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Area and Ethnic Studies > Latin American and Caribbean Studies

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Adiós Niño

The Gangs of Guatemala City and the Politics of Death

by Deborah T. Levenson

In Adiós Niño: The Gangs of Guatemala City and the Politics of Death, Deborah T. Levenson examines transformations in the Guatemalan gangs called Maras from their emergence in the 1980s to the early 2000s. A historical study, Adiós Niño describes how fragile spaces of friendship and exploration turned into rigid and violent ones in which youth, and especially young men, came to employ death as a natural way of living for the short period that they expected to survive. Levenson relates the stark changes in the Maras to global, national, and urban deterioration; transregional gangs that intersect with the drug trade; and the Guatemalan military's obliteration of radical popular movements and of social imaginaries of solidarity. Part of Guatemala City's reconfigured social, political, and cultural milieu, with their members often trapped in Guatemala's growing prison system, the gangs are used to justify remilitarization in Guatemala's contemporary postwar, post-peace era. Portraying the Maras as microcosms of broader tragedies, and pointing out the difficulties faced by those youth who seek to escape the gangs, Levenson poses important questions about the relationship between trauma, memory, and historical agency.

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Aesthetics of Equilibrium

The Vanguard Poetics of Vicente Huidobro and Mário de Andrade

by Bruce Willis

Aesthetics of Equilibrium is the first book-length comparative analysis of the theoretical prose by two major Latin American vanguardist contemporaries, Mario de Andrade (Brazil, 1893-1945) and Vicente Huidobro (Chile, 1893-1948). Willis offers a comparative study of two allegorical texts, Huidobro's "Non serviam" and Mario's "Parabola d’A escrava que nao e Isaura."

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African-Brazilian Culture and Regional Identity in Bahia, Brazil

Scott Ickes

Examines how in the middle of the twentieth century, Bahian elites began to recognize African-Bahian cultural practices as essential components of Bahian regional identity. Previously, public performances of traditionally African-Bahian practices such as capoeira, samba, and Candomblé during carnival and other popular religious festivals had been repressed in favor of more European traditions.

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African Diasporic Women's Narratives

Politics of Resistance, Survival, and Citizenship

Simone A. James Alexander

Using feminist and womanist theory, Simone Alexander takes as her main point of analysis literary works that focus on the black female body as the physical and metaphorical site of migration. She shows that over time black women have used their bodily presence to complicate and challenge a migratory process often forced upon them by men or patriarchal society.

Through in-depth study of selective texts by Audre Lorde, Edwidge Danticat, Maryse Condé, and Grace Nichols, Alexander challenges the stereotypes ascribed to black female sexuality, subverting its assumed definition as diseased, passive, or docile. She also addresses issues of embodiment as she analyses how women’s bodies are read and seen; how bodies “perform” and are performed upon; how they challenge and disrupt normative standards.

A multifaceted contribution to studies of gender, race, sexuality and disability issues, African Diasporic Women’s Narratives engages with a range of issues as it grapples with the complex interconnectedness of geography, citizenship, and nationalism.

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Afro-Caribbean Religions

An Introduction to Their Historical, Cultural, and Sacred Traditions

Nathanial Samuel Murrell

A comprehensive introduction to the Caribbean’s African-based religions

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Afro-Cuban Tales

Lydia Cabrera

As much a storyteller as an ethnographer, Lydia Cabrera was captivated by a strange and magical new world revealed to her by her Afro-Cuban friends in early twentieth-century Havana. In Afro-Cuban Tales this world comes to teeming life, introducing English-speaking readers to a realm of tenuous boundaries between the natural and the supernatural, deities and mortals, the spiritual and the seemingly inanimate.

Here readers will find a vibrant, imaginative record of African culture transplanted to Cuba and transformed over time, a passionate and subversive alternative to the dominant Western culture of the Americas. In this charmed realm of myth and legend, imaginative flights, and hard realities, Cabrera shows us a world turned upside down. In this domain guinea hens can make dour Asturians and the king of Spain dance; little fat cooking pots might prepare their own meals; the pope can send encyclicals about pumpkins; and officials can be defeated by the shrewdness of turtles. The first English translation of one of the most important writers on African culture in the Americas, the collection provides a fascinating view of how African traditions, myths, stories, and religions traveled to the New World—of how, in their tales, Africans in the Americas created a New World all their own.

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Afro-Cuban Theology

Religion, Race, Culture, and Identity

Michelle A. Gonzalez

The first book to compare Cuban American and African American religiosity, Afro-Cuban Theology argues that Afro-Cuban religiosity and culture are central to understanding the Cuban and Cuban American condition. Gonzalez interprets this saturation of the Afro-Cuban as transcending race and affecting all Cubans and Cuban Americans in spite of their pigmentation or self-identification. Building on a historical overview of the intersection of race, religion, and nationhood, the author explores the manner in which devotion to La Caridad del Cobre, popular religion, and Cuban letters inform an Afro-Cuban theology.

This interdisciplinary study draws from various theological schools as well as the disciplines of history, literary studies, and ethnic studies. The primary discipline is systematic theology, with special attention to black and Latino/a theologies. Far from being disconnected subfields, they are interrelated areas within theological studies. Gonzalez provides a broad overview of the Cuban and Cuban American communities, emphasizing the manner in which the intersection of race and religion have functioned within the construction of Cuban and Cuban American identities. The Roman Catholic Church's role in this history, as well as the preservation of African religious practices and consequent formation of Afro-Cuban religions, are paramount.

Also groundbreaking is the collaborative spirit between black and Latino/a that underlines this work. The author proposes an expansion of racial identity recognizing the different cultures that exist within U.S. racial contexts--specifically a model of collaboration versus dialogue between black and Latino/a theologies.

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Afro-Paradise

Blackness, Violence, and Performance in Brazil

Christen A. Smith

Tourists exult in Bahia, Brazil as a tropical paradise infused with the black population's one-of-a-kind vitality. But the alluring images of smiling black faces and dancing black bodies masks an ugly reality of anti-black authoritarian violence. Christen A. Smith argues that the dialectic of glorified representations of black bodies and subsequent state repression reinforces Brazil's racially hierarchal society. Interpreting the violence as both institutional and performative, Smith follows a grassroots movement and social protest theater troupe in their campaigns against racial violence. As Smith reveals, economies of black pain and suffering form the backdrop for the staged, scripted, and choreographed afro-paradise that dazzles visitors. The work of grassroots organizers exposes this relationship, exploding illusions and asking unwelcome questions about the impact of state violence performed against the still-marginalized mass of Afro-Brazilians.

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Afro-Politics and Civil Society in Salvador da Bahia, Brazil

by Kwame Dixon

Brazil’s black population, one of the oldest and largest in the Americas, mobilized a vibrant antiracism movement from grassroots origins when the country transitioned from dictatorship to democracy in the 1980s. Campaigning for political equality after centuries of deeply engrained racial hierarchies, African-descended groups have been working to unlock democratic spaces that were previously closed to them.

Using the city of Salvador as a case study, Kwame Dixon tracks the emergence of black civil society groups and their political projects: claiming new citizenship rights, testing new anti-discrimination and affirmative action measures, reclaiming rural and urban land, and increasing political representation. This book is one of the first to explore how Afro-Brazilians have influenced politics and democratic institutions in the contemporary period.

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After-Dinner Conversation

The Diary of a Decadent

By José Asunción Silva

Lost in a shipwreck in 1895, rewritten before the author's suicide in 1896, and not published until 1925, José Asunción Silva's After-Dinner Conversation (De sobremesa) is one of Latin America's finest fin de siècle novels and the first one to be translated into English. Perhaps the single best work for understanding turn-of-the-twentieth-century writing in South America, After-Dinner Conversation is also cited as the continent's first psychological novel and an outstanding example of modernista fiction and the Decadent sensibility. Semi-autobiographical and more important for style than plot, After-Dinner Conversation is the diary of a Decadent sensation-collector in exile in Paris who undertakes a quest to find his beloved Helen, a vision whom his fevered imagination sees as his salvation. Along the way, he struggles with irreconcilable urges and temptations that pull him in every direction while he endures an environment indifferent or hostile to spiritual and intellectual pursuits, as did the modernista writers themselves. Kelly Washbourne's excellent translation preserves Silva's lush prose and experimental style. In the introduction, one of the most wide-ranging in Silva criticism, Washbourne places the life and work of Silva in their literary and historical contexts, including an extended discussion of how After-Dinner Conversation fits within Spanish American modernismo and the Decadent movement. Washbourne's perceptive comments and notes also make the novel accessible to general readers, who will find the work surprisingly fresh more than a century after its composition.

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