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Aligned with society

Cebrap celebrates its 40th anniversary with a huge portfolio of research projects in social sciences and humanities

Sintonia-com-a-sociedade-300x2001MIGUEL BOYAYANA flexible institution, focused on the fields of social sciences and humanities, which supports state-of-the-art research generating studies to act as the basis for the public policies sector. This definition fits the profile of the Centro Brasileiro de Pesquisa e Planejamento/Cebrap, which celebrated its 40th anniversary on May 29. “ The university often takes a while to be in tune with debates on societys most pressing issues. Cebrap responds very quickly to such issues, by means of investigations, analyses and proposals,” says anthropologist Paula Montero, president of the center and a professor at the University of São Paulo/USP.

In these 40 years, many research projects have become a reference. Nowadays, the Centro de Estudos da Metrópole/CEM center, located on Cebraps premises, is responsible for the high-impact and visibility lines of research work developed at the institution, according to Paula. The CEM is one of the 11 research, innovation and diffusion centers (Cepids) financed by FAPESP since 2000. This year, it has also been named as one of the Institutos Nacionais de Ciência e Tecnologia, do Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico/CNPq, National Science and Technology Institute. The centers objective is to study urban issues and their dynamics.

“Until 2000, when the CEM was created, studies on urban issues tended to be less central,” says political scientist Eduardo Marques, director of CEM and a professor at USP. Most of Cebraps previous research projects had focused on the city itself, even though most of the objects were urban. At the end of the 1990s, Cebrap networked with other institutions to participate in the bidding invitation of FAPESP related to the creation of the Cepids, headed by Argelina Figueiredo. “In the tripod that sustains the Cepid – research, innovation, and diffusion – we substituted the term innovation with transference because we produce data bases on urban issues and transfer the data to the public sector,” Marques explains. He says that in these last eight years of the CEMs existence, the center has filled in major gaps in the scenario of the production and dissemination of geo-referenced data on Brazils biggest cities. “ We purchased a number of data bases, digitalized and integrated others; we use them for our own research work and make them available on our site, free of charge, for all interested users.” The center also develops customized studies and projects. When any level of government (local, state, or federal) needs specific data, such as how many people inhabit a specific shantytown, the CEM does the geo-processing with the available data that is analyzed and cross-referenced by the centers researchers and technicians. This kind of work generates extraordinary resources that are used for the running of the institution. Other studies the center is involved in seek to understand the heterogeneous nature of the social fabric of the metropolis. Migration nowadays is much lower than it was in the past. The periphery and poverty are no longer homogeneous – there are districts with a population of 600 thousand people and high heterogeneity.” This is a result of several factors and is connected with inclusion policies after the re-democratization of the country from the 1980s onwards,” says Marques. There is political activism, associations and greater negotiation and pressure. Living conditions have improved. “ Extreme poverty has not ended, but has been greatly reduced in the big Brazilian cities, even though relative poverty is still an outstanding feature of our cities.” Nonetheless, the social structure has not changed radically in the last two decades in the big cities, except for the transformations brought on by the migration waves and by the insertion of women into the labor market. To identity where the problems lie, the CEM has prepared projects such as the Social Vulnerability Map of the Municipality of São Paulo, as well as 27 other projects developed for the public entities from all over Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. “In the case of the São Paulo project, the idea was to prepare analyses and maps that would help guide the city governments public policies to focus on aiding needy senior citizens and children, for example” he explains. This is the only way in which the government can know exactly what social policies should be implemented and where public funds should be invested.

Shantytown in the capital city of São Paulo: production of estimates and maps

MIGUEL BOYAYANShantytown in the capital city of São Paulo: production of estimates and mapsMIGUEL BOYAYAN

Precarious settlements
Last year, the CEM developed a project on precarious settlements (shantytowns and irregular, illegal property developments) for the Ministry of Cities. Because of the size of the national territory, data and estimates were generated for 671 municipalities (the ones with more than 150 thousand inhabitants, plus the metropolitan regions of big cities). The CEM prepared intra-municipal maps for 371 of these municipalities. The maps are available on the site. The site also includes the digital magazine DiverCidade, which shows the mass of information coming from the CEM.

A book launched in 1976, prior to studies on cities, was very important for Cebrap. The name of the book is São Paulo 1975: crescimento e pobreza. Written at the request of the Justice and Peace Commission of the Archdiocese of São Paulo, it described the other facet of Brazil’s economic miracle at that time. Cardinal Dom Paulo Evaristo Arns signed the preface, which included comments on the increase of infant mortality, criticism of malnutrition, excess work, lack of housing, precarious means of transportation, insecurity and the “asphyxiation of the freedom of association, information and demand”. The book was divided into six chapters, written by Cândido Procópio Camargo, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Frederico Mazzucchelli, José Álvaro Moisés, Lucio Kowarick, Maria Hermínia Brandão Almeida, Paul Singer and Vinícius Caldeira Brant.

Some of these authors were the founders of Cebrap, a private, non-profit research institute. This was a way to work in Brazil even at a time when democratic rights and freedoms were being curtailed and the military government was persecuting who they considered as being enemies of the regime. Cebrap founders and members included internationally renowned Brazilian intellectuals, such as Antonio Candido de Mello e Sousa, Elza Berquó, Eunice Durham, Francisco de Oliveira, José Arthur Giannotti, Roberto Schwarz and Ruth Cardoso, in addition to the afore-mentioned Fernando Henrique and Singer. The center was maintained by funds provided by the Ford Foundation – a US entity that could not be accused of being Communist – and by the business community. One of the strategies adopted to avoid problems with the military regime was to publish all the research projects produced by the center. The objective was to show that no kind of secret was being conducted at the center. The initiative proved to be a success when Elza Berquó, Cândido Procópio and Paul Singer began to conduct studies on demography and publish them in the then Cadernos Cebrap publication. It is important to remember that family planning was a major political issue in the 1970s, a constant battle between the Catholic Church and the military regime. “The Cadernos became bestsellers because the official government data on those issues was not public”, says Paula Montero. Population studies became essential to see what families were like, how many children they had, family income, where they lived and worked, etc.

Cadernos Cebrap and Estudos Cebrap were the center’s earliest publications. Cadernos Cebrap comprised two series, the first from 1971 to 1978 and the second one from 1984 to 1986. Estudos Cebrap was published from 1971 to 1980 and preceded the current journal, Novos Estudos, which publishes articles, interviews, critiques and dossiers. It is a mandatory reference in the fields of social sciences, arts and literature. Cadernos de Pesquisa was published from 1994 to 1997. With the exception of the latest issues of Novos Estudos, all the other issues are out of print. But it is possible to read and print all the older issues and the out-of-print books by accessing Cebrap’s virtual library.

One of the maps depicting vulnerability in São Paulo: more data for public policies

One of the maps depicting vulnerability in São Paulo: more data for public policies

Some of the groups were outstanding during the institution’s first ten years. The groups headed by Fernando Henrique, Giannotti and Oliveira reflected on politics and democracy – democratization and the reform of the States were always being discussed. Elza, Singer and Procópio pored over politics and population, and produced important data on fertility, for example. Octavio Ianni led the team that was studying social planning. In the 1980s, the reform of the State was still being focused on and a new recurrent theme was discussed: the social welfare crisis.

The field of religious studies, first headed at Cebrap by Procópio, is still active, and is now headed by Paula Montero. In the 1970s and 1980s, the discussion was whether Protestantism among the poor urban population would produce a more appropriate subject for the demands of the urban world. The religions that were expanding among this population at that time had to negotiate with African religious traditions to defy Catholicism. “At first, umbanda, an African-based form of worship, expanded significantly in the 1960s. It was a combination of Catholicism and Kardec’s spiritualism”, he says. The 1990s witnessed the growth of neo-Pentecostalism, a combination of Protestantism and African roots. According to Paula, one of the most important rituals of neo-Pentecostalism is diabolical possession followed by the exorcism of the diabolical entity “exu” from the body of the believer.

The researcher is working on several projects showing how the Catholic Churchs religious culture had a profound influence on the formation of Brazilian civil society. In the name of protecting public credibility from the actions of charlatans and wizards, the State criminalized and persecuted – at least until the 1950s – popular Afro-religious practices and all other practices that had any magical connotation. The only possible way for these practices to avoid being persecuted was for them to take on the form of a religion and invoke their right to religious freedom. “I invert the thesis of Max Weber, who says that secularization – the movement whereby religion flows to the private world – freed civil society,” he says. In Paulas opinion, civil space in Brazil was built at the same time as  new religions were built.

This line of research on religion indicates the existence of a continuity at Cebrap in regard to research themes and lines that are constantly renewed. Other lines of research peter out. The discussion on the countrys modernization, which dominated the 1970s, is no longer an issue. “Nowadays, nobody talks about this anymore,” says Paula. Law and democracy are two themes that have aroused increased interest at Cebrap. “Professors Marcos Nobre and Ricardo Terra are working with students and researchers from the Fundação Getúlio Vargas foundation to reflect on the rules of law and the constitution of law, based on the theses of philosopher Jürgen Habermas,” says Paula.

José Arthur Giannotti, one of the founders of Cebrap and its president for two terms was the coordinator of philosophy, prior to Nobre and Terra, “ We worked on such issues as logic and ontology,” says Giannotti. At one point, however, the researchers noticed that it was also important to work with young people as well. “As mass education became the norm in universities, we realized we would have to train better qualified scientific staff.” From 1986 to 2007, Cebrap ran a program in the field of humanities, attended by students from all over the country. The professional training program, called “Programa de Formação de Quadros Profissionais,” was directed by Giannotti. Until 2003, the objective was to improve the education of masters and doctorate students not only through studies but also through the continuous contact with researchers. Starting in 2003, this program was extended to post-doctorate students, with the same objective. “Even when they are busy with their scholarship activities, these students are able to take part in research projects in course at Cebrap,” says the researcher. The program has been funded by the Conselho de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico/CNPq Agency, since 1986 and, starting in 1989, by the Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior/Capes agency. The programs results were excellent, benefiting São Paulo universities directly with highly-trained people and helping renovate generations of researchers at the center.

The book “O horizonte da política – Questões emergentes e agendas de pesquisa,” coordinated by political scientist Adrian Gurza Lavalle, one of the coordinators of CEM and scientific director of Cebrap, is scheduled for launching in Brazil and Mexico this year. “The book comprises nine articles by 34 researchers from the center, with the objective of exposing new research agendas on politics, to expand the understanding of this theme,” says Lavalle. The book condenses the work of several years of reflection and investigations; the authors were also asked to explain how politics should be understood nowadays. “At present, Cebrap has moved towards a progressive process of internationalization, by means of conducting and coordinating comparative research projects between different regional and national contexts, thanks to collaboration with institutions from other countries,” adds Lavalle.