Revistes Catalanes amb Accés Obert (RACO)

Jesuit Engagement in Brazil between 1549 and 1609 – A legitimate support of Indians’ emancipation or Eurocentric movement of conversion?

Stefan Knauß


Even after almost 500 years we are not sure how to judge about the missioners activities during the colonization of South America. Was the Engagement of Jesuits in Brazil for example an extraordinary project to support the emancipation and the development of autochthon people or just another imperialistic enterprise of Eurocentric cultural homogenization? Individual or collective self-determination is considered as the normative core of any personal or political act. This standard of authentic action is the aim of any emancipation process and provides the criteria for every legitimate action of support. Only if support searches for securing or developing sources of personal or collective autonomy it can be justified. This requires the notion of the supported party as a subject of self-sufficient action. Jesuit religious mission instead saw the value of people in their potentiality to be Christians and not only in their ability to be self-sufficient reasons of action. In this perspective Jesuit mission applied in contrast to the economical exploitation by the settlers a softer version of cultural hegemony treating autochthon people as objects of catholic conversion.

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