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Accepted Paper:

Mediating post/colonial strains. How coloniality permeates the relational positionality of Senegalese and Spanish newcomers in Rio de Janeiro  


Tilmann Heil (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)

Paper Short Abstract:

A decade ago—still with a promising future ahead—Rio de Janeiro (temporarily) received newcomers from crisis-ridden Spain and diasporic Senegal. Their multiple colonial legacies reconfigure into complex post/colonial strains that mediate how newcomers relate to the raced and classed urban fabric.

Paper long abstract:

This paper unfolds the multiple post/colonial strains that mediate how newcomers from crisis-ridden Spain and diasporic Senegal relate to the raced and classed urban fabric of Rio de Janeiro. These strains—tiring and distorted, but powerful mediations—emerge from the three interconnecting post/colonial legacies of Brazil, Senegal, and Spain. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork conducted between 2014-2020 in Rio de Janeiro with Senegalese and Spanish newcomers, this paper focuses on those aspects in the newcomers' commentaries on race and class relations in Rio de Janeiro in which the colonial matrix of power surfaces, however, in a distorted way given the non-metropolitan current location as well as contemporary migration dynamics. The multiple, post/colonial strains are fed by the legacies of, for example, Rio de Janeiro's past as the only colonial capital of a European empire, slavery across the Atlantic, Spanish/European imperialism in Latin America, and French/European colonialism in West Africa. Through a careful analysis of commentaries on black-black (African-Brazilian) and white-white (European-Brazilian) relations, I trace how the post/colonial matrix of race and class is distorted as Brazil occupies an ambiguous position. In many Senegalese discourses, it is placed both somewhere on the continuum between Europe and Africa and outside of it. In Spanish discourses, Brazil is at once part of Latin America and not. Brazil's ambiguous positions and my interlocutors' uncertainty in making sense of their own everyday class and race relations, causes exhaustion at the same time as it reveals the continuous power of post/coloniality in contemporary Rio de Janeiro.

Panel P099
(Post)colonial migrants in non-metropolitan places