1st International Simone de Beauvoir Congress in Brazil: impressions and notes
Version française ICI
By Thainã Cardinalli
Due to the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the publication of The Second Sex, the 1st International Simone de Beauvoir Congress was held at the University of São Carlos in 2019. Having the organizing team formed by Juliana Oliva, Luiza H. Hilgert and Rafaela F. Marques, the event attracted researchers from various fields interested in discussing the life and work of Simone de Beauvoir. The following thematic topics guided the discussions: The reception of Beauvoir in Brazil; Beauvoir, Gender Studies and Feminisms; Beauvoir, Ethics and Politics; Beauvoir, Literature and Autobiographical writings; Beauvoir and Epistemology; Beauvoir and Phenomenology; Beauvoir and the History of Philosophy; Beauvoir in School Today.
If I am not mistaken, this was the first initiative in the Brazilian academic field of studies focused exclusively on the French philosopher’s production. As pointed out in most of the presentations, there is an absence of discussions about the whole of Beauvoir’s work in Brazilian university programs. At a time when debates about gender and women’s participation in society are becoming increasingly latent, recognizing that Beauvoir’s writings are not at the basis of the formation of young people, especially in the field of philosophy, is to corroborate the criticism made by the author herself, since the middle of the last century, regarding the secondary role of women.
It is worth pointing out that philosophy courses in Brazil are still mostly male, both in terms of the number of students and professors and the bibliography presented. Recently, we have observed several initiatives of exposition of the theories of female philosophers and their contributions to philosophical thought, as well as the dissemination of young female researchers’ works.
During this Congress, two issues caught my attention: on one hand, the gathering of researchers who have been dedicating themselves to the interpretation, investigation and exploration of Beauvoir’s concepts for years; and on the other hand, productions that I would regard as « first contacts » with Beauvoir’s texts. Much of the research did not deal directly with her life or work. However, they methodologically used the French author’s reflections intending to interpretate a certain problem or social situation, or even to highlight the relevance of her thought. The famous phrase « one is not born, but rather becomes, woman », besides being mentioned countless times, marked this process of approaching Beauvoir’s work, since it was of common interest to understand the oppressions, submissions, and violence that affect the feminine sex until today.
Such reflections also have as background a recent event involving the reading of Beauvoir in Brazil: the bedevilment of the author when she was the subject of a questioning on the Exame Nacional do Ensino Médio (ENEM) – National High School Exam – in 2015. The humanities question quoted a sentence from The Second Sex and then asked candidates to point out the hallmark of the social movement that Beauvoir helped to structure, feminism. While intellectuals and educators celebrated the question for the fact that it provoked debates among young people about the feminist movement as well as on Beauvoir’s prominent role in it, conservative and religious groups were against the topic, even calling for the cancellation of the question because, in their view, it attacked the « sexuality » of adolescents and went against the « natural function » of women.
Beauvoir’s texts, as well as the studies about her life trajectory are not only important for the structuring of new fields of knowledge and perspectives of analysis in the human sciences; they are also extremely necessary and fundamental to contain, avoid and question retrograde voices that still define women as the « fragile sex », or from their sexual organ. In this sense, the 1st International Simone de Beauvoir Congress was an act of resistance against the undergraduate and graduate programs that continue to omit the importance of Beauvoir in the constitution of French philosophical thought as much as against the budget cuts of Brazilian universities that drive away female researchers and inhibit the study of issues dear to society.
Thainã T. Cardinalli is a doctoral student at Instituto de Filosofia e Ciências Humanas in Unicamp, Brazil, who is particularly interested in traveller women, travel reports and Brazilian history. She already published a article on this research blog, titled: « Simone de Beauvoir’s travel to Brazil ».
To cite this article: , Thainã Cardinalli, « 1st International Simone de Beauvoir Congress in Brazil: impressions and notes », Chère Simone de Beauvoir, juin 2021. URL: https://lirecrire.hypotheses.org/3488