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Tropical Travels

Tropical Travels
Brazilian Popular Performance, Transnational Encounters, and the Construction of Race

Examining a range of popular cultural production, from music and dance to theater and film, this book explores how transatlantic and inter-American artistic exchanges redefined Brazilian identity, especially the perception of “race”.

Series: Joe R. and Teresa Lozano Long Endowment in Latin American and Latino Art and Culture

January 2018
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246 pages | 6 x 9 | 26 b&w photos |

Brazilian popular culture, including music, dance, theater, and film, played a key role in transnational performance circuits—inter-American and transatlantic—from the latter nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century. Brazilian performers both drew inspiration from and provided models for cultural production in France, Portugal, Argentina, the United States, and elsewhere. These transnational exchanges also helped construct new ideas about, and representations of, “racial” identity in Brazil. Tropical Travels fruitfully examines how perceptions of “race” were negotiated within popular performance in Rio de Janeiro and how these issues engaged with wider transnational trends during the period.

Lisa Shaw analyzes how local cultural forms were shaped by contact with imported performance traditions and transnational vogues in Brazil, as well as by the movement of Brazilian performers overseas. She focuses specifically on samba and the maxixe in Paris between 1910 and 1922, teatro de revista (the Brazilian equivalent of vaudeville) in Rio in the long 1920s, and a popular Brazilian female archetype, the baiana, who moved to and fro across national borders and oceans. Shaw demonstrates that these transnational encounters generated redefinitions of Brazilian identity through the performance of “race” and ethnicity in popular culture. Shifting the traditional focus of Atlantic studies from the northern to the southern hemisphere, Tropical Travels also contributes to a fuller understanding of inter-hemispheric cultural influences within the Americas.

  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • 1. Afro-Brazilian Performance on Rio de Janeiro’s Popular Stages from the 1880s to the Long 1920s
  • 2. The Rio de Janeiro–Paris Performance Axis in the First Decades of the Twentieth Century: Duque, the Oito Batutas, and the Question of “Race”
  • 3. The Teatro de Revista in Rio de Janeiro in the Long 1920s: Transnational Dialogues and Cosmopolitan Black Performance
  • 4. The Cultural Migrations of the Stage and Screen Baiana, 1889–1950s
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Liverpool, England

Shaw is a reader in Portuguese and Brazilian studies at the University of Liverpool. She has authored or edited seven previous books, including Carmen Miranda and The Social History of the Brazilian Samba.


“Brazil's racial identity and comprehensive sense of self cannot be fully grasped without the performative transnational vantage that this book profitably adopts…Overall, the volume is attractive, the writing is consistently smooth, and the illustrations are splendid. The reading is rewarding and makes one want to know more and, tellingly, somehow to access these charged historical performances.”
Bulletin of Latin American Research

“Exciting [and] readable…Shaw's research presents Rio as the culturally fluid, cosmopolitan port city it has been since the Portuguese court first arrived and as the disturbing, sad, joyous, riotous, and frenetically carnivaleque mestiço face of Brazil in good times and bad.”

“Shaw’s forthright discussion of race and racial prejudice within [Latin America] and Europe is refreshingly honest and provides welcome examples of Afro-Brazilians who manipulated oppressive systems to claim a place within Brazilian society.”
Latin American Research Review

“This is a richly documented, entertaining book that will appeal to those with an interest in theater, Brazilian culture, race relations, Africana studies, and transnational cultural studies. It will make a significant contribution to the fields of post-abolition race relations and cultural politics in Brazil. The book is filled with superb cultural analysis and captivating primary source research.”
Scott Ickes, author of African-Brazilian Culture and Regional Identity in Bahia, Brazil


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3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca