Brazil is shutting down all the University Sociology and Philosophy departments. Please consider signing this petition of protest and concern.
Brazil is shutting down all the University Sociology and Philosophy departments. Please consider signing this petition of protest and concern.
Open Letter from U.S. and Global Sociologists in Support of Brazilian Sociology Departments
On April 25th, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, along with his Minister of Education, Abraham Weintraub, declared the government’s intent to “decentralize investments in philosophy and sociology” within public universities, and to shift financial support to “areas that give immediate returns to taxpayers, such as veterinary science, engineering, and medicine.”
As professors, lecturers, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and other scholars in sociology and related disciplines at colleges and universities in the United States and worldwide, we write to declare our unwavering support for continued funding for sociology programs at Brazilian universities. We oppose President Bolsonaro’s attempt to disinvest in sociology, or any other program in the humanities or social sciences.
As historical and contemporary sociologists, we understand that the decades-long marketization of higher education has convinced many politicians - in Brazil, in the United States, and globally - that a university education is valuable only insofar as it is immediately profitable. We reject this premise.
The purpose of higher education is not to produce “immediate returns” on investments. The purpose of higher education must always be to produce an educated, enriched society that benefits from the collective endeavor to create human knowledge. Higher education is a purpose in and of itself.
An education in the full range of the arts and sciences is the cornerstone of a liberal arts education. This is as true in Brazil as it is in the United States as it is in any country in the world.
Brazilian sociology departments produce socially engaged and critical thinkers, both in Brazil and worldwide. Brazilian sociologists contribute to the global production of sociological knowledge. They are our colleagues within the discipline and within our shared departments and institutions. When sociologists from abroad conduct research or other academic work in Brazil, we are welcomed by Brazilian sociologists and by their departments. Many of our own students receive world-class training in sociology at Brazilian universities.
President Bolsonaro’s intent to defund sociology programs is an affront to the discipline, to the academy, and, most broadly, to the human pursuit of knowledge. This proposal is ill-conceived, and violates principles of academic freedom that ought to be integral to systems of higher education in Brazil, in the United States, and across the globe. We urge the Brazilian government to reconsider its proposition.
Brazilian Government To Defund Philosophy in Public Universities
Jair M. Bolsonaro, the current president of Brazil, has announced on Twitter his plans to stop government funding of philosophy and sociology in the nation’s public universities.
A rough translation is: “The Minister of Education, Abraham Weintraub, is studying how to decentralize investment in philosophy and sociology at universities. Students who have already enrolled will not be affected. The objective is to focus on areas that generate immediate return to the taxpayer, such as: veterinary, engineering, and medicine.”
By way of explanation, he added:
Again, roughly translated, this says: “The role of the Government is to respect the taxpayer’s money, teaching young people to read, write, and learn job skills that generates income for the person and well-being for the family, which improves the society around them.”
Those with more knowledge of the situation are encouraged to share what they know in the comments here, or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Le post de Rodrigo (reçu par email de @isskein):
Some friends have written to ask about the Brazilian government’s announcement of an attack on the humanities (▻http://tiny.cc/d10t5y) –– and, very kindly, how/whether that affected me personally. As I thought other people might be interested, here’s a couple of things.
Secondary things first: the decision, whatever it is, does not affect me directly, as PUC-Rio is thankfully under the jurisdiction of a rather more stable authority, the Vatican. (Well, the Jesuits, technically –– and let me tell you, one really comes to appreciate the charms of actual warrior priests when faced with the Holy Crusade LARPers we currently have in power.) Indirectly, however, this decision, whatever it is, can have effects across the board.
“Whatever it is” is the main thing at this point. There is no decision as such yet, and the announcement is quite vague, possibly because, not having much of a clue how the state machine works, they still don’t know how to implement it. “Decentralising funds” doesn’t really mean anything, and public universities have autonomy to employ their resources, so “defunding the humanities” is not something Brasília can decide like that. What this can mean in the long run, however, is two things. One is something that has already been happening for a while and was already expected to get worse: a substantial cut in research funding across the board, but especially for the humanities. This does have an impact on non-public universities as well, or at least the few like PUC that do research, since the vast majority of research in Brazil is publicly funded, particularly in the humanities. The other thing, which was also expected to some extent, is that the new chancellors the government will pick for federal universities will be politically and ideologically aligned with it, and will implement this policy.
It is worth pointing out that, because of the notoriously perverse way HE recruitment works in Brazil, the humanities tend to be the courses of choice for the students who went to the worst schools (read poor, black, brown, indigenous), as they’re easier to get into. So defunding the humanities is indirectly also a policy of restricting access to HE, reverting the positive trend of expansion established in the last two decades. With the economic crisis, of course, that reversal had already begun.
Now, as for the context. This government’s ideological core is not just anti-intellectual, but made up of wannabe alt-right ideologues, conspiracy nuts and a bunch of ressentis who managed to square their belief in free competition with their utter failure in life by constructing the fantasy of a communist-globalist plot against the(ir) world. Less charmingly, they are historical revisionists (regarding the dictatorship, the Nazis, slavery...) and climate denialists. It is therefore in their interest to eliminate anything that refers to a reality other than the one they have fabricated or deals with the development of critical tools for analysing evidence. This extends to the war they are already waging against the state departments that deal with the census, statistics and applied research. The more they can make the world inaccessible by either fact or interpretation, the freer they are from the resistance imposed by reality –– including from the very possibility of statistically assessing the impact that their actions will have.
Why now, though? Bolsonaro is too divisive and politically inept, his programme potentially too harmful, to build a stable majority. It’s still unclear whether he can deliver a pension reform, which is essential to ensure the continuing support of big capital, and his popularity rates have taken a considerable fall since January, especially among the poor. (See: ▻https://tinyurl.com/yyl2kff7). He knows, on the other hand, that his greatest asset is a very engaged core base of true believers. US friends will be familiar with this behaviour from Trump: whenever the boat rocks, he will throw his base a bait, and this is mostly what this announcement is.
Unlike Trump, Bolsonaro doesn’t even have economic recovery going for him, so if things remain as they are, we should expect him to become more divisive, and his support to become more unstable (in every sense). But there’s another political rationale to this attack specifically. As more poor people were making it into university, especially in the humanities, the left was also losing most of its direct presence in the peripheries and favelas. This means that this layer of the university-educated poor, who have increasingly taken on a protagonist role, have become central to any future left strategy in the country. This was the background from which hailed Marielle Franco, an object of especially vicious hate for Bolsonarismo, and in relation to whose death they still have serious questions to answer (▻https://tinyurl.com/y3btg54d).
If you’re worried and you’d like to help, stay tuned to this story, stay in touch with colleagues in Brazil or in your countries/institutions who are doing stuff on Brazil, keep an eye on the news and be ready to call out reporting in your countries that normalises the absurdity of so much that’s going on. It might be a tad premature right now, but motions from union branch and professional association motions might be in a good order at some point; every little bit helps. It is likely that there’ll be opportunities in the future for putting pressure on foreign governments to get them to put pressure on Brazil to curb the worst impulses of this government. Several measures announced in these early months were retracted once there was some pushback, so that does not seem a far-fetched possibility. In the meantime, you might consider circulating this manifesto by 600 scientists from all over the world demanding that the EU hold Brazilian trade to minimal indigenous rights and environmental standards: ▻https://science.sciencemag.org/content/364/6438/341.1. This is the kind of thing we’ll probably be seeing more of in the near future.
MEC bloqueia 30% do orçamento de três universidades federais; outras unidades também são atingidas
Mãos de tesoura Entidades que monitoram o investimento no ensino superior detectaram novo bloqueio de verbas de instituições federais no fim de abril, após Abraham Weintraub assumir o Ministério da Educação. Cerca de R$ 230 milhões foram contingenciados.
Mãos de tesoura 2 Várias unidades do país sofreram com o congelamento de valores previstos no orçamento de investimentos e outras despesas correntes, mas o volume da tesourada em três universidades chamou a atenção: a Federal da Bahia, a de Brasília e a Federal Fluminense.
Mãos de tesoura 3 De acordo com números preliminares, o valor bloqueado nas três entidades corresponde a mais da metade do contingenciamento imposto a todas as universidades. Procurado, o MEC informou que UFBA, UnB e UFF tiveram 30% das dotações orçamentárias bloqueadas.
Mãos de tesoura 4 Em nota, a pasta disse que “estuda os bloqueios de forma que nenhum programa seja prejudicado e que os recursos sejam utilizados da forma mais eficaz. O Programa de Assistência Estudantil não sofreu impacto em seu orçamento.”
Verão passado Em 2018, a UFF foi palco de um rumoroso “ato contra o fascismo”, na reta final da eleição presidencial. Já a UnB foi palco recentemente de debates com Fernando Haddad (PT) e Guilherme Boulos (PSOL).
British Philosophical Association Defends Philosophy in Brazil
The Executive Committee of the British Philosophical Association (BPA) has issued a statement responding to Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, who last week proposed that federal funding for the study and teaching of philosophy and sociology be ended.
The statement reads:
The British Philosophical Association is highly alarmed by President Bolsonaro’s plans to remove funding from Philosophy and Sociology in Brazilian Universities. Such a move is not in Brazil’s interests – having well-funded, vibrant, internationally-connected philosophy and sociology departments is crucial to healthy universities and, by extension, to healthy societies. Philosophers, alongside colleagues in the humanities, arts and social sciences, have a crucial role in helping us to understand, question, invent and reinvent the communities, towns, cities, societies and economies in which we exist. They help us understand what is valuable and why. They help us understand the results and implications of the fruits of science and technology.
The proposal to defund philosophy departments in Brazil is bad for philosophy as a worldwide discipline; philosophy directly benefits from the diversity of experiences of the people that contribute to it. Brazil has been home to generations of distinguished philosophy scholars: Paulo Freire, Oswaldo Chateaubriand, Newton da Costa, Walter Carnielli, Itala D’ottaviano, Vladimir Safatle, Ana Paula Cavalcanti Simioni to name but a few. Brazil’s philosophy departments attract visiting philosophers from all over the world to study alongside leading figures. Brazil’s universities have produced philosophers who have gone on to work at leading universities around the world; for example, Roberto Mangabeira Unger is Professor at Harvard Law School, and two of the three Editors-in-Chief of Synthese, one of the world’s top ranking philosophy journals, are Brazilian and trained at the University of Sao Paulo – Catarina Dutilh Novaes and Otavio Bueno.
This move strikes a blow against academic freedom and freedom more broadly; while President Bolsonaro’s statements have been framed as an attempt to channel investment towards programmes of study which might provide shorter-term benefits to Brazil’s economy, the BPA note that authoritarian governments often attempt to silence philosophers and sociologists as a move to make it more difficult for people to express views critical of those in power. The British Philosophical Association calls on leaders around the world to urge President Bolsonaro to reconsider this move.
on me signale l’existence du RED Réseau Européen pour la Démocratie au Brésil (RED.Br) très actif sur facebook
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Au Brésil, le ministre qui veut réduire les sciences humaines. Abraham Weintraub a décidé de réduire les budgets alloués aux universités de sociologie et philosophie et a affirmé vouloir faire de même avec toutes les universités fédérales.
La direction du président Jair Bolsonaro (PSL) a bloqué les dernières heures de bourses d’études et de doctorat offertes par Capes (Coordination pour l’amélioration du personnel de l’enseignement supérieur).
Selon les informations communiquées par les coordonnateurs de programme, les fonds inutilisés temporairement auraient été retirés du système d’agence de développement rattaché au ministère de l’Éducation.
Les bourses ont été accordées à des étudiants ayant déjà défendu leur travail récemment et seraient destinées à des étudiants approuvés dans le cadre de processus de sélection terminés ou en cours.
La coupure a pris les universités par surprise a touché non seulement les domaines de l’homme, mais la direction du ministre Abraham Weintraub a déclaré que ce n’était pas la priorité des investissements publics, mais également de la science.
À l’Institute of Biosciences of USP, 38 bourses d’études ont été coupées - 17 masters, 19 doctorats et deux postdoctoraux.
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