This weeks theme of modernization closely relates to what I have been studying for a sociology class on development and underdevelopment. In this class, we’ve been discussing modernization as a project. Defining modernization in this way suggests that it’s not a natural process but one that is enforced through a series of measures. Adding to this definition, modernization is an exclusionary project. An example that I thought of were the urban reforms in Rio de Janeiro in the late 19th century led by the mayor Pereira Passos and inspired by Paris. In order to expand the avenues and “clean” the centre of the city from the lower classes who used to live in cortiços, collective housing, they were forced to move to the periphery and with the lack of governmental support installed themselves at the hills, creating the favelas that Brazil known for.
Professor Jon’s lecture and the interview with Dawson demonstrate that in Latin America, what is considered to be modern is still largely influenced by the past and its values. Even though secularism was one of the pillars of European modernity, to this day in Latin America institutions and social practices are highly based on Christian values. Moreover, in spite of secularism being inscribed in the Brazilian constitution, there are religious artifacts decorating the National Congress and there are Evangelical political leaders influencing policies. The current minister of Human Rights, Family and Women, Damares Alves, is an evangelical pastor and has clearly positioned herself as pro-life. If as Professor Jon mentioned in the lecture “modernity is not just a way of thinking; it is also a way of being”, why are women having their bodies and their reproduction rights controlled by religious conservatism? I guess the answer is that unfortunately modernity in Latin America, especially when it comes to women’s rights and freedom, has been superficial.
Another contradiction of modernity is present in the Brazilian national flag, opposition between the notion of progress and the degradation of nature. The flag itself is paradoxical as the colour green is supposed to represent the vast forests that we have in Brazil. As an agricultural exporter in order to progress and development, the fires and deforestation have become to a certain group of people justifiable. It is no exaggeration to say that Brazil has been on fire in 2020. The Amazon rainforest, pantanal and cerrado are all biomes that suffered from fires this year. Investigations have pointed that these were not natural fires but manmade fires by farmers and ranchers. There have been several artists who used the Brazilian flag to critique the fires and the treatment of nature.
The questions that I have for these week are: Is modernization a constant goal? Is there an end to it? Why do traditional values continue to be practiced?