Embodying Brazilianness : performing race and place in Austin, Texas
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The number and variety of musical groups performing and teaching Brazilian music in Austin Texas expanded considerably since 2010, making it one of the largest and most diverse Brazilian music scenes outside of Brazil. This dissertation investigates the racial meanings generated in the embodied performances of Austin’s Brazilian music groups. I argue that Brazilian performance ensembles outside of Brazil are not mere products of globalized cultural flows but rather contemporary manifestations of a long-standing transnational racial formation that links Brazil to the United States and Latin America more generally. Chapter 2 focuses on the history of segregation and racially exclusive social spaces in Austin that continue to accentuate divisions between Blacks, Whites, and Latinxs, and that have contributed to the formation of racially exclusive performance practices. In chapter 3, I engage with critical Whiteness studies, performance theory, racial interpellation, and the broader (trans)national historical context of blackface minstrelsy to investigate the extent to which performing Afro-descendant music and dance constitutes a form of racial drag on the part of the majority-White American participants. Chapter 4 extends this analysis into the realm of material culture, considering how the embodied experience and spectacle of Brazilian music performance occurs through particular interactions between bodies and musical instruments that enact notions of race and gender. Chapter 5 considers the discursive dimension of racial drag by tracing how descriptions of samba and maracatu in Austin (re)articulate three interconnected transnational narrative tropes of Blackness—alegria (joy, happiness), hot/infectious rhythm, and community. Taken together, the multiple layers of racial drag suggest that despite attempts to celebrate Brazilian culture and even potentially challenge racial stereotypes, Brazilian music and dance performances in Austin tend to unintentionally (re)produce and reinforce views that both circumscribe the possibilities of Blackness while simultaneously reifying the power of Whiteness. The final chapter of the dissertation proposes new approaches to world music pedagogy that mitigate against race and gender stereotypes while simultaneously optimizing the potential of music for fostering cross-cultural understanding and anti-racism education.