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Accepted Paper:

Looking for Madam Satan: locating trans Afro-queerness in Brazilian folklore and popular culture  

Author:

Gregory Mitchell (Williams College)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines the legacy of Madame Satã (1900-1976), the drag persona of João Francisco dos Santos, a black gay man who rose to prominence in 1930s Rio de Janeiro and was legendary as a capoeira streetfighter.

Paper long abstract:

This paper examines the legacy of Madame Satã (1900-1976), the drag persona of João Francisco dos Santos, a black gay man who rose to prominence in 1930s Rio de Janeiro and was legendary as a capoeira streetfighter. Born to former slaves, he fathered seven children, spent decades in prison for murders, and became known both for doing drag shows in the bohemian neighborhood of Lapa as well as battling the police forces there in hand-to-hand combat. Santos became a folkhero within his own lifetime, but his story also inspired comic books, a film, and pop culture references. This paper examines the myth-making surrounding this mercurial figure and looks at the complicated interplay of queerness, trans-ness, and blackness in Brazil. It argues that one of the legacies of Madam Satã is a growth in trans resistance movements in Rio such as Casa Nem, a collective of transgender and travesti squatters begun steps away from Satã’s home in Lapa, which is run by a militant trans activist who, like Madam Satã, is becoming famous for no-holds-barred tactics against the state.

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