384.2 Colonization, alimentary habits and the symbolic construction of Teuto-Brazilian ethnicity

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 4:35 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Giralda SEYFERTH , Antropologia, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Foreign colonization  in southern Brazil began in 1824 and produced what Leo Waibel would call “insular communities” that were culturally different from the rest of Brazilian society. European immigration was of interest to the Brazilian State, especially if it led to colonization based on family-owned small properties. This was one of the manners used by the Brazilian State to settle public lands up to the first decades of the 20th century.

The cultural systems that resulted from this territorial occupation process have certain common elements  (resulting from colonization policy and from adaptations to the new habitat), but also present differences stemming from the immigrants' original cultures and nationalities. The result has been the formation of ethnicities which persist to the current day. Alimentary habits are among the elements which are used as markers of cultural differences, even when quotidian life is more generally characterized by practices that are shared with other Brazilians. Food can take on symbolic meaning, however, instrumentalizing cultural identities that are appropriated as a positive sign of self-identification, or used in a jocose and stereotyped fashion in different contexts of social relations.

In the present article, I analyze the use of culinary techniques that are adjusted to the habits and lifestyles of the descendents of German immigrants in southern Brazil, observing the disharmonies contained in the affirmations that these techniques express ethnic belonging. My analysis takes in certain situations of conflict, rooted in the history of immigration, and the aspects of symbolic ethnicity linked to the concept of “authentic food” which can bee seen today in both quotidian life and in the ethnic festivals which take place in the cities of southern Brazil that are understood to bee “German colonies”.