The Failure of a Universal Portugal: Race, Messianism, and The World

Summer 2016

Jacob Liming : Geography, Economics, Development Studies

Mentor: Jake Kosek

My work addresses various moments throughout the history of the Lusophone empire in which Portugal attempted to interpolate imperial subjects into larger universalizing political projects. In other words I investigate how difference was contended with and inflected in teleological narratives of prominent Portuguese figures, emphasizing the latencies, erasures, contradictions, and legacies of violence immanent within these political discourses. First, this iteration of the project hopes to focus on Jesuit incursions across Brazil in the late 17th and early 18th century, which sought to convert indigenous populations and cristaos novos to Christianity and, in doing so, usher in an eschatological Kingdom of God. Here, I hope to excavate the origins of concepts like sovereignty, property and race that remain operative in the lusophone context today. Second, I would like to interrogate secular-republican movements in early 20th century Portugal, which despite an apparent celebration of Moorish heritage, conclude with Portugal's descent into authoritarianism and state-sanctioned anti-Islamism. In sum, in demonstrating the  colonial roots of various 'modern' concepts, this work hopes to point to the modes by which a cruel imperial heritage remains latent and undergirds a seemingly inclusive Portuguese state-form and continuously threatens to manifest itself in a violent rejection of difference. 

"Dear Wishek Foundation, I would like to express my deep gratitude for this immense opportunity. It is difficult to express how beneficial this experience will be for my academic career, and the potential for thought that you have granted me. I come from a long line of plumbers and carpenters and am the first in my family to attend University (much to the dismay of that family to whom higher education seems nothing more than a fantastical whimsy). My life's aspiration, however, is to become a professor -- to learn and teach about this astonishingly complex and interconnected world. This award marks one of the first times that that aspiration seems to be a viable option for myself. Already in the past few weeks I have been amazed by the amount of reading, research, and thought that I can complete when half of my day no longer needs to be dedicated to working for my supper. With your assistance I am exploring and researching things that I never thought I would have the opportunity to witness, and I am producing work that opens up the potential for progression in the academy that I never thought myself capable of. I am utterly grateful. Warmly, Jacob Liming"