Troping the “primitive” in Portuguese narratives of modernity and colonialism

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This chapter analyses the intricacies around the trope of the “primitive” in its uses in Portuguese modernity. It acknowledges that “civilisation” and “primitivism” worked as antithetical cornerstones in the narrative of modernity, and that in Portuguese art history, both concepts responded to the quest for the modern by emulating a central European model. It further analyses how the “primitive”, both as a source of an unprecedented vocabulary and an imaginary for modernity, as well as a creator of several forms of otherness, was part of the narrative of Portuguese colonialism, helping to present it as a modern enterprise, but also played a part in anti-colonialist positions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Primitivist Imaginary in Iberian and Transatlantic Modernisms
EditorsJoana Cunha Leal, Mariana Pinto dos Santos
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherRoutledge | Taylor & Francis Group
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)9781003355519
Publication statusPublished - 7 Dec 2023


  • Primitivism
  • Colonialism
  • Modernism
  • Museum
  • Portuguese art history
  • Anti-colonialism


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