Orpheus and Power

Orpheus and Power: The "Movimento Negro" of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil 1945-1988

Michael George Hanchard
Copyright Date: 1994
Pages: 214
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7tc2w
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  • Book Info
    Orpheus and Power
    Book Description:

    From recent data on disparities between Brazilian whites and non-whites in areas of health, education, and welfare, it is clear that vast racial inequalities do exist in Brazil, contrary to earlier assertions in race relations scholarship that the country is a "racial democracy." Here Michael George Hanchard explores the implications of this increasingly evident racial inequality, highlighting Afro-Brazilian attempts at mobilizing for civil rights and the powerful efforts of white elites to neutralize such attempts. Within a neo-Gramscian framework, Hanchard shows how racial hegemony in Brazil has hampered ethnic and racial identification among non-whites by simultaneously promoting racial discrimination and false premises of racial equality.

    Drawing from personal archives of and interviews with participants in the Movimento Negro of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Hanchard presents a wealth of empirical evidence about Afro-Brazilian militants, comparing their effectiveness with their counterparts in sub-Saharan Africa, the United States, and the Caribbean in the post-World War II period. He analyzes, in comprehensive detail, the extreme difficulties experienced by Afro-Brazilian activists in identifying and redressing racially specific patterns of violation and discrimination. Hanchard argues that the Afro-American struggle to subvert dominant cultural forms and practices carries the danger of being subsumed by the contradictions that these dominant forms produce.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2123-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-10)

    MY FIRST real introduction to the politics of racial difference in Brazil occurred in neither a classroom nor a library but on the streets of Rio de Janeiro during my first week there to conduct field research in September 1988. After securing an apartment and settling in Flamengo, one of the older parts of the city, I walked to Catete, a nearby neighborhood, to buy a week’s worth of vittles at thesupermercadoDisco. I spent about forty minutes in the store collecting my supplies, marveling at all the known and unknown goods I could mispronounce in Portuguese. I headed...

  5. PART ONE: RACIAL HEGEMONY
    • ONE RACIAL POLITICS: TERMS, THEORY, METHODOLOGY
      (pp. 13-30)

      THE EPIGRAPH above cautions students of Brazilian race relations against accepting “race relations” in Brazil on its own terms, thereby restricting their investigations to events and dynamics that display racism, inequality, and prejudice. More broadly, Viotti’s (1985) commentary implicitly locates theoretical lacunae within “race relations” scholarship in general.

      In some crucial respects, Latin American studies—unlike regional-studies literatures of Southeast Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and Africa—have not incorporated recent developments in conceptualizing racial and ethnic politics. Unlike a previous generation of scholarship, which tended to conflate race with ethnicity, more recent theoretical understandings of the formation of racial...

    • TWO BRAZILIAN RACIAL POLITICS: AN OVERVIEW AND RECONCEPTUALIZATION
      (pp. 31-42)

      TO UNDERSTAND contemporary racial politics in Brazil in terms of both its scholarly and political debates, it is important to place present circumstances in some historical context. This chapter serves to orient readers toward the significance of a racial politics perspective in light of the extant empirical literature on Brazilian race relations. It will provide a countervailing interpretation of the history of Brazilian race relations as well as a critique of the race versus class paradigm that is prevalent in both scholarly and activist treatment of the problematics of race.

      Debates over the relative importance of class or race in...

    • THREE RACIAL DEMOCRACY: HEGEMONY, BRAZILIAN STYLE
      (pp. 43-74)

      THE LONG QUOTATION above, taken from Gilberto Freyre’s classicThe Masters and the Slaves(1946), highlights the Brazilian variant of the Iberian model of racial exceptionalism,³ which has been long ignored by Brazilianists and Latin Americanists alike. The Brazilian variant, punctuated by the myth of racial democracy, appears in its most elaborate form in Freyre’sThe Masters and the Slaves, Sobrados and Mocambos(1951), and other works.

      Freyre’s vision was crucial for the development of the racial democracy myth. Racial exceptionalism, however, as a broader ideological construct of slaveholding and Republican elites, has outlived racial democracy as an ideological form....

  6. PART TWO: NEGATION AND CONTESTATION
    • FOUR FORMATIONS OF RACIAL CONSCIOUSNESS
      (pp. 77-98)

      JOEL RUFINO DOS SANTOS, one of the leading intellectuals of the movimento negro and the Democratic Laborist party in Brazil, was a member of the National Liberation Alliance in the 1970s. The alliance was one of the left-wing organizations that emerged in response to the “revolution” of 1964 with a commitment to armed struggle (Skidmore 1988).

      After spending several years in exile after the 1964 coup, Rufino returned to Brazil, only to be captured on a train destined for Rio de Janeiro from São Paulo. He was imprisoned from January 1972 until August 1974. He was subjected to various forms...

    • FIVE MOVEMENTS AND MOMENTS
      (pp. 99-141)

      THE COMMENTARY above was an often-heard phrase uttered by activists in cities in 1988 and 1989. In one sense, as articulated by Lelia Gonzalez (Gonzalez and Hasenbalg 1985), the black movement is actually a series of movements with distinct ideological commitments and political strategies. In another sense, though, it is also a movement of groups with little political coherence or relation to one another. As a movement or a series of movements, it is without direction.

      Sectarianism, for one, has plagued the movimento. The innumerable factions and groups in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo reflect the absence of concrete...

    • SIX RACIAL POLITICS AND NATIONAL COMMEMORATIONS: THE STRUGGLE FOR HEGEMONY
      (pp. 142-154)

      THE 1988 COMMEMORATION of abolition in Brazil was the single most important event for the movimento negro in the post–World War II era, for two reasons. It was the first time that the manifold forms of racial inequality against Afro-Brazilians became a principal theme in national debate. For Afro-Brazilians, the events of the abolition represented one of the few times in the postwar period when Afro-Brazilians undertook collective action against state practices, both discursive and nondiscursive, and commonsensical attitudes in civil society about the history and ongoing legacy of Afro-Brazilian oppression.

      Commemorative celebrations in multiracial societies are often contestations...

    • SEVEN CONCLUSION
      (pp. 155-168)

      THE LYRIC above encapsulates the two principal themes of this investigation of the movimento negro in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, Brazil, between 1945 and 1988. First, the movimento negro has attempted to bring attention to the legacies and ongoing practices of racial discrimination in Brazil, amidst a process of racial hegemony that denies the existence of racial inequalities while simultaneously producing them. Second, the movimento negro has attempted to accentuate the positive aspects of Afro-Brazilian and African history in order to elevate the racial awareness of Afro-Brazilians without losing sight of the everyday realities of racial oppression in...

  7. NOTES
    (pp. 169-188)
  8. APPENDIX
    (pp. 189-190)
  9. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 191-200)
  10. INDEX
    (pp. 201-203)