Transnational mediations and foreign press published in Brazil

Eliezer Markowich Lissitzky, Proun 84, 1923-1924


Presentation, by the organizers, of the recently released book

Result of research by members of the Transfopress Brasil Group – Foreign Language Press Study Group in Brazil, which in turn is part of the international network Transfopress – Transnational network for the study of foreign language press, designed and coordinated by Diana Cooper-Richet (CHCSC-UVSQ), this is the second work on the subject and demonstrates the strength and relevance of a cooperation that began in 2012. For this volume, colleagues came together in the effort to unfold the first research forays into a vast corpus, until then largely poorly known and rarely treated from such a perspective (Luca; Guimarães, 2017).

On the following pages, the reader will find a series of analyzes on one of the facets of the history of the Brazilian press: the study of the allophone press. More than other excerpts, the option to work with such a precise object provides a double methodological movement: a look focused on the place where newspapers and magazines in a foreign language were published (that is, the Brazilian nation) and an approach that is not restricted to a national story, since such communication vehicles are, by definition, the result of an undertaking that involves different cultural references brought into contact.

The first consequence of such an option is that this is not a book about the history of the immigrant press in Brazil. If the topic of immigration is unavoidable, given the nature of the research object, restricting the proposed study to the issue of ethnic singularities is imprecise and inappropriate. Proof of this is that as early as 1827 there were newspapers published in a foreign language at the Court, long before the period known as the “great immigration”, at the turn of the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century. With the massive entry of foreigners, allophone parodistic activity experienced an unprecedented increase, although it was not always a direct consequence of the number of immigrants, as the Spanish case proves.

While Italians and Germans published hundreds of titles from the most varied segments and trends, for example, or minority immigrant groups in Brazil such as the French and English maintained regular production of newspapers and magazines in their languages, there was not a significant number of newspapers or magazines in Castilian, despite the fact that the Spanish were, for a long period of time, the third largest immigrant group in the country, second only to Italians and Portuguese.

The second consequence is thus linked to the first: the focus is not on the immigrant community and its idiosyncrasies, for which there is enormous and competent production, but on the interactions and connections between people and institutions through a prolific cultural production that found one of the main expressions in periodical print. The starting point for the analysis becomes this shared cultural space for which the restrictions imposed by national borders become less relevant to the detriment of interactions, appropriations and refusals.

It is therefore necessary to think about what Saunier called “history from a transnational perspective”. The concept of transnational finds in the study of allophone periodical print a privileged object of observation, since it is based on three pillars: the nature of periodicals in general devoted to mass diffusion, whose capacity has been expanded with the continuous modernization of printing techniques ( although this does not always happen, a newspaper is normally designed to have the largest circulation possible); the globalizing vocation, especially from the XNUMXth century onwards, with the increase in means of transport that led to the increasing mobility of people, goods and ideas on a planetary scale; and, what makes the allophone press unique, the maintenance of international links acting as a link between countries and cultures, men of letters, their intellectual production and readers.

But if the emphasis of the analyzes presented in this book is on the transnational connections provided by printed allophone periodicals and their reception, the encounter with the traces left by the different communities of foreign migrants is practically inevitable, especially in the period of large migratory flows, such as at the turn of the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century. Hence, the transnational perspective is also a key to analyzing the unstable identities that are formed as a result of the complex process of fixation of these groups.

The methodological procedure can be defined, in general terms: “[…] reconstruction and contextualization of historical interconnections between units of historical understanding, evaluation of the blurred line between the foreign and the domestic within these units and capture and recording of processes, actors and events that they experienced and between these units”. (Saunier, 2013, p.136)

That said, what we have is that the various contributions, which also move within the vast scope of the topic of international migration, approach, use and study allophone periodicals through such dynamics, in addition to a strictly ethnic or ethnonational interpretation .

In this way, we do not intend to deny or diminish the importance of the configurations and declinations of migrants' ethnicity in the complex dialogical and also conflicting process of their multifaceted national identity construction between their countries of origin and Brazil, but we want to mobilize research to highlight how the Brazilian context hosted, interacted, and redefined the experience of journalistic writing and the making of allophone prints, which certainly had their social and cultural bases of reception strongly defined by the ethnic circuit, even though it operated from a transnational and global perspective.

After all, the e/immigrants, especially the mediators who created the newspapers, thought and related to each other in different places at the same time, on a global plane constructed by the concrete intersection of networks connected in different ways, where the printed matter plays an active role in its construction and maintenance.

For them, the newspaper was an element of fundamental national identity pedagogy, which cut across the different social compositions of its authors and readers. Pedagogy in the sense of a cultural training activity tout court conveyed by an elaborate set of values ​​proposed by the newspapers. Thus, alongside the large allophone press, we have the “class” allophone press, meaning here that of immigrant workers linked to political groups and unions that have had a strong impact on the world of political writing in Brazil, despite possible difficulties in interaction between militants. of diverse national and local origins.

The study of “cultural areas”, of intersections, highlights the role played by transfer vectors, the cultural tours, in the sense given by Michel Espagne (2017).

When going through the pages of this book, the reader will come across the analysis of mediations and mediators in which in a restricted sense one can think of an “established diffusion of knowledge and information” or in a broad sense as “inventory of 'passers', of vehicular supports and circulation flows of concepts, ideals and cultural objects” (Rioux, 1998, p. 21).

The interdisciplinary perspective is present in the analyses, and cultural mediators are thought of as active subjects, mobilized and mobilizing cultural transfers, achieved through the production, circulation, distribution and reception of newspapers, understood as cultural products or goods. Such agents play a crucial role in the process of adapting knowledge, developing repertoires and cultural exchanges. They mediate information, disseminate ways of life, ideas and contextualized knowledge, constitute networks and exchanges.

It is from a transnational perspective, promoting exchanges and negotiations that migrants undertake, under different conditions and for different motivations, the founding of a periodical. Periodicals are marked by the culture (in addition to language) of the places of origin of their editors and those responsible for their production, but precisely because they are published in Brazil and circulate and are consumed here (Certeau, 1994), they are appropriated by the surroundings and negotiate senses and meanings.

Because it allows a complex construction of information that guarantees, in turn, circulation and, therefore, its possible updating, printed matter gives the Western societies that dominate it a decisive tool to impose themselves on a global level; its capacity is measured in terms of construction of knowledge, representations and, ultimately, power (Barbier, 2015). Hence their importance and centrality as representative bodies, especially in the period in which print media predominated.

It is from this perspective, between the multidisciplinary intersections of a social and cultural history, that the authors mobilized an arsenal of references from the developments of comparative history and global history, using concepts such as transnational, cultural exchanges, connections, crossed views, cultural transfers and mediation, among others.

The division of the book corresponds to these guidelines. Once the proposal for the first phase of the project has matured, the results of research from the second triennium of its development are articulated around broad thematic areas rather than linguistic or chronological sections: transmedia culture, political mediations, crossed views, identity processes and education.

The first section is made up of the first two parts. In Part I – Transmedia Narratives: press and culture, French and Italian periodicals are analyzed in their dialogue with other media and languages, such as theater, literature and visual arts. The “civilization of the newspaper” (Kalifa; Régnier; Thérenty; Vaillant, 2011) that emerged in the XNUMXth century was marked by the lack of definition and slippage of genres and themes. In the allophone press published in Brazil it was no different. The intense circulation of matrices and models, despite technical gaps, was even more notable in vehicles published by immigrant groups.

They remained very articulated with local press groups, often coming from prominent national intellectual and political groups. At the same time, the savoir-faire and references they brought from their countries of origin, as well as constant dialogue with fellow countrymen, are factors that accentuated the adoption of foreign styles, which had a direct impact on the development of national journalistic activity as a whole.

Monica Pimenta Velloso explores in her text “Figaro-Chroniqueur (1859): transmedia migrations of a character” precisely this playful and literary aspect of small press Franco-Brazilian culture of the XNUMXth century through the analysis of the satirical Figaro-Chroniqueur, probably written by the Frenchman Altève Aumont under the pseudonym Arthur du Mouton. As the author highlights, the satirical dimension of the newspaper's narrative is touched by the oral tradition of laughter and irony, the language of the streets, cabaret and theater, establishing a rapport with the reading public and making the newspaper a privileged support for such shifts in writing genres. Furthermore, the Figaro-Chroniqueur is a good example of a body that is not limited to the mere representation of an ethnic group, which corroborates some of the issues outlined above.

In this sense, the text by Valéria dos Santos Guimarães “French-Brazilian press and intellectual networks between the wars: the case of Revue Française du Brésil (RJ, 1932-1939)” also argues that, more than a publication representing a foreign community, the Revue Fraçaise du Brésil it was an open space for Brazilian intellectuals coming from conservative cadres, such as Alceu Amoroso Lima. The hypothesis is that this association was due to the need for the publication to survive amidst the attacks of the authoritarian government. Brazilian and foreign professors and intellectuals, whether resident or not in Brazil, wrote, as well as intellectuals linked to the Brazilian Academy of Letters and other formal institutions that maintained contacts in France, constituting transnational networks of intellectuals in both journalism and literature and fine arts.

The theme of the intersections between the world of letters and the growing media culture is taken up by Yuri Cerqueira do Anjos in “Between bond and disjunction: literature and context in Courier du Brazil (RJ, 1854-1862)”. He clearly demonstrates how the newspaper in question, edited by a group of outcasts, quarantine-huitards, and in constant controversy both with Brazilians and other groups of French due to the defense of republican ideals in the middle of the Second Brazilian Empire, uses fiction resources in various narratives, from ephemerides to social denunciations, including political quarrels.

According to the author's hypothesis, in addition to constituting a common phenomenon in the press of the XNUMXth century – and, it can be said, in many cases also in the XNUMXth century –, the slippage between narrative genres operated the double function of expanding the reach of the message and legitimize the discussion that took place on the front pages, where political content prevailed.

In Vera Maria Chalmers' chapter, “Gigi Damiani: an author of an anarchist fictional feuilleton”, the scholar also analyzes a fictional narrative, the feuilleton novel L'Ultimo Sciopero. Its author, Gigi Damiani, was not exactly a literary man. The well-known Italian who animated the anarchist groups in Curitiba and São Paulo and who, years later, became one of the protagonists of the São Paulo general strike of 1917 was a political activist and journalist. His serial was part of the tradition of political literature and social romance, a formative and widely diffused genre in the militant labor milieu since Zola's classic, Germinal.

The author explores in an original way the topos narrative of the wandering Jew, highlighting the dialogical contaminations arising from the circulation of readings, mediated by the transnational experiences of political formation of libertarian activists between the end of the XNUMXth century and the beginning of the XNUMXth century.

In Part II – Political mediations: transnational networks and conflicts, texts are articulated that highlight the political tensions underlying certain discussions that go beyond the borders of the countries of origin to be reappropriated and resized in the context of reception.

Angelo Trento, in “The newsrooms in the trench: the Italian press in Brazil in the First World War”, presents an in-depth overview of the Italian-language press in Brazil with an in-depth look at the internal fissures of the numerous Italian collective spread across the country during the first world conflict. The periodical press brought together different groups, active subjects of the articulation and dissemination of their debates, proposals and mobilizations at a critical moment in the process of integration of Italians into Brazilian society, when many immigrants had established roots, but were still subject to strong influence over the positions taken by Italy, including in relation to the war.

Nationalism and internationalism, pacifism and warmongering, monarchism and republicanism are analyzed within the specific clash of neutralism versus interventionism, which echoes in Brazil through the circulation of ideas provided by the allophone press, resizing the multiple notions of identity beyond the limits of the Kingdom of Italy.

In the chapter "La Scure – Giornale di Lotta (São Paulo, 1910): press, immigration and circulation of ideas in the construction of a transnational unionism” dedicated to the syndicalist newspaper of the title, the author Edilene Toledo strives to approach a similar phenomenon, but through the key to the tensions inherent to the struggle of organized labor movement at the beginning of the XNUMXth century.

It explores the transnational dynamics that this periodical printed in Italian sets in motion through the cultural and political mediation of its editors, enabling the effective construction of revolutionary trade unionism as a global movement. Here too, the newspaper is seen as a demiurgical social element without which the circulation of ideas and experiences on an international level necessary for the formation of global political cultures is not possible.

Luigi Biondi presents in his contribution “The battle: newspaper, the group and ethnic anarchist networks (1904-1913)” the historical trajectory of the homonymous newspaper, seen at once as an organ of a political group, aggregator and coordinator of libertarian militancy networks. The biographical trajectories of the editors and their intersection with the main militant group of readers and supporters of the newspaper in Brazil, a group characterized by their common Italian regional origins, join the study of the themes and campaigns broadcast by the weekly with the aim of critically highlighting the limits, tensions, but also the advantages of the transnational ethnic circuit that made possible the exceptional and prolonged experience of this iconic periodical printed in the history of the labor movement in Brazil.

The allophone newspapers of the labor movement are understood here in their double and paradoxical meaning: on the one hand, elements of dissemination of ideas and organizational strengthening of certain political groups in an initial phase of immigrants' insertion into the new society, when the local language was still it is not familiar and returning to the country of origin is an apparently possible option, so it is essential to maintain and also define a certain ethnic space; on the other hand, they are also the most incisive printed media in denying nationalism and, more often, the construction of national identity carried out abroad.

An important part of the book's contributions is dedicated to this topic, which is unavoidable not only in the field of migration studies, but also in the allophone press in a country marked by intense cultural heterogeneities like Brazil.

Still in this part, in “Yiddish press in Brazil during the XNUMXth century: preservation and custody” by Lucia Chermont, an unprecedented overview of the Yiddish press in Brazil is presented, based on little previous research and a detailed survey of collections. Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo are the privileged spaces in the analysis, in addition to the author indicating the existence of a periodical in Salvador.

There were 65 thousand Jews who entered Brazil during the period of great immigration and in its press references to European conflicts and tensions within the emigrant community are constant, making it clear how latent the vicissitudes to which these groups were exposed were. The transnational vocation of the Jewish community is very similar to the labor movement and the press is, undoubtedly, the central mediating factor in integrating a population of such diverse origins spread across various parts of the world.

In the second section, Part III – Mediations beyond borders: Brazil under crossed gazes begins with Isabel Lustosa browsing the pages of one of the first newspapers published in a foreign language in Brazil, French L'Écho de L'Amérique de Sud, in the text “The honor of Brazilians offended in a French newspaper from 1828”. The French perspective on “the (bad) habits of wealthy Brazilian families”, which would be due to the lack of contact with references to civilization, obviously identified with the hexagonal culture.

In the opposite direction, the representation made of the French in reaction to criticism is no longer flattering and thus an energetic controversy was established that characterized the gossip press of the time, involving part of the Rio press, including the Franco-Brazilian one. Fictional language once again permeates the newspaper's text, irony and criticism come together in the satire of local customs and place at the center of the author's reflection the issue of this foreign perspective of which the French-speaking press is also a support.

Tania Regina de Luca, in turn, follows the trajectory of the newspaper's editor Le Gil Blas in “Émile Deleau: in search of a life trajectory”. Also some of the satirists of small press Franco-Brazilian, Le Gil Blas it was actually signed by Fantasio (pseudonym of Émile Deleau) who replaced the controversial sheet with the important and newsworthy Le Messager du Brazil. This trajectory guaranteed him knowledge and prestige within Rio society, consistent ties with groups in the News Gazette to the point that, back in Paris, Deleau became a correspondent for this important Brazilian newspaper, using the fact that he was French and knew Brazil well, producing a very friendly representation of life in his former homeland.

Antonio de Ruggiero and Tamara Zambiasi in “The weekly newspaper La Patria Italo-Brasiliana and its almanacs: the construction of a collective identity among Italian immigrants from Rio Grande do Sul (1916-1931)”, when presenting the journey of the weekly La Patria Italo-Brasiliana of Porto Alegre and its almanacs, reflect on the construction of a national identity evidently defined by the migratory experience that represents the specific proposal of the Italian-Gaúcho newspaper that emerged in the troubled period of the First World War.

Its editor Vicente Blancato, a polygrapher who achieved a prominent position in Rio Grande do Sul society, constituted himself as a mediator using the prestige of the Italians then associated with the signs of modernity. Through his newspaper and almanac, Blancato helped to consolidate the representation of “a stereotypical 'Italianity'”, with a nationalist nature, amid the tension of war. The foreign look at the country is due to both identity affirmation and integration.

In “Japanese-Brazilian intellectuals in post-war Japanese-language newspapers (1946-1970)”, by Monica Setuyo Okamoto, the theme of mediation that re-signifies identities is once again present in the analysis through the actions of some of its most prominent journalists and intellectuals, such as Hideo Onaga, José Yamashiro and Hiroshi Saito who worked in print São Paulo Shimbun (Jornal São Paulo, 1946-2018) and Paulista Shimbun (Jornal Paulista, 1947-1998), among others.

Prohibited during the Estado Novo, Japanese-language periodicals were once again published amid the tense post-war climate in which the polarization between “victorists” (who believed in the Japanese victory in the War, represented in an emblematic way by the association Shindô-Renmei), on the one hand, and, on the other, “defeatists” (who reaffirmed the surrender and were committed to official information) exposed the conflicts between the representations of Japan and the Japanese outside and inside Brazil.

The ultranationalist and fascist orientation professed in the Japanese education of the first generations was questioned by “defeatists” in defense of greater integration into the host society. This exposed the generational conflict as an important factor related to the polarization of the community and the controversy surrounding the “Brazilianization” of younger people, which is not always well regarded. Hence the importance of the group of young people Nikkei, descendants of Japanese, in their mediating role in reshaping the Japanese-Brazilian identity not only through Japanese-language newspapers, but also through their work in the Brazilian press. They were more adapted to Brazilian society and culture, well educated, a true erudite elite, and helped to shape an imaginary that still resonates today.

And finally, ending the second section, Part IV – Mediations, identity processes and education, shows how the formation of a reading public extends beyond the school walls and takes periodicals as a privileged support for the dissemination of a cultural project. Claudia Panizzolo, in “The newspaper fanfulla and its cultural mediators: forming, informing and shaping an Italian identity (1893-1910)”, studies the action of the main Italian-language daily in Brazil and South America, the fanfulla, published in São Paulo, in the connection between information and education, with the same objectives of building national identity outside Italy undertaken by the famous newspaper.

The biographical elements of Rotellini, founder and owner of the periodical, and of the main authors of the newspaper throughout its first twenty years of life, at the transition from the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, their previous experiences, their networks of relationships, are analyzed by the author as the initial viaticum for understanding the newspaper's editorial policy on identity issues and how all immigrant educational training should be constructed through the maintenance or dissemination of the standardized Italian language.

The Italian schools (almost a hundred in the first decades of the XNUMXth century) that appear on the pages of the fanfulla as those responsible for the formation of “soul, character and faith”, a project that goes beyond education itself, aimed at establishing a ethos normative as a regulator of this insertion of immigrants and descendants. A map detailing the insertion networks of the company’s employees fanfulla in other periodicals, including Brazilian ones, complements the author's effort to demonstrate the mechanisms behind the construction of the representation of “pride in being Italian” and its supposed role in favor of the progress of Brazilian society.

With the chapter by Terciane Ângela Luchese, “On the pages of the Catholic newspaper La Libertà, Caxias-RS (1909-1910): production and traces of cultural mediation”, returns to a period in which the allophone press produced within immigrant communities felt very intensely the issue of national identity construction and tried to respond in a this challenge of creating supposed “national values”.

In the case of La Libertà, a newspaper from a then smaller but significant center, as it was published in the city of Caxias do Sul, mostly composed of Italians, one can come into contact with one of the declinations of this formative process. The case study presented by the author emphasizes the newspaper's editorial endeavor to combine Italianity and Catholic education. The role of intellectual-mediator began to be exercised by priests inside and outside the Church, whether at school or on the pages of the newspapers they edited.

A similar phenomenon is analyzed in the chapter “The German press in the South of Brazil and cultural mediation: the journalistic and editorial practice of Wilhelm Rotermund”, by Isabel Cristina Arendt and Marluza Marques Harres, in which they present the newspaper Deutsche Post, published in São Leopoldo, Rio Grande do Sul, from 1880 to 1928. Recognized as an important periodical, considering the periodicity, readership and relative longevity, the text also addresses the work of the founder and editor, Wilhelm Rotermund.

Lutheran pastor, he was editor of the newspaper, writer and teacher. He was sent to Southern Brazil in 1874 by the Committee for Protestant Germans in Southern Brazil, which was then linked to the Evangelical Society of Barmen for Protestant Germans in America, with the task of serving the population of Evangelical-Lutheran Germans in Rio Grande do Sul. The authors understand Rotermund as a cultural articulator and mediator working among the immigrant population or those of German descent, and who remained in charge of the edition for several years, until passing this responsibility on to one of his sons, Ernst Rotermund.

In the chapter “The newspaper Stella d'Italia: 'italianità' and education (1902-1908)”, Alberto Barausse and Maria Helena Camara Bastos have similar concerns in their inquiry into the history of Star of Italy at the beginning of the XNUMXth century in Porto Alegre, a newspaper that in a way represents a local project of the most famous fanfulla, but closer to the local immigrant middle-class sectors, from where the newspaper's editors and supporters came.

The concept of Italianity is understood by the authors as a historical elaboration not free from tensions, a dynamic field of disputes, characterized by the configurations of the period, the place and the set of mediators involved in the experience of publishing this periodical in Italian in Rio Grande do Sul. South, despite also paying particular attention to pedagogical training processes. Thus, by also crossing the analysis of the path and actions of the mediators who prepared the printed material with the educational proposals and positions of the newspaper, the two authors show the elements of conflict intrinsic to the dynamics of identity construction, beyond any attempt to characterize in a homogeneous way the ethnicity of the press emanating from allophone communities.

Cultural exchanges at various levels, the most diverse issues and approaches, and a vast corpus mobilized: none of this would be possible without the new technological resources that have become increasingly sophisticated in the XNUMXst century. Access to digitized sources and the improvement of search tools have certainly boosted the discovery of and interest in vast collections that were previously forgotten or neglected in the collections.

And it is with the task of continuing to explore this rich source of research that researchers from the Transfopress Brasil group have undertaken the challenge of better understanding this peculiar chapter in the history of the Brazilian press.

Luigi Biondi is a professor of contemporary history at UNIFESP.

Terciane Angela Luchese is a professor at the University of Caxias do Sul.

Valeria dos Santos Guimaraes is a professor of Brazilian history at the São Paulo State University (Unesp).


Luigi Biondi, Terciane Ângela Luchese, Valéria dos Santos Guimarães (orgs.). Transnational mediations and foreign press published in Brazil. São Paulo, Unesp, 2022, 524 pages. []


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