Dissertation Abstracts

Memory and Social Consecration: The Strategies of "German" Business Elites in Southern Brazil

Author: Lucas Voigt, lucas_3106@hotmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Supervisor: Karl Martin Monsma
Year of completion: 2022
Language of dissertation: Portuguese

Keywords: Elites , Memory , Entrepreneurs , Germanness
Areas of Research: Historical and Comparative Sociology , Racism, Nationalism and Ethnic Relations , Migration


Based, above all, on theoretical-methodological contributions from the sociology of elites and sociological and historical studies on memory, this research analyzes the strategies of social consecration of "German" elite business families in southern Brazil, through the establishment of memory institutions. A historical and characteristic investment in memory by the elites may be verified. With regard to the German ethnic group in Brazil, a recent investment can be seen in the establishment of institutions dedicated to the memory and legacy of forefathers and founders of business groups by their inheritors. In this way, the research analyzes how the investment in the spheres of memory, history and culture, through the institutionalization of the trajectory and legacy of entrepreneurs working in the branches of commerce and industry, works as a strategy of consecration, legitimation, self-assertion, self-promotion and self-celebration of the business elites of German origin in the south of the country. In other words, the study analyzes the social uses of memory for the promotion of laudatory public representations of entrepreneurs with historical and identity ties with the German-Brazilian ethnic group. For the empirical analysis, three memory institutions are considered: the Carl Hoepcke Institute (Florianópolis, Santa Catarina), the Hering Museum (Blumenau, Santa Catarina) and the Richter’s Hof (Forquetinha, Rio Grande do Sul). In methodological terms, a wide and diversified set of techniques and research sources was mobilized, with emphasis on the ethnographic incursion into memory institutions, the description and analysis of the institutional expographic narrative, the interview and analysis of biographical and memoirist literature. It was possible to conclude that memory and its institutionalization configure effective strategies for the consecration of social agents, finding confirmation from authorized bodies and yielding symbolic and material dividends to their heirs. In addition, the study identified the differential meanings of historical legacy produced and disseminated by memory institutions, the modalities of employment of the German-Brazilian ethnicity – understood as investment and as a source of symbolic capital –, the influence of socio-spatial and urban contexts in memorialist narratives, as well as the actions of "German" business elites in historical memory and in public space, which aim to define representative images of place for the cities in which they are located.