Juliana Brinn, a history major with a concentration in Latin American, Iberian and Latinx studies, learned a lot while conducting her senior thesis research. “A Recipe for Cannibal Pâté: Indigenous Peoples and Representation in 20th-Century Brazilian Modernist Art” focuses on a concept of anthropophagy and its role in 20th century artistic representations of Indigenous people. According to Brinn, it aims to fill the silences left by Brazilianist scholarship that has questioned essentialist modernist claims through a critical lens of Afro-Brazilian identity and representations of blackness in Brazil but has largely ignored analyzing the Indigenous question.
“I thought it would be an interesting topic to explore, and to better understand the role that Indigenous people and race overall plays in Brazilian national identity formation, as well as how the representations of Indigenous peoples in art and visual media can impact them on a more everyday level,” Brinn said. “In addition, learning about how to improve our representations of Indigenous people and our impact on a larger scale.”
Brinn’s thesis advisor, Prof. Jim Krippner, supported her research by suggesting relevant published work as well as offering advice about where to focus – or expand her inquiries.
“Honestly, my main takeaway was learning about how much things have changed over time, but also all the ways in which they’ve stayed the same,” Brinn said. “The steps we have taken to improve, and yet the areas where we could still use some improvement. I also took a lot away on how activism has evolved, and of course mainly improved, particularly in the case of how we represent Indigenous people.”
Ultimately, her thesis argues that modernist art in Brazil appropriated Indigeneity to redefine national identity in a way that did not include Indigenous people. It scrutinizes the contradictions of these visual representations, their subversion, and yet simultaneous reinscription of anti-Indigenous colonial ideology.
“The main thing I want people who read my thesis to take away is their own role in this topic, and how they can help take those steps of improvement,” concludes Brinn. “Letting them know that they have a part to play. This probably isn’t something I’ll publish but I hope that future students, especially history students, can gain something from reading my thesis and get what I hope anyone who reads it will get from it. Also, if you are a history student, you should take a peek at previous theses so you can get a good sense for organizing and formatting your own thesis. It’s what I did.”
“What They Learned” is a blog series exploring the thesis work of recent graduates.