This article asks how Syrian-Lebanese men and non-Middle Eastern Brazilian women have enacted their relationship to belly dancing in São Paulo. While men and women of Arab origins have usually framed the dance as an essential link to their ethnic heritage, non-Arab female enthusiasts have generally treated it as a universal dance for women. I examine the interplay between these claims through performances in Syrian-Lebanese country clubs, a Brazilian belly dance festival, and the Brazilian Orientalist soap opera, O Clone (The Clone). As contractors, folk dancers, or spectators, Syrian-Lebanese men have joined with non-Middle Eastern women in reinforcing their respective ties to the belly dance phenomenon. These moves across gender and ethnic lines, I argue, not only reveal Syrian-Lebanese men's complicity in the marginalization of Arab women through the belly dance, but in so doing, also show the reproduction of the sexual and racial hierarchies in Brazilian nationalist ideology.


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pp. 86-114
Launched on MUSE
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