Accepted Paper:

Identity formation among Afro Brazilian capoeira teachers in a transnational context   


Theodora Lefkaditou (University of the Aegean)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper I discuss how the Afro Brazilian capoeira teachers negotiate their identity and experience difference as they display and disport themselves through body performances in a transnational context.

Paper long abstract:

To fully understand the questions of identity formation in Brazil we have to reflect on the processes that take place outside the national borders, in new public spheres and more transnational contexts. Based on fieldwork research among capoeira groups in Barcelona, I argue that the rediscovery and re -invention of the Afro Brazilian culture in Europe is not only interrelated with the processes of a 'new black identity' formation in Bahía but also emerges as a new field where these processes can be carried on and reassessed.

Afro Brazilian capoeiras carry along an important cultural baggage. It consists of practices and ideas that serve as means of empowerment and help them reaffirm their collective identities.

I focus on the narratives concerning the art's past and on the materiality and power of self representation through performance. Both are at the core of Capoeira and are related to struggles over ethnic and national identities in Brazil. In Barcelona they are also related to the expectations and the imagery of the European apprentices. As the art reaches wider cultural arenas it receives new meanings that affect the ways it is remembered, passed on and re invented.

By reflecting on'who embodies the essence of Capoeira', on the reappraisal of the black body and the use of aesthetic elements that are related to the African Diaspora or have strong Afro Brazilian connotations and can be at the same time 'modern' and 'traditional', I explore how essentialist discourses interplay with more cosmopolitan ones forging in the formation of more multifaceted and ambiguous identities.

Panel W046
The power of identities and differences in Latin America