On the berimbau

The berimbau is a one-stringed bow-shaped instrument with a gourd as a sound chamber, played with a stick and a coin or stone and accompanied by a rattle called a caxixi. In addition to being an inseparable part of Capoeira, it has been transformed into a unique addition to percussion sounds in world music by artists like Naná Vasconcellos, and learning to play it is as deceptively simple as the art of Zen archery. In other words, it can take a lifetime to master, and only a few, like João Grande, achieve such mastery.

Read more about it on Wikipedia

Bahia Med School dean blames poor rating on "Bahians' low IQ"

Using arguments reminiscent of the pseudo-scientific racists of the 19th century, the Dean of the Federal University at Bahia (UFBA) School of Medicine, Antonio Natalino Manta Dantas, blamed a poor Ministry of Education rating of his institution on the "low IQ" of Bahians and clearly stated his belief that the South and Central-South of Brazil are more developed due to European and Japanese immigration. Since he was speaking about the state with the largest population of African descent in Brazil, and specifically denigrated the berimbau, an African instrument used primarily in the African-Brazilian cultural expression Capoeira, and an African-Brazilian band, Olodum, one need not be a student of race relations to read between the lines.

Here's an article published on the debacle in Portuguese:

Professor atribui baixa nota do Enade ao "QI dos baianos"
Fabiane Madeira Direto de Salvador
O professor da Faculdade de Medicina da Universidade Federal da Bahia (UFBA), Antonio Natalino Manta Dantas, atribui ao "baixo QI dos baianos" a nota 2 obtida pelo curso no Exame Nacional de Desempenho dos Estudantes (Enade) e no Indicador de Diferença entre os Desempenhos Observado e Esperado (IDD). O reitor da universidade convocou o diretor da Faculdade de Medicina para uma reunião e deverá se manifestar hoje à tarde.
» Tom Zé: QI baiano não gera fracasso acadêmico » MEC vai supervisionar 17 cursos de Medicina » Fórum: opine sobre as declarações do professor
"Há uma inferioridade dos alunos baianos em relação aos outros. A prova foi uma mostra disso", disse Dantas, em entrevista à rádio Band News. Para o professor, "o baiano é uma pessoa igual a qualquer outra, mas talvez tenha déficit em relação a outras populações. Não temos aquele desenvolvimento que poderíamos ter. Se comparados com os estados do Sul, vemos que a imigração japonesa, italiana e alemã foram excelentes para o país. Aqui ficamos estagnados". Dantas é baiano e formando na própria UFBA na década de 60.
O professor disse ainda que o sistema de cotas para afro-descendentes pode ter contribuído para o mau desempenho. "A prova foi feita com alunos do primeiro semestre e do último semestre. Pode estar havendo uma contaminação das cotas e influência da transformação curricular nesse resultado".
Ainda na entrevista, Dantas afirmou que a tradicional percussão do Olodum é um "barulho" e que um dos símbolos da Bahia, o berimbau, é um instrumento para pessoas pouco inteligentes. "O berimbau é o tipo de instrumento para o indivíduo que tem poucos neurônios. Ele tem uma corda só e não precisa de muitas combinações musicais", disse.
Procurado pela rádio, o reitor da UFBA, Naomar de Almeida Filho, classificou as declarações de Dantas como "racistas e ignorantes". O reitor convocou o diretor da Faculdade de Medicina, José Tavares Carneiro Neto, para uma reunião de emergência na qual deverá pedir providências em relação à postura de Dantas. O reitor, que é favorável às cotas, deve se manifestar à tarde.
O curso de medicina da UFBA será supervisionado pelo MEC, junto com outras 16 instituições que obtiveram notas baixas nas avaliações federais. A faculdade de Medicina da UFBA foi a primeira instalada no País e completou 200 anos recentemente. Entre os formados pela instituição está o falecido senador Antônio Carlos Magalhães.
Redação Terra

Responding to Medical School dean's remarks on the "Bahian IQ"

It is with sadness that I read the comment made today by the gentleman from UFBA's School of Medicine. For the record, I know Salvador and Bahia very well, even having family there. What immediately strikes a reader is how the dear administrator shifts the blame for a scale of "2," thereby conveniently absolving himself of any responsibility. As to the question of IQ tests measuring ability/intelligence, the dear administrator is using a method one half a century old and which has been largely discarded because of its severe biases, including a pronounced racial bias (for more on this go to Google.Scholar, see Racial bias in testing Jencks - The Black-White Test Score Gap, 1998- books.google.com…... Content Bias Relabelling aptitude and intelligence tests can reduce concerns about racial bias, but it cannot settle the issue entirely. ...). Let me quote here nothing other than one often claimed to be a modern genius, Jay Gould (1974). Gould draws parallels between modern intelligence testing and the rather outdated practice of craniometry. Craniometry held that conclusions about intellectual capacities could be drawn from measurements of a person's skull. This was used to give existing prejudices a "scientific" stamp pf approval. Gould comments, "What craniometry was to the 19th century, intelligence testing has been to the twentieth."In other words, this administrator, as Tom Ze observed, is hiding behind an out-dated and flawed North American (not even European) practiced method of measuring ability; but far more serious, in so doing he uses a tool heavily critiqued here in the United States for its anti-Afro American bias in a Brazilian state (Bahia) overwhelmingly of African origin and which, historically, has suffered the brunt of derogatory commentary from Paulistas and others in the Center-South of Brazil. I think the dear administrator should be led to the exit door at UFBA (without severance pay).
Marc W. Herold
Professor of Economic Development
University of New Hampshire
Durham, N.H. 03824USA


Seminar at IGHB and IAT

A seminar on "Manuel Querino: Life and Works," hosted by the Geographic and Historic Institute of Bahia (IGHB) and organised by Jaime Nascimento, will commemorate two milestones - the 157th anniversary of the birth and 85th anniversary of the death of Manuel Raimundo Querino. An author, jousnalist, historian, teacher at the Liceu de Artes e Ofícios and São Joaquim Orphanage School, a self-taught anthropologist and one of the most important scholars of the History of Bahia, Querino pioneered the study of the African contribution to the development of Brazilian society. This unique and multifaceted figure will be discussed and analysed, while underscoring his importance to the intellectual worlds of Bahia and Brazil.

The seminar will be held from July 28 to August 1, 2008, including presentations at the IGHB Auditorium and the Anísio Teixeira Intitute's Teleconference Room.

The confirmed list of speakers includes:
Maria das Graças Leal
Consuelo Novais Sampaio
Sabrina Gledhill
Myriam Fraga
Cristiane Vasconcelos
Antonio Sérgio Alfredo Guimarães
Eliane Nunes
Luiz Alberto Ribeiro Freire
Vanda Machado

Other possible speakers:
Jaime Sodré
Jorge Portugal


A raça africana (introduction)

Race in Another America

UCLA Brazilianist Takes Top Sociology Book Award
The ASA's top book award will go to UCLA's Edward Telles in 2006. In this photo from the August 2005 meeting in Philadelphia, he receives a prize from NYU Professor Guillermina Jasso, chair of the award committee for the ASA's population section.

UCLA Brazilianist Takes Top Sociology Book Award

Assumptions about race relations derived from U.S. experience don't hold for Brazil, Edward Telles announced in 'Race in Another America,' judged best contribution to sociology in three years.

By Kevin Matthews

Segregatory regimes were atypical: Jim Crow U.S. and apartheid South Africa.

The career of UCLA Sociology Professor Edward E. Telles contains lessons for students and writers. The version for undergraduates: if you're an idealist, be patient and flexible, because it often takes time to get comfortable with a job. Telles did a five-year stint in Los Angeles as a community organizer, city employee, and ESL instructor before realizing that none of these roles, all rewarding in their way, was sustaining his interest. He entered UCLA's urban planning graduate program with the notion that a master's degree would be useful whether he ultimately chose an academic career or returned to work for the LA Community Development Department. At UCLA, he got excited by puzzles contained in demographic data and perceived that the solutions could have social and political significance, then went on to earn a PhD at the University of Texas at Austin. Later, he worked as a Ford Foundation officer in Brazil, developing relationships with activists in the country and new perspectives on attitudes about race.

There's also a lesson for scholars and other writers: often, the thing you'd most like to express—but can't, or can't yet—is downright simple.

The simple insight that has won high accolades for Race in Another America: The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil (2004, Princeton University Press), and that Telles backs up with reams of the government's data, is that have-not racial groups in Brazil do not achieve the status of haves through integration and intermarriage. This is rather a starting-point for thinking about social policy, he explains, than some paradox that defies analysis and explanation.

In a way this basic picture, Telles says, has been apparent to Brazilianists for some time. Although the country is far less segregated than the United States or South Africa, Brazilian blacks rarely achieve even middle-class economic status. Indeed, the country has one of the world's most unequal income distributions, a phenomenon that happens to be linked to race. Still, Telles's point about the weak relationship between social discrimination and material inequality has been a hard one for his colleagues to state because prevailing theory—much of it derived from the U.S. case, which he says is too readily accepted as a paradigm—teaches that racial mixing cures many ills. Conveniently, according to Telles, Brazilian elites agree that racism can hardly exist where brown, black, and white people (categories used in the census) come together easily.

"In Latin America, the whole idea of mixture has been part of the narrative of the nation," he says, citing the cases of Venezuela and of Mexico, the country his ancestors hailed from. "These ideas are created by elites," he adds.

After encountering classic studies that credited Brazil with racial tolerance and later work that focused on economic inequities among races, Telles saw that two generations of academics had fallen into a habit of talking past one another. According to reviews by peers, Race in Another America succeeded in peeling away questions about racial mixing in families, neighborhoods, and social circles from concerns about unequal attainments among races in income, education, life expectancy, and other indicators of material well-being. Telles fashions the two types of concerns as largely independent "horizontal" (social and interpersonal) and "vertical" (economic and material) dimensions of race relations in Brazil.

Although Telles is too cautious to apply his scheme beyond Brazil, he suggests that racially mixed societies like Brazil are far more common than the segregated ones: "the Jim Crow U.S. and apartheid South Africa." Integration in the United States and the U.S. South, he says, represents this country's "becoming more like the rest of the world."

Winner in 2005 of the American Sociological Association's Otis Dudley Duncan Prize for the best book on population issues, Race in Another America this year has won the ASA Distinguished Scholarly Publication award for the single best English-language book in sociology over the past three years.

One Drop vs One Race

False analogies with the United States are also part of what enables Brazilians to claim, as Telles says they characteristically do, that racial matters have little importance in their country. "If you bring up the idea that there might be racism, then you're racist yourself," he says, describing a prevalent view.

Racism and the use of racial categories themselves developed in drastically different ways in the two largest countries in the Americas, Telles says. Whereas whole English families arrived in North America fleeing religious persecution, the Portuguese and others who traveled to the South American coast were usually young men seeking fortunes and, in the meantime, mates. Unequal and coercive sexual relations between white men and black female slaves and servants resulted in mixed Afro-European offspring on both continents, of course, but the indigenous or African roots of proportionally more Brazilian babies prevented Europeans there from making racial purity a fetish. Brazil never had a one-drop rule.

Instead of enforced separation, the racist ideologies of the nineteenth-century Brazil led to a policy of "whitening." Turn-of-the-century prognosticators believed that stimulated European immigration would make nearly all Brazilians white within another century or so.

Nothing of the sort occurred, but Brazil's vision of itself as a country with a single race or even without race has endured, Telles says. This is so in spite of the rich vocabularies of racial qualifiers employed by government census-takers and the general public. The popular terms range from narrow ones like preto, for blacks with the darkest skin, to moreno, a word that means something like "brunet" and can apply to "almost any Brazilian." Telles explains that a key difference between U.S. and Brazilian racial categories is that Brazilians sort their fellows by appearance, not ancestry. There is no stigma attached to black ancestry in itself, and politicians with white skin often claim their own, he observes.

Since 2001, Brazil for the first time has been pursuing affirmative action in university admissions. Telles says that such initiatives are sorely needed but at the same time could move officials to firm up rules about racial classification. Above all, they might have to "decide who's black." This is a tall order given that, in practice, Brazilians apply racial labels very inconsistently, especially along the imaginary line that divides black from brown, Telles says.

A small black movement has long sought changes and now has acquired limited political influence, including some from within the ruling Worker's Party (PT). In politics, Telles says, "there's a recognition of race for the first time in Latin America in the last five years or so. That's new."


Visible Man

The New York Times

Op-Ed Contributor

I TRY to keep a low profile. Maybe you see me in the hallway but don’t know my name. Say hi to me in the coffee room but don’t really know me. I break my silence now because of this election mess. Before the primary in Pennsylvania this week, Bill Clinton was doing magic tricks — now you see the race card, now you don’t. Geraldine Ferraro and Bob Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, have been complaining that Barack Obama is leading in the Democratic presidential campaign only because of his skin color. Multimillionaire TV pundits are lecturing “the common man” on how outraged they should be about Mr. Obama’s elitism.

It’s all hokum, and I should know. For it is I, The Guy Who’s Where He Is Only Because He’s Black.

Most folks don’t know much about me, apart from the feeling of injustice that hits when I walk into the room with my easy charisma and air of entitlement. I understand. It’s weird when your government passes legislation, like equal opportunity laws, that benefits one single person in the country — me, The Guy Who Got Where He Is Only Because He’s Black.

People think I have it easy, but it’s surprisingly difficult being The Guy Who Got Where He Is Only Because He’s Black, what with the whole having to be everywhere in the country at once thing. One second I’m nodding enthusiastically in a sales conference in Boise, Idaho, and the next I’m separating conjoined triplets at the Institute For Terribly Complicated Surgery in Buchanan, N.Y., and then I have to rush out to Muncie, Ind., to put my little “Inspector 12” tag in a bag of Fruit of the Loom.

It’s exhausting, all that travel. Decent, hard-working folks out there have their religion and their xenophobia to cling to. All I have is a fistful of upgrades to first class and free headphones. Headphones That Should Have Gone to a More Deserving Passenger.

Guns? I wish I had a gun! Ever run out of truffle oil before a dinner party and have to go to Whole Foods on a weekend? It’ll make you want to spread a little buckshot around, that’s for sure.

Look, we’re all hurting, trying to make ends meet. I have serious overhead with all the résumés I send out. The postage is one thing, but I also like to print my résumé on a nice creamy bond. I think it sends a message. Then there’s the dry cleaning and the soap — I prefer to be clean and articulate in my interviews, put my best foot forward. I think it’s working. People are responding to how I present myself.

I know some folks feel bitter about me, as bitter as the first dandelion greens of the season. Yet these people are not without hope, hope that is drizzled on those dandelion greens like a dash of sweet pomegranate vinegar. Do they begrudge the scorpion its sting, or the duck its quack? How can I be other than what I am, The Guy Who Got Where He Is Only Because He’s Black?

Frankly it’s a lot better than my last two gigs, The Guy Who Left the Seat Up and The Guy Who Took the Last Beer, although I do suffer from a lot of work-related injuries, as you can imagine. For all this jibber-jabber about how I don’t understand a working man’s problems, you should take a look at my medical chart. I have carpal tunnel, tennis elbow, miner’s lung, scapegoat rash and vintner’s dropsy, and just last week I burned my thumb making horseshoes. The funny thing is, I didn’t want to be a blacksmith. But I heard they had an opening and I couldn’t help myself.

I put in a good day’s work, unwind with a little Marx, and then settle down for some well-deserved rest. I have a nice bed. It is a California king. It is stuffed with gold doubloons, the treasure I have accumulated by gathering the bonuses and raises that would have gone to Those Who Would’ve Gotten It Except for That Black Guy. The bed is quite comfortable. I sleep O.K.

It makes the head spin, this talk of who’s elitist and who’s not. I’m confused, myself. For years, they said you can’t have this because you’re black, and then when you get something the same people say you got that only because you’re black. I mean, here I am, The Guy Who Got Where He Is Only Because He’s Black, and yet the higher up you go in an organization, the less you see of me.

It’s as if Someone Out to Prevent Me From Getting What I Worked For is preventing me from getting what I worked for. If only there were something — a lapel pin or other sartorial accessory — that would reassure people that I can do the job.

Some people say Barack Obama and I get everything handed to us on a silver platter. But we don’t let it bother us. We’re taking those silver platters and making them our canoes. Then we’ll grab our silver spoons and paddle to a place where people get us. North Carolina, maybe. Or Indiana. I hear Oregon is nice this time of year. We’ll paddle on, brother, paddle all the way to the top.

Colson Whitehead, a fellow at the Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers, is the author of the forthcoming novel “Sag Harbor.”


E. Bradford Burns (1933-1995)

Another former student of Prof. E. Bradford Burns, Dr. Rosa María Pegueros, sent me this photo of the late great "Querinologist" and historian. Among many other publications, he wrote a bibliographic essay titled "MANUEL QUERINO'S INTERPRETATION OF THE AFRICAN CONTRIBUTION TO BRAZIL", The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 59, No. 1 (Jan., 1974), pp. 78-86
Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, Inc.

Click here to read a moving tribute by Ludwig (Larry) Lauerhass Jr., a former director of the UCLA Latin American Studies Center

I recently found this excellent obituary


Was Nina Rodrigues really a "mulatto"?

Raimundo Nina Rodrigues

Thomas Skidmore wrote that Nina Rodrigues was a mulatto in Black into White (1974). And Edward Telles repeated the allegation of Nina's mixed-race background in Race in Another America (2004), citing Skidmore. Could it be that, after a thousand repetitions, it will become an accepted historical fact? Skidmore may have based his statement on documented evidence, and portraits like the one above can (and have been) "whitened," but it might also turn out that Jorge Amado was the Exú who transformed this proponent of whitening/eugenics into a mulatto through his novel Tent of Miracles. The character Nilo Argolo (inspired by Nina Rodrigues) spends a great deal of energy hiding the "skeleton in his closet" - his African ancestry.


Aimé Césaire, the "father of Négritude"

BBC obituary:

Caribbean poet Cesaire dies at 94

Poet and political activist Aime Cesaire has died in Martinique aged 94.

Born on the French Caribbean island in 1913, he became famous for promoting black consciousness and challenging the political establishment.

Cesaire was partly responsible for coining the word "negritude", a term affirming pride in black identity.

His poetry and plays, including a black adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest, are regularly performed and studied in France.

Cesaire was educated in Paris, where he co-founded a literary review called The Black Student, along with Leopold Senghor, who went on to become Senegal's first president.


His early poetry included Return To My Native Land, a work about the ambiguities of Caribbean life and culture, and often verged on the surreal.

He embodied the fight for the recognition of his identity and the richness of his African roots.

When asked to define the meaning of negritude, Cesaire said it was "the affirmation that one is black and proud of it".

He described himself as "negro, negro from the bottom of the sky immemorial".

He returned to Martinique at the end of World War II where he continued to write, and embarked upon a political career.

Cesaire became a member of the French National Assembly and served as mayor of Martinique's main town, Fort-de-France, from 1945 until his retirement in 2001.

In 2006, he initially refused to meet French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who was the interior minister at the time, until a law to emphasise the positive nature of French colonialism was repealed.

Paying tribute to him today, Mr Sarkozy described the writer as a great humanist.

"As a free and independent spirit, throughout his whole life he embodied the fight for the recognition of his identity and the richness of his African roots," he said.

His best-known works include "Discourse on Colonialism" published in 1950, and an adaptation of Shakespeare's The Tempest.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2008/04/17 15:27:05 GMT


An excellent proposal

Why has the U.S. produced a magnificent Holocaust Memorial Museum before opening an institution of equivalent stature dedicated to slavery and segregation?

The New York Times

April 17, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist

Race and American Memory


I was wandering through the King Center here when I stumbled on a movie clip of an indignant African-American woman saying: “If we can’t live in our country and be accepted as free citizens and human beings, then something’s the matter with something — and it isn’t me.”

That seemed a good, plain summation of the central conflict that has roiled American life since the nation’s foundation, through slavery and segregation and their bitter legacies. When this anonymous woman spoke, less than a half-century ago, she was an unfree American. How she was schooled, where she could sit and whom she could marry were matters determined by her race.

This “something’s the matter with something — and it isn’t me” is a big subject, the nation’s “original sin,” in Barack Obama’s words. It’s also a painful one that sees American ideals and practices at some remove from each other in ways of which Abu Ghraib was a reminder.

For nations to confront their failings is arduous. It involves what Germans, experts in this field, call Geschichtspolitik, or “the politics of history.” It demands the passage from the personal to the universal, from individual memory to memorial. Yet there is as yet in the United States no adequate memorial to the ravages of race.

The King Center is a fine institution. But it’s a modest museum, like others scattered through the country that deal with aspects of the nation’s most divisive subject. Why, I wondered as I viewed the exhibit, does the Holocaust, a German crime, hold pride of place over U.S. lynchings in American memorialization?

Let’s be clear: I am not comparing Jim Crow with industrialized mass murder, or suggesting an exact Klan-Nazi moral equivalency. But I do think some psychological displacement is at work when a magnificent Holocaust Memorial Museum, in which the criminals are not Americans, precedes a Washington institution of equivalent stature dedicated to the saga of national violence that is slavery and segregation.

I lived in Berlin for three years, a period spanning the Bundestag’s decision in 1999 to build a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe. The debate, 54 years after the collapse of Hitler’s Reich, was fraught. It takes time to traverse the politics of history, confront guilt and arrive at an adequate memorialization of national crimes that also offers a possible path to reconciliation.

Germans have confronted the monstrous in them. In the end, they concluded the taint was so pervasive that Degussa, which was linked to the company that produced Zyklon-B gas, was permitted to provide the anti-graffiti coating for the memorial. The truth can be brutal, but flight from it even more devastating.

America’s heroic narrative of itself is still in flight from race. The decision, approved by Congress in 2003, to build the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, to open in 2015, reflects a desire to plug this hole in the nation’s memory. But what this $500 million institution will be remains to be invented.

“The Holocaust is a horribly difficult subject, but the bad guys are not Americans,” Lonnie Bunch, the museum’s director, told me. “Race, however, is the quintessential American story and one that calls into question how America defines itself and how we, as Americans, accept our own culpability.”

He continued: “I am confident that the U.S. public can now do that. My challenge is to express not only the lynching, but also the resiliency and spirituality that are part of the core American identity.”

I also think America’s ready, a half-century after the civil rights movement, for this painful memorialization. But it won’t be easy. The aborted International Freedom Center museum at ground zero, conceived to showcase liberty but dismissed by some as camouflage for a liberal agenda, shows how explosive the politics of history are.

“Memory,” the French historian Pierre Nora noted, “is life.” As such, it’s subject to violent swings.

It’s striking how the three contenders for the presidency offer different self-images for America. John McCain comforts the classic heroic narrative. Hillary Clinton breaks the male hold on that narrative and so transforms it. Obama transfigures it in another way by personifying America’s victory over its most visceral blemish.

The world is weary of the narrative of American exceptionalism. Something’s the matter with something. Guns and God, Hillary’s latest mantra, won’t set America right. Nor will 100 years in Iraq.

It’s time for the country to ask itself some hard post-jingoistic questions and allow the memorialization of its darkest chapters. To demand truth commissions of other nations, while evading them at home, is unhelpful.

In committing to a major museum of African American History, and propelling the first serious African-American presidential candidate, the United States is recasting the psychology of its power. That’s scary. It can also be salutary.


Brazilian Justice Speaks on Race, UCLA Book

Joaquim Barbosa Gomes, the first Afro-Brazilian Justice on Brazil's Supreme Court, and three panelists praised a UCLA sociologist for his award-winning book. The panel discussed racial inequality in Brazil.

By Hoorig Santikian

Telles' book paved the way for more significant discussions that were unthinkable before.

The son of a brick-maker, Joaquim Benedito Barbosa Gomes began working in the Brazilian court system as a janitor in the electoral tribunal in Brasilia. The court director heard him sing in English and later offered him a position at the congressional printing press. While working, he also studied, finally obtaining a doctorate in public law. He taught at the UCLA Law School from 2002 to 2003 as a visiting professor.

In 2003, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva appointed Barbosa Gomes to the country's Supreme Court, making him the first Afro-Brazilian Justice.

Barbosa Gomes returned to UCLA this month to participate in events hosted by the Latin American Center, the Law School, the Department of Sociology, and Social Sciences at UCLA.

On Jan. 16, 2007, he took part in a symposium at the Young Research Library on racial tensions in Brazil, viewed in the fresh light of a landmark study by UCLA Professor of Sociology Edward Telles. Barbosa Gomes and the other distinguished scholars on the panel—UC Berkeley Professor Steven Small and UCLA Professors Mark Sawyer and Andreas Wimmer—praised Telles for his award-winning Race in Another America: The Significance of Skin Color in Brazil (2003).

Read the rest of the article here


Outcome of Brasa IX

I attended Brasa IX, the ninth congress of the Brazilian Studies Association, held at Tulane University in New Orleans, from March 27 to 29. On the afternoon of the 29th, I gave a presentation on Manuel Querino: the biographical section of "Manuel Querino: Um Pioneiro e Seu Tempo" (Manuel Querino: A Pioneer and His Time).

The conference was a very rewarding experience - well worth the long, exhausting and expensive trip from the Northeast of Brazil. Better yet, most of the panels I attended made it clear that Manuel Querino is more relevant and significant than ever. Several papers stressed the need to produce and disseminate positive images of blacks in Brazil, from slave times to the present. That was exactly what Querino strove to do during the last stage of his lifelong activism (after being a republican, abolitionist, labour leader and politician) - he was one of the "indispensable" ones, as defined by Bertolt Brecht.*

The audience for the panel in which I took part was small, but the response was very encouraging. It became clear that Querino has something to offer to people from different fields: art history, ethnography, folklore, black history and Brazilian history in general. One question that came up after my presentation merits further reflection: why was Querino overlooked and excluded from the official history of African-Brazilian studies in Brazil, by none other than Gilberto Freyre?

The simple answer is that he was a victim of ostracism and scorn because of his colour. It could also be that his works were not widely published during his lifetime. But it goes further than that: in the words of folklorist Frederico Edelweiss, "How often [Querino] must have heard that pat and still common line: 'what an uppity Negro!' His vindication of his black brothers made him more enemies than friends; many more enemies..." In other words, Querino is yet another example of the "trap door" aspect of the "mulatto escape hatch".

*There are men who struggle for a day, and they are good;
There are others who struggle for a year, and they are better;
There are those who struggle for many years, and they are very good;
But there are some who struggle all their lives,
And they are indispensable.

- Bertolt Brecht

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