina

Description: The project investigates the institutionalisation processes of sociology in Brazil and Argentina, in a comparative perspective, by the recreation of intellectual traditions and academic organisations in which this subject was formed.

Professor in charge: Luiz Carlos Jackson (



Description: A study on the relationship between Afro-Brazilian and evangelical religions: monotheism versus polytheism.

Professor in charge: José Reginaldo Prandi (


Memory, forgetfulness, history, and the issue of testimony

Description: Retaking of analyses on memory and forgetfulness, aiming to identify the place of testimony in history. Analysis of historical situations in which testimonies played an important role, both in the construction of memory and in the construction of historiography. It also discusses the difficulty historiography faces to incorporate testimony as a concept, insofar as this is always a construction of lacunal nature.

Professor in charge: Irene de Arruda Ribeiro Cardoso (


Sociology of culture: analysis of conditions

Description: This research project aims to analyse the conditions of the varied cultural forms, showing its sociology-based dimension.

Professor in charge: Sérgio Miceli Pessoa de Barros (


Subjectivity and culture II: the issue of generation

Description: This project aims to address the issue of generation articulated to issues of lineage, cultural heritage, and separation. It identifies a latency of the theme in Social Sciences for the past 20 years, which is accompanied by the declining perception of difference between generations and the predominance of perception of a horizontalisation (youth, generations).

Professor in charge: Irene de Arruda Ribeiro Cardoso (


Generation themes: disputes between human and social sciences and philosophy from the 1950s to the 1970s

Description: This project aims to analyse the intellectual debate from the 1950s to the 1970s involving the sense of philosophy and human and social sciences, and the creation of discipline fields, taking as references France and Brazil.

Professor in charge: Irene de Arruda Ribeiro Cardoso (


Paths of modernism in Brazil: the romance of the 1930s and the shadow of the past in modern transition

Description: Although modernism was at its origin a phenomenon typical of São Paulo, and even Rio de Janeiro, the settlement of avant-garde principles was only fully realised with the incorporation of other regions. Metropolises are always the places where changes occur, however, for example, in literature - up to that point the more ennobled genre of Brazilian culture -, the innovations of that period were made under various and original principles. Similarly to what happened in Europe, when novelties happened in contexts that were more resistant to modern lifestyle, in Brazil, as stated by Luis Fernando Veríssimo, ‘something similar happened and, discounting the Modern Art Week and its consequences, it was from outside the Rio-São Paulo metropolis that came the new. From the Northeast, Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul, even though in many cases novelties came disguised as regionalism.’ Notwithstanding the presence of some exaggeration in the quote above, as modernism as a broad movement took place primarily in the two capitals, the author - who is focusing only on literary production - wants to emphasize the importance of writers and intellectuals in the 1930s in setting the paths of culture in the country. That statement ultimately creates a problem for reflection, which is to consider both the reasons responsible for this expansion, and the speed of its spread. Another question, even deeper, arises as a necessary development of the previous one: the displacement of the centre of literary production, which migrates from the capitals to other parts of the country, and the emergence of the so-called regional novel, that had its origin mainly in the Northeast region and in the state of Rio Grande do Sul, which acquires the condition of representing the national literature, being classified as ‘novel par excellence.’ The modernisation did not have enough momentum to collide with the existing relationships overtaking it, and did not have the necessary force to adjust to the new dynamics. From this tension, the so-called social novel emerged in the 1930s, expressing the merger of fiction with political and social ideas of different criticisms. This literature, in which the power of modernisation is questioned and future prospects are clouded, as progress creates exclusions, is erected in a rich source for understanding the way through which the avant-garde proposals have spread and flourished among us, pointing towards the understanding of modern culture in Brazil. For this reason, it is the favoured source for understanding the crisis of traditional relations and the construction of modern society. Here is where the problem of this research lies: understanding the dynamics of Brazilian modernisation through the prism of modernism affirmation, addressing the articulations between modernism and social projects and an intellectuality that revel a particular overlapping between the works and the time, between culture and politics. The new generation of novelists, in particular from the Northeast, but also from other regions, will be the factors of innovation, revealing a shift of the axis of the new modernist literary production in Brazil. This is the central question of my reflection: to understand the shift of the creative centre of the modernist movement from its original centre (São Paulo), and intellectual capital (Rio de Janeiro), to the margins of the cultural field in the states of Pernambuco, Minas Gerais, and Rio Grande do Sul, regions that came to provide the variation of Brazilian literature, which is a theme I have explored when dealing with the modernist experience of Minas Gerais (Cf. Arruda, 1990); to understand the paths taken by modernism in Brazil, analyse the course of modern culture among us, perceiving it through the prism of these authors’ ability of shaping future directions; to follow the relationships between narratives and social experiences in which these writers were immersed; to reveal how they built enduring images of Brazil during the transition of traditional relations and the consequent emergence of modern values; to look for connections between the cultural fabric and the country’s modernisation process. To this end, the analysis of exemplary trajectories allows us to properly characterise the questions: José Lins do Rego (1901-1956), from Paraíba/Pernambuco; Érico Veríssimo (1905-1975), from Rio Grande do Sul; Lúcio Cardoso (1912-1968), and Cyro dos Anjos (1906-1994), from Minas Gerais. Despite a certain freedom inherent in every choice criterion, the selection is not arbitrary, since these authors not only are among the most representative writers of the period, but they are also from Brazilian states that have integrated and dense cultural constructs, corresponding to the three more elaborated regionalisms in Brazil, which are distinct cultural formulations: Pernambuco is characterised by introversion; Rio Grande do Sul by isolationism; Minas Gerais by integration to the nation. The four selected novelists express the overlaps established between their generation and the previous modernist vanguards; they are illustrative of the converging course between literature and the wider historical context; they are, in short, a model of the paths of modern culture in Brazil, considering that they codified the formal procedures of modernist language conversion in providing portraits of social-historical reality of the country.

Professor in charge: Maria Arminda do Nascimento Arruda (


General topics of sociology of culture and social theory

Description: The project aims to investigate various aspects of the sociology of culture and its links with Social Theory.

Professor in charge: Leopoldo Garcia Pinto Waizbort (


Plotting new schemes: enchantment and orientalisation

Description: Analysis of the contemporary Brazilian religious field, with emphasis on religious trajectories and pathways in individual religious experience, and religious duplicity and concomitance. Our aim is to determine whether, and to what extent, one can speak generally about enchantment and orientalisation as ongoing processes in the considered field.

Professor in charge: Lísias Nogueira Negrão (