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Boletim do Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi. Ciências Humanas

Print version ISSN 1981-8122

Abstract

GONCALVES, Assis da Silva; MAIO, Marcos Chor  and  SANTOS, Ricardo Ventura. Between the anthropometry laboratory and school: the physical anthropology of José Bastos de Ávila in the 1920s and 1930s. Bol. Mus. Para. Emílio Goeldi. Ciênc. hum. [online]. 2012, vol.7, n.3, pp.671-686. ISSN 1981-8122.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1981-81222012000300004.

The physician and anthropologist José Bastos de Ávila was a major figure in the field of physical anthropology in Brazil in the 1920s and 1930s. He was affiliated with the Museu Nacional and latter with the Instituto de Pesquisas Educacionais, both in Rio de Janeiro. In this article we analyze his research in physical anthropology, which focused on questions of race and miscegenation with particular emphasis on anthropometric characteristics of children. Based on surveys carried out in public schools in Rio de Janeiro, Ávila concluded that the children could not achieve higher levels of growth due to the precarious sanitary conditions prevailing in the neighborhoods. Ávila emphasized that the main problems in Brazil were related to poor health, hygiene and education of the population, and not to racial issues. Ávila participated in scientific expeditions, debated on archaeological heritage, conducted research on indigenous peoples and wrote a novel that received an award by the Academia Brasileira de Letras in 1932. We argue that the perspective of Ávila, marked by a critique of racial determinism, was part of an intellectual current of physical anthropology that prevailed at the Museu Nacional in the early decades of 20th century, which in turn was associated with broader sociopolitical dynamics in Brazil.

Keywords : Anthropometry; Physical growth; Physical anthropology; Race; Museu Nacional do Rio de Janeiro.

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