Civic and historical responsibility of the Census in debate

On October 19th, the Library Lúcio Craveiro da Silva hosted a debate on the civic and historical responsibility of the Census, promoted by the Doctoral Program in Cultural Studies, in partnership with the Permanent Seminars of Communication and Diversity and Postcolonial Studies of the Communication and Society Research Centre.

The debate was attended by Cristina Roldão, from the Center for Research and Studies in Sociology, Beatriz Gomes Diaz, from the Afro-Descendants Association, Bruno Sena Martins, from the Center for Social Studies, Pedro Bacelar de Vasconcelos, from the Assembly of the Republic, Miguel de Barros, from the Center for Social Studies Amílcar Cabral, and Moisés de Lemos Martins, from the Communication and Society Research Centre (CECS). The moderation was in charge of Rosa Cabecinhas and Sheila Khan, both from CECS.

Sheila Khan stated that “portuguese society is currently experiencing times of great vibration as it faces, albeit reluctantly, the issues of racism, social and cultural discrimination, and quotas for social minorities. In this context, the Census seeks to help question, debate and open horizons of reflection”. Rosa Cabecinhas emphasized the urgency of this debate since “we know very little about the Portuguese population and its diversity. We know very little about the difficulties that people who are made invisible by official statistics in Portugal face in their daily lives in the most diverse areas: education, housing, employment, justice, health, etc. We all know that a higher level of knowledge does not in itself generate magical recipes for solving the problems that persist insidiously in our daily lives, but it is urgent to combat this knowledge deficit in order to be able to intervene and transform more effectively”.

Cristina Roldão presented the general lines of the work carried out within the Census Work Group 2021 – Ethnic-Racial Issues (2018-19), signaling the main lines of discussion and the importance of the studies and recommendations that were made. She stressed that “racism is not an interpersonal matter or a matter of ignorance, it is a structural question […]. For example, in the history manuals it is not a single reference to the gypsy community. Census data collection would allow population mapping. Census are not just a data collection machine, they have the power to shape the imagination and demand public policy”.

For her part, Beatriz Gomes Diaz, from the AfroDescendentes Association, stressed: “we have many monuments that celebrate the Portuguese imperialist project, but we have no monuments about the subjects who were subalternized […], hence the importance of creating a memorial to the enslaved people”.

Bruno Sena Martins of the Center for Social Studies emphasized that “there is no justice without historical justice. History is structured in colonial violence”, being imperative to break the “borders of humanity” that were defined by colonialism.

Miguel de Barros, from the Amílcar Cabral Center for Social Studies (Guinea-Bissau), stressed that we must “combat the asymmetries” that continue to shape our daily lives and stressed that “one of the academy’s responsibilities is to deconstruct statistical indicators”.

Moisés de Lemos Martins, director of CECS and coordinator of the research project “Cultures, past and present” (Aga Khan/FCT), based on a theoretical reflection on language, truth and power, He stressed that the struggle to change the censuses corresponds to “a struggle for the legitimacy of representation” and a struggle “erasure and concealment”.

Pedro Bacelar de Vasconcelos, Constitutionalist and President of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitutional Affairs, Rights, Freedoms and Guarantees of the Assembly of the Republic, pointed out that this is not “invisibility, what we have is voluntary blindness” and it is this blindness that is needed. fight. “Census can be a contribution, as it can be an opposite contribution, as it has often been in the past. It is not censuses that create discrimination, nor are censuses that create public policies”. We must be aware of the complexity and intervene at various levels to combat discrimination.

After a lively debate, to which contributions and questions raised by audience members contributed, the moderators stressed that we are living in a moment that demands active and civic empathy for all.

[Posted: 28-10-2019]