Carnivals, Rogues, and Heroes

An Interpretation of the Brazilian Dilemma

Roberto DaMatta
Translated by John Drury

From the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies

Encompassing half the continent of South America, Brazil is one of the most modern, complex, and misunderstood nations. Renowned Brazilian anthropologist Roberto DaMatta takes the misconceptions and offers a fresh, provocative interpretation of the complexity of social structure in Brazil.

Using the tools of comparative social anthropology, DaMatta seeks to understand his native country by examining the values, attitudes, and systems that shape the identity of Brazil and its people. He probes the dilemma between the highly authoritarian, hierarchal aspects of Brazilain society and the concurrent desire for equality, democracy, and harmony in that same society.

DaMatta leads us on a fascinating exploration into the the world of Brazilian carnivals, rogues, and heroes, and in so doing uncovers a deeper meaning of the rituals, symbols, and dramatizations unique to Brazil and its multifaceted society.

Robert DaMatta is The Reverend Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C. Professor of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame and Senior Fellow at The Kellogg Institute at Notre Dame. He has published several books, including A Divied World: Apinaye Social Structure.


“Using the theoretical tools of structural anthropology, DaMatta reaches beyond conventional academic anthropology to create an original blend of folklore and a kind of higher cultural journalism. The result is like a traveler’s account of the metaphorical landscape of the world of his own culture.” —Terrence Turner, University of Chicago

” ... interdisciplinary in the best sense: weaving ritual life, politics, social hierarchy, folklore, and literature into a complex tapestry which amounts to an ethnography of Brazil.” — Journal of Ritual Studies

“Anthropologists who work in Brazil have long recognized DaMatta’s provocative Carnavais, malandros e herois as a classic ethnography of Brazilian national culture. Its publication in English is a boon to those who study ritual and myth in urbanized, industrial societies and those who, against the postmodern grain, seek to describe national cultures.” — American Anthropologist