Exposing Silence as Cultural Censorship: A Brazilian Case



In this article I assert that in focusing on salient discourses, contested cultural domains, and public forms of conflict and power, cultural and linguistic anthropologists, and other social scientists, have overlooked the significance of communal forms of silence in shaping the social and political landscape. I argue that such customary silences constitute "cultural censorship," which, unlike state-sponsored censorship, is practiced in the absence of explicit coercion or enforcement. Although practiced by different and opposed groups, cultural censorship tends to be constituted through, and circumscribed by. the political interests of dominant groups. In this article, which is based on ethnographic research in Rio de Janeiro. I analyze a case of cultural censorship by examining the customary silence surrounding the subject of racism in Brazil. By emphasizing the phenomenology of cultural censorship among poor Brazilians of African descent. 1 argue that silence must not be conflated with, and does not preclude the existence of. non-hegemonic consciousness, [silence, cultural censorship, consciousness, Brazil, racism]