Theses defended

Anti-racism in Portugal from past to present: movements and words

Pedro Varela

Public Defence date
July 11, 2023
Doctoral Programme
Human Rights in Contemporary Societies
Silvia Rodríguez Maeso e Lígia Ferro
Anti-racism in Portugal has a long history that is still little known. This thesis unveils this past and present by studying several historical moments of the struggle against racism, considering the political movements and artistic practices in those periods, such as poetry (in the past) and rap (in the present). Racism is a structuring part of our history, and forms of opposition to it, such as the anti-racist movements, struggles and practices, are essential to understand our society. I propose to study anti-racism activism in Portugal in three movements and periods: the Black movement (1911-1933), Black poetry and African nationalism (1942-1963), and the anti-racist movement (1990-2020). I first address a Black Pan-Africanist generation that pioneered the fight against racism in Portugal (1911-1933). Despite its central role in the struggle for human rights, it is a forgotten generation. Then is discussed the vital role of Black poetry and African nationalists in anti-racism in Portugal during a specific period (1942-1963). Further on, I study an anti-racist movement that emerged in the 1990s and extends to the present day, formed by the collective struggle of anti-racist organisations, immigrant, neighbourhood and Roma associations, the Black movement and the rap movement. This thesis was shaped through research that uses diversified tools such as archive and press analysis, interviews, ethnographic research, poetry and rap lyrics interpretation. In this work, I also discuss different conceptualisations of anti-racism and the central role of the Black movements in the fight against racism, namely the 'Black radical tradition'. In this context, various understandings of racism are examined, with a focus on the concept of 'racial capitalism' and the reality of racism in Portugal is also addressed. Furthermore, the importance of anti-racism for human rights is discussed, particularly the limits of this relationship. In order to examine contemporary anti-racism from the perspective of Black urban communities and youth, I engage with the story and life of a self-produced Black-majority neighbourhood under demolition, Estrada Militar do Alto da Damaia (Rabulera), where fieldwork was carried out through ethnographic research. In the periphery of Lisbon, this area reveals the struggles to build a community and the path of rap among different generations. Over the decades, rap has been fundamental in this neighbourhood, as in many others in the Lisbon metropolitan area, for its aesthetic expression and denunciation of racism, police violence, impoverishment, and social and urban segregation. Beyond fighting racism, anti-racism reveals new readings of humanity and perspectives for a world without oppression. This thesis shows a long and silenced history of struggle against racism in Portugal, which is fundamental to understanding our society and thinking about the future.

Keywords: anti-racism; black movement; rap; history; ethnography