- Performing Brazil: Essays on Culture, Identity, and the Performing Arts ed. by Severino J. Albuquerque, Kathryn Bishop-Sanchez
Bridging the gap between Brazilian Studies and Performance Studies, the collection of essays included in Performing Brazil provides a critical approach to a plethora of cultural manifestations that rehearse and represent Brazilian identity. Brasilidade or Brazilianness as a core concept is revisited in each of the chapters, explored as a performative act through which national subjectivity is enacted and perceived. Whilst adopting an interdisciplinary methodology that blurs the lines between different fields of study, the book invites the reader to reflect on a broader “understanding of performance in the Brazilian context” (4). Rather than offer a limited perspective on how certain cultural elements in Brazil lend themselves to performativity, the multidisciplinary approach that each essay offers challenges notions of cultural identity. That is perhaps one of the strongest aspects of the book: the heterogeneous yet cohesive analysis of various cultural phenomena that range from film to capoeira and even video art projects. As Albuquerque and Bishop-Sanchez argue in their introduction to the book, “this critical collection in its entirety is part of an effort to destabilize traditional notions of culture, art, community, and representation, and, as such, it questions the concept of cultural hegemony in Brazil” (7). Although other monographs have focused on specific fields of research that helped pave the way to the present collection of essays, such as Christopher Dunn’s exploration of the Tropicalia musical movement in Brutality Garden (2001), Diana Taylor’s book on Latin American performance The Archive and the Repertoire (2003), or Lúcia Nagib’s analysis of film in Brazil on Screen (2007), the originality of Performing Brazil stems from its multifocal approach that opens up a wider discussion on how performance [End Page 324] can support and destabilize cultural identities.
The first chapter in the volume, titled “On the (Im)Possibility of Performing Brazil,” sets up a close examination of the concept of performance, especially in regards to the Brazilian cultural context. Kathryn Bishop-Sanchez focuses on the links between Brazilian national identity and some of the cultural performances associated with the construction of nationhood. Brasilidade is explored through performances such as capoeira, samba, and the FIFA World Cup 2014, emphasizing the destabilizing effect of staging such cultural products: “Ultimately, our ability and willingness to embrace performativity in this context will determine the extent of Brazil’s imagined performa-community” (35). Following Diane Taylor’s central argument in The Archive and the Repertoire that performance entails a specific epistemology which cannot be entirely reduced to written or archival instances, Bishop-Sanchez challenges the reader to embrace the impossibility of fully encapsulating the staged identity of Brazilianness.
This topic leads the reader to one of the prominent themes of the collection, the notion of antropofagia or cultural cannibalism, espoused by poet and intellectual Oswald de Andrade in his “Manifesto Antropófago,” published in 1928. How does the impossibility of performing a stable identity manifest itself in the Brazilian context? Fernando de Sousa Rocha analyzes the concept of cultural cannibalism in Brazilian film in the chapter titled “Biting the Meat, Spitting it Out.” After exploring the complexities of cannibalism in Andrade’s text, he goes on to analyze how that concept became a metaphor deployed in Joaquim Pedro de Andrade’s Macunaíma (1969) and Nelson Pereira dos Santos’s Como era gostoso o meu francês (1971). Rocha argues that such a metaphor “on the basis of devouring, has signaled the possible relationship between the subject and his others” (46). Alterity is at the heart of the discussion, for performance of Brazilianness is intimately linked to the way the others view Brazil and the other is assimilated in a staged event.
Several chapters are dedicated to the role of danced performances. Particularly fascinating is Cristina Rosa’s study of the internationally famed Grupo Corpo and its hybrid choreographies that incorporate ginga—a traditional swaying that forms part...