BLEND <br>Desire, Miscegenation and Violence: the now and then of the Portuguese Colonial War

Desire, Miscegenation and Violence: the now and then of the Portuguese Colonial War

June 1, 2016 to December 31, 2019
43 months

This project will analyze the legacies of the sexual and amorous relationships developed during the Colonial War (CW / 1961­1974) between Portuguese soldiers and African women in the various war theatres. To that end, we will follow 3 research axes in which the connection between war and miscegenation significantly emerges. In the 1st we will analyze the memories and stories of Portuguese former combatants, who, after decades of being silenced and trauma, are slowly starting to report the personal experiences that they brought from the war. In the 2nd one, we will focus our research on the African women who got sexually or romantically involved with the Portuguese soldiers; we will analyze how the wounds from the violence of war remain in their memories, what they remember about sexual violence, the violence of love and the deep stigma they were subjected to, following the African independencies. In the 3rd axis, we will collect the life stories of many of the soldiers' children who stayed behind in Africa with their mothers, with unknown or distant fathers, and who are identified as of mixed race.


CW has been wrapped in a thick mantle of silences. We propose to broaden the CW debate into an unexplored area in order to achieve two main goals. Firstly, we wish to show the biographical lasting impact of the CW, not only amongst the former combatants but also amongst the civilian African population, in particular amongst the women and their ‘mixed­race’ descendants. Secondly, we intend to place the miscegenation phenomenon and the figure of the ‘mulatto’ within the imperial context, specifically within the narrative of the Portuguese colonialism.

The issue of ‘mixed­race’ ­ mainly between colonizers and colonized women in a patriarchal­racialist context ­ emerged at various moments as a relevant political issue in legitimizing the modern colonial enterprise. Initially, and roughly until the 1940s, the Portuguese settlers in the African colonies were trying to free themselves from the stigma of ‘cafrealization’/acculturation: the assimilation of mores and practices of local peoples and the establishment of erotic and family relationships with African women. In the 1950s, as a form of facing the growing international contestation against the colonial regimes, the ideology of the regime adopted Gilberto Freyre's theories about lusotropicalism. The lusotropicalist ideology defended Portugal's tropical vocation, characterized by a unique predisposition to have multicultural and interracial societies. Nevertheless, the increasingly less recurrent mixed relationships in the Portuguese colonial space never ceased to be subjected to social disqualification, secrecy, sexual violence or the spectrum of prostitution.
With the eruption of the Colonial War/Liberation War at the beginning of the 1960s, a new and unique context emerged, which is the one we propose to analyze. The mobilization from the metropolis of nearly one million soldiers, who stayed 2­3 years at the war fronts, brought about an important phenomenon of sexual and amorous relationships between the colonial soldiers and the black/African women. For the good of the soldiers' morals, these relationships, which ranged from spontaneous to ‘institutionalized’ as part of the war's clandestine logistics, were circumscribed in time to the rhythms of service deployments and the mobilization to the war fronts.

The team (with a RA) will carry out two stages of fieldwork (FW): one in Portugal (FWI) and another one in Angola e Mozambique (FWII). Feasibility criteria, as well as the existence of a previous research [12] explains the exclusion of Guinea Bissau. The primary methodologies used will be life stories and semi­structured interviews, in strict connection with the already mapped out relevant institutional archive analysis. The interviewees at the various areas will initially be selected from the contacts signaled by the team, from previous research projects. From there, a snow ball sampling technique will be applied. We envisage a total of 70 interviews to be carried out: 20 with former combatants in Portugal and, in Angola and Mozambique, 15 interviews with women and 10 with former combatants' children (to a total of 50). Apart from extensive research on the Colonial War/Liberation War and the marks left on the societies that emerged from it, this project's research team also has significant knowledge within the different areas where the empirical work will take place.

This work is funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the COMPETE 2020 - Operational Programme for Competitiveness and Internationalisation (POCI), and by Portuguese funds through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, within the scope of BLEND project, ref.ª PTDC/IVC-ANT/6100/2014 - POCI-01-0145-FEDER-016859.

Funding: 136.932€

FEDER funding: 116.392,20€

Portuguese funds: 20.539,80€

Total eligible cost: 132.748,54 €


The project will aim at valuing the biographical and human impact of the CW which goes far beyond the interveners and the stories usually considered within the studies of this conflict. From the innovative approach used, the results of this project constitute added value in broadening the understanding of Portuguese colonialism, of miscegenation in a colonial context and of the nexus between war and the social memory of the populations, which are enduringly marked by its impact.

colonialism and postcolonialism, race and miscegenation, social memory, gender/generations/portuguese colonial war
Funding Entity
FEDER - Fundo Europeu de Desenvolvimento Regional funds through the COMPETE 2020 - Operacional Programme for Competitiveness and Internationalisation (POCI), and by Portuguese funds through FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia