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Ana Paula Del Vieira Duque & Theigo Ferrare

The silencing of the black resistance to slavery in the production and justification of the Brazilian republican constitution of 1891



Ana Paula Vieira Del Duque

Universidade de Brasília (Brazil) – UnB



Thiago Ferrare

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) – UFRJ



Let us not dig up - we, the universal subject, the first personal plural - the history of slavery in Brazil; Nothing to stir in this "cemetery"[1]! This is the sense of one of the few manifestations held in the Constituent Assembly of 1890-91 concerning newly abolished slavery. It alluded to the need to tell the story of abolition as a process carried out "between hymns and flowers": the pain of the enslaved, the blood that flowed from it, cannot make up our history.

The reference to our history is not naive. The subject who issues the proposition universalizes his perspective. At the basis of this universalization is the self-consciousness of the modern West and the premises of subjective reason that support it: to be rational is to orient oneself in thought. From the perspective of the thinking subject, the world is a disorder that needs to be ordered from the parameters that found human reason. The European modernity thought the genesis of the state and the parameters of legitimation of political power in these terms: the source of ordering shared life must be justified before the normative of the rational will of each individual. Emphasis on this point: the rational will of each individual. It is this model of subjectivity that sustains the supposedly universal position; The nodes are the set of these individuals.

The point is: the universality of republican discourse is the product of pure force. As a critical counterpoint to this approach, it is sustained that the concrete universal is concrete and universal only because it brings individuals as their moments, because it gives voice to the individual in the construction and reconstruction of universal structures. Not to speak of slavery is the way to prevent estrangement from questioning the naturalness of what we need to justify, the false universality of liberal models and silencers of freedom and equality. The hegemonic discourse in the institution of the Republic therefore has the following ambiguity. He pretends to be universal, but denies history; Speaks on behalf of a supposedly inclusive nodes, but reserves the history of slavery to the graveyard.

Cemetery is a place of past conformed, space in which one recognizes the value of what was given as something that no longer lives: the past that is worth only what it once was, since it cannot be anything else. What is extinguished is the fact that the overcoming of slavery was the result of the dispute over different visions of freedom. It was ultimately the result of the enslaved agency.


[1] Taking part in the discussion about the pertinence of eliminating archives of Brazilian slavery, the constituent Francisco Badaró manifested: "I did not want, and do not want, news for my country. We have always found facilities for large patriotic companies. The abolition of the servile element, for example, was made between hymnos and flowers [...]. But let us not dig up the past, although a few days ago the Government remembered to go and play in this cemetery of slavery, already forgotten." In: Annals of the Constituent Congress - 1890-1891, p. 955. Available at: Access: 04/14/2017