Monday, March 8, 2021

Are the Mayas a racist novel? US speaker suggests yes

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National Library of Portugal / Wikimedia

Eça de Queiroz, Photographia Contemporanea In O Contemporâneo, nº 108, Lisbon [1882], p. [1]

A doctoral student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth, in the United States, gave an online lecture on the theme “Are the Mayans of Eça de Queiroz a racist novel?”.

‘The Mayans’ is one of the best-known works by the Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz, published in 1888. The book deals with the history of a family over three generations, then focusing on the last, with the love story between Carlos da Maia and Maria Eduarda.

The speaker explains that she read the work of Eça de Queiroz in the light of racial studies and that, in this way, ‘Os Maias’ associated the white / black dichotomy to civilization or savagery and would reveal an excessive preference for ‘whiteness’.

According to a text by Carlos Maria Bobone, published in the Observador newspaper, the American doctorate defended that the work was an example of someone “who perpetuates without conscience stereotypes that legitimize and allow the spread of racism ”.

“It is clear that the idea that unconscious racism leads to, that there can only be anti-racists or racists, is dangerous; but if in addition to being dangerous it is true, then the question of whether the Mayans are racist is useless. ‘Is Os Mayas a novel written in Portuguese?’ it is, if we assume that there is unconscious racism, a question with the same level of complexity ”, writes the author of the text.

The speaker explains that throughout the book, there is an association, in the narrator’s language, between black color or darkness and negative ideas or feelings. Pedro da Maia has “crisis of black melancholy ” and Maria Monforte’s eyes look like “Black with anger”, for example.

There is still a “Dark and ugly stairs” e “cheerful rooms, lined with clear papers”. The speaker also identifies several passages in which whiteness is associated with female beauty.

“The problem with these contextualized readings, which assume that a text is more rich if it is read from a point of view, is that it is always possible find what we want, although it is difficult to give an idea of ​​the dimension of the subject ”, defends Carlos Maria Bobone, giving examples contrary to those suggested by the speaker, such as the beautiful black hair of Maria Eduarda’s daughter and the unhealthy pallor of Eusebiozinho.

“The approximate lens for a problem does not bring context, it removes it, and this is the biggest problem of reading about the racism of Os Mayas”, he adds.

Daniel Costa Daniel Costa, ZAP //

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Are the Mayas a racist novel?  US speaker suggests yes