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Início / Recursos / Recortes de imprensa / 2009
Book offers insight into Portuguese-American experience
2009-02-10

By:Lurdes C. da Silva

DARTMOUTH - The still understudied Portuguese-American story is a step closer to being unveiled.
      The recently published book titled "Community, Culture and the Makings of Identity: Portuguese-Americans Along the Eastern Seaboard" offers insights into the history, culture and intertwined social dynamics of the Portuguese-American community from a wide range of disciplinary perspectives. It is being heralded as a landmark resource for both students and scholars.
      "It's a historical volume; a fundamental research tool," said Prof. Frank Sousa, director of the Center for Portuguese Studies and Culture at UMass Dartmouth, which published the book.
      For Dr. Maria da Glória de Sá, faculty director for the recently dedicated Ferreira-Mendes Portuguese-American Archives at UMass Dartmouth, the volume is the "most comprehensive scholarship about the Portuguese-American experience in the East Coast" to date.
      The collection of 20 essays explores the Portuguese as well as other Lusophone populations that have settled along the Northeastern seaboard of the United States. It was edited by Prof. Kimberly DaCosta Holton, associate professor and program director of Portuguese and Lusophone World Studies at Rutgers University, and Prof. Andrea Klimt, associate professor and chair of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Crime and Justice Studies at UMass Dartmouth.
      The two scholars recently presented the book at a colloquium that preceded the official dedication ceremony of UMass Dartmouth's Portuguese-American archives. They said the 650-page volume arose from many years of conversations with colleagues and students and in many ways it is the book they have always been longing to teach.
      "There were things we'd love to teach in the classroom, but it was tough to find materials," said Prof. Holton. "This was the jumping off point. There was a need for a volume to combine lots of voices and perspectives about the Portuguese experience in the United States."
      The book amalgamates previously-published but hard-to-find material with new research in an effort to consolidate current understandings about Portuguese-Americans and related communities, as well as spark future innovative research.
      "We wanted to stimulate curiosity. It's a good teaching tool to make students think outside of the box. It's not an exclusive discussion of Portuguese Americans, but also in the context of Diaspora," said Prof. Klimt.
      Initially, the two scholars imagined a volume that focused exclusively on the Portuguese-American experience and included articles on communities in all major U.S. areas where the Portuguese have settled.
      "As we looked at different works, we noticed a preponderance of exciting work along the Eastern seaboard and decided to limit the scope to that area of the country," said Prof. Holton.
      Although they decided to limit the geographic reach, they extended the ethnographic depth of the collection.
      "Scholarly, it would be unadvisable to look at the Portuguese as an isolated case; therefore, we limited the geographic scope but opened it to other groups such as the Brazilians, Cape Verdeans, and Angolans. As our thinking evolved, it became increasingly clear that Portugal's post-colonial history binds these immigrant groups together. The conception of the volume was a moving target," said Prof. Holton.
      The two professors hope that by documenting the complex and varied history of these communities along the Northeastern seaboard, they will provide a solid foundation for subsequent comparisons with the Portuguese immigrant experience in other regions of the United States.
      "The richness of the Portuguese case had not been presented as thoroughly as it should. We place the richness of the stories within the larger dialogue. It has important points to make to other scholars," said Prof. Holton.
      The articles featured join different fields of study, including anthropology, political science, sociology, history, literary, and musicology, among others.
      "We pointed to questions that have not been addressed yet," said Prof. Klimt.
      The book essentially addresses three key areas: culture and history, political and social issues, and how different communities articulate with the Portuguese-American community.
      Topics are highly diversified, ranging from the history and culture of the Portuguese Holy Ghost Feast and how a Cumberland marching band maintains and fosters a transnational connection between Rhode Island and Mainland Portugal to questions of identity, meaning of citizenship and the role of women in immigrant families. The volume also revisits heated topics like the Big Dan's Trial and the role Portuguese Diaspora had in political debate about Portugal's dictatorship.
      "We did not shy away from controversy; we actually hope it promotes further discussion," said Prof. Holton.

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