From Lisbon and Oporto to Rio de Janeiro

Last thursday, on 12th of March 2015, we presented the preliminary outcomes of the research at the project’s final conference. In Rio de Janeiro, the fieldwork took place from December 2013 until May 2014, and involved a group of five portuguese families. The families have moved from Lisbon into the city between 2010 and 2013. The families’ experiences and narratives were explored through the discussion of their past and current homes, their material culture and domestic practices between “here” and “there”. Nevertheless, every house, every family and individual, as well as their life projects, present differences and particularities. Ence, the five households were constituted by: a) a single woman; b) a single woman who lives with two flatmates; c) a nuclear family – parents with three children; d) a young couple; e) a young couple expecting their first child. All families can be perceived as middle class to upper-middle class in Portugal and have got a medium-high cultural capital (higher education, mostly master’s degree or PhD), and work mainly in the fields of technology, arts and sciences (academy).

It is important to refer that many of these immigrants had previous experiences abroad, either doing exchange programs, professional internships or even full education, especially in Europe (Italy, France, Netherlands, UK, Sweden) but also in the EUA and Japan. Furthermore, many of them already have visited Rio de Janeiro, as well as other parts of Brazil due to exchange programs, tourism and previous professional experiences. Having previous migratory experiences seems to be important and influences the way that individuals see themselves, as well as their migration project: movement, in a broad sense, is understood as a natural and expected path of their lives. Several arguments were mentioned has leitmotifs to migrate, mostly related with the desire of acquiring international experience, both in their professional and personal areas, by doing what they always imagined and idealized for their lives. Moreover, the idea of “prevention” given the context of crisis in Portugal, is also very present in their discourses. The relationship with the movement is often valued as cultural capital and, despite the centrality of work, its articulation with personal fulfillment seems to be present and have directly influenced the specific choice of Rio de Janeiro as destination – a place very present in their imaginaries as a wonderful, young, exotic and seductive place that provides an unique lifestyle in the all world. As such, they imagined themselves living on the neighbourhoods that they used to watch in the brazilian soap operas in Portugal – with amazing landscapes near the beach, which are synonymous of security, status and quality of life. Since the wages and the living expenses often do not meet their expectations, the families had to put into equation the neighborhood by one side and the house by the other, as well as consumption practices and material culture itself.

The houses and families, alongside their material culture and everyday domestic consumption practices, especially through food, but also through furniture, decorative options and clothing proved to be a positive contribution to revealing significant features in structuring relations both with the context of origin and destination.


Homes and things of some Portuguese in São Paulo

Within the framework of the project Atlantic Crossings: materiality, contemporary movements and policies of belonging, we carried out fieldwork from March to September 2014, with five Portuguese families, from Lisbon and Oporto, that had recently moved to Campinas and Sao Paulo, Brazil. This fieldwork enabled to map different realities of the Portuguese emigration across both cities, through ethnographic fieldwork. We visited each family from four to eight times and had the opportunity to meet, at least once, all the members of the household. Having the household as material ground of analysis, we managed to explore – throughout participant observation and semi-structured interviews – a set of dimensions related to the life stories of these individuals, their projects, motifs and expectations towards migration as well as the role played by material culture and domestic consumptions in the processes of migration and settling in a new city.

Each household had it’s own particularities. Bruna and Nuno are a young couple that live in a house in Perdizes. She works as dancer and cultural producer; he is an architect and essays to finish his master in Arts. They chose this house because they loved it but also because it allowed them to try, even if just for a while, a different relationship with the city and its sociocultural panorama. Further south, two young friends share an apartment. One of them, João, is a financial lawyer and came to Brazil in order to acquire international experience in his field of work. Living nearby, Inês, António and their two underage children experience different expectations towards migration. António came to Brail as an expat. Inês and the children, Leonor and Tiago, to accompany António.

In Campinas, a mother, Joana, and her two children, Emilia and Filipa inhabit a house far from the village center. Joana is finishing her Masters degree and she works as a clown. Maria lives not very far way from Joana. Actually, they know each other. Maria came to Brazil to marry but, as a consequence, she also found emotional exile from a past and a country she never felt she belonged to. Her children, Vítor and Márcio, came along with her. Many years latter, her parents came to live with her and feel the void space she had prepared for them in the house. Her mother doesn’t live there anymore, and her father, Joaquim, wants to come to Portugal as soon as possible.

During this process the house and its stuff were perceived as subtexts – that is, cosmologies. This approach raises the following clues for further research. In what concerns the process of home making, one of the houses is a replica of the apartment left in Portugal. This was enabled by the duplication of IKEA furniture that was brought along in containers. In contrast, other houses have been constructed little by little over time. Some feel like they are projects under construction, as people are still rearranging furniture and the geography of the house.

In what concerns things that provide continuity between the lived experience in Portugal and Brazil, it is clear that walls can operate as landscapes of memories. To be sure, paintings, pictures of friends and family or other items recalling Lisbon or Oporto. Because this can evoke nostalgia some people prefer to empty their walls of memory-evoking imagery.

In what concerns domestic sociabilities, one remarkable aspect was the centrality of the kitchen and eating habits. In addition of spending more time in the kitchen, sociabilities also extend beyond the household as relationship with acquaintances and friends are developed through commensality.

Food, foodways and objects from both Brazil and Portugal circulate between the two countries. The migrant thus becomes a mediator in a process of permanent communication between the two contexts. Through this toing and froing of things, people have the power to renegotiate systematically notions of “Portuguesehood” and “Brazilianhood”.

On Brazilians in Oporto

Fieldwork in Porto included two stages: a survey to 25 cariocas and paulistanos and a subsequent ethnographic exploration of 5 cases. Although we met and, in some cases, interviewed other members of the household during our visits, we privileged the interlocutors whose life stories we explored in detail through semi-structured interviews. These 5 people were chosen so as to maintain a balance in the sample in terms of gender, context of origin, socioeconomic background, motivation to move and professional occupation.

However, these 5 people were not representative of some of the dynamics among Brazilians residing in Porto that emerged during the survey. For instance, they contrasted with most Brazilians found, who were not from the two metropolitan cities but from other states in Brazil (e.g. Minas Gerais, Goiás). What is more, none applied for Portuguese nationality on account of being a descendant from Portuguese emigrants to Brazil. Additionally, four of the five interviewees arrived after 2009 and only two moved to study in Portugal. In contrast, while looking for recent migrants from Rio or São Paulo to complete the survey Porto it was clearly easier to find people who arrived years before 2008 unless they belonged to the large array of PhD students who have been coming to Portugal through bilateral programs (e.g. Ciências sem fronteiras – Science without borders) since, approximately, 2011.

The interviewees were all in their 30s and, apart from one, lived with their partners and children. All opted to live in apartments that are not farther from Oporto’s center than 15 minutes by car. Overlapping in many respects, they can however be subdivided among those for whom migration was a work-related opportunity and those for whom it was a means to explore new horizons while (initially) completing an academic degree. These differences converse, for instance, with the existence or absence of social networks in the destination country prior to arrival; with their (non)-identification as “migrants”; with distinct conceptions of what “quality of life” deriving from living in Portugal means; and, significantly, with relationships with materiality and consumption. The ethnographic approach provided a number of clues to think through how international migration informs people’s relationships with materiality and, vice-versa, how things, spaces and (structural or quotidian) consumption practices weigh in the ways of experiencing mobility.

Two remarkable examples pertain to the importance of tourist/leisurely travel and career changes privileging the service and entertainment industries. Both impact in the way people relate to themselves, to friends and relatives who remained in Brazil, to people participating in their daily lives in Porto, and to Portugal itself as a more or less temporary home.

‘Paulistas’ and ‘cariocas’ in Lisbon

On the Atlantic Crossings project’s final conference, last 12th of March, we presented some data resulting from a first analysis of the material that resulted from ethnographic fieldwork carried out among 5 families of Brazilian immigrants currently living in Lisbon. Fieldwork took place between May and October 2014.

Concerning Brazilians from São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro in Lisbon, one of the conclusions we were able to advance, is that the division between work and leisure times is, in some cases crucial to understand how migration has changed the relationship of our interlocutors with materiality and especially with consumption. This can be either because the relatively small size of the city of Lisboa (compared to São Paulo, for example) allows more free time to enjoy new consumption practices that can be accessed by those who have more qualified professions, or because, in the case of our less skilled interlocutors, because harsh working hours and the need to work extra time on weekends, leave little time to keep consumption practices from the context of origin and which can only be maintained in the context of arrival with sacrifice.

Another conclusion is that the home, can be a place for the material expression of belonging to the original context, through the exhibit of objects symbolic of the origin offered by family or friends who stayed behind. But home can, in other cases, be connected to the adoption of new forms of indoor sociability habits, apparently disconnected from materiality and consumption, which are, in emic terms, identified as being “more typical” of the context of arrival.

Project’s Final Conference

This coming Thursday, the 12th of March 2015, we will be presenting the preliminary findings of the survey, the media analysis and ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Lisbon, Oporto, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The purpose of the event is to illuminate the ongoing analysis with discussions with colleagues, representatives of civil society organisations and media practitioners.

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VII Brazilian Meeting on Consumption Studies – Rio de Janeiro

rio On the 24, 25 and 26 of September, a considerable number of students and academics gathered in Rio de Janeiro for the Brazil’s VII Encontro Nacional de Estudos de Consumo (National Meeting on Consumption Studies) focusing around the idea of contemporary Contested Markets and their new moral, ethical and religious frontiers. Under this event, the research team of the project, mainly by the work of Professor Marta Rosales – together with Mónica Truninger – was responsible for organizing a Work Group on “Globalization and Circulation of Goods and People”. In this context, it was also presented a paper entitled “Atlantic Crossings: materialized histories of Portuguese in Brazil”, which reflects the project’s subject of study. This paper aimed at showing some preliminary results considering the recent Portuguese migration – from Lisbon and Oporto – to Rio de Janeiro mainly by describing who are these migrants and the way they see their emigrational projects.

That said, it is important to highlight that the focus of the research are mainly migrants who have recently arrived in Rio de Janeiro, with a medium-high cultural capital and with a higher education degree, working mostly in the fields of technology and science. Considering the centrality of work in this process, it is important to stress that the vast majority of these migrants are employed, the exception being often the wives of expatriates. Even thought, the reality is that it might be difficult to find an employment and, above all, one with a contract – something that is seen by migrants as one of the biggest adversities. It is also important to notice that the salary and the living expenses often do not meet expectations, a factor that can also be a deterrent. Another difficulty is related to the socio-economic situation faced by subjects in their contexts of destination. Some of these migrants venture forth with some pocket money for about six months while others rely on family financial support that, in some cases, can be finished faster than is expected. Both situations may dictate the end of the migration project. Despite some adversities, migration is seen as a natural process in their life paths and in more than half of the respondents, migration is valorised as a life experience that contributes to personal and professional ripening. In this context, choosing Brazil as destination seems to be justified not only by its particular economic moment and the current job offers, but also by an idea of a shared cultural affinity. We were also able to notice that the impact of the Portuguese economic crises is side-lined in their narratives, and the migration is characterized more as prevention than as a reaction to the current economic situation in Portugal. In spite of all this, migration is mainly seen as an ephemeral process that can be finished by different reasons such as the end of the Olympics or by maternity.

Considering food consumption, in particular, were able to notice that there is a huge valorisation of broad commensalism and that in Rio de Janeiro the table at the bar stands in for the home’ table in Portugal. Alongside with this, we were also able to categorize what we nominated as the food of nostalgia (“alimentos da saudade”): bread, olive oil, wine and blood sausage. Bearing in mind that the composition of Portuguese migration to Brazil has changed over time due to economic, political and contextual reasons, it can be said that through food habits/practices a set of representations similar to the previous migrant speech seem to persist, especially in what regards the relationship with the idea of origin.

Atlantic Crossings Bibliography

Two main purposes conduct the categorization of the bibliography in the Atlantic Crossings Project. The first is to document the main lines or trends within academic research that analyse the transnational circulation of people, goods and services. The second is to collect the production of academic research on transatlantic mobilities between Portugal and Brazil in dialogue with the aforementioned lines of research.

The following compilation of references is restricted to documents that the project team gathered for their documentation archive. The compilation comprised several sources: reference bibliography for the project; online review of new titles; works published by relevant institutions in this field, such as the Emigration Observatory and the High Commissioner for Inter Cultural Dialogue. The documentation, that comprises more than 300 references, includes published books, chapters in edited books, scientific articles in journals, congresses’ and conferences’ proceedings, and masters, bachelor and doctoral dissertations.

See links above divided in Material Culture (Home; Food; Things; Remittances, trades, gifts, movement of things) and Migration, Mobility, Transnationalism (Flows Portugal-Brazil; Flows Brazil-Portugal; Immigration in Brazil; Brazilian emigration; Immigration in Portugal; Portuguese Emigration).