Matança de porco, Seixas – Vinhais 1976 – Brian O’Neill à direita

Brian Juan O´Neill
Instituto Universitário de Lisboa – ISCTE-IUL
Senior Researcher at CRIA (Centro em Rede de Investigação em Antropologia)
Co-founder of CEAS (Centro de Estudos de Antropologia Social) in 1986
Retired Full Professor, Anthropology Department

Brian Juan O’Neill is an anthropologist with a literary background, trained at Columbia, Essex, and the London School of Economics, migrating to Portugal in 1982. Collaborating with the journal Critique of Anthropology in its early years, a sharply critical spirit has always infused his research, spanning three prolonged fieldwork stints: folktales in Spain (Galicia 1973/1975), Mediterranean ethnography in Portugal (Trás-os-Montes 1976-78), and Portuguese Creole communities in Southeast Asia (Malaysia 1994-2009). Main publications include: Proprietários, Lavradores, e Jornaleiras: Desigualdade Social numa Aldeia Transmontana 1870-1978 Dom Quixote 1984 (Social Inequality in a Portuguese Hamlet Cambridge University Press 2009 online [1987]), Lugares de Aqui (org. com Joaquim Pais de Brito) Etnográfica Press 2020 online [1991], e Antropologia Social – Sociedades Complexas Universidade Aberta 2006.
Later work focused on biographical life-histories, and Eurásia as a category within the interdisciplinary area of ‘global history’. His recent work deconstructs the dubious notion that the bairro português in Malacca is indeed ‘Portuguese’ at all, but rather a phantasmagoric relic projected backwards in time during the final decades of the Estado Novo. Visitors may inhale some of the antique kitsch atmosphere that still pervades this Eurasian neighbourhood today, two decades after the lagging 1999 demise of the third Portuguese Empire.

Caianca preparations for the festa include the resident anthropologist, Denise, participating

Denise Lawrence-Zúñiga
Professora Emérita
Departamento de Arquitetura e Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies
California State Polytechnic University
Pomona, CA
Co-fundadora da rede Space and Place Network, AAA

Ph.D. (UC Riverside 1979), is trained as a sociocultural anthropologist whose teaching in architecture has focused on the study of humans and their relations with natural and built environments. Her research focuses on vernacular and contemporary architecture, historic preservation, and domestic resource consumption. She has conducted research in rural southern Portugal examining the mutually reinforcing relations people establish with their home environments and natural landscapes. Building a new house or remodeling an old one embodies the imaginary of a new identity and lifestyle. In the southern Californian communities of Pasadena, Alhambra, Monrovia, Ontario and Riverside she has similarly investigated residents’ design decisions in remodeling their older homes and how their choices become part of their identity construction. She publishes in anthropology, co-editing House Life: Space, Place and Family in Europe (Berg 1999) and The Anthropology of Space and Place (Blackwell 2003). She is also the author of Protecting Suburban America Gentrification, Advocacy and the Historic Imaginary (Bloomsbury 2016).

Reflections on South/North in Portugal

Brian O’Neill
and Denise Lawrence-Zúñiga


This duet proposes to orchestrate some musical reminiscences of the atmosphere and vicissitudes that characterized our anthropological fieldwork in the South and North of Portugal in the mid-1970s. Avoiding a globalistic ‘North/South’ approach following any imperialistic Reconquest downward direction, we start in the South and move North. Our symphonic reflections develop in four movements. The first tune asks: WHY PORTUGAL? Lusitanian landscapes at the time were profoundly mysterious, an incognito understudied by outsiders, with exceptions such as Callier-Boisvert, Riegelhaupt, and Willems. And – pardon the term – the country was exotic. Even the language seemed romantic. Whether based on latifúndia or minifúndia, the two geographic extremes of the country invited attention. A second tune plays to another beat: WHEN DID WE ARRIVE? The 1974 Carnation Revolution provided a yet more intense reason for our having chosen Portugal as a fieldwork site. How could one situate the April 25th schism within the youthful Anglo-American-French anthropology of the so-called ‘Mediterranean’? Had 1968 – with its student protests in Berkeley, Columbia, and Paris – not also influenced us? Denise in 1975, and Brian in 1976, with colleagues Jorge Gaspar and Benjamim Pereira, immersed themselves in maps. A second immersion then plunged them into the Alentejo and Trás-os-Montes. Our third tune plays a regional melody: SOUTH/NORTHInitial readings included Jorge Dias, Silva Picão, Veiga de Oliveira, and Cutileiro (whose 1971 monograph inspired both of us). Did we join the orchestra of folklore, material culture, festivals, and customs? Our ethnographies went elsewhere, including to the worlds of houses (Denise), bastards (Brian), and pig-slaughters (Denise and Brian). And also: we queried how the Revolution was so differentially affecting ‘our’ fieldwork sites. How to begin disentangling the differences between the South and the North of Portugal? A fourth and final tune: LATER RESEARCH AND EXPERIENCES. What melodies followed the fieldwork stints? How was Portugal incorporated within American anthropology? What, indeed, was ‘European Anthropology’ at all in the 1980s and 1990s? What links were forged with our later work, on Spain and California, as well as on Malacca and the Creole ruins of the third Portuguese Empire? Why was Portugal so receptive to our contributions, from the 1970s right up to today? Was Edward Bruner correct? Need we separate – in almost bipolar fashion – the anthropologist’s objective-cum-scientific leanings from her/his subjective-cum-experiential? We hope that similar reflexive thinking on further international connections is stimulated by these mellifluous allegretto tunes.

Figura 1 View of Seixas 19

Figura 3- Castle-and-Church-–-the-Classic-Profile-of-the-Alentejan-Town