A Post-Bolsonaro Brazil? Scholars Discuss the Possible Futures of Indigenous Peoples, Evangelicals, and Refugees

Written by
Daniel Persia
Sept. 26, 2022

On Wednesday, September 14, 2022, the Brazil LAB hosted “A Post-Bolsonaro Brazil?,” a conversation with professors of anthropology Artionka Capiberibe, Ronaldo de Almeida, and Isadora Lins França, all based at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). The discussion, taking place eighteen days before the 2022 presidential election in Brazil, was moderated by Pedro Meira Monteiro, Arthur W. Marks ’19 Professor of Spanish and Portuguese and Chair of the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Princeton University.

Capiberibe began with a presentation titled “The Ideology of the Attack on Indigenous Rights in Brazil: What a Post-Bolsonaro Brazil Will Face.” The indigenous population in Brazil has more than tripled in recent decades, rising from 294,131 (in 1991) to 896,917 (in 2010), according to census data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IGBE). Capiberibe showed how the growth of the indigenous population can be interpreted against a backdrop of increasing rights in the last decade of the twentieth century, along with the demarcation of indigenous territories during Brazil’s democratic period, beginning in 1985—though halted today. “These territories need not be demarcated to be indigenous,” Caperibe reminded the audience, highlighting how the Bolsonaro administration has ruptured policies that took years to develop. In resorting to past, violent frameworks of integration and emancipation associated with the civil-military dictatorship in Brazil, the Bolsonaro administration has treated those who should be treated as citizens as enemies—a reality that any post-Bolsonaro Brazil will have to reckon with.

Almeida carried the conversation into the realm of religion with a presentation titled “Religion As Politics.” A former guest of the Brazil LAB, Almeida studies the importance of Evangelicals—and, more specifically, Neo-Pentecostals—in contemporary Brazilian politics. According to Almeida, four years of the Bolsonaro administration have created a kind of “synergy” among right-wing groups and affiliates, configuring a new religious right. That new religious right, however, is not immune to internal divisions and conflicts. Almeida also approached the relation between religious affiliation and electoral results, showing differences in candidate preference among Catholic, Evangelical, and other religious and non-religious voters. The question lingering under the surface: how much should we really be talking about religion when we talk about politics?

França closed out the circuit of reflections on a post-Bolsonaro Brazil by moving from religion to migration, borders and refuge. “Refugees play an important role when it comes to languages of power,” França argued, analyzing refugee trends since 1985 while tackling Bolsonaro’s divisive language and rhetoric. Bolsonaro’s critique of the Lei de Migração, as well as the general lack of public policies for immigrants in Brazil, are a few of the indicators of a state unwilling to respond adequately—or at all—to the nuances and necessities of migration. 

Meira Monteiro invited the panelists to think even more deeply about indigeneity, religion, political pacts and national sovereignty. While a post-Bolsonaro Brazil is in sight, a post-Bolsonarista Brazil may not be, as the ingrained ideologies of the right undoubtedly remain. Other questions from the audience kindled the debate, touching on themes such as: the university; quotas; militarization; the Constitution of 1988; and indigenous epistemologies and resistance.

The event was co-sponsored by the Program in Latin American Studies, the Department of Anthropology, and the Department of Spanish and Portuguese.