patrice on Mon, 2 Jul 2001 19:04:26 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Milton Santos, 'Geography's Philosopher'

(From Le Monde, June 29, 2001)

Milton Santos
the 'geography's philosopher'.

Milton Santos, Brazilian geographer, emeritus professor of Sao Paolo
University, and prominent member of the black intelligentia in Brazil,
died from cancer in a Sao Paolo public hospital, Sunday June 24. In 1994,
he was the first non Anglo-saxon researcher to receive the Vautrin Lud
Prize, usually held by specialist to be the Geography's equivalent to the
Nobel prize.

Milton Santos was born the third of May, 1926, in Brotas de Macauba, a
little town in Bahia State, where his parents, descendents of slaves freed
after the 1888 decree of emancipation, were school teachers, a profession
unlikely to bring one any material wealth in yesterday or today's Brazil.  
Able to read and write when he was five, Milton Santos went then on as a
self-taught person till he was able to enroll as a boarder at the
education institute in Salvador de Bahia. After his secundary studies, he
envisaged a career in engineering, but had to renounce as racist prejudice
precluded him any hope of joining the Polytechnical College.

He then went for studies in law, in which he graduated in 1948 at the
Federal University in Bahia, and succesfully passed the competitive
examination to provide for a professorship in general education in Ilheus,
the capital town of the cocoa trade, then a booming business. His thesis
(The Population of Bahia), which he wrote in order to qualify for the post
of college professor, exposed his true calling, that of an explorer of
geography's human dimension. This led him to pusue his studies at
Strasbourg University in France, where he earned a docorate in Human
Geography in 1958.  The sociological analyses that went with his research
in Brazil made of him a staunch critic of the plight of those excluded by
Brazilian society, and at the same time an ardent defender of the cause of
nationalism in matters economic.

Milton Santos was arrested soon after the coming into power of the
military dictatorship in 1964, but was released after two month of
arbitrary detention due to a near heart-attack. Dismissed by the Education
ministry, he took the road of forced exile, that saw him as a consultant
with the International Labour Organisation, the Organisation of American
States, UNESCO, and also as an 'itinerant professor', at various posts in
France, United States, Canada, Peru, Venezuala, Great Britain, Nigeria and
Tanzania.  These travels inspired him to write many articles and essays,
as befit a very prolific authors, with more than two scores of books to
his name.

Member of the "Justice and Peace Commission" of Sao Paolo diocese since
1991, and of the National Council for Urban Development, Milton Santos was
also a very discreet 'fellow traveller' of the Workers Party, the
principal political formation on the Brazilian left.

At the dawn of his life, Milton Santos was very critical about the
unfolding globalisation. He branded it a 'perverse phenomenon' , that was
using a 'mendacious vocabulary', refering to 'the global village' and
'world citizens'.  For his collegue Asiz Ab'Saber, also emeritus professor
of Sao Paolo University, Milton Santos was "a philosopher of geography",
whose independent spirit was informed by "the same ideals that Jean-Paul
Sartre stood for" .

article by Jean-Jacques Sevilla
Q&D T by yrs truly,
Amsterdam, on the 'dag van de afschaffing van de slavernij in Suriname'.
(Day of the abolition of slavery in Surinam.)

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