Anti-Racism in Movement: Afro-Brazilian Afoxé and Contemporary Black Brazilian Struggles for Equality

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Abstract

This paper examines the Afro-Brazilian afoxé as a form of cultural struggle that critically contests narratives and practices that reproduce racial inequality in contemporary Brazil. Through their afoxé in the interior of São Paulo, the Orùnmilá Cultural Center mobilizes Afro-Brazilian knowledge and cultural practices to challenge culturalist treatments of Afro-Brazilian “difference” in the management and representation of carnaval. I explore how such treatments reflect broader state-orchestrated attempts to undermine black anti-racism and the implementation of substantive policies to address racial inequality in various spheres, including education and culture. The afoxé and the Orùnmilá Center's broader work constitute an important, contemporary means through which black organizations in Brazil make visible and vocal public claims for representation and self-determination. Such work pushes policy-makers and academics to reinterpret the terms of black inclusion vis-à-vis subaltern or “other” cultures, historical experiences, perspectives, and participation in societal transformation.

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