front cover of Crossroads of Freedom
Crossroads of Freedom
Slaves and Freed People in Bahia, Brazil, 1870-1910
Walter Fraga
Duke University Press, 2016
By 1870 the sugar plantations of the Recôncavo region in Bahia, Brazil, held at least seventy thousand slaves, making it one of the largest and most enduring slave societies in the Americas. In this new translation of Crossroads of Freedom—which won the 2011 Clarence H. Haring Prize for the Most Outstanding Book on Latin American History—Walter Fraga charts these slaves' daily lives and recounts their struggle to make a future for themselves following slavery's abolition in 1888. Through painstaking archival research, he illuminates the hopes, difficulties, opportunities, and setbacks of ex-slaves and plantation owners alike as they adjusted to their postabolition environment. Breaking new ground in Brazilian historiography, Fraga does not see an abrupt shift with slavery's abolition; rather, he describes a period of continuous change in which the strategies, customs, and identities that slaves built under slavery allowed them to navigate their newfound freedom. Fraga's analysis of how Recôncavo's residents came to define freedom and slavery more accurately describes this seminal period in Brazilian history, while clarifying how slavery and freedom are understood in the present. 

front cover of Dancing Wisdom
Dancing Wisdom
Embodied Knowledge in Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahian Candomblé
Yvonne Daniel
University of Illinois Press, 2005
Concentrating on the Caribbean Basin and the coastal area of northeast South America, Yvonne Daniel considers three African-derived religious systems that rely heavily on dance behavior–-Haitian Vodou, Cuban Yoruba, and Bahamian Candomblé.
Combining her background in dance and anthropology to parallel the participant/scholar dichotomy inherent to dancing's "embodied knowledge," Daniel examines these misunderstood and oppressed performative dances in terms of physiology, psychology, philosophy, mathematics, ethics, and aesthetics.
"Dancing Wisdom offers the rare opportunity to see into the world of mystical spiritual belief as articulated and manifested in ritual by dance. Whether it is a Cuban Yoruba dance ritual, slave Ring Shout or contemporary Pentecostal Holy Ghost possession dancing shout, we are able to understand the relationship with spirit through dancing with the Divine. Yvonne Daniel's work synthesizes the cognitive empirical objectivity of an anthropologist with the passionate storytelling of a poetic artist in articulating how dance becomes prayer in ritual for Africans of the Diaspora."
--Leon T. Burrows, Protestant Chaplain, Smith College’

front cover of Ecstatic Encounters
Ecstatic Encounters
Bahian Candomblé and the Quest for the Really Real
Mattijs van de Port
Amsterdam University Press, 2011

For over a hundred years, writers, artists, anthropologists and tourists have travelled to Bahia, Brazil, in search of the spirit possession cult called Candomblé. Thus, successive generations of cultists have seen a long, steady stream of curious outsiders coming to their temples with notebooks and cameras, questions and inquisitive gazes, or ogling eyes and the hope of inclusion. This study asks what seduced these outsiders to seek access to the Afro-Brazilian religious universe and, conversely, how did cultists respond to the overwhelming interest in their creed and to becoming an object of the outsiders’ imaginations.

“Thriving in the gap between the sensuous fullness of life and the impossibility of its cultural representation, Ecstatic Encounters opens mind-blowing vistas for 'writing culture' in anthropology today.”— Birgit Meyer, Free University of Amsterdam.

front cover of The Making of Brazil's Black Mecca
The Making of Brazil's Black Mecca
Bahia Reconsidered
Scott Ickes
Michigan State University Press, 2018
One of the few interdisciplinary volumes on Bahia available, The Making of Brazil’s Black Mecca: Bahia Reconsidered contains contributions covering a wide chronological and topical range by scholars whose work has made important contributions to the field of Bahian studies over the last two decades. The authors interrogate and problematize the idea of Bahia as a Black Mecca, or a haven where Brazilians of African descent can embrace their cultural and spiritual African heritage without fear of discrimination. In the first section, leading historians create a century-long historical narrative of the emergence of these discourses, their limitations, and their inability to effect meaningful structural change. The chapters by social scientists in the second section present critical reflections and insights, some provocative, on deficiencies and problematic biases built into current research paradigms on blackness in Bahia. As a whole the text provides a series of insights into the ways that inequality has been structured in Bahia since the final days of slavery.

front cover of Mama Africa
Mama Africa
Reinventing Blackness in Bahia
Patricia de Santana Pinho
Duke University Press, 2010
Often called the “most African” part of Brazil, the northeastern state of Bahia has the country’s largest Afro-descendant population and a black culture renowned for its vibrancy. In Mama Africa, Patricia de Santana Pinho examines the meanings of Africa in Bahian constructions of blackness. Combining insights from anthropology, sociology, and cultural studies, Pinho considers how Afro-Bahian cultural groups, known as blocos afro, conceive of Africanness, blackness, and themselves in relation to both. Mama Africa is a translated, updated, and expanded edition of an award-winning book published in Brazil in 2004. Central to the book, and to Bahian constructions of blackness, is what Pinho calls “the myth of Mama Africa,” the idea that Africa exists as a nurturing spirit inside every black person.

Pinho explores how Bahian cultural production influences and is influenced by black diasporic cultures and the idealization of Africa—to the extent that Bahia draws African American tourists wanting to learn about their heritage. Analyzing the conceptions of blackness produced by the blocos afro, she describes how Africa is re-inscribed on the body through clothes, hairstyles, and jewelry; once demeaned, blackness is reclaimed as a source of beauty and pride. Turning to the body’s interior, Pinho explains that the myth of Mama Africa implies that black appearances have corresponding black essences. Musical and dance abilities are seen as naturally belonging to black people, and these traits are often believed to be transmitted by blood. Pinho argues that such essentialized ideas of blackness render black culture increasingly vulnerable to exploitation by the state and commercial interests. She contends that the myth of Mama Africa, while informing oppositional black identities, overlaps with a constraining notion of Bahianness promoted by the government and the tourist industry.


front cover of Marriage, Divorce, and Distress in Northeast Brazil
Marriage, Divorce, and Distress in Northeast Brazil
Black Women's Perspectives on Love, Respect, and Kinship
Medeiros, Melanie A.
Rutgers University Press, 2018
Using an intersectional approach, Marriage, Divorce, and Distress in Northeast Brazil explores rural, working-class, black Brazilian women’s perceptions and experiences of courtship, marriage and divorce. In this book, women’s narratives of marriage dissolution demonstrate the ways in which changing gender roles and marriage expectations associated with modernization and globalization influence the intimate lives and the health and well being of women in Northeast Brazil. Melanie A. Medeiros explores the women’s rich stories of desire, love, respect, suffering, strength, and transformation.

front cover of Race, Place, and Medicine
Race, Place, and Medicine
The Idea of the Tropics in Nineteenth-Century Brazil
Julyan G. Peard
Duke University Press, 1999
Race, Place, and Medicine examines the impact of a group of nineteenth-century Brazilian physicians who became known posthumously as the Bahian Tropicalista School of Medicine. Julyan G. Peard explores how this group of obscure clinicians became participants in an international debate as they helped change the scientific framework and practices of doctors in Brazil.
Peard shows how the Tropicalistas adapted Western medicine and challenged the Brazilian medical status quo in order to find new answers to the old question of whether the diseases of warm climates were distinct from those of temperate Europe. They carried out innovative research on parasitology, herpetology, and tropical disorders, providing evidence that countered European assumptions about Brazilian racial and cultural inferiority. In the face of European fatalism about health care in the tropics, the Tropicalistas forged a distinctive medicine based on their beliefs that public health would improve only if large social issues—such as slavery and abolition—were addressed and that the delivery of health care should encompass groups hitherto outside the doctors’ sphere, especially women. But the Tropicalistas’ agenda, which included biting social critiques and broad demands for the extension of health measures to all of Brazil’s people, was not sustained. Race, Place, and Medicine shows how imported models of tropical medicine—constructed by colonial nations for their own needs—downplayed the connection between socioeconomic factors and tropical disorders.
This study of a neglected episode in Latin American history will interest Brazilianists, as well as scholars of Latin American, medical, and scientific history.


front cover of Running After Paradise
Running After Paradise
Hope, Survival, and Activism in Brazil's Atlantic Forest
Colleen M. Scanlan Lyons
University of Arizona Press, 2022
Brazil’s Atlantic Forest is a paradise to many. In Southern Bahia, surfers, billionaires, travelers, and hippies mingle with environmentalists, family farmers, quilombolas (descendants of formerly enslaved people), and nativos, or “locals.” Each of these groups has connections to the unique environment, culture, and character of this region as their home, their source of a livelihood, or perhaps their vacation escape. And while sometimes these connections converge—other times they clash.

The pressures on this tropical forest are palpable. So are people’s responses to these pressures. What was once the state’s economic mainstay, cacao production, is only now beginning to make a comeback after a disease decimated the crops of large and small farmers alike. Tourism, another economic hope, is susceptible to economic crises and pandemics. And the threat of a massive state-led infrastructure project involving mining, a railroad, and an international port has loomed over the region for well over a decade.

Southern Bahia is at a crossroads: develop a sustainable, forest-based economy or run the risk of losing the identity and soul of this place forevermore. Through the lives of environmentalists, farmers, quilombolas, and nativos—people who are in and of this place—this book brings alive the people who are grappling with this dilemma.

Anthropologist Colleen M. Scanlan Lyons brings the eye of a storyteller to present this complex struggle, weaving in her own challenges of balancing family and fieldwork alongside the stories of the people who live in this dynamic region. Intertwined tales, friendships, and hope emerge as people both struggle to sustain their lives in a biodiversity hotspot and strive to create their paradise.

front cover of Sacred Leaves of Candomblé
Sacred Leaves of Candomblé
African Magic, Medicine, and Religion in Brazil
By Robert A. Voeks
University of Texas Press, 1997

Winner, Hubert Herring Book Award, Pacific Coast Council on Latin American Studies

Candomblé, an African religious and healing tradition that spread to Brazil during the slave trade, relies heavily on the use of plants in its spiritual and medicinal practices. When its African adherents were forcibly transplanted to the New World, they faced the challenge not only of maintaining their culture and beliefs in the face of European domination but also of finding plants with similar properties to the ones they had used in Africa.

This book traces the origin, diffusion, medicinal use, and meaning of Candomblé's healing pharmacopoeia—the sacred leaves. Robert Voeks examines such topics as the biogeography of Africa and Brazil, the transference—and transformation—of Candomblé as its adherents encountered both native South American belief systems and European Christianity, and the African system of medicinal plant classification that allowed Candomblé to survive and even thrive in the New World. This research casts new light on topics ranging from the creation of African American cultures to tropical rain forest healing floras.


front cover of Sex Tourism in Bahia
Sex Tourism in Bahia
Ambiguous Entanglements
Erica Lorraine Williams
University of Illinois Press, 2013
For nearly a decade, Brazil has surpassed Thailand as the world's premier sex tourism destination. As the first full-length ethnography of sex tourism in Brazil, this pioneering study treats sex tourism as a complex and multidimensional phenomenon that involves a range of activities and erotic connections, from sex work to romantic transnational relationships. Erica Lorraine Williams explores sex tourism in the Brazilian state of Bahia from the perspectives of foreign tourists, tourism industry workers, sex workers who engage in liaisons with foreigners, and Afro-Brazilian men and women who contend with foreigners' stereotypical assumptions about their licentiousness. She shows how the Bahian state strategically exploits the touristic desire for exotic culture by appropriating an eroticized blackness and commodifying the Afro-Brazilian culture in order to sell Bahia to foreign travelers.


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