Morunguetá, a nation-formation discourse:
: charting Brazil’s genesis in the sixteenth century through Tupian language and Jesuit theology

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis (PhD)


Brazil’s colonial period in all its orgiastic ethnic diversity—the clumsiness of its colonial machinery, and the intense missionary enterprise of the Jesuits—still puzzles scholars. Historiography, however, tends to reduce the complexity of the context reading events through a colonial episteme that flattens experiences to make them fit into an inadequate theoretical framework that does not account for the peculiarities of the Brazilian society’s primordium. To propose a nation formation theory as a contribution to Brazilian historiography, this dissertation examines a few facets of Brazil’s early history, specifically the role of language and religion in sociogenesis. Nheengatu or Old Tupian, Brazil’s lingua geral for the first 250 years, was the original language of the coastal inhabitants, the Tupinambá, together with other Tupian groups. This indigenous language, adopted as the lingua geral, unified the diverse ethnic local groups and the newcomers generating Brazil’s first social institutions. The language filtered the influence of Jesuit theology on the formation of the Brazilian social imaginary. The early priests of the Society of Jesus developed a “deictic theological experiment” using a pronominal discourse that, instead of doctrinal, they pointed to the symbolic universe shared by the Indigenous groups. This experiment enabled the construction of a shared theological imaginary. Using a multidisciplinary approach grounded in the ideas of twentieth-century German philosopher Eric Voegelin, this thesis suggests that the Brazilian civilization emerged from multiple cultural perspectives as a non-European Christian social phenomenon that made bonding into a new form of the national “we” the nation’s hope for an unknown mythical future.
Date of Award4 Dec 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of St Andrews
SupervisorMario I Aguilar (Supervisor)


  • Colonial Brazil
  • Eric Voegelin
  • Tupi
  • Nheengatu
  • Nation formation
  • Jesuit history

Access Status

  • Full text embargoed until
  • 22 May 2027

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