Racism and Citizenship
The tension between racism and citizenship over more than five centuries, from 1496 to the present, is at the core of the exhibition. Visual culture ‒ paintings, sculptures, engravings, posters, ceramics, chains, manilas, books, comic books, photographs and videos ‒ is mobilised to understand historical processes of segregation of minorities in Portugal and discrimination of natives in the colonial world.
Racism (prejudices concerning ethnic descent combined with discriminatory action) was always confronted with informal forms of integration, which became predominant in the postcolonial period. The assertion of citizenship (the right to live, work and participate) followed the Revolution of April 1974 and the independence of the colonies in 1975.
During the period under consideration, Muslim expulsion took place, as did the forced conversion of Jewish people, the slave trade, the colonization of territories in Africa, America and Asia, the abolition of slavery, decolonization and immigration.
The exhibition aims to encourage the public to question past and present relations between peoples, combining emigration with immigration, exclusion and integration, lack of rights and access to citizenship.
La Lettura, 28 May 2017 (Italian)
Expresso, 6 May 2017 (Portuguese)
Publico, 8 May 2017 (Portuguese)
Exhibition Racism and Citizenship 6th May to 3rd September 2017 Padrão dos Descobrimentos, Lisbon Curator: Francisco Bethencourt, Charles Boxer Professor, King's College London
RACISM AND CITIZENSHIP. OUTLINES FOR AN EXHIBITION
The exhibition displays two interlinking realities, RACISM, a prejudice relating to ethnic origin combined with discriminatory action, and CITIZENSHIP, the right to residence, work and political participation in a particular country, equally involving duties and responsibilities.
The main concern of the exhibition is the
The first part of the proposed itinerary focuses on the 16th-18th centuries, on stereotypical images of Moors and Jews, replicated once they had converted to Christianity. It then moves on to display images of enslaved populations of African origin and natives from America and Asia. This part concludes with the theory of races, that is, a hierarchical vision of the world’s peoples assuming European supremacy. The colonial world opens the second part, exhibiting images of slavery and forced work, and the dehumanisation and inferiorisation of Africans. The difficulty in the representations becomes clear, especially when confronted with the recognition of non-Christian religions. Finally, contemporary art appropriates the colonial memory and reflects on a more inclusive vision of citizenship.
The forced conversion of Jews in 1497 triggered tensions relating to economic competition in the context of a successful integration. The converted Jews, known as New Christians, were excluded from Crown and Church institutions by the blood purity statutes, which were abolished only in 1773. The New Christians would also be the main victims of the Inquisition.
The Christian conquest of the Iberian Peninsula (from the 8th to the 15th centuries) viewed Muslims as the main enemy, a perception transported to Africa and Asia with the Portuguese expansion (15th and 18th centuries). The Muslims were expelled in 1496, but forced conversions took place. The converted were labelled Mouriscos to emphasise the infamy of their origins. Like the Jews, they were subject to the blood purity statutes.
In Portugal, legally, until the beginning of the 19th century, Jews and Muslims were only admitted for diplomatic reasons, while they were accepted in the colonies under certain restrictions.
The representation of Africans is initially linked to slavery and cannibalism. Images of slaves at work in the Brazilian plantations are displayed alongside images of black people in the midst of nature or of slaves as accessories of the Court. While the devil is represented by a black African in sculptures of saints, there are also examples of African saints. In a context of widespread discrimination and individual promotion of religious conversion, there is great ambiguity.
Objects such as manillas, used for the acquisition of slaves like any other merchandise, and painful, imprisoning shackles document subjected and marginalised human lives. Indeed, the punishment of slaves was only beginning to be documented by artists, who were not Portuguese but who were involved in and favourable to the movement to abolish slavery.
Simultaneously innocent and demonic, Native Americans were seen as open to conversion but permanent wrongdoers. In Portuguese art, contradictory representations of Brazilian Indians are evident. At times, they could be portrayed as one of the Three Wise Men, and at others, as the Devil. Yet it was the relationship with cannibalism which most significantly shaped and characterised Native Americans in Europe until the 18th century.
To describe India, large European repertoires of world customs show images of human sacrifices and pagan worship of strange foreign gods.
On the basis of these negative depictions, a theory of races began to be sketched out in the 16th century, which would influence hundreds of texts, illustrations and paintings. Until the end of the 19th century, attempts were made to claim a hierarchy of races, with Europeans at the top.
In the colonies, slavery continued throughout the 19th century, and the series of abolitionist legislation from 1853 to 1875 proved to be difficult to apply. At that time, the label ‘slavery’ was replaced with that of ‘forced work’. Yet the true nature of this change of label was as unclear as it was lenient. There was a great deal of international debate on the mechanisms by which forced work was imposed. For this reason, there continued to be Africans shackled or imprisoned from the wars to occupy Africa, demonstrating the prolongation of this attitude. This is why African workers recruited for forced work continued to be documented or photographed even in the first half of the 20th century.
The colonial exhibitions held in the 1930s and 1940s in Porto and Lisbon followed international models of the second half of the 19th century, with the setting up of «human zoos» populated by communities brought from the colonies and exhibited in a «natural habitat» recreated for this purpose, highlighting relationships of supremacy and dependency.
Along the same lines, the eroticisation of native African women became possible in a country with supposedly strict morals, and was justified by ideas of primitivism and inferiority. Even though images of Africans assimilated into European customs and apparel acted to counter this view, racism expressed in illustrated publications, advertisements and art works was present and continued into the 1950s.
The very limited access of the native population of the colonies to citizenship status improved somewhat during the colonial war of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s.
The constitutional monarchy (1834-1910) led the way for religious freedom with the authorisation of the return of Jewish communities and the construction of the first synagogue in Lisbon in 1904. It was not until 1985 that the first mosque to be built in the city since the Middle Ages was constructed.
The revolution of 25 April 1974 and the independence of the colonies in 1975 created the conditions for universal access to citizenship. Despite this, issues of access and discrimination continue to exist, although racism has ceased to be supported or ignored by the state. Today, racism is punishable by law.
The post-colonial period has seen significant activity by African artists, who explore their identity in a process of interrogation of institutionalised and Eurocentric images, contrasting them with the memory of different peoples. Meanwhile, Portuguese artists originating from the former colonies or who have absorbed the cultures of African populations have used these experiences to reflect on a new world, exempt from racism and with citizenship.
Racisms is the first comprehensive history of racism, from the Crusades to the twentieth century. Demonstrating that there is not one continuous tradition of racism, Francisco Bethencourt shows that racism preceded any theories of race and must be viewed within the prism and context of social hierarchies and local conditions. In this richly illustrated book, Bethencourt argues that in its various aspects, all racism has been triggered by political projects monopolizing specific economic and social resources.
Racisms focuses on the Western world, but opens comparative views on ethnic discrimination and segregation in Asia and Africa. Bethencourt looks at different forms of racism, and explores instances of enslavement, forced migration, and ethnic cleansing, while analyzing how practices of discrimination and segregation were defended.
Racisms: From the Crusades to the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013), 444 pp. The book was translated into Portuguese: Racismos: das Cruzadas ao seculo XX, translated by Luis Oliveira Santos (Lisbon: Círculo de Leitores, 2015); the Italian translation: Razzismi. Dalle crociate al XX secolo, translated by Paola Palminiello (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2017).
'masterly new book [...] Bethencourt's tone in treating the crimes and follies of humankind is unfailingly cool and analytically sophisticated [...] Bethencourt's achievement is to show that racism, in all its forms, was contextual and ultimately reformable, not innate and hence inevitable [...] Bethencourt tacks deftly between cultural and social history. His binocular vision marks Racisms out from most previous studies of its subject [...] Bethencourt's long-range view - deep in time, wide in space - puts more familiar turning points in the global history of racism into novel perspective [...] more ambitiously, Bethencourt draws out racism's purpose in combating egalitarianism in Europe after 1848, in cementing racial inequality in the United States and in promoting European incursions into Asia [...] When Bethencourt reaches the past hundred years or so, the examples of the Jewish pogroms in Russia, the Armenian genocide and the Nazi racial state amply confirm his hypothesis that political projects motivate racism', David Armitage, Times Literary Supplement
'As a comparative study of colonial behaviour Racisms is astonishing... Readers of Racisms will learn a great deal about colonial encounters that brought people of different regions, religions 'skin colours' and 'ethnicities' into contact with each other during the long centuries of European expansion', David Nirenberg, Literary Review
'To understand what fuelled such racist ideologies and practices, I can think of no better book than Francisco Bethencourt's Racisms. It is an ambitious bold project... Bethencourt addresses the 'scientific' turn in racial classifications systems... Bethencourt's summary is the clearest and most sophisticated to date... [An] impressive book', Joanna Bourke, New Statesman
'Racisms cataloguing of successive centuries of poisonous bigotry, of tangled, self-serving myth and murderous victimisation, creates a powerful cumulative effect... This is an unlovely history. But a necessary one that appears, sadly for the wrong reasons, at the right time', Ekow Eshun, Independent
'Bethencourt [combines] a panoramic vision with a vertical analysis of key topics, besides presenting intriguing questions. The richness of information is formidable; the logic of the argument irreproachable', Ronaldo Vainfas, Revista Tempo (Rio de Janeiro)
'Racisms provides a sweeping history of discrimination and prejudice that links these practices to ethnic differences and political power in an elegant and learned global history of one of the world’s most persistent problems', Stuart Schwartz, New West Indian Guide
'Bethencourt's incisive analysis ought to be compulsory reading in the think tanks, chanceries and ministeries of the developed world', Maria Misra, Prospect
'this is a book that for many years will be a world reference for the study of a persistent phenomenon', António Araújo, Público (justifying why the book had been chosen as the first non-fiction book published in Portugal in 2015)
Read the full review: Publico, 18 December 2015 (Portuguese)
Margarida Kol de Carvalho Maria Cecília Cameira
Francisco Bethencourt – King’s College London
António Camões Gouveia - FCSH da UNL / CHAM
Jorge Maroco Alberto - Professor do Ensino Básico Raquel Pereira Henriques - FCSH da UNL / CHAM Serviço Educativo - Padrão dos Descobrimentos
Maria Helena Nunes – Mão de Papel
Rita Cruz Neves
Oland - Denominação de Origem Criativa
GMSC – Informática e Audiovisuais, Lda
Conceição Romão Rita Lonet
AS Pinheiro, Lda
Escarigo Factory - Centro de Produção Digital
Lisbon, Ibero-American Capital of Culture 2017
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