Dictionary of Antis: History of Portuguese Culture in negative

The goal of this project is the systematic study of the movements and discourses centered on a hostile perception of “Others” (e.g. the anti-semite; the anti-clergy; the anti-british movements) throughout Portuguese history from the 12th century until to the present. By studying how this kind of discourse was able to create and demon differences, this project will present what we can call a “negative” image (to use a photography metaphor) of Portuguese culture. This will result in an encyclopedic dictionary comprising all ‘anti’ discourses, by which the findings of the project will be systematized and made public. Like most European nations, the cultural and intellectual history of Portugal has been pervaded by both discourses and practices aiming at antagonizing “Others”. 

In spite of its different means and impacts, these discourses (the ‘anti’ discourses in short) have, diversely and strategically, presented the worldview, the lifestyle, the belief system or the ideology of others as a threat to what they portrayed as the core values of the society: religious, ethical, economic values and so on. To a large extent, ‘anti’ discourses emerge as a response to any ongoing ideological debate and/or open conflict between groups, classes, ethnicities, gender and religions. They thus appear to be always ‘new’. However, these discourses are seldom original, as they draw their arguments, symbols and memories from older instances of hostility. In other words, they are “old”. They pertain to the longue durée and as such their emergence is better understood genealogically. In fact, a complete study of such discourses, which is perforce interdisciplinary, has to take into account their ‘archives’ and their past.

The present project aims at pinpointing these discourses in their full temporal depth. We will do so by a series of short critical monographs of each ‘anti’ movement identified (see below for criteria) that will form the entries of an encyclopedic Dictionary. Its empirical contributions aside, the Dictionary shall make possible a wider reflection on the theoretical frameworks underlying “anti” discursive constructs. Once significant numbers of ‘anti’ discourses are methodically studied, it will be possible to take part on the ongoing discussion on the borders of Modernity. Thus, the option for the longue durée is essential as it allows testing the alleged breaks between modernity, pre-modernity and post-modernity.

The production of “anti” doctrines corresponds to what we can call the “civilização de combate” or “combating civilization”. A ‘combating civilization’ is structured by an underlining orthodoxy, which set strict social and religious models and was grounded in a deep commitment to its own institutions, groups and nations and also in firm opposition to other antagonist societies. This is not the preserve of “closed societies” as these types of discourses have survived until today’s “open societies”.

With its competing ideologies and profound religious and political divides, Modernity has proved a fertile ground for such discourses. Yet, its links to post-modern discursive constructions remain unstudied, as they focused a “hostile Other” constituting a real or imaginary threaten to community values, these being essential to the erection of larger identities. Similarly, the contemporary death of ideologies has not erased practices and discourses demonizing a particular group/idea/community within society. Present, post-modern, times have developed ‘conspiracy theories’ which allegedly denounce the secret agency of a malign Other, the threat of more or less impersonal collective risks (anti-terrorism, anti-tobacco movement) and ‘disruptive quarrels’ of the like. In all these cases, a negative perception of an “Other” is built upon the explicit or implicit positive understanding of “Us”. That’s why we name it a “negative” image of culture.

Our systematic study of ‘anti’ discourses in the longue durée shall address a perceived gap in Portuguese as well as in European historiography. Indeed, to our knowledge, no such systematic research has been attempted for major European countries as the UK, France or Germany. This makes this project especially relevant, in that it will undoubtedly pioneer similar attempts in other countries, as expressed by the foreign members of the research team and by other external consultants.