Lusophone Space: Institutions, Identities and Agency


Joana Pereira Leite (CEsA)


The determining factor for the launch of this line of research is the fact that, at the beginning of the 21st Century, there are significant parts of the world where Portuguese is spoken. These countries share a history, which is present in the tangible and intangible structures of their societies, determines the language spoken and affects the consciousness of every single social player.

The concept of Lusophone space emerged after the end of Portuguese colonisation in the 20th Century, when it became the stage for a substantial realignment of the links that bind together the various countries that made up what had been imperial Portugal. Decolonisation brought an exodus to the homeland and the gradual integration of around half a million Portuguese, and was followed by the emergence and consolidation of a new pattern of international migration in a post-colonial world. In the first stage, this saw Portugal itself as the main destination (the first wave of immigration was from PALOPs – African Portuguese-speaking countries – and Brazil), but this has now become more complex as the economic crisis in Portugal and Europe has taken a grip. This complexity has led to a variety of outcomes: at times there has been an inversion of the flows (for instance a significant outward flow from Portugal heading for Brazil, Angola and Mozambique); there has been a growing move to a criss-cross pattern of direct investments and business holdings involving Brazil, Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking countries of Africa; and these countries have seen a broad raft of material and symbolic interchanges. These interchanges illustrate that the flows that affect the Lusophone space are multidimensional and multipolar.

There have been substantial changes in the various entities that make up this space, stemming from the meteoric economic rise of Brazil, Angola and Mozambique and from the more specific transformations and/or dilemmas marking the recent paths of Guinea-Bissau, Cape Verde and Sao Tomé. This gives pertinent meaning to the development of research on the political and socio-economic initiatives that are being implemented in this space, to the cultural interaction and above all, to the points where these initiatives have converged or diverged. Such work is inexorably intertwined with research and understanding of the socio-economic factors and identity building and rebuilding which is at the heart of a common linguistic space which is European, African and Brazilian.

What is at issue is the response to a greater challenge in the field of social analysis regarding its multiple facets (covering subjects such as History, Culture, Sociology, Economics and Management). At the same time, attention must be paid to the cultural and identity dimensions, in the tradition of postcolonial studies, where the focus is on revisiting historical relations and mapping new forces behind geo-political and cultural tendencies.

This involves not only getting to know the shapes and the contents of the Lusotopias (lands where Portuguese forms the common linguistic bond), however diverse their material and symbolic borders are, as they exist at present, but also to reflect on their potential as a force that can play an active role – and a role that gives added value – in a world where economies and societies are in flux. It is especially important to be aware of the opportunities that are opening up for the Lusophone space in the new dynamics of Asia and Oceania, namely in East Timor, Macau, China and India.

This line of research will encompass projects undertaken by all the CSG groups, although predominance is expected from the Globalisation and Development research group.

The programme to be covered over the five-year period from 2015-2020 involves four research areas, which include a variety of projects:

1 – Lusotopias: historical perspective, and cultural and identity dimensions: Here we will focus on the late advent of economic modernisation in Portugal from a long-term perspective (the imperial experience of the 17th and 18th Centuries); the transcontinental dynamics in the building of a memory that makes it possible to reveal new identities in Lusophone spaces (Portugal, Manaus and Acre), or in regions historically connected to the Portuguese presence (Diu); the various dimensions of the colonial period in Mozambique, seen through recollections from individual experiences; the Cape Verdean diaspora theme, which opens up the possibility of analysing how societies can be built up across international boundaries, revealing a society that functions in a multitude of places; cultural policies, as seen in the national and transnational dynamics of institutes involved with cinema, literature and the arts, where Portuguese is the common language; and cultural constructs spanning the Lusophone space and the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

2 – The role of States, institutions and policies: This covers analyses of cooperation policies for development; work on evaluation systems for projects (East Timor) and human rights indicators (Guinea-Bissau); research on policing techniques in various Portuguese-speaking countries (Angola, Mozambique, Cape Verde, Sao Tomé and Brazil), in the context of training programmes carried out in Portugal; questions on economic policy and how the economic situation in Mozambique has at this point in time been politicised.

3 – The macro-dimension of social and economic processes and problems:

  • Observation of the dynamics of population mobility within the Lusophone space; the Cape Verdean diaspora, its experiences and diversity; new migration from Portugal to Angola and Mozambique; the impact of migration in rural contexts (Cape Verde and Mozambique); comparative studies of Portuguese and African migration in Europe; the pertinence of economic diplomacy associated to the problem of migrations; the problem of urban transition (in Central and Southern Africa).
  • Research on development processes during the colonial and post-colonial period in Cape Verde, Angola and Mozambique; research on structural transformation and competitiveness, agrarian, industrial, banking and business development, along with international relations in terms of the opportunities opening up for emerging countries; research on economic relations (flows of goods, services and capital) between Portugal, Portuguese-speaking Africa and Brazil.
  • Analysis of the relationship between well-being and development by constructing well-being indicators (Guinea-Bissau, East Timor), and in relation to human rights (Bissau); study of how Portuguese cooperation is playing a part in the struggle against poverty (Sao Tomé); work on putting together a system for evaluating development projects (East Timor).

4 – How players conduct their activities (companies, individuals, communities): Here, the focus is on the work of Portuguese NGOs as players in the development process in Africa; on the role of the elites on life styles and social differentiation in Cape Verde; analysis of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship in Angola; the nature and magnitude of barriers to economic empowerment of women in Mozambique and Cape Verde.

Log in with your credentials

Forgot your details?