“Race and Nation in Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Brazil”

Kia Lilly Caldwell, LARR 46:3 (2011): 201-206.

Books under review here are Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond’s White Negritude, Patricia de Santan Pinho’s Mamá Africa: Reinventing Blackness in Bahia, Bernd Reiter, Brazil’s New Racial Politics, and Micol Seigel, Uneven Encounters: Making Race and Nation in Brazil and the United States. I have only read the first of these.

Reiter’s edited volume follows Hanchard’s, from 1999. It has a lot of sociological studies, evidently very good, on the current situation. There is a piecein it of interest to me, about how the emphasis given to Afro-Brazilian culture in the late 20th century did not mean an increase in political influence (see comments on 206, which desmienten the triumphant claims of some scholars I like less).

Pinho’s book looks at Black cultural politics in Bahia since the 1970s (Olodum, etc.). In this review the book does not sound interesting — it sounds as though the writer had done a cultural studies PhD in the United States on this topic with non Brazilianist professors, and had written a theoretical book against essentialist conceptions of identity using some current phenomena in Bahian cultural production as examples.

The reviewer likes Istafahani-Hammond’s book, which I also like and have. We all agree, for instance, that Freyre is ultimately one of the Brazilian writers and thinkers who developed forms of “exclusionary hybridism” centered on the erasure of Black culture and subjectivity (LARR 206, Istafahani-Hammond 25).

Seigel’s book sounds interesting. It appears to be about how images of each other helped shape race and national consciousness in both countries, in a situation where the U.S. and whiteness had more power. This book would be interesting to read, as it points out things such as that the U.S. is not really the sole birthplace of jazz.

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