Scott Ickes

Dec 7, 2013

African-Brazilian Culture and Regional Identity in Bahia, Brazil

University Press of Florida 2013

purchase at bookshop.org From the sounds of Samba to the spectacles of Carnival, Afro-Brazilian traditions are today seen as emblematic of Brazil and especially of Salvador de Bahia, the northeastern city where many Afro-Brazilian cultural traditions were first established. Salvador's present status as the "Black Rome" of Brazil marks a shift from the early Twentieth Century, when Afro-Brazilian practices - particularly those associated with the religion Candomble - were denigrated as "primitive" and subject to repression in Bahia. Yet even as Afro-Brazilian culture is celebrated in Bahia and throughout Brazil, Afro-Brazilians themselves remain subject to discrimination, economic marginalization, and negative stereotypes, often directed at those same cultural traditions. In African-Brazilian Culture and Regional Identity in Bahia, Brazil(University Press of Florida, 2013), Scott Ickes explores the emergence of this paradoxical modern attitude towards Afro-Brazilian culture during and after the rule of Getulio Vargas (1930-1945). Ickes describes how during the Vargas era, Afro-Brazilians who sought greater acceptance for their practices found an newly-receptive audience among the white Brazilian elite: progressive intellectuals and journalists who valued Afro-Brazilian culture as folklore; and politicians, both national and regional, who sought the support of the Afro-Brazilian working class. Through government initiatives and the media, these elites elevated certain Afro-Brazilian practices - the martial art Capoeira, Samba music, and Candomble-influenced festival celebrations - and in doing so provided a public cultural and political forum for Afro-Brazilians involved in those practices. But as Ickes notes in every case, the new elite acceptance of Afro-Brazilian culture was limited and conditional. Only those Afro-Brazilian traditions deemed acceptable by elite intellectuals became accepted, and Afro-Brazilian culture never attained the prestige of European cultural traditions in Brazil. Thus, while the acceptance of Afro-Brazilian culture during the Vargas era had real benefits to Afro-Brazilians, it still allowed for Afro-Brazilians to remain marginalized into the modern day.

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