Traversing prevailing winds: Cultural Relations between Brazil and Africa

The "Atlantic Bonds" between Brazil and Africa have been an important subject of study for quite a long time. Historians have worked extensively on the slave trade to Brazil, and newer studies have also contemplated historical remigration back to Africa. Generations of anthropologists and sociologists have dedicated themselves to understand "Afro-Brazilianity" in terms of their syncretic cultural manifestations, their implications for social inequality and their use (or abuse) in the construction of Brazil's national identity. With the rising recognition of Africa as a strategic partner, political scientists are now focusing on Brazil's longstanding geopolitical stance towards Africa, as well as the country's recent engagement in building Southern Alliances, like BRICS and IBSA Dialogue Forum.

We could therefore say that Africa increasingly "matters" in Brazil - and arguably also vice versa. This Focus Event will take an interdisciplinary approach to this topical issue, prioritizing relations of cultural understanding as a vital substrate of (or even a challenge to) the building of economic and political relationships. Our goal is to go beyond the mere survey and description of cultural links, which are broad and diversified. Rather, committed more to a micro-perspective of the subject, we will present and discuss concrete cases of cultural interaction between Brazil and Africa in the past and the present, paying special attention to the reciprocity or even "traverse" dynamics of these encounters.

Organizers: Georg Wink, Derek Pardue, Georg Fischer, Sandi Michele de Oliveira

Program

10.15            Welcoming

10.20-11.10   Keynote lecture by Matthias Röhrig Assunção, University of Essex
The Angolan Roots of Capoeira. Transatlantic Links of a Globalized Performing Art

11.10-11.30   Discussion

11.30-12.30   Lunch

12.30-13.15   Coal Mining, “Development” and Discourses of Sameness. Portuguese, Germans and Brazilians in Moatize, Mozambique, ca. 1970-2015 (Georg Fischer, University of Aarhus)

13.15-14.00    Forgotten Pioneers of a South-South Dialog: The Cultural Periodical Sul (1948-57) in Florianópolis, Brazil (Georg Wink, University of Copenhagen)

14.00-14.30    Coffee Break

14.30-15.15    A sociolinguistic analysis of Kalunga: a run-away slave community in Goiás-Brazil (Ana Paulla Braga Mattos, University of Aarhus)

15.15.-16.00   The Role of African Migrancy in Local Identites and Spatial Management in São Paulo, Brazil (Derek Pardue, University of Aarhus) 

16.30- 18.00  3rd Meeting of the BRAINetwork (Brazilian Interdisciplinary Network)

19.00             Conference Dinner

Abstracts

The Angolan Roots of Capoeira. Transatlantic Links of a Globalized Performing Art (Matthias Röhrig Assunção, University of Essex)

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian art form now practiced around the world. Capoeira combines dance, combat, theatre and music and is documented since the times of slavery. This lecture explores its Angolan origins, more particular the legendary tale of the Zebra Dance as told by practitioners, and the combat games and rituals that can still be found today in Southern Angola, despite the devastation caused by forty years of civil war. The aim is to discuss possible links between combat games and other cultural forms on both sides of the Atlantic.

Coal Mining, “Development” and Discourses of Sameness. Portuguese, Germans and Brazilians in Moatize, Mozambique, ca. 1970-2015 (Georg Fischer, University of Aarhus)

The coal mining project in Moatize, initiated by Brazilian mining giant Vale S.A., is representative of Brazil’s new economic interest in Africa. Taking the Moatize coal basin as my case study, I propose a historical perspective on the discourses of sameness/shared experience in development strategies for Africa. I discuss colonial mining projects in the 1960s and 1970s, technical assistance from the German Democratic Republic in the late 1970s and early 1980s and the Vale operations since 2010. I analyse how different discourses of “development” have produced different imaginations of sameness – based on the one-ness of the Portuguese Empire, the unity of a global socialist working class and on the solidarity resulting from a shared experience of “underdevelopment”.

Forgotten Pioneers of a South-South Dialog: The Cultural Periodical Sul (1948-57) in Florianópolis, Brazil (Georg Wink, University of Copenhagen)

There was a moment in history, between 1948 and 1957, when a few Brazilian intellectuals entered a genuine dialogue with their counterparts in Lusophone Africa – despite rigid Salazarian censorship. Between two peripheries, the Portuguese overseas territories and Florianópolis, by the 1940’s a sleepy hick town far away from Brazil’s cultural center, an early South-South dialogue developed through the Periodical Sul (and broad letter correspondence). Several important, albeit by the time still unknown Luso-African authors, like for example Luandino Vieira, published for the first time their literary texts and sometimes also discussed their political ideas. In my contribution I will examine this curious case of local history entanglement in order to find out how the dialogue shaped the idea of a Luso-African-Brazilian cultural affinity and shared colonial experience.

A sociolinguistic analysis of Kalunga: a run-away slave community in Goiás-Brazil (Ana Paulla Braga Mattos, University of Aarhus)

Brazil is a country of approximately 200 million people, and only one official language. The history of the country shows a mixture of colonization, immigration flows, and long periods of slave trade, resulting in a rich linguistic diversity. The Afro-Brazilian communities are an example of the linguistic minorities present in Brazil. This work aims at presenting a sociolinguistic analysis of Kalunga, an Afro-Brazilian community, which is located in the state of Goiás. We provide a sociolinguistic analysis of this community based on spoken corpora. This study is connected to the study of lesser known varieties of rural Portuguese and to the study of contact languages in general. Also, it contributes to a better understanding of the ethnolinguistic diversity of the Brazilian society and strengthens the identity, culture and history of the Afro-Brazilian communities.

The Role of African Migrancy in Local Identites and Spatial Management in São Paulo, Brazil (Derek Pardue, University of Aarhus)
This project investigates the role of migration in the meaning and management of urban space. The purpose of the project is to analyze the ways in which migrants make residential and commercial spaces into their own and in so doing affect the meaning of a particular city. The focus of this project is an anthropological study of the recent wave of West African migration to the center neighborhoods in São Paulo, Brazil since 2010. More specifically, these communities are composed of Senegalese, Cameroon, Nigerian and Gabonese nationals. My hypothesis is that migrant practices do affect what an area, such as the "downtown," means and in this process reveal how societies construe and evaluate certain social categories, such as race and ethnicity. In addition, I hypothesize that migrant experiences and public policies are interdependent and this relationship is evident in both discourse and material of the city.

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This is an Engerom Focus event