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Reviewed by:
  • Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship edited by Idelber Avelar and Christopher Dunn
  • Cory J. Lafevers
Idelber Avelar and Christopher Dunn, eds. Brazilian Popular Music and Citizenship. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2011. 376 pp. ISBN 978-0-8223-4906-8.

The notion of cultural citizenship has gained considerable traction over the past two decades. Idelber Avelar and Christopher Dunn’s book is a timely investigation into the relationship between popular music and processes of citizenship in Brazil. The anthology consists of an introduction by the editors, followed by eighteen essays covering a wide range of topics. The volume makes important contributions from the perspectives of both (ethno)musicology and cultural studies. Overall, the publication is most [End Page 294] appropriate for graduate students, although individual chapters could be used effectively in advanced undergraduate classes.

Avelar and Dunn situate their study within a tradition of related scholarship, citing T. H. Marshall’s three forms of citizenship (civil, political, and social) to advocate that culture be viewed as a fourth form (3). They base their definition of cultural citizenship on Toby Miller’s, although they diverge from his work in insisting that notions “such as recording and mixing, rather than preservation” more aptly describe how music acquired special significance in citizenship discourse in Brazil (4). The introduction presents an overview of the development of popular music styles, debates on citizenship, and cultural politics. The editors argue that popular music has played a vital yet contradictory role in struggles involving “who gets to count as a citizen in Brazil and how” (6), which suggests that music is often simultaneously employed as a means to further and to constrain claims to cultural citizenship. The editors’ selected essays explore this tension.

Book chapters are not organized by theme or section, although it appears that the editors loosely grouped the first chapters chronologically. Adalberto Paranhos’s essay, best read in tandem with Brian McCann’s (2004) Hello, Hello Brazil: Popular Music in the Making of Modern Brazil, illustrates ways in which sambistas articulated alternative positions to Vargas-era discourses on labor and good citizenship. Flávio Oliveira looks at collective singing programs in elementary schools during the 1930s and 1940s to investigate attempts to form capable citizens. Carlos Sandroni dissects the acronym MBP (música popular brasileira), to suggest that musical categories employed in Brazil are undergoing redefinition. Christopher Dunn analyzes the work and career of Tom Zé to illustrate how one singer-songwriter has responded musically to shifts in discourses of citizenship over four decades. Angélica Madeira discusses rock music, specifically the “rude” aesthetic politics of Os Titãs, as a means of articulating social critiques by middle-class youth during the 1980s. Focusing primarily on the period since former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office in 2002, Fredrick Moehn studies how music constitutes in-between spaces that, though ambiguous and unstable, are nonetheless important sites for negotiating Brazilian identity.

The remaining chapters deal with themes of race, marginality, geography, criminality, and representation. Malcolm K. McNee investigates musical production in the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais sem Terra (Landless Rural Workers’ Movement). Shanna Lorenz argues that the musical performance of the Japanese-Brazilian group Zhen Brasil challenged “an entire system of cultural and racial categorization that continues to enforce limits on Brazilian citizenship” (157). Aaron Lorenz [End Page 295] addresses representations of criminality and marginality in the music of sambista Bezerra da Silva. Two chapters, one by Wivian Weller and Marco Aurélio Paz Tella, the other by Derek Pardue, discuss representation and community activism in São Paulo’s hip-hop movement. João Freire Filho and Micael Herschmann return to representations of criminality and social deviance, analyzing the intersection between funk music and “moral panic” in the media during the arrastões in Rio de Janeiro of the early 1990s. Hermano Vianna presents ethnographic vignettes of his discovery of dynamic popular music movements taking place in the periphery of the country, that is, outside of the Rio- São Paulo axis.

Three wide-ranging chapters focus on Salvador da Bahia. Osmundo Pinho traces the role of music in developing a new Afro-descendent subjectivity and considers the implications...


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