The Foreign Gaze: Reimagining Culture and Identity

Friday, February 6, 2015
4:00pm – 5:15pm
Race Conference Room 201, Lavin-Bernick Center (LBC)
Moderated by: Dr. Annie Gibson, Stone Center for Latin American Studies, Tulane University

Black Faces: uma reflexão comparada entre o Cavalo-Marinho (Pernambuco- Brasil) e os Zulus do Mardi Gras de New Orleans (EUA)
Beatriz Brusantin, Universidade Católica de Pernambuco

Neste texto construiremos um estudo comparado entre a manifestação cultural do Cavalo-Marinho (Bumba-meu-Boi) realizada na zona da mata norte de Pernambuco (Brasil) e o Mardi Gras (EUA). Em estudo realizado, dialogamos com as pesquisas de Reid Mitchell (2005) sobre o carnaval afro-creole em New Orleans e aprofundamos uma análise entre os personagens Mateus, Bastião e Catarina do folguedo Cavalo-Marinho e os Zulus do desfile do Clube Zulu de Ajuda Mútua e Diversão no século XX. Os personagens brasileiros e americanos trazem significações da cultura africana e esteticamente se utilizam do rosto pintado de preto para ridicularizar estereótipos brancos numa repetição e revisão das formas culturais brancas. Assim, aprofundaremos considerações a respeito dos processos de “crioulização” e “transculturação” dos povos africanos na América, compreendendo suas formas de (re)significar seu cotidiano e reinventar sua realidade através de expressões culturais como o Cavalo-Marinho e o Mardi Gras (Rei dos Zulus). Para desenvolver tal perspectiva analítica utilizaremos como base teórico-metodológica os estudos em História Social, como de Reid Mitchell e Robert Slenes, os estudos dos historiadores britânicos E.P. Thompson e Peter Burke sobre cultura popular e as reflexões sobre a cultura africana na América de Mintz e Price e Lovejoy.

The Victory of the Baianas and FIFA: a look at the opening of political opportunities in wake of the 2014 World Cup
Vanessa Castañeda, Tulane University

Baianas de acarajé are often referred to as “the postcard of Salvador”. These almost exclusively female street vendors are ubiquitously found within Salvador, Brazil, wearing turbans, white blouses and rounded skirts complimented with colored beaded necklaces. They are regarded as traditional and authentic icons of Afro-Bahian identity. Baianas have been selling their West African foods (acarajé) on the streets and beaches of Salvador da Bahia since the 19th century, originally as wage-earning slaves. In 2004 Baianas de acarajé were officially recognized as symbols of national Brazilian heritage and cultural patrimony. In 2013, FIFA announced for the first time in the history of the World Cup, permission for Baianas de acarajé to sell their historical and infamous fritters in the arenas of Salvador during the Confederation and World Cup games. This research paper is an interdisciplinary and intersectional study that examines how and why the Baianas were able to achieve this victory. I examine the historical relationship between Baianas and the local and federal governments, Brazil’s articulation of both a national and regional identities in the first half of the twentieth century and the emergence of a vibrant Afro culture, including cultural civil society groups and black intellectuals. I argue that Baianas were successful in achieving the victory as the first street vendors to sell within the FIFA games because of their official national status as cultural patrimony, the political opportunities afforded to them from the local and federal governments and the kinds of resources presented to them at this particular time in history. Using a mostly quantitative research method of historical and sociological methodology, I argue that this victory was possible because of the specific circumstances of the political environment during that time which partially explains the Baianas’ continuous struggle to address larger social movement agendas.

Sociolinguistic Coloniality and Decolonization in Haiti’s Political and Educational Institutions
Heather Frost, Tulane University

While former colonies often have complicated linguistic relationships with their colonial, indigenous, and creole languages, in Haiti, these relationships have been further complicated in the last hundred years. In the twentieth century, notably since the American occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934 during which French was established as the sole official language of the Caribbean nation, the dynamics between Haiti, its former colonizer, France, and the United States have shifted. Today, these international dynamics reflect the complicated web of dependence, exploitation, and cultural hegemony which continuously renews and displaces political, economic, and linguistic bonds between the three nations. As language has been and continues to be one of the principal tools of cultural hegemony, in this paper I examine how the marginalization of the Haitian Creole language in Haiti is perpetuated by Haitians based on a colonial model in order to limit social mobility and to preserve elite privilege, particularly in political and educational institutions. Additionally, I examine how foreign influence comes into play in this sociolinguistic policy. I explore what is at stake in linguistic policies and practices that marginalize the language spoken by the majority and evaluate alternative policies and practices that have been proposed in terms of the extent to which they work towards the decolonization of Haiti’s political and educational institutions.

Indigenous, Afro-descendent, and Mestizo: Tourism Development and National Narratives
Gabriela Galeano, George Mason University

The national narratives espoused by Central American governments have historically been based on a mestizo (defined here as indigenous-white mixed) image, notorious for homogenizing indigenous and afro-indigenous identities in an attempt to assimilate minority groups into the dominant society. However, recent scholarship points to a shift from mestizaje to a celebration of multiculturalism in the telling of national narratives, where previously marginalized minority groups – such as indigenous and afro-descendant populations – are now pressed to emphasize their cultural difference, particularly for tourist consumption. The Garifuna afro-descendant communities of Honduras represent one such population currently engaging with the rapid growth of tourism development as well as redefining citizenship and civic participation. My initial fieldwork on tourism development and land rights among the Tornabe Garifuna community in Tela, Honduras focused on the process through which the community organized and obtained an agreement with the Honduran national government and national/international investors regarding the development, construction, and management of a nearby, large-scale tourism resort. Interviews with community members at the time pointed to a successful collaborative relationship, though interviews and participant-observation conducted two years later exposed more complex dynamics between the major actors and during a different – more tense – sociopolitical and economic context. Thus, while the overall objective of my research still consists of analyzing the ways in which the Tornabe Garifuna community in the Tela Bay area of Honduras is resisting and adapting to the growing tourism industry (e.g. socio-political organization and framing of interests), I also seek to explore the potential role Garifuna communities could play (and have played) in the Honduran economy as well as bring into question the long-held perception that Afro-Hondurans and other minority groups are not contributors (or are marginal) to the mestizo-based ideal of Honduran citizenship.

Embodying the Beauty of a Nation: negotiating identifications in the Miss Haiti competition
Eva Heppelmann, University of California Los Angeles

Beauty Pageants, particularly national and international pageants, offer insight into representations of the nation and femininity. In the case of the Miss Haiti beauty pageant, contestants participate in a performance of citizenship. Competing to represent Haiti on a national and later on an international stage, the women negotiate personal opinions of beauty and comportment with international perceptions. The pageant serves as a platform that illustrates tensions surrounding cultural values, identifications, and aesthetics, demonstrating a corporeal enactment of these questions of identification. By comparing competitions in several Caribbean countries as well as competitions in the United States, I will investigate the intersection of pedagogic and performative narratives of nationality. What does it mean to embody or represent a nation? In past competitions, contestants who have lived most of their lives outside of Haiti have been selected to represent the nation. In the most recent 2014 Miss Haiti competition, contestants choose to answer questions in Kreyol rather than French, causing shock and admiration among the audience. Finally, how does the fact that these contests were founded and now run by western nations influence the presentation of nationality and beauty? I will analyze past and recent contestants’ performances, the structure and customs surrounding the competitions, as well as the politics of the competition to investigate representations of nationality on an ‘international’ stage.