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Professor Matthias Röhrig Assunção

Position in departmentEmployability Development Director
Staff positionProfessor
Telephone01206 872308
Office hoursMondays 17-18:00; Tuesdays 16-17:00

I studied History (BA, MA) at the University of Paris VIII (Vincennes) and Paris VII (Diderot), and specialized in Latin American Studies at the Institut des Hautes Études de l’Amérique Latine at Paris III (Sorbonne Nouvelle). After some years spent carrying out field research in Brazil I completed my PhD at the Freie Universität (FU) in Berlin; the thesis was awarded the Ernst-Reuter-Prize (1991).

From 1985 to 1992 I taught History at the Latin American Institute of the FU Berlin, before coming to Essex in 1993. I have been a visiting lecturer or research fellow in Costa Rica, Venezuela and at various Brazilian universities (UFMA, USP, UFRJ & UFF). Since 2007 I am an associate researcher of the Laboratory of Oral History and Image (LABHOI) and the Research Centre for Cultural History (NUPEHC), both located at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro state in Niteroí (UFF).

Currently I serve on the editorial boards of the journals Bulletin of Latin American Research (since 2001) and Iberoamericana (since 2004). I am also a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Current research

Following my work on the history of capoeira I’m trying to understand the development of combat games in the ‘Black Atlantic’ and how it relates to the construction of masculinity in popular culture. I’m currently working on two projects:

The Angolan Roots of Capoeira

The DVD of the documentary film Body Games - Capoeria and Ancestry is an outcome of The Angolan Roots of Capoeira project.
It can then be purchased from the Department of History through Belinda Waterman.

Jogo do pau

The practice of ‘playing stick’ (jogo do pau) and poetic challenges in the black communities living on the land of the former coffee plantations in the Paraíba Valley.

This project was funded by Petrobrás through the Programme Capoeira Viva and has resulted in a documentary film I directed with Profesoor Hebe Mattos and a team linked to the Laboratory of Oral History and Image (LABHOI) at the Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) in Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, in 2009.

Watch the film Verses and cudgels online:

Research interests

History of slavery and post-emancipation societies
Agrarian and peasant history
Political history of Nineteenth and twentieth century Brazil
Latin American popular culture
Capoeira - combat games and martial arts in the 'Black Atlantic'

Teaching responsibilities

Undergraduate modules

Postgraduate modules

Please note: not all courses run every academic year.

PublicationsLink to publications for Matthias Röhrig Assunção
Study areas

Graduate supervision areas

I’d like to supervise postgraduate research in any of the following areas:

  • History of slavery and post-emancipation societies
  • Social history of Brazil, Venezuela and the Caribbean
  • Political history of nineteenth and twentieth century Latin America
  • Latin American popular culture & cultural history
  • History of capoeira, and combat games and martial arts in the Atlantic world

Current research students

  • Ben Fuggle - Disputed Frontiers. Entangled territories between Spanish and British rule in colonial Central America
  • Eric Brasil Nepomuceno
  • Kayleigh Page - A study of the experience of women as the owners, users and often abusers of slaves in the Caribbean, c.1700-1825
  • Michael Garland - The English Morris Traditions

Previous supervision topics include:

  • Daniel Granada Ferreira - The transnationalization of capoeira in France and the UK. (Joint supervision with Stefania Capone, Directrice de Recherche CNRS, Department of Ethnology & Comparative Sociology, University of Paris X-Nanterre )
  • Franka Welz - The Portuguese Discourse on Race during the Transatlantic Slave Trade between the 15th and 19th Centuries. (Joint supervision with Professor Robin Blackburn, Department of Sociology)
  • Official propaganda during the military regime, Brazil, 1968-1979 - Nina Schneider, University of Konstanz
  • Slave Resistance on Cuban Plantations - Manuel Barcia, University of Leeds

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