A Law Against the Crime of Slavery and the Abolition’s Discontent


This theoretical essay discusses some facts related to the abolition of slavery in Brazil, the most important symbolic event in Brazilian history in that it represents the deepest transformation of social rules in the country. Historians report, nevertheless, that such change profoundly embittered former slave owners, to the extent that some of them succumbed to a state of what I would call melancholia, which led, in many cases, to death, madness and suicide. A second facet of the discontent among former slave owners, clearly a criminal one, was also identified, consisting of physical violence and the instrumentalization of political institutions, which ensured the maintenance of the persecution against dark-skinned people. The method utilized in this article is inspired by Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalytic anthropology, and serves to analyze historical facts, having Freud’s metapsychological texts as a main reference. I provide an interpretation of the unconscious dimension of the anti-abolitionist backlash that grew roots in the institutions of the Republic. In contrast, this essay also discusses the need to introduce an adequate penal law that takes into consideration the transatlantic slavery in Brazilian history. I refer, here, to the “Taubira Law”, promulgated in France in 2001, which acknowledges transatlantic slavery as a crime against humanity. The analysis of discontent and of the nostalgia of decaying slave owners indicates that the criminal unconsciousness demands adequate legislation, a tool that is particularly important for the process of responsibilization of both subjects and institutions regarding history and its subjective discontent.

Brazil; Slavery; Psychoanalytic criminology; Abolition; Discontent

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