Life in the Affirmative—Cultural Wounding, Healing, and African Descent in Brazil

  • Amanda Kearney


Much has been written on race and ethnicity in Brazil. Taken up as a point of reflection by social scientists, historians, poets, and novelists the world over, Brazil’s complicated history of Indigenous heritage, slavery, migration, and the resulting tapestry of diverse ethnic citizenries has been heavily documented. It has been told through narratives of celebrated racial plurality and proud nationalism yet also portrayed through accounts of ethnic tension and violence in everyday life along distinct “race” lines. The setting for Freyre’s Casa Grande e Senzala (1933) and Levi-Strauss’s Tristes Tropiques (1955), Brazil has always been fertile ground for anthropologists seeking to understand the nature of ethnic difference as set amid complicated circumstances brought about by colonialism and nation building. Both Freyre and Levi-Strauss, along with subsequent generations of ethnographers, contributed to the shaping of enduring ideas around race, identity, and ethnicity. However, taken up by anthropologists and critical thinkers in Brazil, such as Cardoso de Oliveira (1978), Nascimento (1977, 1989), Ramos (1992, 1998, 2001a, 2001b), Ribeiro (1995, 2000), Sansone (2003a, 2003b, 2008), and Santos (2005, 2008, 2013), the myth of social homogeneity as the cornerstone of Brazilian nationalism has been fractured, and the melting pot as a metaphor for Brazilian social and cultural life no longer holds substance.


Ethnic Identity Affirmative Action Healing Action African Descent Social Memory 
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© Amanda Kearney 2014

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  • Amanda Kearney

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