the project

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Present Pasts: Memory of Slavery and Politics of Reparation in Brazilian Public Policies on Education

Project submitted to call E15/2014 Bilateral Cooperation between FAPERJ and the Association of Columbia Global Center/Rio de Janeiro

Hebe Mattos (Universidade Federal Fluminense)
David Scott (Columbia University)

The question of slavery in present-day debate is especially (and sometimes increasingly) a question of justice, a discussion about reparations for past crimes. The emergence of discussions about reparatory justice, as part of a larger debate about the historical injustices of collective crimes such as genocide, torture, and ethnic cleansing, renewed the discussion about slavery in the Americas that goes beyond current approaches to diaspora, racism, memory, and identity. The fundamental question of the possibility of reparation – moral, political, cultural, as well as economic – is relevant for “systemic” instances of historical injustice, such as the capture and enslavement of Africans in Brazil, the Caribbean, and the United States. This was an institution of injustice perpetrated and enjoyed not simply by individuals or even a state over the course of decades, but rather over centuries by a great number of European and American states that claimed to be based on liberal constitutions. And it was an institution that helped create the wealth that led to the founding structures of the contemporary world. (David Scott, Columbia University)


The proposed collaborative research project aimed to: a) deepen an ongoing international conversation among scholars of slavery and the memory of slavery, about connections between different experiences of enslavement and also about contemporary claims for public policies of reparation for the history of slavery; b) contribute evaluating the impact of Law 10.639 which made it mandatory to teach African history and Afro-Brazilian culture in Brazilian elementary, middle, and high schools and which was intended as a form of political repair for the Brazilian slave past; c) propose concrete forms of intervention to empower teachers to teach the subject, especially through the development of digital platforms.

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