Boaventura de Sousa Santos

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Boaventura de Sousa Santos

Boaventura de Sousa Santos (Epistemologias do Sul - fronteiras, zonas fronteiriças e plurinacionalidades), cropped.png
Boaventura de Sousa Santos in 2019
Alma materUniversity of Coimbra
AwardsPremio México de Ciencia y Tecnología (2010)

Boaventura de Sousa Santos GOSE (born November 15, 1940 in Coimbra, Portugal) is a Professor emeritus at the School of Economics at the University of Coimbra, Distinguished Legal Scholar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Law School, Global Legal Scholar at the University of Warwick and Director of the Centre for Social Studies (CES) at the University of Coimbra.

Personal life[edit]

Boaventura de Sousa Santos was born on November 15, 1940 in Coimbra, Portugal. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Coimbra in 1963 and a post-graduate diploma in jurisprudence in West Berlin. He went on to pursue a doctorate on the sociology of law at Yale University at the end of the 1960s. While earning his PhD at Yale he was exposed to the political ideologies in the United States of America. In the midst of the Civil Rights Movement, the radicalization of African Americans in the Black Power movement, resistance to the Vietnam War, and the first student strike at Yale, de Sousa Santos became a Marxist. He took classes with John Niemeyer Findlay and participated in study groups that met to read and discuss Das Kapital.


De Sousa Santos lived in West Berlin for a few years and then returned to his hometown of Coimbra, where he briefly worked as a lecturer in the Faculty of Law. In 1973, he became one of the founders of the School of Economics at the University of Coimbra, where he opened a Sociology course. In the mid 1980s, he began to structurally adopt the role of a researcher whose understanding of the world extended beyond a Western perspective. He has been involved in research in Brazil, Cabo Verde, Macau, Mozambique, South Africa, Colombia, Bolivia, Ecuador and India. He has traveled widely, giving classes and lectures while also extending his range of experiences of learning in the process.

De Sousa Santos was one of the driving forces behind the World Social Forum, the spirit of which he considers essential to his studies of counter-hegemonic globalization and to promoting the struggle for global cognitive justice, an underlying concept of “Epistemologies of the South.”[1][2]

His most recent project - ALICE: Leading Europe to a New Way of Sharing the World Experiences - is funded by an Advanced Grant of the European Research Council (ERC), one of the most prestigious and highly competitive international financial institutes for scientific excellence in Europe. The project was initiated in July 2011 and enabled him to gather a team of young researchers from various different countries and academic backgrounds who are committed to collectively developing the lines of research that have emerged from the epistemological, theoretical-analytical and methodological premises of the work he has consolidated over many years. The main idea underlying ALICE is to create a decentered conception of the anti-imperial South, in which Africa and Asia also find their place in a broader and more liberating conversation of humankind.[3] A premise of ALICE is to bring to light the notion that the “Eurocentric world has not much to teach the wider world anymore and is almost incapable of learning from the experience of such a wider world, given the colonialist arrogance that still survives.”

We have the right to be equal whenever difference diminishes us; we have the right to be different whenever equality decharacterizes us.

Boaventura de Sousa Santos (2001), [4]


De Sousa Santos has been engaged in a process of re-discovering Marxism. While acknowledging the limits of Marxism, Santos has more recently described Marxism as an “ongoing discovery.”[citation needed] During his studies in West Berlin, he was immersed in a university community that aspired to democratic values, while living in the context of the Cold War. This also allowed him to experience the stark contrast between the communist influence in East Germany and the liberal democratic ideology in West Germany.[3]

In 1970 de Sousa Santos travelled to Brazil in order to do field research for his doctoral dissertation. His work was focused on the social organization of the construction of parallel legality in illegal communities, the favelas or squatter settlements.[3]

In the mid 1980s, he began to structurally adopt the role of a researcher whose understanding of the world extended beyond a Western perspective. His fieldwork was based on participant observation, lasting several months, in a Rio de Janeiro slum where he experienced the struggle of the excluded populations against oppression first hand. There, he learned from the wisdom of men and women struggling for subsistence and for recognition of their dignity. De Sousa Santos believes in the importance of the social scientist striving for objectivity, not neutrality.[5]

Selected works[edit]

His PhD thesis has not only been considered a landmark in the Sociology of Law, but has greatly impacted his life. He has published widely on globalization, sociology of law and the state, epistemology, democracy and human rights, and his works have been published in Portuguese, Spanish, English, Italian, French, German and Mandarin.

Among his most recent and relevant publications are:

  • Toward a New Common Sense: Law, Science and Politics in the Paradigmatic Transition (Routledge, 1995)
  • Toward a New Legal Common Sense. Law, globalization, and emancipation (Butterworths, 2002)
  • The Rise of the Global Left. The World Social Forum and Beyond (Zed Books, 2006)
  • Epistemologies of the South. Justice against Epistemicide (Paradigm Publishers, 2014)
  • O Direito dos Oprimidos (Editora Almedina/Editora Cortez, 2014)
  • A Justiça Popular em Cabo Verde (Editora Almedina/Editora Cortez, 2015)
  • Revueltas de Indignación y Otras Conversas (La Paz, 2015)
  • If God Were a Human Rights Activist (Stanford University Press, 2015)
  • The End of the Cognitive Empire (Duke University Press, 2018)


National orders[edit]


  1. ^ de Sousa Santos, Boaventura (2006). The Rise of the Global Left: The World Social Forum and Beyond. London, United Kingdom: Zed Books. ISBN 1842778013.
  2. ^ de Sousa Santos, Boaventura (2004). "The World Social Forum: A User's Manual" (PDF).
  3. ^ a b c de Sousa Santos, Boaventura (2013). "Reflections". Development and Change (Interview). Interviewed by Aram Ziai. Kassel, Amsterdam: Institute of Social Studies: The Hague.
  4. ^ Boaventura de Sousa Santos. Nuestra America. Theory, Culture & Society, 18 (2-3), p. 193. doi:10.1177/02632760122051706
  5. ^ Correa, Rafael (2012). Latin American Critical Thought: Theory and Practice. Buenos Aires, Argentina: Consejo Latinoamericano de Ciencias Sociales. p. 213. ISBN 978-987-1891-05-4.
  6. ^ "Cidadãos Nacionais Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 11 August 2021.