Metabasis N. 32
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Imaginarios y símbolos de la muerte


William Mauro Pinheiro Koury, Lifestyles and individuality: fundamentals, concepts and methods

Fábio Lopes Alves and Eduardo Portanova Barros

Subtitled “Writings of anthropology and sociology of emotions”[1], the book “Lifestyles and Individuality” (2014), of the anthropologist William Mauro Pinheiro Koury, has the potential to unite, paradoxically, two alluring features: density and lightness. It is a dense work, considering the manner in which the author discusses and deepens the theoretical debate on the fundamentals, concepts and methods of themes that converge to the lifestyles and individuality, from the sociology and anthropology of emotions.

At the same time, the lightness that we find in the writings of authors such as Zygmunt Bauman, Mia Couto, among others, manifests in the 16 chapters of the book in so far as the author, with complete mastery, presents sixteen well-written dialogues, and where, from the emotions issues, articulates many classics of sociology and anthropology. The graphic quality, aesthetics and interior design of the cover of the book is another aspect that deserves mention. After all, these elements are left behind in some academic books, but in the case of “Lifestyles and Individuality”, it was carefully prepared, aiming to captivate the reader both by content and by design. The book expresses both the trajectory of the author's research, as the discussions held within the Research Group in Anthropology and Sociology of Emotions (GREM), in the last 20 years. Aiming to lead the reader to the book by Mauro Koury[2], we discourse about some of the topics discussed throughout the book, highlighting the main areas and readers who may be interested in this issue.

Considering how Koury analyses the social, we can consider him as a true heir of the German sociologist Georg Simmel. After returning from the Glasgow University, Scotland, he joined as a professor at the Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil. Koury is like those intellectuals in which the reader knows, in advance, where to find it. It is easy to find him at the meetings of the Brazilian Association of Anthropology, Brazilian Association of Social Sciences, Anthropology Meeting of Mercosul, the Latin American Sociological Association, plus other events, of which he is a regular. Not coincidentally, the author is the founder and editor of the main scientific journal of the area, the Brazilian Journal of Sociology of Emotions (RBSE)[3], and also the pioneer in Brazil, of what we know about sociology and anthropology of emotions. Koury is who undertook to introduce in Brazilian universities a significant part of the classics that we read, in Portuguese, as he translated and published in RBSE texts from authors such as Marcel Mauss, Georg Simmel, Robert Park, Maurice Halbwachs and Eric Hobsbawm that, for lack of translation, were unknown to Brazilians.

Lifestyles and individuality is internally divided into chapters. However, after reading, the reader learns that the author chose to discuss the issue of emerging manners and styles of life and individualities from six central themes, namely: friendship, fear, gender, love, aging and longing. It is noteworthy that all these issues are not discussed by itself. Before, they are problematized through the relationship between emotions, culture and society, in other words, in its dense network of meanings.

As the author says, the book began to take shape when, in an interview, he was asked why he had not organized a set of texts that express the theoretical and methodological way developed by him. Thus, the book consists of texts (articles and essays) and also a selection of interviews by the author to various magazines, such as Trip, Sorria, Zero Hora Newspaper, Folha de São Paulo etc. It is noteworthy that the texts gathered here have been consistently used by teachers of social sciences, in the training of Brazilian scientists, both in undergraduate and in graduate school, because the work of Koury, such as the collection O que ler na ciência social brasileira (What to read on Brazilian social science), released by National Association of Graduate Studies and Research in Social Sciences (ANPOCS), answers the following question: what to read about sociology and anthropology of emotions?

At the beginning of the reading we find some of the common questions about what it is, after all, sociology or anthropology of emotions, and how it came to appear. There are clarified also some questions such as what are the themes and authors founders of sociology and anthropology of emotions. The analytical perspective adopted does not despise the relationship between subjective culture and objective culture in the composition of individuality. Supported on the extensive research undertaken by the author, the book has the potential to bring together the analysis that can afford to explain how the several changes in the behavior of the Brazilians has been happening, as well as to draw a profile of the current urban Brazil having the relations emotions and sociability as the center of the analysis. The reader cannot fail to check out this book, if he has the curiosity to understand the transformations experienced by Brazilians nowadays, especially the Brazilian capitals, as well as aspects of socioeconomic and Brazilian politics from a perspective of emotional culture.

Problematizing the issue of friendship, the book provides a broad overview of this concept. To achieve this goal, the friendship is the central theme of the five chapters of the book, in which we have: friendship and modernity, friendship in adulthood, friendship and sociability, friendship and difficulty and the meaning of being a friend. The potential of these five chapters is to provide answers about how the sociology and anthropology of emotions theoretically analyzes the issue of friendship, both in the Western world as the Brazilian reality. In this regard, it is striking how the author brings these issues. While Koury shows the contributions of Hannah Arendt, Norbert Elias, Richard Sennet, for example, already in the sequence, he used the Vox Populi survey data and national songs to analyze the Brazilian issue, without losing sight of the discussion of depression as a disease of the twenty-first century and the importance of a friendship in the third age. With that, the book becomes an important reference about how to work methodologically topics of research in Social Sciences from a variety of sources.

The theme of fear, get three chapters. The discussions revolve around the youth in contemporaneity, violence and sociability. In this context, by means of the notion "culture of fear", the author demonstrates how the fear "builds an invisible barrier that separates and isolates people and makes them fear everyone and everything, leaving the trust in the other" (Koury, 2014, p . 102). Throughout the text there are illustrations in detail of the results of the culture of fear among families and young Brazilians.

Regarding gender, the chapter "Ambiguity and ambivalence in the construction of male”[4] presents the results of a survey that examined how to produce the male gender as a hegemonic subject within a heterosexual discourse. Through a narrative of a respondent, the chapter reveals the experience of becoming a man, the conflict to the processes of formation of masculine identity in a patriarchal society, in which

organize items seized during its formative process as a person and as an individual in a violent family logic, an immense and concomitant loneliness to the three parts of the relationship (father, mother and son), and he (Arnaudt) based its structural basis where he has been shaping his personality as a human person, and here, especially, man. (Koury, 2014, p. 195).

The book also includes a discussion of the aging process. From an ethnography of aging, Koury is based on 15 interviews conducted in several Brazilian capitals. Through the imaginary of men and women respondents, he reveals how the search for a new personal and social adjustment in aging is pervaded by fears and discomforts. It is a text that shows how culture shapes and gives meaning to aging in contemporary society.

Dealing with “emotion” is not always easy. Emotion is an epiphany. Emotion is inexplicable. Emotion does not fit the concept. Emotion carries this ambivalence between subjectivity and objectivity. Our values are emotional. Our existence is emotional. This book, therefore, has a great merit: treat the emotion as ambivalence, not as a logical functional reason. The author has an even greater chance of reasoning when dealing with this matter, in the sociological marginal land, not to mention other areas of knowledge. All the reflection line of a Bachelard, for example, touching it. The risk that one has to talk about emotion is forget this profusion of concepts that seem to justify the scientific article (even this term – scientific - would be questionable). Writing about emotion reveals a tragic nature. If we claim to know it, the meaning of emotion, we know it even less. However, we must say it, we must affirm it because we do not interact in a vacuum. The tragedy is a satisfying despair.

Finally, the love and the longing does not go blank in the book. These thematic own chapters for themselves, as the issue of courage and the habitus mood. We have, therefore, a book that provides an important analytical and methodological approach to understanding the formation of individuality in contemporary society, which can not be missing in the library of students, teachers, journalists and others interested in understanding aspects of Western and Brazilian culture.


Bachelard, Gaston. A poética do espaço. São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1993.

Koury, Mauro Guilherme Pinheiro. O Universo das imagens. Revista Educere et Educare. v. 09, n. 17, 2014a.

Koury, Mauro Guilherme Pinheiro. Estilos de vida e individualidade: escritos em antropologia e sociologia das emoções. Curitiba: Appris, 2014b.

Koury, Mauro Guilherme Pinheiro. Introdução à sociologia da emoção. João Pessoa: Manufatura/GREM, 2004.


[1] Free translation of the subtitle: “Escritos de antropologia e sociologia das emoções” of a brazilian anthropologist’s book “Estilos de vida e individualidade”, Mauro Guilherme Pinheiro Koury, 2014.

[2] Briefly, the trajectory of Mauro Koury can be described in three stages. Initially, in the 1970s, he studied the rural social movements, whose field of study were the state of Pernambuco, when he develops the concept of poor common man to explain the formation of individual and social movements in Brazil. The discovery of the poor common man took him in the second phase, between 1980 and 1990 to analyze the Brazilian urban workers from the idea of class formation and poverty in Brazil. From the 1990s  he stands as one of the main Brazilian theorists to problematize the issue of individuality, bereavement, social suffering and fear. In general, these issues have been addressed by the author from the perspective of anthropology of emotions and anthropology of images, where Koury is also, due to its extensive academic output, a recognized figure. Currently, the author coordinates the Group for Interdisciplinary Studies in Image (GREI) and the Research Group in Anthropology and Sociologies of Emotions (GREM), both from the Federal University of Paraíba, Brazil.

[3] Born in the year 2002, it is a publication of the Research Group in Sociology and Anthropology of Emotions (GREM) in the Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil (UFPB).

[4] Free translation of the chapter “Ambiguidade e ambivalência na construção de gênero masculino” of Koury, 2014.


Metabasis N. 32
edición digital

peer review

Cada ensayo de la revista es examinado por dos referees anónimos cuiyas observaciónes seran enviadas a l’autor.

Ficha de evaluación

Criterios editoriales