9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN31 Ethnic Relations, Racism and Antisemitism

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Racism and Antisemitism in Europe Building II, C5.05

Exploring Eurocentrism in Portuguese History Textbooks

In recent decades, history textbooks have undergone significant transformations resulting from collective struggles for recognition. In many Western countries, a central aspect deserving attention is that of Eurocentric representations of national/European history, particularly the processes through which certain versions of history position "we" as central and its "others" as peripheral. In Portugal, the task of analysing such processes is particularly relevant. Its colonial legacy has, across the years, influenced the conception of Portuguese national identity and reproduced unequal relations, particularly evident in representations of "race" and "Africa".

In this communication, we will present an ongoing project entitled "Race" and Africa in Portugal: a study on history textbooks, which explores how "race" and Africa figure and are made use of in textbooks. Key research questions include: Which history of Africa gets told up until the "Discoveries" period of the 15th century? Does a stereotyped view of the Black and/or African "other" circulate? Are "race" and racism accounted for? How are the colonial war and the history of African resistance to colonialism addressed? We are using critical content analysis, focusing not only on contents (both textual and iconographic) but also on absences, being aware of the multiplicity of readings that texts and images can have. So far, a preliminary analysis of textbooks points to the construction of "Africa" as "a land without society" (not having the status of "territory" until the arrival of colonisers) and to the use of the notion of "civilisation" as a category that discriminates between "territories with society" and "empty land" (e.g. in contrast to the absence of "society" in Africa, Inca, Maya or Aztec ?civilisations? in "the Americas" deserve some consideration, being "equated" to the Eurocentric idea of "civilisation").

To uncover how contents are negotiated by actors involved in textbook production and circulation, empirical work will be carried out with policy-makers, editors, authors, teachers, students, NGOs representatives and other relevant stakeholders and associations. We are thus interested in discussing both our preliminary results on the content analysis of textbooks and subsequent methodological strategies to construct critical and fruitful dialogues with all actors participating in the study.