LTAM 140 – Topic in Culture and Politics: Being Brazilian: Race, Cannibalization and Animality in Brazilian Cultural Discourse

Posted in Anthropology, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Course Offerings, Media Archive, United States on 2013-01-17 23:18Z by Steven

LTAM 140 – Topic in Culture and Politics: Being Brazilian: Race, Cannibalization and Animality in Brazilian Cultural Discourse

University of California, San Diego
Winter 2010

Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Luso-Brazilian Studies

This course provides an introduction to Brazilian culture through essays, poetry, fiction, music and films that consider the meaning of “being Brazilian” (brasilidade). Our focus will be on texts that construct Brazil as a mixed-race (mestiço) nation. As the two largest post-slavery countries in the Americas, Brazil and the U.S. have long been engaged in comparative evaluations of one another. For this reason, we will also look at U.S. interpretations of Brazil as a Racial Democracy, as an “exotic” relic of the plantation era–replete with carnival, soccer, and enticing women of color advertising the nation’s beaches–or, alternatively, as a “tropical hell” characterized by unending violence, an image that reproduces nineteenth-century ideas about race and criminality. We will investigate Brazilian discourses of hybridization in the context of Latin American mestizo projects, the concept of cultural cannibalism and the human/animal dialectic that sustains postcolonial power. The course will be particularly concerned with how otherness is interpreted, and how specific representations come to be accepted as fact. Who is observing and assessing?  How does ethnography produce an unequal relation between the subject who analyzes and the object that is written up as text?

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LTAM 110 (A00) – Latin American Literature in Translation: “Brazilian Humanimals: Species, Race and Gender in Brazilian Literature”

Posted in Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, Course Offerings, Media Archive, United States on 2013-01-17 23:14Z by Steven

LTAM 110 (A00) – Latin American Literature in Translation: “Brazilian Humanimals: Species, Race and Gender in Brazilian Literature”

University of California, San Diego
Spring 2012

Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Luso-Brazilian Studies

How do gender, race and species intersect in Brazilian literary representations? What is at stake in scrutinizing the ethical dimensions of human/ animal relations? How might such questioning be relevant for understanding dominant ideas about race, racial mixing and nation that shape Brazilian cultural identity? This course focuses on a series of Brazilian texts that place animals at center stage. Situating our readings vis-Ă -vis other media—essays, cinema—we will consider the animal not simply as metaphor for “human” experience; instead, we will focus on the ways that a series of Brazilian authors have challenged anthropocentrism (human-centeredness) in relation to other dialectics including black/white, periphery/center and female/ male. Though we will focus principally on Brazilian texts, we will situate them in the context of cross-cultural discussions in ecocriticism and species studies.

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White Negritude: Race, Writing, and Brazilian Cultural Identity [Review]

Posted in Articles, Book/Video Reviews, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America on 2011-02-06 03:38Z by Steven

White Negritude: Race, Writing, and Brazilian Cultural Identity [Review]

H-Net Reviews
February 2010

Lorenzo Veracini

Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond. White Negritude: Race, Writing, and Brazilian Cultural Identity. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. Cloth ISBN 978-1-4039-7595-9.

Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond has published a persuasive outline and contextualization of Brazilian “Race Democracy” advocate Gilberto Freyre. In a forthcoming book, I argue that settler projects use a variety of “transfers” in order to manage indigenous and exogenous alterity in their respective population economies, and that “transfer” does not apply only to people pushed across borders. This review of White Negritude contends that Freyre was indeed a master (discursive) transferist.

Casa Grande e Senzala (1933) proposed a reading of Brazilian race relations that in many ways remains paradigmatic. The specific conditions afforded by a tropical environment and the encounter between Portuguese colonizers and African slaves had produced a uniquely Brazilian synthesis. The master/slave dialectic had been upturned; the inherent antagonism and violence that should have accompanied that relation had been defused. This synthesis, Freyre argued, demonstrated among other things Brazil’s superiority to the United States. While this stance contributed to Casa Grande e Senzala’s reception and career, Isfahani-Hammond suggests that it may also have prevented scrutiny—Brazilian race relations are still routinely construed—both in Brazil and in the US—as primarily an “antithesis” of something else. Freyre, the generally accepted reading goes, made the Afro-Brazilian a central character of the national narrative, recognized that the slaves were the true colonizers, framed senzala and Casa Grande in the same interpretative frame, and proposed a consistently non-eugenicist reading of Brazilian society and culture. Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond successfully problematises this interpretation.

The main point in Freyre’s argument is that Brazilian slave masters identify with their slaves and, having assimilated their cultural traits, can therefore genuinely and authentically represent them. This identification is acquired, for example, via sexual (non reproductive and noncoercive) intercourse with black women. Afro-Brazilian “atmospheric” influences are thus transferred to the white masters in the unique context of the northeastern Brazilian plantation complex (a self-contained social microcosm that is presented as the epicentre of the Brazilian cultural experience). Isfahani-Hammond insists on Freyre’s strategic disavowal of genetic hybridisation. Branquemento (“whitening”) was one available possibility, an approach that advocated the progressive elimination of black genes through miscegenation and immigration policies that favoured Europeans. Freyre, on the other hand, developed more effective discursive strategies. This is where Isfahani-Hammond’s argument is most convincing, and Freyre’s “celebration” of Afro-Brazilian cultural traits is shown as ultimately seeking to “replace sociohistorical blackness with a discourse about blackness” (p. 7). In this way, a potentially destabilising oppositional agency is expropriated and circumvented. Despite its ostensibly non-racial determinants, Freyre’s reasoning is shown to actually culminate in the “exclusionary resolution of Brazilian heterogeneity” (p. 14)…

Read the entire review here

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The Masters and the Slaves: Plantation Relations and Mestizaje in American Imaginaries

Posted in Anthologies, Arts, Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery, United States on 2010-03-27 03:44Z by Steven

The Masters and the Slaves: Plantation Relations and Mestizaje in American Imaginaries

Palgrave Macmillan
January 2005
176 pages
Size 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Paperback ISBN: 1-4039-6708-3
Hardcover ISBN: 1-4039-6563-3

Edited by:

Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond, Assistant Professor of Luso-Brazilian Literature
University of California, San Diego

The Masters and the Slaves theorizes the interface of plantation relations with nationalist projects throughout the Americas. In readings that cover a wide range of genres–from essays and scientific writing to poetry, memoirs and the visual arts–this work investigates the post-slavery discourses of Brazil, the United States, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Martinique. Indebted to Orlando Patterson‘s Slavery and Social Death (1982) and Paul Gilroy‘s The Black Atlantic (1993), these essays fill a void in studies of plantation power relations for their comparative, interdisciplinary approach and their investment in reading slavery through the gaze of contemporary theory, with particularly strong ties to psychoanalytic and gender studies interrogations of desire and performativity.

Table of contents

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White Negritude: Race, Writing, and Brazilian Cultural Identity

Posted in Books, Brazil, Caribbean/Latin America, History, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Monographs, Social Science on 2010-03-27 03:29Z by Steven

White Negritude: Race, Writing, and Brazilian Cultural Identity

Palgrave Macmillan
December 2007
208 pages
Size 5 1/2 x 8 1/4
Hardcover ISBN: 1-4039-7595-7

Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond, Associate Professor of Luso-Brazilian Literature
University of California, San Diego

White Negritude analyzes the discourse of mestiçagem (mestizaje, mĂ©tissage, or “mixing”) in Brazil. Focused on Gilberto Freyre‘s sociology of plantation relations, it interrogates the relation of power to writing and canon formation, and the emergence of an exclusionary, ethnographic discourse that situates itself as the gatekeeper of African “survivals” in decline. Taking Freyre’s master/slave paradigm as a point of departure for theorizing a particular form of racial and authorial impostery, this book analyzes the construction of race and raced writing in Brazil in relation to U.S. identity politics and Caribbean “mestizo projects.”

Table of Contents

  • Vanishing Primitives: An Introduction
  • Poetry and the Plantation: Jorge de Lima‘s White Authorship in a Caribbean Perspective
  • White Man in the Tropics: Authorship and Atmospheric Blackness in Gilberto Freyre
  • Joaquim Nabuco: Abolitionism and Erasure in the Americas
  • From the Plantation Manor to the Sociologist’s Study: Democracy, Lusotropicalism, and the Scene of Writing
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