Under a provision in the Brazilian constitution, rural black communities identified as the modern descendants of quilombos—runaway slave communities—are promised land rights as a form of reparations for the historic exclusion of blacks from land ownership. The quilombo provision has been hailed as a success for black rights; however, rights for quilombolas are highly controversial and, in many cases, have led to violent land conflicts. Although thousands of rural black communities have been legally recognized, only a handful have received the rights they were promised. Conflict over quilombola rights is widespread and carries important consequences for race relations and political representations of blackness in twenty-first century Brazil.
Drawing on a year of field research in a quilombola community, Elizabeth Farfán-Santos explores how quilombo recognition has significantly affected the everyday lives of those who experience the often-complicated political process. Questions of identity, race, and entitlement play out against a community’s struggle to prove its historical authenticity—and to gain the land and rights they need to survive. This work not only demonstrates the lived experience of a new, particular form of blackness in Brazil, but also shows how blackness is being mobilized and reimagined to gain social rights and political recognition. Black Bodies, Black Rights thus represents an important contribution to the rapidly growing interdisciplinary field of Afro-Latino studies.
ELIZABETH FARFÁN-SANTOSis an assistant professor of anthropology in the Department of Comparative Cultural Studies at the University of Houston.
"The drama of resistance and rebellion to enslavement and the odyssey of transformation from enslaved Africans to rights-bearing subjects make for a terrific narrative, highly accessible to a general readership."
~Charles Hale, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies, University of Texas at Austin
"[A] brilliantly researched and argued book…a much-needed investigation of the differences between how state actors understand ideas of black land rights and how an Afro-Brazilian community effectively makes space on their own terms and in the process maintains a centuries-long commitment to sustaining themselves amidst racialized poverty."
~AAG Review of Books
"Black Bodies, Black Rights is…a case study of bureaucracy, race, power, and wealth in contemporary Brazil. For anyone who wants an illuminating look at these phenomena at the grass-roots level, this is the book to read."
~Bulletin of Latin American Research
List of Acronyms
Introduction: A “Problematic” Field
1. Black Heroes: Rewriting Black Resistance and Quilombo History
2. Black Identities: Conceiving Blackness and Quilombolismo
3. Black Lives: "We Are Quilombolas!"
4. Black Rights: Documentation, Proof, and Authenticity
5. Black Justice: Grande Paraguaçu and the Growing Fight for Quilombola Justice
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