Quilombismo and the Afro-Brazilian Quest for Citizenship

Quilombismo and the Afro-Brazilian Quest for Citizenship

Journal of Black Studies
Volume 43, Number 8 (November 2012)
pages 847-871
DOI: 10.1177/0021934712461794

Niyi Afolabi, Professor of African & African Diaspora Studies
University of Texas, Austin

Between the radicalism of Black Brazilian movements of the 1980s, an aftermath of the negation and rejection of the myth of “racial democracy” that denies Brazilian subtle racism, the rise of re- Africanization sensibilities among Afro-Carnival groups, and the current ambivalent co-optation that has been packaged as “affirmative action” in the new millennium, a missing link to the many quests for Afro-Brazilianness lies in the (dis)locations that permeate the issues of identity, consciousness, and Africa-rootedness. Recent studies have remained invested in the polarity between the rigidity of “race” (one-drop rule) from the North American perspective and the fluidity of identity as professed by the South American miscegenation thesis. Regardless of the given schools of thought, or discourses, that have not resolved the oppressive sociopolitical realities on the ground, one must face the many levels of (dis)locations that define Afro-Brazilian identities. This essay draws upon the cultural productions of five Afro-Brazilian poets from various regions of Brazil, namely, Oliveira Silveira, Lepê Correia, Jamu Minka, Abelardo Rodrigues, and Carlos de Assumpção. Beyond exposing the marginalized poets to a wider readership in English, the essay also engages the current debate in the shift from racial democracy to affirmative action in Brazil and the implications for continued racial tensions and contradictions in the Brazilian state.

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