Rethinking Histories of Resistance in Brazil and Mexico
alan knIght
In this chapter, I offer a general discussion of resistance, drawing on the
rich set of examples provided in the rest of this book. As a historian of
Mexico, I know much less about Brazil than about Mexico, and much less
about anthropology than history. While these two disciplines share a mea-
sure of kinship within the great extended family of the social sciences,
they are second cousins rather than siblings, hence, while history gener-
ates plenty of debates (usually of a specific, low- to- middle- range kind), it is
usually methodologically, theoretically, and conceptually poorer; although
I would see this as a genteel kind of poverty, the product of modest wants
rather than intellectual bankruptcy. I mention this in light of my later
discussion of concepts, which may seem both ignorant and dismissive.
Finally, in conclusion, I touch on the contrasting approaches of historians,
who often deal with dead and distant peoples, and anthropologists, who
may be bound to “their” contemporary communities by ties of experience,
affection, and solidarity.
The central concept of this project is resistance, a protean concept that,
it seems, can accommodate a vast range of phenomena “from revolutions
to hairstyles” (Hollander and Einwohner 2004, 534). We can try different
strategies to pin down protean concepts of this kind. One strategy involves
etymology: chasing down the origins of words. In this case, however, the
chase takes us into the unpromising realm of physics and hardly helps. An
alternative “genealogical” approach would be to focus on the paternity of
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