Eyrún Eyþórsdóttir og Kristín Loftsdóttir: “We just want to know where we are from and who we are”. Icelandic immigrants in Brazil and their descendants
In 1863 and 1873, a group of 37 Icelanders emigrated and settled in the southern part of Brazil. Their intention was to establish an Icelandic colony similar to the German colonies which had become common in the south of Brazil. The Icelandic colony was, however, never established and Icelandic immigration to Brazil did not continue. Initially contact was held between the immigrants and their families back in Iceland, but was gradually lost. There seems to have been little contact between Brazilians of Icelandic origin with Iceland from the early 20th century until about 20 years ago and knowledge of Icelandic language and traditions is almost non-existent among the descendants today. In 1996 the Brazilian descendants started preparing for the foundation of the Iceland-Brazil Association which was formally founded in 1999. The purpose of the association is to preserve Icelandic culture and strengthen friendship, cooperation and goodwill between Brazil and Iceland. The aim of this paper is to examine this recent interest of the Icelandic descendants of their Icelandic origin and its contemporary significance. The paper explains briefly the history behind the emigration and the emerging interest of contemporary Brazilians to restore the link to their Icelandic origin. The article emphasizes how identity is shaped within an increasingly globalized world and engages with feminist theories of intersectionality and their emphasis on the importance of different aspects of identity such as class, racialization and ethnic origins.
The article underlines the need to consider the emphasis on Icelandic ethnicity in relation to racism and social class in Brazilian society and the meaning of Icelandic origin as associated with whiteness. Scholars have stressed the importance of a shared past in the creation of nations and ethnic groups and we use the concept “social memory” to draw attention to the interplay of past and present.
Data for the article is based on an ongoing Ph.D. research, including fieldwork in Brazil.
Keywords: Social Memory, whiteness, intersectionality, Brazil, Iceland