Critical essays and experiments in human rights, democracy and memory

Patrick Heron, Vertical Light: March 1957, 1978


Introduction from the organizers of the recently released collection

This collection is made up of works from the Research Group on Human Rights, Democracy and Memory (GPDH-IEA/USP) that result from research and experiments – practical and theoretical – carried out by members of GPDH-IEA/USP and their partnerships.

Each of the chapters gathered here results from the dialogues and developments made possible by the 1st Annual Meeting of Researchers of the IEA Human Rights, Democracy and Memory Research Group, held on November 17th and 18th, 2022 at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo. At this time of meetings and exchanges, the texts were presented and debated between the members of the group, as well as guests.

It is important to remember that each of the contributions was produced in a period of attacks and uncertainties on Brazilian constitutional democracy and on the themes that represent the very reason for being of GPDH-IEA/USP: human rights, democracy and memory. It became urgent and indispensable for researchers in the humanities to direct their critical and analytical attention to understanding and naming what was happening in that present, in addition to strengthening their networks of solidarity and cooperation, seeking spaces in which it would be possible to appear and position ourselves contrary to to the attacks that seemed to gain strength every day. The collection bears the mark of dark times, a temporality that coincides with the very creation and existence of the GDPH.


The GPDH-IEA/USP was created in May 2016, at a particularly dramatic moment for the country, in which the first elected president was prevented from continuing her mandate, being deposed by broad articulation involving the majority of the Brazilian parliament, a significant part of the large media and business elites, accompanied by leniency on the part of judicial institutions and with broad support from the middle and popular classes.

This situation triggered a hitherto unprecedented parliamentary-media-legal coup in the country, which would have very serious consequences for the continuity and consolidation of human rights policies in the years to come. The political offensive against Dilma Rousseff's government began a political cycle that resulted in the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency of the Republic, whose government promoted the dismantling of human rights policies and other state actions, programs and institutions, which undermined state capacity for the promotion of human rights and development policies.

The GPDH-IEA/USP succeeds the USP/UNESCO Chair in Education for Peace, Democracy and Tolerance created in 1996 at the Institute of Advanced Studies of the University of São Paulo (IEA-USP) as a space for observation and dialogue on the implementation of policies of memory, truth and reparation proposed by the final report of the National Truth Commission (CNV). With the closure of the Chair, two years later, Paulo Endo, Flavia Schilling and José Sérgio Fonseca de Carvalho, three former members of the old chair, formulated and presented, in 2016, to the IEA/USP the project to create the GPDH-IEA/ USP.

The proposal was to create a research group, with a new composition and condensation of themes, projects and actions. The group currently has more than 40 members, including active members, collaborators, master's, doctorate and post-doctoral students based in national and foreign Universities.

Since the beginning, marked by a situation predominantly averse to a culture of defense of human rights, GPDH-IEA/USP has sought to tension this adverse social and political situation. The research work of its members carries out the analysis and diagnosis of the constant, persistent and historical attacks on human rights, as well as the possibilities of articulating academic work with other practices and experiments, in joint initiatives with researchers, activists from human rights and society in general.

The relationship between GPDH-IEA/USP and the political situation appears in its first activity. In September 2016, with the event “School without a party or without autonomy? The principle of equality in question” the proposal was to create a space for the analysis of public education policies to promote equality and the notion of public school autonomy, in the face of movements that at the time were opposed to these principles.

 Bills that actively sought to control school activities and the teaching and intellectual activities of teachers, and practiced a frontal attack on the public and diverse character of schools, were thriving in City Councils and Legislative Assemblies across the country, since 2014. The school movement without a party represented an explicit strategy of indoctrination and progressive privatization of public schools and an attack on human rights education policies. As of 2019, with the victory of the far-right government in the country, the plan to expand military schools across the country aimed to radicalize this strategy.

Between 2016 and 2023 the GPDH-IEA/USP organized dozens of events, most of which are available in full on IEA media library. In addition to specific, specific activities or activities of interest to the researchers who make up the group, three cycles of in-depth study of specific themes were organized, which merited a more extensive agenda of dialogues, exchanges and interactions. The cycles have in common the combination of research practices with political and social intervention, at a time of uncertainty generated by blocks to the advancement of human rights policies and a situation of destabilization of Brazilian constitutional democracy.

The first cycle, organized in 2017, consisted of four meetings entitled “Brazil 64/85: The memory of policies and the politics of memory/National Truth Commission on the Agenda”. The National Truth Commission was a watershed for human rights policies in Brazil, as it brought to the fore the memory of violations committed by the military dictatorship as a condition and instrument for the effective realization of political and social democracy.

However, upon its installation, the National Truth Commission faced strong resistance that continued to appear throughout its work and extended to the implementation of its recommendations. These obstacles were promoted by political and social movements that oppose human rights and memory policies as part of their rejection of the project of social democracy in the country.

In the debates promoted by GPDH-IEA/USP, aspects of the dynamics and functioning of the National Truth Commission were discussed, as well as the difficulties and constraints that hindered the writing of the commission's final report. Several members of the National Truth Commission were with us in this debate, which resulted in unprecedented material on the process of implementing the National Truth Commission, at a time when the remembrance of the facts that gave rise to it was once again leaving the national agenda and, once again, they were stunned by the intentions of oblivion.

The second cycle entitled “Art, short films and Human Rights” was carried out in the form of four workshops whose triggers were short films on specific themes (migrants, women, homeless people and urban violence). This cycle was in line with internal debates at GPDH-IEA/USP on experiments in the transmission of human rights themes, fundamental to a human rights education agenda. The short films as triggers in the dynamics of the workshops, took advantage of little-known audiovisual production on topics sensitive to human rights and inserted it into a critical debate, in order to create a virtuous circle of transmission and communication strategies on human rights.

The guiding question at the time was: “Who cares about human rights?” Question that unfolded into: “How to awaken interest in human rights among interested people?” At that meeting, as to this day, we focused our attention on ways of transmitting the importance of human rights, especially among populations that urgently need their guarantee and implementation.

The third cycle, which took place between 2020 and 2022, was titled “Construction, Dismantling and Reconstruction of Human Rights policies in Brazil” and was subdivided into four themes (human rights, policies for women, racial equality and combating torture). Organized in partnership with the Center for Contemporary Culture Studies (Cedec), the cycle presented itself as a response to the pressing need for the academic community and human rights defenders to take a stand against the federal government's frontal and predictable attack on all policies of human rights in the country.

With this cycle, the GPDH-IEA/USP produced a new strategy, in which relevant historical protagonists in the construction and defense of human rights in Brazil were invited to present a diagnosis of the Brazilian situation, pointing out resistance strategies for the coming years and for the joint writing of thematic manifestos.

Each of these manifestos, in turn, would affirm the seriousness of the Brazilian situation in the field of human rights during Jair Bolsonaro's mandate, the repudiation of the attack on historical achievements of these rights and the wide dissemination of the content presented and debated on social networks, media and Universities. To achieve this, we have important partnerships with free media, among which we highlight the Free Journalists: GGN newspaper and USP radio.

Broadcast online and available in the IEA media library, this cycle was attended by former and former ministers, activists, journalists, researchers and the general public. The successful achievement was largely due to the articulating role, the technical organizational capacity and the support and structure for agile responses from IEA/USP, in the face of very serious situations that are no exception in the field of struggles for human rights in Brazil .

The academic result was also perpetuated with the partnership between GPDH-IEA/USP and CEDEC, which promptly made the Cedec Notebooks available for the publication of all the material presented in the 4 episodes of the cycle. Thus, the Construction, Dismantling and Reconstruction Cycle of Human Rights Policies in Brazil, resulted in the publication of Manifestos of ministers of human rights and in Cedec notebooks.

In the period from 2019 to 2022, GPDH-IEA/USP promoted several initiatives in order to participate in the resistance to the dismantling of human rights policies. Your activities they consisted of public events and publications, which resulted in debates, manifestos and publications. He also worked to publicize reports on human rights violations in Brazil and made national and international contacts with leaders and activists in the area to strengthen the network of resistance to the federal government's dismantling policy.

In addition to these activities, GPDH-IEA/USP has strengthened itself as a space for dialogue in order to exchange experiences of reflection, research and theoretical and political intervention in the different fields of activity of its members. These activities were carried out in the GPDH-IEA/USP working groups and in other joint activities of its members, within the scope of the IEA and in the Universities where they work or in other spaces.

In this way, GPDH-IEA/USP and its members acted on two fronts: on the one hand, in resistance to authoritarianism, the refusal of otherness and discrimination, in which the specters of the authoritarian past are associated with the dystopia of a disorder governed by violence, economic precariousness and indifference to social suffering and, on the other hand, in the construction of theoretical and action practices that are produced as meetings based on equality, pluralism, dialogue and the recognition of differences.

By working together on these two fronts, we produce critical essays and experiments in which we (re)create ourselves as researchers, intellectuals and human rights activists engaged in the defense and construction of social democracy among us. This collection is the result of this critical work by members of GPDH-IEA/USP within the group itself and in other spaces and partnerships. The constant support and support from the successive directors and councils of the Institute of Advanced Studies, where the group is based, has not only been essential for carrying out our activities, but also contributes daily to the group working in an advanced perspective within the scope of the University of São Paulo, which confirms the unique role that the IEA occupies at USP.

Presentation of the chapters

In the material we have gathered, the reader will be able to come into contact with different thematic and theoretical perspectives of work that guide some of the interdisciplinary research by and from members of the GPDH-IEA/USP whose experiences, in many cases, are crossed by significant activism in their respective areas. The chapters bear the mark of initiatives and collective efforts that have created unprecedented situations in the field and contributed to bringing together researchers, activists, members of governments with the aim of tensioning knowledge and practices in the field of human rights, their institutions, organizations and similar movements.

It is a work that, as already highlighted, insists on the articulation between knowledge, practices and experiences in human rights capable of promoting our research, but also in offering responses to the attacks and destruction of human rights, democracy and memory policies in the country .

The chapters have in common the mark of criticism and the initiative to imagine and realize other ways of living and relating. They were distributed according to whether the theoretical, aesthetic or practical dimension predominates, that is, whether their focus is on theoretical-critical reflection, on criticism of rights violations and analysis of political blockages and resistance, on the performative creation of new forms of expression or in the construction of policies, spaces and experiences aimed at strengthening human rights.

There are several possibilities for making approaches – thematic, conceptual, tactical, which lead to different paths for reading the chapters. One would be the three themes that organize the GPDH-IEA/USP: human rights, democracy and memory. But the themes are intertwined to the extent that the construction of democracy is inseparable from effective human rights policies, including memory policies against the obstacles of dictatorship blockades, the unequal social structure and the effects of various forms of racial discrimination. , gender or sexual orientation.

The groups and social actors that vocalize attacks against human rights and memory policies are the same ones that have anti-democratic purposes. They support or support those who preserve violent and discriminatory institutional practices, which are blindly reproduced in the bureaucratic routines of judicial, police and prison institutions. Or they appropriate public resources for social policies, seeing them as opportunities for their private gains. In this aspect, the chapters have in common a perspective on the historical trajectory, the overlaps between the past and the present and the uncertainties or openness of today.

Another approach is the theme, in which some chapters discuss educational policies, practices to promote human rights in schools and the rights of children and adolescents, as well as the mourning of mothers and families of young people killed by State agents. The institutional practices that involve young perpetrators of criminal acts are similar to those that affect other people and are approached from the perspective of reform perspectives, formulating analyzes and proposals for the non-violent treatment of conflicts, respect for the victim's time , the word, listening and writing as modes of expression for those involved – as victims, perpetrators, professionals – in conflicts.

Racial discrimination is central in several chapters, which address it from the perspective of institutional practices, social and gender inequalities, the marks of the survival of slavery and the fight against traces of colonial and slave memory in the present.

Another possibility is the variety of forms of aesthetic expression. Public performances and experiments for the construction of ways of living guided by human rights invite us to go beyond the legal discourse and institutional arrangements of the State, to project themselves into the aesthetics of existence. The challenges of communicating experiences such as torture, institutional violence and social discrimination are discussed in some chapters. Literature, popular music and visual arts present themselves as means for expression, communication and sharing of lived experiences of suffering caused by violations, of the work of mourning, of reconstruction of ourselves and ourselves, of sharing and conviviality.

When organizing this collection we adopted a path that starts from theoretical reflection on human rights discourses and moves on to a critical analysis of political programs, institutional mechanisms and practices of human rights violations, democracy and memory. The path follows the imagination of productive forms of action and expression for human rights, democracy and memory and ends with presentations of collective spaces and practices that enable encounters, complicities, support in which modes of existence are being created and expanded.

The first part, “Theoretical reflections and criticisms of human rights discourses”, comprises chapters dedicated to discussing the limits of current human rights discourses and the critical and analytical potential of new formulations of the problems.

Carla Osmo and Matheus de Carvalho Hernandez analyze in “Minimalist and insufficient? Samuel Moyn's contributions to the field of human rights” this author's assessments of the history of human rights and its current impasses. Moyn is an important researcher in the field and his political criticisms of the history of human rights since the seventies have sparked debate. The authors present and discuss Moyn's arguments that human rights would have effectively asserted themselves in the 1970s, but in a pattern of minimalism and insufficiency, which would result in limited transformative potential in terms of structural combat against socioeconomic inequalities.

Maria José de Rezende presents in “Children, human rights and education in the diagnoses and prescriptions of the UNESCO document” the limits of the assessment presented by the UN body on the situation of education in Latin America and the Caribbean, in a monitoring report published in 2021. The document provides substantive information regarding the diagnosis of the situation, which highlights almost insurmountable obstacles in the region. However, the policy proposals are fragile, as the generic proposals for improving economic, social and political conditions were not compatible with guarantees of the human rights of children vulnerable and excluded due to poverty and/or ethnic-racial belonging. Political differences between the many voices present in the document would be among the reasons to explain the ambivalences and ambiguities.

Eduardo Rezende Melo discusses the notion of “friendly” or sensitive justice from the point of view of the relationships between friendship, politics, equality and democracy in the chapter “Friendly juvenile justice: tensions and twists of an unfulfilled promise”. The notion is present in current debates about how to adapt judicial forms and practices to minimize their negative impact on children and adolescents and improve the guarantee of their rights. The chapter problematizes this approach in the field of juvenile justice, which is characterized by the repeated debate about the judicial model that is not hostile to teenagers in conflict with the law. Criticisms of the system's selective and exclusionary violence began to evaluate forms of social reaction and alternative policies for managing problem situations.

The author brings the debate on politics closer to philosophical discussions around the 'politics of friendship', the link between friendship and politics, equality and democracy, explores the possibility of conflict resolution based on ethics and a non-violence policy.

In “The Time of the Victim and the Time of Law: the emergence of a right to time” Ludmila Nogueira Murta and Flávia Schilling are based on the Theory of Realistic Humanism to propose the right to recognition and respect for the subjective time of the victim of violence, whose starting point is a reinterpretation of the principle of human dignity from the perspective of the victim of violence. The law calls into question the indifference to the times of the victim of violence on the part of institutional practices marked by objectivism, impersonality, and the acceleration of procedures in current times.

They advocate the need for review, reform and humanization of legal institutions and indicate as key points the use of inclusive procedures, the development of care with attention and care for the people involved, humanized treatment and the construction of jurisdictional services based on specificities and needs of the subjects involved. The proposal for the right to recognition and respect for subjective time implies the review of institutional practices to make it possible to develop police and judicial procedures in a manner compatible with the peculiarities and temporalities inherent to the different possible subjective responses to the experience of violence.

In “(In)conveniences of the Archive House: the Brazilian civil-military dictatorship as an archive of evil”, Tânia Corghi Veríssimo starts from Derrida's reflections on archive evil to discuss the problems of the archive of evil. Jacques Derrida starts from the root of the word arkê to conceive the notion of archival evil, creating an ambience that she calls casaquivo. This briefcase word is used to open paths of analysis and a path to approaching a so-called archive of evil: the Brazilian civil-military dictatorship.

His work is initially dedicated to thinking about the domiciliation scenario characterized by Derrida to establish archival evil in its inaccurate and labyrinthine place; then, it explores some intersections between the bases of Derrida's thought and Freudian theory, highlighting evil as the most prominent exponent of this intersection crowned by the notion of archiviolitic drive; in the third moment he articulates elements present in the ambience of the casaquivo, as well as in the actions of the archiviolitic drive itself, to weave some lines of thought, among them, that of forced disappearance in the Brazilian civil-military dictatorship.

The second part, “Criticisms of authoritarianism, institutional mechanisms and violations of human rights and memory rights”, contains chapters that deal with the relationships between the present and the recent past. Our recent political experience has deepened the situation since the post-dictatorship, in which past and present are intertwined in continuities, resurgences, spectrums. The reaction to the Dilma government's policies of memory and truth mobilized hostilities that ended up making the proposed measures unfeasible and that extended to the perverse remembrance of violence against opponents, the celebration of torturers and the extension of the influence of far-right groups.

These were articulated in much larger movements that reached the Presidency of the Republic, which promoted the action of systematic dismantling of human rights policies. Continuities that occur in institutional practices that promote violence and deepen trauma in the very victims or citizens that they would in principle aim to protect. A continuity, or similarity, is articulated between indifference in terms of everyday institutional practices and reverence for confessed rapists.

In “Policies in the Field of Human Rights during Bolsonaro’s Mandate – A political-constitutional analysis”, Andrei Koerner and Marrielle Maia examine the meaning of human rights in the political strategy of the former President of the Republic. This consisted of the permanent tensioning of the edges of the post-1988 democratic constitutional order through the staging of the grotesque of democracy. The chapter analyzes the various dimensions of policies in the field of human rights during his mandate and argues that they were his privileged target because they represent discursive references and institutional support for the construction of subjects as citizens of constitutional democracy. In conclusion, they suggest the possibility of the Lula government promoting human rights policies as part of the construction of a post-neoliberal democratic constitutional regime.

Paulo Cesar Endo and Márcio Seligmann-Silva examine in “Education and preservation of memory sites in Brazil” the memory work carried out in the country in recent years, based on an examination of the reports of the National Truth Commission and State Truth Commissions of five Brazilian states (São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, Bahia and Paraná). The work shows that the possibilities and paths opened by the work of truth commissions in the country since 2011 have not had any consistent continuity and, quite the contrary, suffer from blatant neglect and attacks on their creation, consolidation and execution. But the reports leave important propositions for the creation of places and places of memory that still do not exist, as well as the preservation and mapping of places that are still undefined and uncertain. Future research may define memory sites in very little-recognized areas where serious violations occurred in Brazilian territory.

The theme of the memory of the military dictatorship is discussed in “Appropriations and disputes surrounding access to the archives of the military dictatorship in Brazil”, by Janaína Teles and Pádua Fernandes. Reconstruction is a challenge, given the extent and complexity of the repressive apparatus of the period, but also the episodes since the transition, including the destruction and reorganization of repression archives, the partial and limited initiatives of reparation and truth, and the military's own control of archives, in contrast to legal advances and programs that aimed to preserve documents and provide broad public access to them.

As of 2017, there were setbacks with the authorization to eliminate documents after scanning, without the authorization of the employees responsible for archiving them, among other attacks on memory promoted during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. Thus, since (re)democratization, there has been a systematic denial and blocking of processes of clarification and accountability for crimes committed by State agents during the military dictatorship. This situation prevents a broad public debate about the legacy of the dictatorship, at the same time that judicial and extra-judicial actions present limited results. Gaps remain regarding the past and its projections into the present, in particular regarding the circumstances of the death, disappearance and concealment of bodies of those persecuted by the dictatorship, which blocks the accountability of their perpetrators.

“Recognition of people and unjust arrests: a metapsychological analysis of repetitive judicial error”, by Paulo Kohara, examines a practice without legal basis or scientific foundations, which produces repeated errors and causes serious violations against those unduly accused and convicted. The chapter adopts a metapsychological perspective to, based on a case study, examine the reasons why the practice of incarceration in courts proves to be poorly permeable to scientific evidence, legal commands and the jurisprudence of higher courts.

Using the traumatic perspective, he finds that this practice constitutes a traumatic repetition of State violence, with prisons whose arbitrariness and violence are systematically denied and, therefore, repeated. The chapter discusses the implications of this analysis for strategies for overcoming arbitrary arrests based on recognition, with attention to the unconscious dynamics that articulate the Justice System with the history of violence and exploitation on which the Brazilian State and its institutions were built.

The third part, “Imaginations, arts and aesthetics for human rights and memory”, explores the collective mobilizations and performative experiments adopted to, based on protest and rejection of violations, promote the public expression of human rights. The varied forms of expression and the multiple fields in which they are found reveal not only the creativity of those who use them, but the innovative and plural potential of the modes of existence that are opened up by human rights.

The aesthetic expression of collective movements is thematized by Paulo Henrique Fernandes Silveira in “The freedom songs of the civil rights movement in the United States”. He discusses the production and use of freedom songs by the civil rights movement in the United States. In their protest demonstrations, among direct action strategies, in addition to singing the songs of various popular composers, the militant youth created new political lyrics for well-known melodies from the Spiritual and Gospel. The objective of the chapter is to analyze the impact of these lyrics and songs on the engagement of young high school and university students in the struggles against racial segregation.

Álvaro Okura de Almeida and Léa Tosold carry out in “Bandeirantes emflames: notes on memory, the monument and fire” a critical reflection on the representation of the history of domains, explorations and violence silenced beyond words in public space. The chapter starts from the materiality of the monument as a place of memory and analyzes the episode of the burning of a symbol of São Paulo's Bandeirantism, the statue of Borba Gato, in the city of São Paulo, and its consequences in the public and academic debate. It discusses the issues brought into play by the overthrow of nationalist and colonialist symbols promoted by indigenous and anti-racist activists in a reflection that deals with the history of construction and continuous contestation of monuments.

Raissa Ventura studies in “The archive as a target in the letters of Saidiya Hartman” critical fabulation as a strategy for expressing criticism of violence in the author's work. Focusing on the archive and the type of violence it (re)produces, the chapter reconstructs the argumentative arc of a work that is consolidated in the books Scenes of Subjection e Wayward Lives. Hartman teaches us how the archive is at the center of the anti-racist struggles constitutive of our present, marked by the force and disfiguring action of slavery.

Their interpretative and reconstructive efforts were directed towards methodological solutions to return to the archive with the aim of mobilizing it for other purposes. Critical fabulation, the judgment-free counter-narrative and the speculative narrative are part of a critical project centered on the construction of revolutionary imaginaries that move through the search, the institution and the beginning of new ways of telling and narrating a present-past in which the afterlife of slavery continues to draw horizons and (im)possibilities.

Bruno Konder Comparato in “The Challenge of Literary Expression of the Torture Experience” reflects on the communication of the singularity of the experience. With torture, a radical separation is established between those who were tortured and those who, because they were not subjected to the terrible test of having to face the limits of the human, must be content with a pale idea of ​​the suffering inflicted on the victims who watched. powerless to the collapse of all their certainties.

Testimonial literature, composed of victims' reports, illustrates what is perhaps the greatest challenge of every written text: having to express unique experiences, as well as personal, with the sense of universality necessary to make any reflection capable of being understood by its peers. interlocutors. This dialogue is only possible when one takes into account the intellectual community to which one belongs and what Germans express by the term Mind/Spirit, in the sense of the principle of thought and reflective activity of the human being. It is precisely the feeling of belonging to an intellectual community that is broken when going through the traumatic experience of torture.

The fourth part, “Creations of Spaces and Collective Practices”, brings works that present and discuss intervention projects aimed at practicing human rights, in collective spaces organized to welcome and support victims of violations and to provide meetings with the potential to create other forms of subjectivity and relationships.

In “Human Rights on the Literasampa Community Library Network Agenda”, Bel Santos Mayer shows how this project promotes the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Sustainable Development Goals by translating them to different realities and different audiences. Community Libraries result from the union of individuals, groups or institutions that bring together books and people who are dedicated to defending the democratization of access to reading and writing, thus confronting the unequal distribution of cultural equipment.

The LiteraSampa Network, made up of 18 community libraries located in peripheral areas of the municipalities of São Paulo, Guarulhos and Mauá, emerged in 2010 with the aim of promoting the human right to books, reading, literature and the library. Its action is rooted in the community, in addition to stating that “The periphery reads” proposes the articulation of reading with the guarantee of human rights. The chapter pays special attention to how youth have become involved with the topic. The analysis is based on documentary data on the origin and history of community libraries, reports and publications.

In “The writing-memory in the book Mães em Luta: a collective device of testimonial enunciation”, Claudia Cristina Trigo Aguiar, Lucia Filomena Carreiro and Maria Cristina Gonçalves Vicentin present the work of producing a book with the history of the struggles of families of young people killed by state agents. The work is part of the projects of the Mothers in Mourning movement in the East Zone (SP), which insist on not remaining silent in the face of the deaths of their children.

His work identifies with the growing expression through literature and other arts that bear witness to the lives of those incarcerated, the peripheral population and families of young people killed by State agents. It is a work of building collective memory, an element of producing justice/reparation regarding the impacts of State violence. The authors created (from 2020 to 2021), with six mothers and an aunt from the aforementioned movement, in partnership with professionals and researchers from the psychosocial clinic and literature, a clinical-political group writing device as a privileged space for words to circulate, reconstructing and creating stories.

The group device was constituted in three dimensions: a creative dimension, considering the poetic relationship with the word; a dimension of experimentation that consisted of the production of individual and collective texts; and a dimension of care. It was composed of strategies such as Writing Workshops (readings of literary texts carried out collectively; presentation of images and search for significant objects and the creation of embroidery as triggers for writing), Tutoring (monitoring and welcoming the process of each participant in the support for writing), Restitution (recording of material expressed verbally and pre-verbally, read at each subsequent meeting), among others.

From the assembly of such a device, they discussed some effects of this experience in its relationship with the construction of memory: the testimonial effect produced by the relationship between the different dimensions of the device and the co-management arrangement of the device that made it possible to work on mediation between research-extension and social movement, producing an implicational effect.

Gabriela Gramkow and Adriana Pádua Borghi present, in “Racism, Gender and Whiteness: experiments in care and accountability in scenes of violence in the psycho-legal interface”, a reflection on the experience of teaching, research and university extension of the project “Gender Relations , Violence and Psychology: Insurgent Latinities” developed by the Professional Training Center of the Psychology course at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP).

The Center carried out a university extension project in partnership with the Reference Centers for the Promotion of Racial Equality (CRPIR) linked to the Municipal Secretariat for Human Rights and Citizenship (SMDHC) of São Paulo and with the Special Group to Combat Racial and Crime Crimes. Intolerance (Gecradi), created by the Attorney General's Office and the Special Body in 2020 of the Public Ministry of São Paulo (MPSP).

The experience aimed to dialogue with the pacts of whiteness and exercised a network to combat human rights violations by producing testimony of violence through welcoming listening to victims of racial crimes and gender-based violence. He also developed a conversation group with the perpetrators of these violence at the Barra Funda Criminal Forum. Studies and interventions were carried out to promote care for forms of sociopolitical/ethical-political suffering, reflecting on the cycles of violence that victims and offenders are forged.

The group discussed the possibilities of professional training-action for political insurgencies and transformative practices in the psycho-legal field by dialoguing with accountability actions and the effects of the institutional logic of punishment. The whiteness invested in our coloniality was seen in intergenerational violence with persistent perpetration against black women. Producing knowledge in the psycho-legal interface, in the intersection of practices of different discourses in Psychology and Law and between different knowledge regimes, makes it possible to intertwine the provision of care, with attention to cases of racial violence against black women and to raise awareness of established institutional racial relations in these fields.

Daniele Kowalewski and Flávia Schilling present in “The Experience of Human Rights Education Centers in the City of São Paulo: territories and vulnerability” an analysis of the research that rescues the memory of these Centers. Understanding them as a public policy for human rights education, they emphasize their conception, forgetfulness and resumption in the post-pandemic period.

The research had three axes: multiculturalism, territory and vulnerability, and the chapter discusses some elements of the last two axes, with an emphasis on the latter. Its objective is to produce a dialogue about the importance of Human Rights Education Centers in the territories and how the term vulnerability is malleable and has taken on new meanings in the pandemic and post-pandemic context, especially in education. The chapter was constructed from heterogeneous sources: studies by Seade and Ipea, NAAPA Notebook and writings by philosopher Judith Butler.

Thus, in response to the rise of right-wing movements, the cultural war and hate speech, we mobilized our public resistance, but this did not prevent us, in our academic and professional activities, in our ties and complicities, from continuing our creative activity of intellectual and construction of practices for human rights.


Bolsonaro's defeat in the presidential elections opened new perspectives for the reconstruction of human rights policies, but under much more adverse conditions, which made it quite challenging for the federal government to resume human rights policies in 2023. Initially, because agencies and human rights programs were paralyzed or terminated. Secondly, because policies were created and commitments were made aimed at reinforcing obstacles to the autonomy of subjects that are contrary to the promotion of human rights.

Furthermore, the new right-wingers maintain positions in Congress, state governments and city halls, in the Armed Forces and in the state bureaucracy, counting on the support of a significant portion of the population. We live in a period of uncertainty in which the recovery of human rights policies is a priority, but uncertain and controversial. At the same time, however, the accumulated experience and the combination of resistance and new initiatives in these years of dismantling give us new bases for thinking and acting.

The Human Rights, Democracy and Memory Research Group will continue to monitor current trends through the assessment of policies promoted by the federal government, the evaluation and diagnosis of institutional practices that violate rights and diffuse and naturalized forms of racial and gender discrimination or sexual. The task of problematizing current affairs is inseparable from proposing legislative reforms, institutional changes and supporting the promotion of ways of living in which human rights are realized in this uncertain and contradictory current situation.

As we know, the field of human rights is itself riddled with contradictions and cannot be realized or executed without the spirit of criticism that runs through it – or should run through it. In addition to the difficulties inherent in consolidating elementary human rights policies in Brazil, the effects of the lack of implementation of a human rights culture that knows how to define ambitious plans and strategies, other plans, initiatives and successful experiments carried out inside and outside Brazil, in small and medium, scale are important in defining the directions to follow.

This book is a contribution in this sense. He points out problems, paths and impasses that deserve careful dedication in order to correct repetitions and mistaken or ineffective policies, disguised as human rights policies, plans and/or actions.

The GPDH-IEA/USP is grateful for the contribution of the members in the composition of this work, to which we will dedicate attention so that the necessary questions can be raised and important meetings can be formulated within a more promising framework of respect and consolidation of human rights, democracy and of memory in the country.

*Andrei Koerner Professor of Political Science at Unicamp.

*Paulo Endo is a psychoanalyst and professor at the Institute of Psychology at USP.

*Maria Cristina Vicentim is a professor at the Department of Social and Work Psychology at the Institute of Psychology at USP.


Andrei Koerner, Paulo Endo and Maria Cristina Vicentim. Critical essays and experiments in human rights, democracy and memory. Ebook available at

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