Imagined reality : black womanhood, telenovela representation, and racial discourse in Brazil
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Although Brazil is composed of an overwhelmingly large population of African descendants, they are usually underrepresented in the mainstream media, particularly in telenovelas (soap operas). The genre has been widely popular in South American countries for the past three decades but Brazil is the largest producer of this kind of programming, Afro descendant actors are generally seen in very small numbers and often portrayed in subaltern roles. Whenever a new soap opera is aired, its author makes his or her rounds in different television shows, magazines, and newspapers in order to publicize the new production. Watching these interviews, it becomes clear that that Brazil does not have any Black scriptwriters, which further complicates the situation, leaving white men and women to construct Black womanhood according to whatever way they see fit. This dissertation builds on research conducted during fieldwork in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It focuses specifically on the relevance to black Brazilian women’s roles on Brazilian soap operas and how the messages contained in such television shows may or may not impact the process of black female identity formation. This ethnographic dissertation employs participant observation as well interviews with black women to demonstrate how their self-identity and quotidian experiences challenge the interpellation produced by telenovelas.
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