Roberto Reis Book Award

BRASA Announces the Winners of the 2017 Roberto Reis Book Prize

The selection committee, which consisted of Barbara Weinstein, John Tofik Karam, and Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, had an impressive slot of top-notch submissions to choose from this year. Congratulations to the winners.

Prize Winners:
Celso T. Castilho 
Slave Emancipation and Transformations in Brazilian Political Citizenship. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016.

Many scholars have written about the abolition of slavery in Brazil, but much of the literature on slave emancipation has focused on who, why, and when.  In this excellent and innovative study of the abolitionist movement in Pernambuco, Celso Castilho takes the discussion in an important new direction, focusing on the way the mobilization to end human enslavement in Brazil stretched the boundaries of the public sphere and animated new debates about citizenship and national belonging.  These debates, in turn, impacted the course of the emancipation process, but also prompted elites clinging to their slave-based power to respond in ways that delayed abolition and dismissed the political claims of women, the poor, and people of color, enslaved and free.  This book is both a crucial contribution to the historiography of slave emancipation in Brazil and a critical source for understanding the limited definitions of freedom and citizenship that shaped the post-emancipation order.

Christopher Dunn
Contracultura: Alternative Arts and Social Transformation in Authoritarian Brazil. Chapel Hill, North Carolina: University of North Carolina Press, 2016.

Christopher Dunn’s Contracultura: Alternative Arts and Social Transformation in Authoritarian Brazil provides a heretofore unprecedented exploration of the Brazilian countercultural movement from its inception in the late 1960s through the late 1970s. With particular attention to class, gender, race, sexuality, and their intersections, Dunn offers sharp analyses and rich descriptions of the varied ways that artists, intellectuals, and youth disrupted the visions of not only authoritarian military leaders but also leftist establishments. With careful attention to the incomplete and ephemeral sensibilities of musicians, writers, dancers, and others, Dunn reveals the more consequential impact of the countercultural turn of the 1970s on everyday Brazilian cultural production and civil society.

Honorable Mention:
Tianna Paschel 
Becoming Black Political Subjects: Movements and Ethno-Racial Rights in Colombia and Brazil. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2017.

Tianna Paschel’s book, Becoming Black Political Subjects, offers a ground-breaking analysis that demystifies the layered factors that catalyzed the development of ethno-racial legislation in Brazil and Colombia. Most distinctively, Paschel relies on a sophisticated conceptual frame and a multi-leveled approach that draws on ethnographic research and archival data to both center the agency of black activists and highlight how the alignment of diverse political fields (global and local) were critical factors in the emergence of black political subjectivity. Paschel’s book represents a rigorous model of comparative race analysis with clear significance for Brazil and beyond.




The Roberto Reis BRASA Book Award recognizes the two best books in Brazilian Studies published in English that contribute significantly to promoting an understanding of Brazil. The award honors Roberto Reis, one of the founders of BRASA, who was committed to developing Brazilian Studies in the United States. The two best books will receive US$200 awards each. The honorable mention, if granted, shall receive a certificate.

Guidelines for Submission:
For a book to be considered for the award, its author must be a member of BRASA and up-to-date in dues.
The book must have been published in English between January 2016 and December 2017.
The author of the book must submit a cover sheet (download form) by e-mail to the BRASA Secretariat at, and submit a printed copy of the cover sheet and a copy of the book directly to each member of the committee.

Members of the 2016-2017 Roberto Reis Book Award Committee

Barbara Weinstein– Department of History, King Juan Carlos Center, Room 503, 53 Washington Square South, New York, NY, 10012

Elizabeth Hordge-Freeman, Department of Sociology, University of South Florida ,4202 E Fowler Ave, CPR 219, Tampa, FL 33620

John Tofik Karam, Spanish and Portuguese Department, 4110 Foreign Languages Building, 707 S. Mathews Avenue, MC-176, Urbana, IL 61801

Deliberation, award, and announcement of awards
The Secretariat will send a simple e-mail to each author indicating that the submission has been received. The submission deadline will be December 1, 2017. (Note: Books published in December 2017 may be submitted by December 31, 2017.) The committee will make decisions on the awards, plus any honorable mentions. The Secretariat will send a letter to the winners and announce the winners through the BRASA website and digest by  March 15, 2018. Announcement of the winners will also be made at the next BRASA XIV International Conference at PUC-Rio, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, July 25-28, 2018.

BRASA Announces the Winners of the 2015 Roberto Reis Book Prize

The selection committee, which consisted of Paulina Alberto, Christopher Dunn, and John Burdick, had a  difficult job selecting from a record number of excellent submissions. Congratulations to the winners.

Prize Winners:
Barbara Weinstein 
The Color of Modernity: São Paulo and the Making of Race and Nation in Brazil. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015.

This scintillating book traces the history of the idea that São Paulo constituted a singularly modern, economically dynamic, and predominantly white region that embodied Brazil at its best. Through extraordinarily fine-grained research into key episodes in twentieth-century paulista history, Weinstein shows how paulistas deployed this image at different times to uphold the state’s preeminent position in the nation, often at the expense of other regions. One of the book’s powerful insights is to conceive of nation and region, as well as whiteness and racial democracy, not as opposites or antagonists but as imperfectly complementary constructs. In so doing, Weinstein breaks new ground in explaining the reproduction and persistence of racial and socioeconomic inequalities—and their spatial dimensions—in a “racially democratic” Brazil over the long twentieth century. This is a book that will shape the scholarship on race, region, nation, and inequality in Latin America and beyond for decades to come.

Heather F. Roller
Amazonian Routes: Indigenous Mobility and Colonial Communities in Northern Brazil. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2014.

This is a game-changing book. Beautifully written, marvelously understated, Heather Roller’s book offers a persuasive new interpretation of the interactions between the Portuguese empire and the indigenous populations of the Amazon in the late colonial era. Breaking with longstanding conventional views of native Amazonians fleeing imperial power ever deeper into the forest, Heather Roller makes the compelling argument, based on heretofore untapped sources, that the native peoples of the Amazon used the imperial state almost as much as the imperial state used them. Roller’s book forces us to rethink much of what we thought we knew about state-indigenous relations, not only in Brazil, but in much of Latin America and the world – – and not only then, but today as well. A tour de force of scholarship and the historical imagination.

Honorable Mention:
Rebecca J. Atencio 
Memory’s Turn: Reckoning with Dictatorship in Brazil. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2014.

With Memory’s Turn, Rebecca Atencio makes a timely and incisive intervention in ongoing debates surrounding the culture and politics of transitional justice in Brazil. After decades of “institutionalized forgetting” that effectively closed the books on the crimes of the military dictatorship, the Brazilian government established a National Truth Commission in 2011 to investigate human rights abuses perpetrated by agents of the regime. Atencio’s study shows how cultural products, including novels, testimonies, films, and television dramas, have impacted Brazil’s “turn to memory.” She offers an elegant and transferable theoretical model for understanding the relationship between “cycles of cultural memory” and institutional mechanisms designed to address past crimes and injustices.