Academic Staff

Professor Matthias Röhrig Assunção

Staff positionProfessor
Telephone01206 872308
Office hoursTuesdays 17-18:00 Wednesday 11-12:00

I did a BA and MA in History at the Universities of Paris VIII (Vincennes) and Paris VII (Diderot), and specialized in Latin American Studies at the Institut des Hautes Études de l’Amérique Latine (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.

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 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). I serve on the editorial boards of the journals Bulletin of Latin American Research (since 2001) and Iberoamericana (since 2004).

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 - Capoera and Ancestry is an outcome of The Angolan Roots of Capoeira project. It can be purchased from the Department of History.

Passados Presentes

The project Pasts Presents – Memories of Slavery in Brazil is based at the Laboratory of Oral History and Images at the Fluminense Federal University (LABHOI/UFF). The aim of the project is to build, in partnership with local maroon communities, permanent exhibits in the Quilombo of Bracuí, the Quilombo of São José da Serra, and the town of Pinheiral. The tourist signs and the open-air memorials seek to honour the victims of the tragedy of enslavement and to celebrate the black cultural heritage created by the survivors on Brazilian lands. The project also mapped “Little Africa” in the port region of the city of Rio de Janeiro, around the Valongo Wharf, which was the main port of entrance for slavery in the Americas and is currently a candidate for being named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. These itineraries are accessible on the mobile app Passados Presentes (downloadable on any Android phone) and on the website  (Search for ‘capoeira’ and you will be able to see the historical sites of nineteenth-century capoeira). I am working on the memory of capoeira in Rio de Janeiro and other associated practices, such as the 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 research has resulted in a documentary film I directed with Profesoor Hebe Mattos and the LABHOI team, 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
  • Carolina de Souza Martins - Bumba-meu-boi as a channel of political expression in São Luis, Maranhão (Brazil), 1870-1940 (Joint supervision with Professor Martha Abreu, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niteroi, Brazil)

Previous supervision topics include:

  • Atlantic Carnivals. Port of Spain and Rio de Janeiro, 1870s-1920s - Eric Brasil Nepomuceno (Joint supervision with Professor Martha Abreu, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Niteroi, Brazil)
  • The transnationalization of capoeira in France and the UK - Daniel Granada Ferreira (Joint supervision with Stefania Capone, Directrice de Recherche CNRS, Department of Ethnology & Comparative Sociology, University of Paris X-Nanterre )
  • The Portuguese Discourse on Race during the Transatlantic Slave Trade between the 15th and 19th Centuries - Franka Welz (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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