Accepted paper:

Understanding agency and cultural transformations among Capoeira practitioners in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil


Theodora Lefkaditou

Paper short abstract:

Based on fieldwork research among Capoeira teachers and apprentices in the city of Salvador da Bahia, Brazil, the paper explores how a changing social and cultural reality challenges anthropological knowledge practices

Paper long abstract:

Capoeira, a social and cultural practice with a long and controversial history, has been rendered intelligible as 'dance', 'fight', 'sport', 'martial art' and 'philosophy'. Today, it is all over the world appealing to a search for 'authentic' experiences, to certain exotic and sensual imageries and to a need of belonging to and being identified as member of a community. The intense mobility of Capoeira teachers from the state of Bahia to other countries as well as that of foreign apprentices to the city of Salvador is changing the way culture, community, ethnic identity and selfhood are experienced, perceived and discussed among Bahian practitioners. At the same time, their understandings have always been influenced by the way anthropologists and other intellectuals -especially Brazilians- approached 'authenticity', 'afrobrazilian culture' and culture in general. This rapprochement between practitioners and intellectuals becomes even more interesting as discussions on globalization entail a sense of loss and actively shape 'native' understandings and theories on social and cultural transformation and on the very concept of culture. What is more important, however, is to trace how do these 'native' understandings come to challenge and even question the way we do ethnography and reflect upon it. In this aim, I discuss how Bahian practitioners that belong to different generations make use of a set of concepts such as 'fantasy', 'desire', 'happiness', 'creativity', 'play' and 'demystification' as they assert control over their practices and attempt to make sense of the contradictions and dilemmas they are facing in a changing world

panel G22
Exoticisation, self-exoticisation: agency, identity and transformation