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December 2010
240 pages  

6 x 9
9780822961239
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Sentencing Canudos
Subalternity in the Backlands of Brazil
Johnson, Adriana Michele Campos
In the late nineteenth century, the Brazilian army staged several campaigns against the settlement of Canudos in northeastern Brazil. The colony’s residents followed Antonio Conselheiro, who promoted a communal existence free from taxes and oppression. Estimates of the death toll range from fifteen thousand to thirty thousand. Sentencing Canudos offers an original perspective on the hegemonic intellectual discourse surrounding this event. In her study, Johnson views the process of nation building and the silencing of “other” voices through the reinvisioning of history. Looking primarily to Euclides da Cunha’s Os Sertões, she maintains that the events and people of Canudos have been “sentenced” to history by this work.

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Adriana Michele Campos Johnson is associate professor of comparative literature at the University of California, Irvine.
“Sentencing Canudos is a rich and thought-provoking interpretation of how Canudos had its political articulation as a community denied, both at the time of its destruction as well as over the last 110 years of writing about it. It offers the reader an enjoyable, challenging account of Canudos as a case study of the interplay between history, subalternity, and contestation." —José Luiz Passos, University of California, Los Angeles

“[A] lucid, elegant analysis . . . convincing and eautifully written. “ —The Americas

”An extraordinary analysis . . . an engaging, well-researched, and theoretically compelling book that will be of interest for scholars and students concerned with the connection between the Canudos’s conflict and nation-making in Brazil, as well as the relationships among representation, hegemony, the everyday, and the production of subaltern subjects.”—Bulletin of Latin American Research

“Among the successes of ‘Sentencing Canudos’ is that it is truly interdisciplinary. In constructing her framework and analysis, Campos Johnson turns to texts from fields of history, literary studies, cultural and philosophical studies, and postcolonial studies.”—Luso-Brazilian Review

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Illuminations: Cultural Formations of the Americas Table of Contents
Latin America/Cultural Studies Read a selection from this book
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In the late nineteenth century, the Brazilian army staged several campaigns against the settlement of Canudos in northeastern Brazil. The colony’s residents, primarily disenfranchised former slaves, mestizos, landless farmers, and uprooted Indians, followed a man known as Antonio Conselheiro (“The Counselor”), who promoted a communal existence, free of taxes and oppression. To the fledgling republic of Brazil, the settlement represented a threat to their system of government, which had only recently been freed from monarchy. Estimates of the death toll at Canudos range from fifteen thousand to thirty thousand.

Sentencing Canudos offers an original perspective on the hegemonic intellectual discourse surrounding this monumental event in Brazilian history. In her study, Adriana Michele Campos Johnson offers a close examination of nation building and the silencing of “other” voices through the reinvisioning of history. Looking primarily to Euclides da Cunha’s Os Sertões, which has become the defining—and nearly exclusive—account of the conflict, she maintains that the events and people of Canudos have been “sentenced” to history by this work. Johnson investigates other accounts of Canudos such as local oral histories, letters, newspaper articles, and the writings of Cunha’s contemporaries, Afonso Arinos and Manoel Benício, in order to strip away political agendas. She also seeks to place the inhabitants and events of Canudos within the realm of “everydayness” by recalling aspects of daily life that have been left out of official histories.

Johnson analyzes the role of intellectuals in the process of culture and state formation and the ensuing sublimation of subaltern histories and populations. She echoes recent scholarship that posits subalternity as the product of discourse that must be disputed in order to recover cultural identities and offers a view of Canudos and postcolonial Latin America as a place to think from, not about.

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