Invisible Cities: Natural and Social Space in Colonial Brazil

  • Ananya Chakravarti
Part of the The New Urban Atlantic book series (NUA)


This chapter argues that the Portuguese colonization of Brazil involved a rupture of the native Tupinambá’s system of spatial organization, whether considered as natural, social, or cosmological space. Three sets of texts produced at the very end of the sixteenth century are adduced here to reconstruct native “invisible cities” and the way they were recorded over by Portuguese imperial culture: geographical description, aldeia plays, and epic poetry by Gabriel Soares de Sousa (1540–1591), José de Anchieta (1534–1597), and Bento Teixeira (1561–1618), respectively. Another contemporary illustration of rupture in traditional relationships to space was the very different experience of Portuguese displacement after the loss of the crown to Spain, as obliquely or overtly represented in the same Atlantic texts. In offering this transatlantic analysis of invisible cities, the chapter interrogates our assumptions about the commensurability of urban sites in historical analysis.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ananya Chakravarti
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of HistoryGeorgetown UniversityWashington, D.CUSA

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