Barbara Olivera Souza – “Movimento Quilombola”

Barbara Olivera Souza is a social anthropologist from the University of Brasilia. Souza specializes in the study of social movements and racial relationships, her focus is on the quilombola movement and movements created by afro-descendants. Her dissertation focused on the term “Aquilombar-se” which was her study of the history, identity, and political organization of the quilombola movement in Brazil. I have chosen to evaluate an article she wrote before her dissertation named Movimento Quilombola: Reflexões sobre seus aspectos político-organizativos e identitarios, which is similar to her dissertation but more concise and less lengthy.

This works starts by explaining the long history of quilombolas in Brazil. Souza explains that before the change in legislation in 1988 that granted quilombolas their land rights, there was a 100 year period where these communities were discredited and shunned in society. Starting in 1889 the word “quilombola” is complete left out of any official legislation or document in Brazil. The retelling of the history is to allow the reader to grasp the monumental impact that was created with the 1988 legislation. After 100 years, the word quilombola is back in Brazilian legislation but in a positive light. This legislation finally recognized afro-Brazilians as citizen of Brazil and also recognized the racial diversity in Brazil. The 1988 legislation is also the first time that the Brazil moves away from the concept that land is only a private good but more importantly that Brazil needs to be involved in maintaining the culture and costumes of afro-Brazilians.

Secondly, Souza covers the identity of the quilombola communities and its importance in the resistance movement. Souza states that there is an idea of brotherhood that unites quilombola community members throughout their fight for their land. This sense of brotherhood allows for a more intense feeling of community and unity that is spread to all quilombolas in Brazil. Going deeper into the subject of identity, the author stresses the importance of forming an ethnic identity in order to increase the strength of any movement but more specifically the quilombola movement. Souza states that one of the most successful aspect of the quilombola movement is the sense of unity that has been created among the member, which is fueled by the common fight for land that is not only for commercial but it is land that is truly a part of the quilombola identity and culture. One of the most interesting points Souza makes is the fact that this is not just a fight for land but a fight for existence and recognition within the Brazilian society. This fight has been going on since the beginning of slavery, a member of the quilombola movement states that the quilombolas were created by the determination of afro-brazilians to not be slaves because they realized that they were born free and they want to remain free. This section of the article was one of the most impactful, in my opinion, because it explains the strong factors of the quilombola communities that have allowed them to stand united in the fight for their land.

Finally, Souza cover the term “Aquilombar-se” which is the identity that is developed in the quilombolas that allows political organization of these communities. Once there is an identity formed within the quilombolas, they join together to form different organization and meetings that further their cause. For instance, the formation of CONAQ (Coordenação Nacional de Articulação das Communidades Negras Rurias Quilombolas) and the first meeting national meeting for these communities were all made possible by the efforts and unity of the quilombola members. Souza also brings to light the use of the Movimento Quilombola in the Movimento Negro. According to her findings, the quilombola movement has helped gather unity in the black movement because as discussed in class, Brazilians tend to not classify themselves as black due to the negative connotations that go along with this classification. The quilombola movement allows for the members of the black movement to gather around a cause that is more broad which is the fight for land and the reparations to the descendants of slaves. This revaltion was exciting for me because it gave me the first concrete reason as to why the Moviment Negro is so closely aligned with the Movimento Quilombola.

After getting a better understanding of the text, I believe that the overall point of the author is to bring awareness of the quilombola movement and also study the way the movement has formed in order to understand the inner workings of this organization. In my opinion, Souza does an outstanding job of laying the information out in a way the reader can understand. Souza provides a lot of detail through explaining her own research and by including quotes from interviews she has done with legislators and afro-brazilians who are a part of the quilombola movement. As a social anthropologist it is obvious that her interviews are going to be the biggest piece of evidence that support her research. I believe that the quotes that were provided were very strong and unapologetic. That is the part of the article that I enjoyed the most was reading the thoughts of people actually involved in with the movement.

This article was very useful to me because Souza touches on every aspect that I have been trying to discover throughout my research. Souza at the end of the article gives me a more structured insight into the relationships between the Black and Quilombola movement. Additionally, Souza explains the use of quilombolas as political symbols in Brazil because she bring to light the fact that these communities have united themselves in order to create political organizations to fight for the rights of the quilombolas.



Souza, Barbara Oliveira. Movimento Quilombola: Reflexões Sobre Seus Aspectos Político-organizativos E Indentitários. Brasilia: Universidade De Brasilia. PDF.