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Brazilian (Black) Memories: Slavery and African Heritage on Screen

Brazilian (Black) Memories: Slavery and African Heritage on Screen

by Dr. Jonas do Nascimento (University of Bayreuth)

Thu, May 27, 12 - 14, Zoom 931 4120 3142, Passcode: 154421 (RS Arts and Aesthetics)


In this presentation I will discuss films that narrate, in different ways, the “memories of slavery” and the “African heritage” in Brazil, considering their nuances and contradictions in the way they performatively reflected or refracted the “Brasilidade” (Brazilianness). Many theories have been proposed to explain Brazilian social and cultural formation. However, in common sense, Brazil uses to be remembered as a “tropical paradise of conviviality”. The foundations of this lusotropicalism (the belief in a “racial harmony” lived in the tropics) were created by sociologist Gilberto Freyre and consisted of shifting the national discourse from “biology” to “culture”, transforming a racially mixed and diverse population into a ‘people’ and widening the boundaries of “national belonging”. In doing so, the myth of the “three races” (Brazilians comprised of a mixture of African, European, and indigenous peoples) became a hegemonic discourse. Yet the promise of equality was in many ways elusive – considering that race were largely replaced by hierarchies of culture. Thus, our mestiçagem did not represent a real rupture with the ideology of whitening. Rather, it prevented the development of “black consciousness” in Brazil, in contrast to other countries of the African diaspora. My analysis of films will then be focused through the following questions: how can Brazilian cinema offer insights into the construction of memory and re-writings of slavery and African heritage? And how closely (or not) do their narratives draw upon traditional ideas of Brazilian national identity? What are the concepts, tendencies, notions, and pre-notions that guide their practices? What has changed from the past to the present? 

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