Journal of Applied Missiology, Volume 6, Number 1



Michael Landon

Michael Landon, a former missionary to Brazil, is currently finishing his dissertation for a PhD in intercultural studies at Trinity Evangelical Seminary. The following are taken from his Annotated Bibliography on Brazil for Experienced Missionaries, Revised Edition, 1994. The following citations have applications to more than just Brazil.


NIDA, Eugene A.
1974 Understanding Latin Americans. South Pasadena, Cali- fornia: William Carey Library.

This book deserves special mention. Although it focuses on Spanish speaking countries and is dated, it made so many things clearer for me! The best part is the first half, where Nida explains three important contrasts in Latin American life. He explains that Latin Americans are both authoritarian and individualist, idealistic and realistic, and machistic and hebrimistic (woman-centered). It is this tension between these two poles that confuses us North Americans because we expect one type of behavior, not both. If you read, or reread, only one thing from this bibliography, I recommend this book.


Peasant Worldview

FOSTER, George M.
1965 "Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good," American Anthropologist, 67:293-315.

Urban Brazilians believe in the limited good, that is the increase in the wealth of one person is directly related to the decrease in wealh of another person. There is a limited amount of wealth in the world. This is a foundational article on this concept.

The Flaw of the Excluded Middle

1982 "The Flaw Of the Excluded Middle," Missiology, 10:35-47.

A simple article explaining that Westerners assume a difference between natural and supernatural which many other cultures do not. If western missionaries do not teach about relationships between earth and spirits, many will fill in this unnatural void with folk religion or magic. Hiebert calls for a missionary encounter with the other culture on three levels: truth (ultimate), power (human experience) and empiricism (natural truth).

MYERS, Brent
1990 "The Sacrament of Well Digging," MARC Newsletter, numbers 90-3 (June):3-4.

1991 "The Hidden Middle," MARC Newsletter, numbers 91-2 (June):3-4.

These short articles are based on Hiebert's, but explain the results of using western science (for example geological surveys looking for water) in cultures with magical worldviews. Often, Christian development teams contribute to magical perceptions of reality by using modern science. Myers recommends making well digging a part of a covenant between religious people, so that when the work is successful, God can be glorified.


WONDERLY, William L. and NIDA, Eugene
1963 "Cultural Differences and the Communication of Christian Values," Practical Anthropology, 10:241-258.

This article explained group vs. self orientation. The two authors distinguished between group/individual orientation and self/ other orientation. The key difference, according to the authors, is that although Latin Americans are group-oriented, their point of reference is self, not other. They give an example of a Mexican's rights being put in question. While a North American is likely to go from the general to the specific (all men are created equal, therefore I can do this), the Latin will likely begin with self (I am a man and can do what I please); his own rights are primary, and it is others' rights which are derived.


Dependent relationships are a well-known characteristic of Latin American society, and probably a personal frustration to most North American missionaries. The difficulties are the probability that many of the people in the church will want to establish these relationships with us and how to deal with the authoritarian, paternalistic leadership patterns of a "patrao" in the church.

1980 "Patron-Client Relations as a Model of Structuring Social Exchange," Comparative Studies in Society and History, 22:42-77.

This is an important source, but of special notice is that in some societies, patron-client relationships become the central aspect of institutional and structural organization.

LOMNITZ, Larissa
1971 "Reciprocity of Favors in the Urban Middle Class of Chile" in Studies in Economic Anthropology, number 7, edited by George Dalton. Washington, D.C.: American Anthropological Association, 93-106.

Lomnitz explains the concepts and practical manifestations of friendship in Latin America She lists the types of services performed in the compradrazgo system, rules of reciprocity and their relationship to the degrees of social distance (called confianza).


LEEDS, Anthony
1964 "Brazilian Careers and Social Structure," American Anthropologist, 66: 1321-1347.

One of the best parts of Leeds' article is Teixeira's figure of Brazilian power structure. The society is divided between the classes and the masses, with a very small cupula on top. The classes are largely comprised of interest groups (i.e., railroad workers, bank workers, government employees, dock workers) striving for influence on and favors from the cupula. All one has to do is read the paper or listen to the news to hear these interest groups mentioned repeatedly. The figure is somewhat dated, and I would add multi-national corporations as an outside force acting on the cupula much as the Catholic church does in his diagram. Among these interest groups, networking is important -- within each (ingrejinhas) and group to group (panelinhas).


There seem to be four explanations for poverty which appear repeatedly in the literature on poverty. Here are the main sources for those four categories. There is considerable overlap since each group would admit the existence of the other reasons, but deny their primacy in causing poverty.

The Culture of Poverty Literature

The first is the "culture of poverty" initially developed by Oscar Lewis. He has several published works on the topic, as have numerous government officials and educators who have adopted this view. Some of the principal criticisms have been registered in volumes by Eleanor Leacock and Charles Valentine.

LEWIS, Oscar
1968 A Study of Slum Culture. New York: Random House.

LEEDS, Anthony
1971 "The Concept of 'Culture of Poverty': Conceptual, Logical and Empirical Problems, with Perspectives from Brazil and Peru," in The Culture of Poverty: A Critique. Edited by Eleanor Leacock. New York: Simon and Schuster, 226-284.

1968 Culture and Poverty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Ethos Literature

Similar to the culture of poverty explanation is one called the ethos explanation. The difference is that while the culture of poverty deals with the individual's worldview and material world, the ethos category deals with structural expectations (i.e., expectation of fair play, educational system, match of skills and job) of the society.

HARRISON, Lawrence E.
1985 Underdevelopment is a State of Mind. Lanham, Maryland: The Center for International Affairs, Harvard University and University Press of America.

Personal Irresponsibility

This view is probably typical of many North American Christians.

COLEMAN, Richard P. and Lee Rainwater
1978 Social Standing in America. New York: Basic Books Inc. Publishers.

SOROKIN, Pitirim A.
1927 Social and Cultural Mobility. London: Free Press.

Structural Sin

The term originates with Liberation Theologians. The most useful seem to be Clodovis Boff and Manuel Alcala. Boff clarifies that "social sin would be therefore, a human evil which acquires an existence exterior to the conscience of individuals and forces itself on the conscience" (1977: 693).

ALCALA, Manuel
1985 "Pecado Social Y Pecado Estructural," Razon Y Fe, 112: 125-143.

BOFF, Clodovis
1977 "O Pecado Social," Revista Ecclesiastica Brasileira, 37: 675-701.


LOEWEN, Jacob A.
1986 "Missionaries: Drivers or Spare Tires?" International Review of Missions, 75: 253-260.

Loewen, a former translation consultant with the United Bible Society, discusses the difference between the expectations of the sending church and those of the people to whom he or she goes. He notes that the latter may significantly change the missionary's views: "If you come home totally intact and can fit into the home community without any strain, you probably learned very little worthwhile ... when we return to our home community for good, we suddenly realize how poorly we fit into the home church setting. There seemed to be almost no relationship between our concerns and those of the home church that had originally sent us." (page 259).

1987 "Encounter With Other Cultures," Ethos, 15: 58-81.

For this author, culture shock is a sign of emotional engagement in the culture and necessary for a true learning process of the new culture. His thesis is that the learning of a culture is through resocialization and transference (the interpreting of present relationships with the emotions of an old or fanaticized relationships). More specifically, learning a culture is like becoming a child again, and often prompts the emotions and crisis (and dreams) we suffered as children (powerless, not understanding, etc.). But then as the foreigner/child learns the societies way of life, he becomes an adult (closer to an emic understanding of the culture).

DEVITA, Philip R., ed.
1992 The Naked Anthropologist. Belmont, California: Wadsworth Publishing.

This is a collection of interesting and often humorous reflections of anthropologists about times they failed or embarrassed themselves. It makes fieldwork much more real and less intimidating, and indicates that anthropologists seem to do no better than missionaries when it comes to making fools of themselves.


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