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Constellations of InequalitySpace, Race, and Utopia in Brazil$
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Sean T. Mitchell

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226499123

Published to University Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226499437.001.0001

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date: 18 October 2019

Introduction: Relaunching Alcântara

Introduction: Relaunching Alcântara

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction: Relaunching Alcântara
Source:
Constellations of Inequality
Author(s):

Sean T. Mitchell

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226499437.003.0001

Analyzing the events that led to the construction of Brazil’s spaceport in an area once at the center of cotton production by enslaved people, the introduction sets the book’s historical, ethnographic, and theoretical stage. The chapter also briefly describes life in Alcântara, the history of Brazilian space program development, and how Alcantara’s residents came to mobilize around constitutional rights for remanescentes das comunidades dos quilombos (escaped-slave descended communities). The introduction also presents a key theoretical argument: all forms of social inequality produce historically specific structures and imaginaries of legitimation and redress. And it introduces one structure of legitimation and one utopia of redress central to the book: complementary hierarchy is a structure of legitimation that sustains inequalities through relations and conceptions of unequal reciprocity between the poor and rich, weak and strong. Mimetic convergence is a utopia of redress that imagines the reduction of inequality through the erasure of difference—that inequalities will decline as poor nations and poor people become more like the rich. During decades of conflict, the introduction shows, both complementary hierarchy and mimetic convergence have declined in their power to shape people’s perceptions of Alcântara’s conflicts, creating new possibilities for people’s politicization of inequality.

Keywords:   Brazil, Inequality, Development, Alcântara, Maranhão, Brazilian Space Program, Quilombos, Utopia

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